Madison, Indiana

The subject city tends to puzzle those that decide to spend some time looking at Indiana history, or the history of things like the Michigan Road.

I can understand that. After all, if you have ever been to Madison, you know that as beautiful as the city is, it really seems out of the way from almost everywhere. And out in the middle of nowhere.

But why was Madison chosen for the start of both the first state road in Indiana and the first railroad* in Indiana? The answer actually has to do with two numbers: 2, and 87.

(* The first connecting railroad in Indiana. The actual first railroad in Indiana was in Shelbyville along side part of the Michigan Road.)

What am I talking about? The number 2: the ranking of the city of Madison in terms of population in the state. The number 87: the number of miles to Indianapolis, being the closest connection between Indianapolis and the Ohio River.

Madison was the terminus of, actually, three connections to Indianapolis. The Michigan Road, Indiana’s first state road, was built from Lake Michigan at Michigan City to the Ohio River at Madison. And, according to my research, it was a vote of 11 yeas to 10 nays that made Madison the southern end of the road. Another front runner was New Albany, then the number 1 populous city in the state. The Michigan Road reached Indianapolis via Greensburg and Shelbyville.

The Madison-Indianapolis State Road also connected the two cities. That route connects to Indianapolis via Vernon, Columbus and Franklin. In Indianapolis, the route is still mostly intact as Madison Ave., which in itself has a great deal of historic significance, especially starting in 1919.

The last connection was the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad. This was the railroad mentioned above. After a lot of mergers, it would become part of the Pennsylvania Railroad (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis, or Panhandle, Railway). In the early 1980’s, this route was abandoned between Columbus and North Vernon.

This doesn’t count the old state roads that connected Madison to Lawrenceburgh (the actual spelling at the time) and Cincinnati, and Madison to Lexington. What is currently SR 56 west of Madison was called Lexington Road in 1876. East of Madison, at the same time, it was called Lawrenceburgh Road. The Lexington Road would have, as it does today, branched along the way connecting Madison to Jeffersonville and Louisville.

For being as connected as Madison is, it really feels like you have to want to go thereto get there. And THAT, my friends, doesn’t bother me at all. It is a trip that I would make again and again. For there are a ton of reasons to visit the little city at the bottom of the hill. And I would recommend it.

3 thoughts on “Madison, Indiana

  1. Madison is a wonderful day trip. Have you ever traveled the Madison State Road to get there? I’ve made and photographed that trip but I see that I’ve never written it up anywhere. Maybe I could do a blog series about it.

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