Auto Trails and Historic Roads, Not Quite the Same

In looking at the old Rand McNally Region 2 Auto Trails maps, I have found some things that are different than the historic trails that the Auto Trails claimed to be.

I have mentioned several times about the differences in the Michigan Road. For those that don’t know, the Michigan Road was Indiana’s first state highway. It was created to connect Lake Michigan, at Michigan City, to the Ohio River at Madison. The Auto Trail era of the Michigan Road turned southeast from Napoleon, connecting to Versailles before continuing on to Madison. The original road made no such detour. That detour was continued when the state highway system designated it as Original State Road 6. In 1926, the OSR 6 became SR 29, further cementing the Auto Trails version of the road as the “official” Michigan Road. Thank goodness for groups like the Historic Michigan Road to make sure that the original route was not only not forgotten, but memorialized as a State Byway.

But, in looking at the RM maps, I noticed another section of the Michigan Road that never made it to Auto Trail Status. That was the section west out of South Bend to Michigan City. Now, a part of that was part of the Auto Trail system – from South Bend to outside Rolling Prairie. But that was because that section of the original Michigan Road was part of the Lincoln Highway. The section from Rolling Prairie to Michigan City was a “side road” on the RM maps. It was not a part of any Auto Trail.

Then there is the National Road. Most people think, and I was one of them, that the Auto Trail called the National Old Trails Road followed the old National Road through Indiana. And for the most part, that is correct. Jim Grey, through his blog, spent some time showing that the NOTR around Reelsville did not follow the original route.


But that was due to a bridge that washed out in the 1870s and was not replaced.

Then I noticed another section that differed from the old National Road. And what’s funny is that it starts on a street that is named “Old National Road” in Richmond. The NOTR actually turned southeast out of Richmond, following what would eventually (though not permanently) become US 35 to Eaton and Dayton in Ohio. The original National Road was built in as much a straight line as was possible from Wheeling, VA (to become Wheeling, WV, in 1863), through the (then) capitals of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. At that time, that would have been Columbus, Indianapolis and Vandalia.

Dayton was not included on the original road. But the NOTR went through Eaton and Dayton, connecting back to the original road at Springfield.

Those two Auto Trails were the only ones in Indiana that actually tried to be roughly the historic roads. Most of the rest of them had non-local type names, or names of the connecting cities. The only other local name for an Auto Trail that I could find was the Range Line Road. Yes, it is still called that inside the central part of the city of Carmel. But the concept of the “Range Line” predated even any roads there. It was named after a survey line. The survey line separates two survey ranges, hence the name. It actually separates Range III and Range IV, both east of the Second Principal Meridian. A Range is (supposed to be) six miles east to west.

Now, back to my maps. (As a personal note, let me say that reading maps online is really a lot easier to do when you can bring it up on a 32″ monitor, while writing a blog entry on another monitor.)

3 thoughts on “Auto Trails and Historic Roads, Not Quite the Same

    1. I should have known that you would have written something about it. (And, again, it’s a great article. Like THAT needs to be said.)

      I remember when Dayton decided to push hard to be called a Control City on I-70. And won. So Dayton has, apparently, done whatever it takes to make sure they stay in the minds and eyes of travelers.

      Liked by 1 person

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