Road Boosting: Michigan Road

In 1917, when the first Indiana State Highway Commission law was passed, the state set aside five “Main Market Highways.” There was a concerted effort to make sure that the Michigan Road, the first state built road, was included in those five. It wasn’t.

So, when in 1919, a new State Highway Commission law was passed, the hope was that, again, the old Michigan Road would be included. It would take some time, but most of the road would be added to the state system. By the time of the great renumbering of 1926, the original road from Madison to Bryantsburg and from Napoleon to Michigan City would be part of the system, mostly under one number (SR 29).

But there were a lot of people working to make sure that the Michigan Road wasn’t forgotten. For instance, the Logansport Pharos-Reporter of 10 April 1919 reports that, according to the headline, “Everyone Must Help To Boost Michigan Road.” Attorney Charles Yarlott, chairman of the Michigan Road Association, “emphasized the need of township organization and the pressure that must and can be brought to bear upon the state highway commission if the people will only work toward that end.”

An editorial in the same newspaper from 2 July 1917, makes the case to locate the new military road along the Michigan Road. “The Michigan Road is unquestionably the logical line for the new government military road to follow from the south to the north through Indiana. This road is as old almost as is the military history of the Hoosier state.” Two paragraphs later, the editorial includes the line “the building of the Michigan Road, a national military road at its birth, had teh endorsement of the state and the nation as to location, and when the engineers laid it out the were compelled to pass upon all points of location which now seem to be up for consideration, teh result being that the Michigan Road is just where it is because the logic of military necessity at the time and for the future indicated that that was the proper place.”

A letter to the editor of the Indianapolis News dated 2 December 1920 pleaded the case for taking the entire Michigan Road, including the section from Napoleon to Bryantsburg, into the state system. The writer goes on to state “Madison has put up a great fight for the Michigan plank road to Versailles (a sort of hybrid affair, neither ‘hoss nor mule’) which abandons nineteen miles of the original Michigan Road.” He further states that “I have been an advocate about thirty years of the Michigan road as originally surveyed and built by the Second legislature.”

It didn’t stop there. The South Bend Tribune of 21 June 1921 reports that the Michigan Road is still left out of the state system. 100 members of the Michigan Road Association appealed to Governor McCray and the state highway commission on 20 June 1921 for such action. They won the endorsement of the Governor, and a commission to look into taking over the road was promised. Many cities along the route have stated “the Michigan Road is traveled more in the northern half than the Range line road between Indianapolis and South Bend, which was originally set aside as a state highway.”

(Editor’s Note: Most of the Michigan Road in Saint Joseph County WAS in the state system…starting with the law of 1917. From the south, the old road was part of State Road 1, the Range Line Road. And to the west, the old road was part of the Lincoln Highway to Rolling Prairie, which was originally State Road 2.)

Of course, there were other parts of the state that had some problems with the Michigan Road. An editorial in the Huntington Press of 3 March 1923 stated “a news item, printed in yesterday’s issue of The Press, says the state highway commission will take over the Michigan road from Logansport to Rochester and will pave it. Quite interesting! The highways under state administration in Huntington county were taken over in 1920 and not a foot of them has been paved.”

Before the creation of the Main Market Highway 1, a person none other than Carl Fisher made a passionate plea for the state to include the Michigan Road from South Bend to Indianapolis as the original MMH #1, and not the Range Line Road. Of course, at the time, that section of the old road was also the route of Fisher’s brainchild, the Dixie Highway.

Eventually, most of the old road became, once again, a state property. Until sections were bypassed along the way.

2 thoughts on “Road Boosting: Michigan Road

  1. It really is surprising to me how the Range Line Road got all the SB-Indy love given the MR’s 100-foot ROW. The Range Line Road lobby must have been mighty powerful.


    1. I read about it somewhere, but don’t remember where. I will make an effort to look up why the Range Line was picked over the Michigan. As I recall, it had something to do with the more “central” location. At the forming of the ISHC, the state was divided into four sections, based on the Louisville-Indianapolis-South Bend road, and the National Road.


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