South of Indianapolis, along the White River (West Fork), is a small town that, although bypassed now, was a transportation “hot spot” of sorts, and important to the history of Indiana and Indianapolis. That town is Waverly.
Now, Waverly is known as where SR 144 connects SR 37 to Mooresville. But in the early days of the opening of the central part of the state to settlement, the first trail (or trace) in the area ended at the bluffs of White River. That is now the location of Waverly. Jacob Whetzel, of Franklin County, bought some of the first land opened to settlement north of the Indian boundary. In 1817, he set out to blaze a trail from Laurel to the bluffs of the White River, where his new purchase was. This trail, called the Whetzel Trace, was cut in a relatively straight line, almost due east and west.
The Whetzel Trace, had it survived, would have connected its two termini through Andersonville, Shelbyville and Whiteland. Before the Trace disappeared back into the forest of central Indiana, it was used to bring commissioners to the Waverly area in 1820 to determine a location for the new centralized capital of Indiana. The Bluffs were so favored at the time that it was entirely possible that the new capital city would have been located there. Instead, a location one mile east of the mouth of Fall Creek on White River was chosen. (Before you look at a map an argue against this description, trust me. I argued the same thing. Until I saw a map of the original Fall Creek path. But that is a general history subject, not a transportation history subject.)
There is a blog spot entry that I found online at http://fairfield200.blogspot.com/2015/02/whetzels-trace.html. It covers the history of the Whetzels and the Trace very well.
Also in the 1820s, the area around Waverly saw for the first time, and the last, a steamboat making its way up the White River to Indianapolis. Unfortunately, near Waverly on the way back down the river, that steamboat hit one of the numerous sandbars that can be found in the White River. There the “Samuel Hanna” languished for a few months waiting for the water level to rise again enough to get back to sailing. The journey of the Samuel Hanna lead to the realization that Indianapolis was located on a non-navigable waterway, thus killing the possibility of riverboat transport to the remote settlement.
The next important transportation history item involving Waverly was the creation of the Bluff Road. As the name suggests, the Bluff Road connected the bluffs of the White River to Indianapolis. That road started on the south edge of what was Indianapolis at the time, at South Street. It would connect at the main drag, Meridian Street. Further south, it would turn off to the southwest from Meridian Street (at the time, Three Notch Road).
In the early 20th Century, the Bluff and Martinsville Roads from Waverly would become part of the path of the Dixie Highway. The Dixie Highway connected northern Michigan and Chicago (two routes, interesting history) to southern Florida. The Dixie Highway was the second brainchild of Greensburg native/Indianapolis resident Carl Graham Fisher. (His first being the Lincoln Highway.)
With the creation of the state highway system, the Dixie Highway through Waverly became part of SR 22. SR 22 would separate from the Dixie Highway at Paoli, where the DH turned to the southeast. North from Waverly, SR 22 would follow the Bluff Road to its end at South and Meridian Streets.
In 1926, SR 22 would be renumbered to SR 37. And “downtown” Waverly would remain on the state highway until 1962. The attached map shows that a SR 37 bypass is being built around Waverly in 1961. The SR 144 shown on this map came into being in 1941, although it had been planned since 1937. SR 144 was to connect Mooresville to Franklin. In actuality, it does. Technically, it does not. SR 144 was never added to the state road system east of Waverly.
There is a road built to connect SR 144 at SR 37 (Waverly) to SR 144 at SR 135 (Bargersville). But that is a county road, never taken into the state system. (Called CR 144, actually.)
The 1962 map shows that SR 37 bypass is complete. SR 144 was disconnected from the new SR 37 for a short while. That would be resolved, at least according to the official maps, the following year.
The next change to Waverly was the building of the SR 144 bypass.
It started with rerouting SR 144 along old SR 37 north out of Waverly, then connecting 144 to new SR 37 at the junction that is currently SR 37 & 144. This was in 1965. It would remain in this configuration until 1970, when a new bridge was completed over the White River north of Waverly.
Looking at the above aerial photo of Waverly, one can still see the old path of SR 144 from the west. The old route of SR 37 is clearly labeled…repeatedly.
But this isn’t the end of the road changes around Waverly. Over the next several years, that SR 37 bypass will be upgraded to become I-69, connecting the Indianapolis area to Evansville via Martinsville and Bloomington. This upgrade will not affect the little old burgh much. That happened over 50 years ago with the moving of SR 37 in the first place.