The Leavenworth or Three Notch Road in Marion & Johnson Counties

SR 135. The original route that it follows through Marion and Johnson Counties had two names until it was added to the state road system in 1930 as SR 35: Three Notch Road and Leavenworth Road. The latter name comes from the southern terminus of the original state road created in the 1820s, Leavenworth. (Actually, it connected Indianapolis to “old” Leavenworth, a town that is all but abandoned after being wiped out by the Great Flood of 1937.)

The other name, Three Notch, comes from a colonial road naming tradition. Most trails in Colonial America were marked by marking, or notching, trees along the route. The number of notches showed the relative length of the road. Three notches were the longest. Considering Leavenworth is actually south of Louisville, Kentucky, I have no problem understanding the three notches.

In Johnson and Marion Counties, what is now SR 135 follows a survey line one mile west of the range line separating Ranges III and IV East (in Marion County, that range line is Shelby Street, in Johnson County, it is CR 200W). The road follows that survey line until it reaches Trafalgar (at least currently). The old road followed that same survey line even further, to CR 625S . (That is covered here.)

The old road is almost completely straight. There are very few variations in the correction of the survey line this route follows. Correction lines in the survey occur every six miles. From Indianapolis south, the first correction line is at what is now Thompson Road. The second is in Johnson County, at what is now Smith Valley Road. A quick glance at a map will show that the road drifts a little to the west at those points as you are going south. The road migrates east (going south) at the next correction line at SR 300N (at Bargersville). At CR 300S, the last correction line before Trafalgar, the correction line moves a tad bit west again.

Along the original route, the road did swerve a little around a hill just south of the first correction line mentioned above. This hill was later used as a cemetery, a use it still has today. When the state decided to widen the road, it was moved to the east of that cemetery.

At the original northern terminus of the Three Notch Road, it also had two other names before the Auto Trail era: Waverly Road and Bluff Road. Now, both of these names stem from the same location: the Bluffs of the White River at Waverly. (More information here.) Yes, this is where the current Bluff Road started. With the Auto Trail era, this old road, at least to what is now Bluff Road, became part of the Dixie Highway created by Carl Fisher.

With the Great Renumbering in 1926, the first section of the old Leavenworth/Three Notch Road south from South Street, was SR 37. The original SR 37 followed (what is now) Meridian Street from South Street to Bluff Road. (Remember, SR 37, as originally numbered, ended at US 31 – South Street, Meridian Street, and Madison Avenue. It was not numbered north of Indianapolis, and the road that would become SR 37 north of Indianapolis was given the number SR 13…only it was a few years after 1926.) After Bluff Road, the old Three Notch Road was just a series of county roads connecting the Bluff Road/Dixie Highway to points south like Bargersville, Morgantown and Nashville.

When SR 35 was extended into Marion and Johnson Counties in 1930, it followed the old Three Notch Road. In Indianapolis, both SR 35 and SR 37 multiplexed from US 31 south to Bluff Road. It was still a multiplex in this section when SR 35 became SR 135 in 1935. (Wow…lots of 35s there, eh? :D) Eventually, SR 37 was moved to West Street, (almost) bypassing downtown Indianapolis. SR 135 would be pared back over the years. One thing that has remained is that SR 135 has always ended at US 31, no matter where that end is.

But the Three Notch Road has remained. Like most roads in Marion County, the name given to the county section didn’t continue once it crossed the Indianapolis city limits. For instance, when the city limits were at Southern Avenue, north of Pleasant Run the street was Meridian. The name Three Notch Road started at Southern Avenue going south. The name Meridian Street would creep its way down this old road until it reached the county line. This would coincide with the expansion of the city limits to the county line.

Another, non transportation related, piece of history is the fact that the section of the road between Southern and Troy Avenues was in Center Township, not Indianapolis. For those unfamiliar with the difference, Governmental townships in Marion County have their own school districts. Since the city of Indianapolis started, and was mainly contained in, Center Township, most people assume that Indianapolis and Center Township schools were one and the same. Until the early 1960’s, Center Township had their own schools. Four of them, as a matter of fact. With school consolidation, the Center Township schools became part of Indianapolis Public Schools. I share this because one block east of this road, on Yoke Street, is a building marked Center Township School #2.

One of the charms of this old road is the fact that it did take travelers, since the 1820s, through the rugged beauty of Brown County, more or less. It did connect, but not directly, to Nashville. Then again, that’s because Nashville is between Indianapolis and the Ohio River at Leavenworth.

As an aside, in southern Indiana, SR 135 is NOT part of the old Three Notch Road. It is part of another old state road that connected Indianapolis to the Ohio River: the Mauck’s Ferry Road. The road is now called Mauxferry Road. The road connected Indianapolis to Mauckport on the Ohio River via Franklin. It would follow the Madison-Indianapolis State Road to Franklin, then split off to go to Mauckport. That old road was cut in two with the creation of Camp Atterbury in 1942.


5 thoughts on “The Leavenworth or Three Notch Road in Marion & Johnson Counties

    1. I haven’t spent too much time looking at it so far. I plan on doing something on the Mauxferry Road at some point. I really need to do some studying on it…but part of me wants to say that somehow SR 58 is involved to Freetown, then SR 135 south to US 50, CR 400W/CR 375W to Vallonia, then SR 135 (and bypassed sections of same) to Mauckport. From what I can see, the road may have used what is now Bartholomew CR 500W, CR 525 W, and CR 550 W to SR 58. Don’t quote me on that…it’s just a quick guess until I can spend some real time looking at it.


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