Bicycling the Crawfordsville Pike

Indianapolis News, 09 May 1896, map showing “the Crawfordsville Route.” It should be noted that the “PCC&StL” notations on this map along the railroad tracks from Indianapolis to Danville and Indianapolis to Crawfordsville should read “CCC&StL,” as these are Big Four (NYC) tracks, not Panhandle (PRR) tracks.

Keeping with the Indianapolis News articles about bicycling routes from the city, today we focus on the Crawfordsville Pike, from the News of 09 May 1896. For starters, the Crawfordsville Road was built in the 1820s as the Indianapolis-Crawfordsville Road. It wasn’t the straight route that exists today. Marion County’s section was covered here. Outside Marion County, what became the Peoria & Eastern/Big Four/New York Central was built to dart back and forth across the original road. This was typical of railroad companies at the time, since road travel was sketchy most of the time.

Editor’s note: For those unfamiliar with the work “pike” in this context, here goes. “Pike” is a shortened version of the word “turnpike,” which was a term used to describe a toll road. At points where a toll was to be paid, a large stick, or pike, was put across the road. Once the toll was paid, the toll collector would turn the pike, or move it out of the way for passage.

The bicycle route recommends following, from the Circle, Illinois north to Indiana, Indiana out to Michigan, and Michigan Street out to Haughville. “At the second street beyond the river bridge” the rider should turn north. This is now Belmont Avenue. Belmont took the rider to, and along side, the White River. At the time, the White River Parkway did not exist. Continuing north meant meeting the junction of the Crawfordsville and Lafayette Roads at what is now 16th and Lafayette, although the connection was moved south to allow replacement of the intersection in the 1950s. (Being the parts of US 52 and US 136 at the time, the state made the decision to revamp the area.) The area is shown on the map below. Best described in the News, the bicyclist should “turn and go to a point where the road forks, one branch running north and one west. The west fork is the Crawfordsville pike.”

1889 Map of the area of what is now 16th Street and Lafayette Road. Grandview Street at the bottom of the snippet is 10th Street today. Crawfordsville Gravel Road is 16th Street. The city limits line on the right runs through Belmont Avenue. The bridge over White River, called the Emricksville Bridge, connected the old Crawfordsville/Lafayette Road to downtown to the same roads west of the river. That bridge was named after owners of the land in the area. Image courtesy of the Indiana State Library Digital Collection.

From here, the original road followed what is now 16th Street out to Cunningham Road northwest to (just shy) of what is now Crawfordsville Road. From this point, the old road “runs close to the Peoria & Eastern tracks most of the distance to Brownsburg, passing through Clermont and crossing the tracks twice. This stretch of road is almost level. There are only two small hills.” After Brownsburg, the road is level to Pittsboro. “Any lover of beautiful scenery who is the happy possessor of a camera would do well to take the extra trouble” to bring that camera along.

This changed once past Pittsboro. “From Pittsboro the road is devoid of unusual features, with the exception of a rather long hill about a mile and a half before reaching Lizton.” The writer of this article actually had some advice about this particular hill. “A little caution should be observed in taking this hill, and none but those having accident policies, with all premiums paid, should attempt coasting.” I guess that’s subtle.

1909 map of northern Hendricks County showing the route of the Crawfordsville Pike from Brownsburg to the county line northwest of Lizton. Snippet courtesy of the Indiana State Library Digital Collection.

Here’s where a little historic research is needed. The News states that “the railroad is again crossed before reaching Lizton. From this town the road leads north about three-quarters of a mile, then forks. The west fork should be taken.” According to maps of the era, like the 1909 shown above, the railroad crossover is west of Lizton by one mile. And that crossover is just about 1/2 mile north of the turn in the road. The road then follows closely the railroad on the north side of the tracks. This continues to just before the Boone-Hendricks County Line southeast of Jamestown.

The road crosses back over to the south side of the P&E tracks before leaving Hendricks County. After Jamestown, the road gets “more hilly.” It is also stated that if you have your camera, “at Raccoon creek the camera ‘fiend’ may again find scenery worthy of his instrument.” Before entering Montgomery County, southeast of New Ross, the road once again crosses the railroad tracks. The road here is still in place, with the exception of the bridge over the Big Raccoon Creek. The described trip uses what is now State Street entering New Ross, and follows that street, and the county road continuing from there, to the current US 136. All this time, the road is north of the P&E tracks.

From New Ross to Crawfordsville the route curved quite a bit, before entering the Montgomery County seat. “Crawfordsville is quite a bicycle town, and contains many riders. The wheelmen make it a point to be very courteous to visiting riders.”

A big goal in the early days of bicycling is called “the Century,” a 100 mile trip in one day. The article goes on to mention that following the Crawfordsville Pike from Indianapolis to Crawfordsville and back “will give the rider almost a century.” The article also mentions a more hilly route back to Indianapolis via the Rockville road, which “will make a ride of 110 miles.”

5 thoughts on “Bicycling the Crawfordsville Pike

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s