In north central Indiana, where the Yellow River is crossed by the Michigan Road, is a town that, ultimately, would be connected directly to Indianapolis if three ways, connected directly to New York City and Chicago the other way, and would become a home on two major Auto Trails of the early 20th Century, although one would be a reroute. That town is the county seat of Marshall County, Plymouth.
A little history: Marshall County was organized by an act of the Indiana General Assembly on 4 February 1836, which became effective 1 April 1836. The territory that became part of Marshall County would take parts of St. Joseph County directly, with some of the county having been under the jurisdiction, legally, of St. Joseph and Elkhart Counties. Because the original law creating the county was actually put together on 7 February 1835, the actual law creating Marshall County, passed the following year, moved the Marshall-St. Joseph County line three miles north. As originally enacted, the county line was the dividing line between townships 34 and 35 north. The law a year later moved that line north to the center point of township 35 north. Commissioners appointed on 1 April 1836 decided on 20 July 1836 that Plymouth would be the center of government for Marshall County.
By this time, the area around Plymouth was already connected to the rest of the state when it came to transportation resources. Okay, well, sort of. The Michigan Road had been created and built through the central part of Marshall County, north to south. Both Fulton (Rochester) and Marshall Counties were created at the same time. The Michigan Road, as such, was a route connecting Logansport and South Bend, with nothing in between. Also, the center of the county would be surveyed different than the rest of the county and state. For more information about that, check out my post “Survey Lines and the Michigan Road,” published 6 August 2019.
Railroads would come to the area in three forms, two of which would ultimately fall under the Pennsylvania Railroad umbrella. The first would connect Plymouth to both Chicago and Pittsburgh, via Fort Wayne. This railroad would start life on 11 May 1852 as the Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad. By 6 May 1856, when the railroad was consolidated with two other struggling railroads to create the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago (PFtW&C), only part of the route between Plymouth and Columbia City (45 miles) was partially completed. The PFtW&C would complete the route between Fort Wayne and Chicago in February 1858.
The second railroad that came to Plymouth would be what would become the Lake Erie & Western, and, in 1922, the Nickle Plate. The Cincinnati, Peru & Chicago Rail Way built a line south from LaPorte to end at Plymouth in 1855. Between 1863 and 1867, the Indianapolis, Rochester & Chicago Railroad began construction of the line connecting Peru and Plymouth. It was to be completed by the Chicago, Cincinnati & Louisville Railroad company in 1869. This company was sold at foreclosure and, along with the original Peru & Indianapolis (and its successors), formed the foundation of the Lake Erie & Western Railroad in 1887.
The last railroad to be completed to Plymouth was built by the Terre Haute & Logansport Railroad in 1883 and 1884. This was a line from Logansport to South Bend. In time, this line would become part of the St. Louis, Vandalia & Terre Haute Railroad company, also known as the Vandalia. Ultimately, it would become part of the Pennsylvania Railroad system, connecting the PRRs two major subsidiaries, the PFtW&C and the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway (aka the Panhandle), together at Plymouth.
Into the 20th Century, with the coming of the Auto Trails era, Plymouth found itself on multiples of these routes. First and foremost was the Michigan Road, which had been the catalyst for its location in the first place. The Dixie Highway, connecting Michigan to Florida, was also using the Michigan Road for its route from South Bend to Indianapolis. Also connecting those two cities was the Range Line Road, which separated from the Michigan Road at Rochester, with the Michigan Road heading towards Logansport, and the Range Line heading toward Peru.
East and west through the area gets to be a bit fun. Originally, the city was located on a road that connected Plymouth, Massachusetts, to Seattle, Washington, with a spot on the road in Wyoming that gave the route its name: the Yellowstone Trail. From the west, the Yellowstone would come into town along the Valparaiso-Plymouth State Road, then would share the Michigan Road/Dixie Highway/Range Line Road south out of town to what is now 12B Road, then headed east toward Bourbon. (Side note: there is a small jog in 12B road east of the current US 31, which is also an original part of Michigan Road. That jog is a remnant of the survey of the Michigan Road mentioned in the link above in the third paragraph.)
Now, because of the chronological order of things, the story of transportation in Plymouth moves to the Indiana State Highway era of 1917. Yes, 1917. Plymouth was one of the cities connected to the original original ISHC system when it was created in 1917. It is located on what was Main Market Road (MMR) 1. Because the law of 1917 was questioned under Constitutionality issues, it wouldn’t be until 1919 that the dust settled creating the ISHC that survives today as INDOT. MMR 1 would become Original SR 1. By 1920, another state road would connect to Plymouth, this time given the number 44. OSR 44 would follow the path of the Yellowstone Trail through the area. This would be changed to OSR 2 in 1923. OSR 2 was the original designation of the Lincoln Highway through Indiana. This will be important later. (Unless you have already looked at modern maps of the area and know the answer.)
When the Great Renumbering occurred on 1 October 1926, OSR 1 became US 31 and OSR 2 became US 30. It should also be noted that US 30 still didn’t leave Plymouth to the east. US 30 followed US 31 south to, again, what is now 12B Road. But the plans were in place to change this. The road that was being constructed to change the route of US 30, at least the first time, is currently called “Lincoln Highway.” Now, it wasn’t entirely officially the Lincoln Highway…not yet anyway. The Lincoln Highway Association set up two routes in Indiana. The first route, established in 1913, went through South Bend. The second route would more or less follow US 30 across the state (and into Ohio and Pennsylvania). This would be made official in 1928 (after the Great Renumbering).
The reroute of US 30 had been completed by 1929 (maybe earlier, still looking at sources that are hard to find). This reroute would straighten US 30 quite a bit between close to Wanatah to Warsaw.
Changes after that, as far as roads go, are these: the coming of SR 17 to the city in 1935; the US 31 bypass (and the naming of US 31A through town) in 1963; the building of the US 30 bypass north of town (while still maintaining US 30 through town) in 1965; and the removal of US 31A and US 30 through Plymouth in 1968. At the time of the removal of US 31A, SR 17 was continued along the route of the old US 31 (and its numerous names I won’t repeat) to the junction with the US 30 bypass.
The Vandalia line connecting Terre Haute and South Bend would also go away in time. Most of the Plymouth section would be officially abandoned by Conrail in 1984. The Nickle Plate line, or at least the tracks, are still in place connecting to Rochester, and for a short distance northwest out of town. Even the PFtW&C, which had been one of the most profitable lines, and home of one of its crack passenger trains (Broadway Limited between Chicago and New York), under the Pennsylvania Railroad umbrella, has been sold by the Norfolk Southern to another company.