Michigan Road at Logansport

The Michigan Road. Indiana’s first true state road that connected Lake Michigan at Michigan City to the Ohio River at Madison, through Indianapolis. As was typical of the time, the state would build the road to the edges of towns, allowing the towns along the way to decide where the route would actually travel. The last outpost of “civilization” along this grand old road between Indianapolis and South Bend, when it was built, was the town of Logansport. And tracing the old road through the town is a decidedly interesting business.

A brief history. The original plat of Logansport, from the point where the Eel River enters the Wabash to Fifth Street was dated 1828. The town grew quite rapidly from there, adding Sixth through Ninth Street was added by 1835. This corresponds with the coming of both the Wabash & Erie Canal and the Michigan Road. The map that is used for sources in this entry comes from a real estate sales map. The town of West Logan was platted on the north bank of the Eel River in 1835.

1835 map of Logansport showing the crossing of the
Wabash River by the Michigan Road.

For starters, the entry into Logansport from the south has really never changed over the years. The road was built heading northeast along what is now Burlington Avenue. It crossed the Wabash River to Biddle Island, then left the island in a straight line over to Logansport’s Third Street. It still, to this day, follows the same path. The one thing that makes the first crossing of the Wabash different than normal crossings is that the bridge was not built perpendicular to the river. Most bridges at that time were, so to make them more stable and cost less to build. According to a map of 1835, the bridge is angled across the Wabash to Biddle Island, but straight across the Wabash north of the island.

But once inside the town, which at the time was in the area between the Wabash and Eel Rivers, it was a good guess. Based on maps of the area, it moved at least a couple of times. The state really wasn’t concerned with the town’s streets that the road followed, just where it would connect to the northeast bound Michigan Road that started along the northern bank of the Eel River.

1835 map of Logansport showing the bridge across the Eel River to connect the Michigan Road on the north side of the river to Logansport’s (now) downtown.

The same 1835 map mentioned above shows a bridge at what is now Fourth Street. One thing that should be noted here is that the lines forming the Michigan Road and Third Street are solid…not open at each of the street intersections in the town. This leads me to believe that the route of the Michigan Road followed (originally) Third Street to what is now Eel River Avenue, then crossing the Eel River at Fourth Street. This is shown in the map to the left. Two other important features that should be noted are the aqueduct over the Eel River that carried the Wabash & Erie Canal and the bridge over the canal along the north bank of the Eel River. The road running along the bank of the river is also marked with solid lines, with no “access” to roads that meet this path.

A current Google Map satellite image of the Fourth Street end at the Eel River shows that there is no house on the corresponding north bank of the river. I am not going to say that there never was a building there. Just that there isn’t one now.

1835 map of Logansport showing the Third Avenue and the Wabash & Erie Canal.

In relation to the Wabash & Erie, it crossed through Logansport along Fifth Street, turning easterly south of Market Street. That turn is now under Erie Avenue.

1835 map of Logansport showing the northern route of the “Great Michigan Road.”

The old road still makes its way north out of Logansport along its original path, as shown in the map above.

Later maps of the area show that the crossing of the Eel River was moved from the end of Fourth Street to the end of Fifth Street. This would mean that the old aqueduct for the Wabash & Erie Canal became a road bridge after the demise of the canal. According to an 1876 map of the town, the crossing had been moved again, this time to the end of Sixth Street, where it still is today.

6 thoughts on “Michigan Road at Logansport

  1. It appears to me that these maps are showing the Wabash and Erie Canal, which crossed the Eel at 5th Street. Part of the foundation is still present on the south side of the river. Count the streets from 3rd, which crosses the Wabash, and you will find that this crossing is at 5th, not 4th. Also the crossing is labeled “Canal” or “Wabash and Erie Canal” and is shown as water.

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    1. My mistake. I was only looking at the canal crossing (viaduct) at Fifth, and not including the bridge crossing at 4th.

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  2. Mystery solved. When we were forming the Michigan Road Historic Byway, we could not find sources to show the MR’s original route through Logansport. Indeed, we found one resource that said that no provision was made for its route through town; there was the road in, and the road out, and how you got between the two was your business. But this 1835 map shows *at least* that it was necessary to follow 3rd St. north and cross the Eel at 4th because there were no other bridges across the Eel.

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    1. From what I have seen so far, the “no route known” seems to be Standard Operating Procedure for Indiana with the early state roads, including the Michigan. That attitude followed into the State Highway Commission age…the ISHC wasn’t allowed to take over city streets (for maintenance) in the beginning. So they built the roads to the towns, posted signs in a general direction, and built them out of the town.

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