1923: National Road, the ISHC, and its Bulletin

In the early days of the Indiana State Highway Commission, the agency would put out a detour bulletin to all the newspapers in the state. This bulletin would list all of the roads under construction that were the responsibility of the ISHC. But sometimes, the newspapers questioned the bulletin, and its accuracy. Today, I am going back to the Brazil Daily Times of 5 May 1923. Trust me, it’s not pretty.

“The Indiana Highway Commission which is supposed to be authority on condition of the state roads, is completely up in the air on the National road, and, if its weekly bulletins on other roads are as unreliable as on the National road, there is little use of newspapers publishing the bulletin.” Wow. Just, wow.

This comment stems from the fact that the bulletin reports that work has started on a number of gaps in the road between Indianapolis and Terre Haute. Well, sort of. The newspaper points out that all the gaps where work is being done is between Brazil and Indianapolis. The one section that claims to have work being done west of Brazil “at Glenn seems liable to remain a gap for some time to come as nothing is being done toward building this proposed viaduct.”

The one thing that caught the ire of the Brazil Daily Times in this particular issue is a detour from Harmony to Stilesville. The bulletin that week reports “detour to north four miles west of Stilesville, thence west to Greencastle, thence southwest over county road and back to National road at Manhattan. Road closed again at Reelsville.” The bulletin then states that east bound traffic turn, two miles east of Harmony, south two miles, then east 4,5 miles, then north three miles to come up at Reelsville. “West bound traffic detour south at Reelsville and follow the same route.”

The Daily Times takes exception to that, stating that by only going 9/10 mile south at the same point east of Harmony (which is the county line), coming through the curves and the bottoms of Walnut Creek, one could come back to the National Road at Pleasant Gardens. And, instead of going though Greencastle, one can simply follow the old road to Mount Meridian, detour north and east, and pop out at Stilesville again. It is pointed out that the last section of this newspaper recommended detour is only if the “section between Deer Creek and Mt. Meridian is open.” Half that section was already paved with brick, with the other half being given a concrete base for the brick paving to Mount Meridian.

Reelsville was a special case. I want to cover the National Road there, but don’t feel I can do it justice compared to Jim Grey’s blog post about the same subject. Let’s just say that the ISHC was trying to put the National Road back to close to its original route…one that hadn’t been used since a bridge washout in 1875.

But the Daily Times’ ire with the ISHC bulletins is best described by the last paragraph of the story. “The unreliability of the Highway commission reports is also shown in another instance earlier this spring when the bulletin reported that No. 9 road, between Brazil and Linton were under water near Clay City and advised traffic to detour by way of Veedersburg. It happens that Veedersburg is over 50 miles north of where the road was under water.”

One thought on “1923: National Road, the ISHC, and its Bulletin

  1. This sort of reminds me of the way INDOT detours you only along other highways now, sometimes taking you miles out of your way. When you know the local roads you can often skip right around the closed section in far less time with no fuss.

    One time 20 years ago I was driving US 31 in southern Indiana and there was a closure. There wasn’t much traffic, but this beater truck in front of me pulled off onto a gravel road and I took a chance and followed him. He turned here and there but we popped right back out onto 31 on the other side of the closure. You just have to know your local roads!


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