Bicycling the Pendleton Pike

Today in Bicycling Thursday, I want to focus on a road that still maintains it “toll road” company name: Pendleton Pike. This road, in itself, has an interesting history, some of which will be covered in the paragraphs below. The Indianapolis News of 16 May 1896 published the bicycling information for this blog post.

Indianapolis News, 16 May 1896, map of the
Pendleton and Millersville Road bicycling

First, the history. The Pendleton State Road, connecting Indianapolis to the town at the Falls of Fall Creek (covered on 21 August 2019 in the entry “Pendleton, Crossroads Town“) was created in the mid 1830s. This wasn’t a straight route between the two points. Very few early Indiana “state roads” were. It connected to the then town of Indianapolis at Massachusetts Avenue. Into the 20th Century, when the Army built Fort Benjamin Harrison in rural Lawrence Township, the most direct route was the Pendleton Pike. This led to questions as to whether the county could improve a road to benefit the military over other improvements (“When Property Owners Put Themselves Ahead of Military,” Indiana Transportation History, 27 March 2019). In the Auto Trail era, it would be added to the mishmash of named roads as the Hoosier Highway (Indiana Transportation History, 23 October 2019). It took some time, but this road was taken into the State Highway System as part of OSR 37. In 1926, it was renumbered to SR 67.

At the time of the bicycling articles of the 1896 in the Indianapolis News, the “Pendleton State road has not been in good wheeling condition, so far this years, and only a few riders have been over it.” This condition, however, was reported as being short lived, as the condition was “rapidly improving.” During its time, the Pendleton Road had acquired several names, based on locations along the route. In Marion County, it was also called the Lanesville and/or the Oakland Road (Lanesville is now part of Lawrence, Oakland became Oaklandon). As mentioned earlier, Pendleton Pike is a continuation of Massachusetts Avenue. “The most direct way to reach the road is to go out Massachusetts avenue to the railroad station, and continue parallel with the Big Four tracks, through Brightwood.” At that time, there was a railroad station at what had just become 10th Street (“Why Do Indianapolis Street Numbers Start at 9?,” Indiana Transportation History, 10 June 2019). I also covered Brightwood on 11 April 2019.

Even though Massachusetts Avenue was the most direct route to the Pendleton Pike, it was, according to the Indianapolis New, “hardly the best.” According to the writer, “from the east side of Brightwood to where the pike begins, which is at Twenty-second street, the road is in poor condition.” It is recommended to use College Avenue to 19th Street, east to Grandview and up the Millersville Road to the crossing of the Lake Erie & Western (Nickel Plate) and Monon tracks. A gravel road connects to the Pendleton Road two miles from the city.

The old road skirts two towns about midway through the journey across Lawrence Township. South of the road is Lanesville, roughly at the Franklin (State) Road and Pendleton Pike. Across the road, and tracks, from Lanesville is Lawrence. At Lanesville, of interest to bicyclists at the time, “is a good blacksmith shop.” At both towns, the Franklin State road runs north and south allowing a rider to connect to, ultimately, Franklin, through Fenton (on the National Road/Washington Street) and New Bethel (Wanamaker, on the Michigan Road). At a point 2.5 miles east of Lawrence a road turns west to Millersville (now 56th Street). A short distance later, the old road jogs a little to the north, then travels downhill into the valley of Indian Creek. At this point, the Pendleton Pike traveled basically northeast in a relatively straight line since it left Indianapolis. After crossing Indian Creek, the road then turned north (along what was at the time Germantown Road, now Oaklandon Road). Here the Pike entered Oakland (name at the time, now Oaklandon). “Oakland is a pleasant little village on the Big Four, thirteen miles from the city.”

At Oakland, the road followed the railroad tracks again for a couple of miles into Hancock County. The old road wound its way to Pendleton from here, sometimes going due east, due north, crossing the railroad tracks, etc. None of the route after Oaklandon in covered in the article. Instead it covers the many ways back to the city. One of those ways I will cover later as part of this series.


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