Richmond-New Castle Pike, How It Almost Didn’t Become SR 38

In September 1926, the Indiana State Highway Commission was deciding on whether or not to add roads to the state highway system. Part of the purpose of that system was to connect all of the seats of government of each county to one another. Each county seat should have, at minimum, two state roads. There was an 1820’s era state road connecting Richmond to New Castle (and, using the same program that created the road, Noblesville, Lebanon, and Crawfordsville). But in 1926, there was only OSR 13 (soon to be SR 3) to New Castle, and OSR 3 (soon to be US 40) and OSR 21 (soon to be US 27) to Richmond. According to the Richmond Item of 17 September 1926, the state wanted to change that. It would be up to Wayne County to make this idea a reality.

It was reported on the front page of the mentioned newspaper that the state asked Wayne County for the right of way of the Richmond-New Castle Pike, a road that had been a toll road until the 1890’s. The state requested that the Wayne County Commissioners guarantee a 60 foot right of way for the road. But John D. Williams, Director of the State Highway Commission, wasn’t entirely sure that the county would approve of the plan.

“The value of such a road as a line of the state highway system is based to a large extent, on the fact that it is a diagonal road which gives the shortest route between Cincinnati and Chicago, it was pointed out.”

The Henry County section of this road had already been guaranteed. The ISHC also added that Henry County had offered to deliver 500 yards of gravel per mile of the road. This would get the new, unnumbered, state road from the Henry-Wayne County Line to New Castle. The only condition that the ISHC placed on the offer is that the right of way be no more than $4,000. According to the state, relinquishing this right of way to the state would save Wayne County between $12,000 and $14,000 a year in maintenance.

One of the sticking points for the county is the fact that “the road in question has been the subject of an oil penetration treatment, applied to the gravel surface.” Wayne County, that summer, had spent, reportedly, $20,000 for this treatment. Due to this expenditure, some in the county government didn’t want to spend any more money on the road.

But one source mentioned that “it is understood, on authority of a member of the county council, that the commissioners asked for an appropriation of several thousand dollars in the budget recently for the purpose of widening bridges on the section of road now under consideration. This was done on the condition that the state highway commission probably would take over the road.”

The ISHC wanted to get the process started as soon as possible, as they were working on adding 900 miles of roads to the state highway system. They wanted the entire package available for consideration all at once. But Wayne County decided that a vote would be in the cards on Saturday (18 September 1926). The ISHC agreed to hold the matter that long, although they were very anxious to get started.

Indiana Official Highway Map of 01 October 1926, showing the pending and authorized addition of SR 38 from New Castle to Richmond.

It is assumed that the vote was affirmative, since the now SR 38 did appear on official state highway issued for the Great Renumbering that would occur two weeks later. It is shown on that map (as shown above) as an authorized addition under construction. The extent of SR 38 would be this section for a few years. It wouldn’t be until 1931 that SR 38 made it to Pendleton. This section would complete the two state roads to New Castle that stood for years. Ultimately, SR 103 would be added to the city. SR 38, US 27 and US 40 would be the extent of the state road system in Richmond. That wouldn’t last long, however.

By 1929, SR 21 south of Richmond that connects to OH SR 224, and SR 11 east of the city (was part of the National Old Trails Road to Dayton) were added to the three. 1932 would see SR 21 extending northwest of the city, and SR 227 and SR 121 to the northeast of Richmond, added to the ISHC sphere of maintenance. US 35 would replace SR 11 and multiplex with SR 22 through Richmond. SR 21 south of Richmond would be renumbered SR 227.

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