Back in September, 2019, when I started posting about late 19th Century bicycling in and around Indianapolis, it started with an article about Bicycling the Michigan Road. That covered from Indianapolis north toward Augusta. But anyone who has been around here for a while knows that Indianapolis is the middle point on the Michigan Road. So today, we are aiming southeast along the old road towards New Bethel… errr… Wanamaker. (There is a history article there that is beyond the scope of this blog…but I’ve been thinking about that.)
The Indianapolis News of 21 March 1896 covered this section of the old road as a return trip that I wrote about when I wrote Bicycling the Shelbyville Pike. The difference in this instance is that instead of the travel back to the city, like the Bicycling the Madison Road was for the Bicycling the Three Notch Road, this article covered the way out to New Bethel (I will be using New Bethel instead of Wanamaker due to the fact that was used in the article.) As a matter of fact, the article mentions that “between New Bethel and the city are over a dozen good country roads, which will be in a short time passable for the wheel.”
The article continues “these dirt roads during the summer months are really pleasanter for the wheelmen than the Michigan road, which is rarely in good condition.” The reporter states that this was more due to the amount of traffic on the road than anything else.
“The Michigan road runs into Washington street near Pine, just a mile east of Pennsylvania street.” This is still the location of the connection, although it has been moved a bit to the east to make the angle of intersection a little better. The condition of the road between this starting point and the Belt Railroad was bad. The News noted that “it will not be used much by riders.” A quarter of a mile east of the Belt Railroad, a road connects the Michigan Road, through Stafford, to the Brookville and Irvington (National) Turnpikes. (Stafford is a neighborhood bordered by English Avenue, the Belt Railway, the Pennsylvania/B&O tracks and Sherman Drive. One of its streets connects, now, directly to the Brookville Road. Check here for when it didn’t.) It is recommended that riders follow that route. That route, by the time of this article, had acquired its current name: Sherman Drive. The National Road is listed as being one of the best into the city.
Unfortunately, the News article is so down on the Michigan Road that it covers a bunch of other routes into the city. Going out the Shelbyville Pike to Five Points, to Acton, and north to the Michigan Road back to the city is a 32 mile trip. It is mentioned many times in the article that the old road was in very bad shape. Due to this, the article mentions very little else about the Michigan Road, but recommends leaving New Bethel to the northeast to connect to the Senour Gravel Road, which would allow the rider to come back to the city via the Brookville Road.