Survey Notes of the Michigan Road

When the Michigan Road was being planned and surveyed, the plan was to connect the Ohio River at Madison (chosen as a result of a vote that ended up 11 for and 10 against) to a new town on the shore of Lake Michigan to be called Michigan City. Because of the sparseness of the settlement in Indiana at the time, the surveyors were given directions to connect Madison to Greensburg, Greensburg to Indianapolis, Indianapolis to Logansport, then Logansport to the Lake. Along the way, other towns were included as they were in the path between the two destinations.

Researchers have an advantage these days. There are sources online that allow researchers to have access to more information to the surveys of the Michigan Road than most topics in the transportation field. For instance, most of the information for this entry will be from one book: Development and Lands of Michigan Road.

The most confusing part of the surveys with the Michigan Road is the place where the counting starts. The town of Logansport is 102 miles, by way of the Michigan Road, from Lake Michigan and Michigan City. Those 102 miles are not counted from Michigan City, but north out of Logansport. South of Logansport, the mileage counting starts at 102 for the journey to Greensburg at mile 220. The last 46 miles are numbered from Madison at mile 1 to Greensburg at mile 46. This brings the total surveyed mileage to 266.

Another thing that should be mentioned at this point is how survey directions work. Most surveys are done in reference to due north and south. From there, directions are measured in degrees east and west of that true north/south. Hence, a 45 degree line to the west would be referenced as North, 45 degrees West. Also referenced is the measurement unit called a “rod.” A rod is 16.5 feet, or 1/320 of a mile.

There are two survey references to Michigan City in this source (page 15). At mile 102, the road is surveyed to aim in a direction that is described as north 53 degrees west for 108 roads, turning to 20 degrees west for 76 rods “to Edge of Lake.” This turn takes place at Washington Street in Michigan City.

The Michigan Road survey notes through Logansport. The survey boundary, when it came to the road, was the north bank of the Eel River at Logansport. From this point, survey sections would be to Michigan City and to the “Governor’s House” at Indianapolis (now Monument Circle).

In Carroll County, at mile 110, the survey is kept in what is probably the straightest line ever created in Indiana at the time. The survey turns to South, 19 degrees east. This line, with very few exceptions, is maintained to the crossing of Crooked Creek in Marion County near where Kessler Boulevard crosses Michigan Road. At Indianapolis, the road was to connect to the original mile square at the northwest corner (called the intersection of North and West Streets and Indiana Avenue), then follow Indiana Avenue to its end at Ohio Street. There, the Michigan Road turned east one block, south on Meridian Street to the Governor’s House on Circle Street. That ended the survey north of the town of Indianapolis.

From the Governor’s House, the Michigan Road would continue on Meridian Street to Washington Street. The survey would then follow Washington Street one mile, before turning South 71.5 degrees east along what is now Southeastern Avenue. To show the difference in length from the survey lines that separate Indiana’s land grants to the length of the survey of the Michigan Road, range lines are six miles apart. The turning of the Michigan Road from the National Road happens about one block west of a range line, in this case, Shelby Street south of the old B&O/PRR tracks. This is in mile 173. The next range line, which is now known as Franklin Road, is in mile 180.

Northwestern Shelby County and the Michigan Road was covered by me back in May 2019. Little need to go over that again. Suffice it to say that the road between the Marion-Shelby County Line and Shelbyville is pretty much a straight line, with an exception, mentioned in that May post, at Pleasant View. It’s in Shelbyville where things, according to the source that I shared, get a bit puzzling. The survey itself states that after crossing the Big Blue River (where SR 9 and Michigan Road meet north of Shelbyville), the road then connects to Public Square, then turns east on Washington Street to Noble Street. From here, the road travels south to Jackson Street then east again before turning to South 69 1/2 degrees east after having left the town. Jackson Street, today, is one block north of that is now SR 44 in Shelbyville, which follows Broadway. I have yet to find any sources to show how Jackson Street and Michigan Road directly connected. If you have further information, I would love to have it.

The next thing of note in the survey is the 215th Mile. The original survey for the Michigan Road in this section was done in 1828. However, there was a change made in 1833 in this section by William Polke. The change involved, actually, the Lawrenceburgh State Road that was established before the Michigan Road. The description is very complicated. But the change made the road nine rods shorter than the original Michigan Road survey. From there, the road continued to Greensburg, with no real route through the town mentioned.

Through Jefferson County, after climbing its way out of the Madison lowlands, the road was surveyed at North six degrees east, with little exception, to the town of Napoleon at mile 33. Here the Lawrenceburgh State Road is mentioned again, as it leaves Napoleon to the east at this point. From this point to the 46th mile, where the road meets the Greensburg plat, then another 10 rods to Greensburg’s Main Street, the Michigan and Lawrenceburg State Roads share the same trail. At Main Street in Greensburg, the last mention is that the Michigan Road bears west from where it enters the town.

One thought on “Survey Notes of the Michigan Road

  1. An excellent report, Richard. After this survey was completed, when was the Michigan Road at least mostly completed between Indianapolis and Michigan City?

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