Winona Trail

The Auto-Trail Era in Indiana led to a lot of different routes created for travelers. Some cross country routes, some were confined to the state of Indiana. Some of the routes disappeared as quickly as the appeared, at least as far as some people, and companies, were concerned. Today, I want to talk about an Auto Trail that lasted, according to Rand McNally, one year. That is the Winona Trail.

1918 Rand McNally Auto Trails Map. The route marked with the number 3 is listed as the Winona Trail.

The first reference to the Winona Trail depends on when the above map was published. The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette of 10 March 1918 stated that a new trail was being planned to create a short cut to Chicago from Fort Wayne. The new route would be called the Winona Trail, making a shorter drive to Valparaiso. The routes currently in use between the two cities included the Lincoln Highway, which connected through Goshen, Elkhart, South Bend and LaPorte, and an unnamed trail that connected through North Manchester, Rochester, Culver and Tefft.

The Fort Wayne Sentinel of 5 April 1918 reported that “Winona Trail Is To Be Established.” The route, “leading west of Fort Wayne through Columbia City over the Yellow River road, thence west through Larwill, Pierceton, Winona, Warsaw, Bourbon, Plymouth and Valparaiso, and eventually on to Chicago is to be established as a state highway.” Keep in mind that the Indiana State Highway Commission was in flux. The ISHC was created in 1917, but was dealing with a constitutional battle. That battle would not be resolved until 1919. So this reference to a “state highway” did not mean what it means today.

Rand McNally, one of the premier sources of Auto Trail information, removed the Winona Trail from their maps in 1919 with the coming of the Yellowstone Trail. That new road followed the same route the Winona Trail did. Since the latter was only in Indiana, while the former was a cross country route, one can assume that it was left off maps simply due to complete duplication.

The last reference to the Winona Trail in any newspapers (that I have access to, anyway) was made in the Fort Wayne Sentinel of 1 September 1921. This reference was made in a news story about the new “Washington Highway” that would connect Fort Wayne to Spokane in the west to Cleveland in the east. “The addition of this latest highway, in the opinion of Secretary H. E. Bodine, of the Chamber of Commerce, gives Fort Wayne the largest number of national highway of any city in the country.” The Winona Trail was mentioned in a list of the highways, other than the Washington Highway, that entered the city: Lincoln, Yellowstone, Ohio-Indiana-Michigan, Custer Trail, Hoosier, Wabash Way, and Winona Trail.

The route that was the Winona Trail/Yellowstone Trail would be added to the state highway system as SR 44 in 1920. With the first renumbering of the state highway system in 1923, this route was changed from SR 44 to SR 2, the number given to the original Lincoln Highway route. The Great Renumbering in 1926 gave the road the designation US 30. In 1928, the Lincoln Highway would be rerouted along this corridor.

When it was said and done, the afterthought route, directly connecting Valparaiso and Fort Wayne, and following the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago (Pennnsylvania) railroad that had even more directly connected the two for decades, would become the more important route across Indiana. A route that more or less started to create a way for visitors to get to Winona Lake.

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