Knightstown and Rushville State Road

I have mentioned many times about the creation of the original Indiana state roads. Those roads were passed into law by the General Assembly, built by the state, then turned over to county officials upon creation. Often times, these roads connected smaller Indiana towns to one another. Today, I want to focus on the Knightstown and Rushville State Road.

First, a little history. For starters, the very existence of Knightstown is a treasure trove of transportation history…due to its name. The town was named after Bucks County, Pennsylvania, native Jonathan Knight. Mr. Knight spent a great deal of his life working on transportation facilities. In 1816, he was appointed to map Washington County, Pennsylvania. While there, he became a county commissioner for three years. He was involved in the preliminary surveys of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and National Road between Cumberland, Maryland, and Wheeling, (West) Virginia. The National Road would be laid out to cross Washington County, Pennsylvania, connecting to the county seat at Washington. In 1828, he went to work for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which used some of the same right of way as the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. From 1830 to 1842, he was the Chief Engineer for the company. He later represented southwestern Pennsylvania in the U. S. House of Representatives.

Knightstown itself was built along the National Road in 1827. It was located north of the already in place state road connecting Indianapolis to Centerville. The National Road would also connect those two mentioned towns, although more directly. (Keep in mind that most early state roads were just the state improving roads that were already in place…so they tended to be more winding than later roads that were purposely built.) The old road would be located basically along the line separating Rush and Henry Counties.

The road that is the subject of this entry, the Knightstown-Rushville State Road, would leave Knightstown on what is now called Jefferson Street. An astute map reader will notice that today it is known as SR 140. It maintains that designation to a point south of what was the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home, now the Hoosier Youth Challenge Academy. The road then continues to the south southeast, twisting and turning its way to Rush County Road 550 North. The old road then turned east along that county road, then veered southeast on what is marked on Google Maps as either Rush County Road 140 West or Rushville Road.

After almost two miles, the old state road turned east again, this time along Rush County Road 400 North. And again, it veers south, where it is once again known as Rushville Road. It winds its way through the Rush County countryside, passing old School Number 5 at Rush County Road 300 North. Another twist and turn, the old road becomes an extension of Rushville’s Spencer Street. Roughly halfway between County Roads 200 North and 100 North, the old road’s route turns southeast along what is now Foster Heights Road. The road then turns due east before it connects to what is now Main Street in Rushville. Turning south completes the old state road’s route.

Rushville itself became the county seat of Rush County shortly after it was created from Delaware County (unorganized – and no relation to the current Indiana county of the same name) on 1 April 1822. But the time the county was created, and the town started being platted the following July, there was already a school at the location. The Post Office in the town opened teh same year the county was organized. Just like Knightstown, Rushville (and Rush County) was named after an eastern Pennsylvanian. This time, Benjamin Rush.

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