Original SR 22 – The “Fight” For the Way to Martinsville

After the formal (second) creation of the Indiana Highway Commission, the race was one to create a state highway system that connected all of the County Seats in the state together. The ISHC was tasked, from the very beginning, to connect all county seats and towns of population of 5,000 or more. There were a lot of places that were set to be connected to the state highway system. But, the state also had a limited amount of both funding and mileage allowed. This led to sort of a competition between routes to be added to accomplish that goal.

Then came the new route, to be called SR 22, that was announced in 1920.

The ISHC simply stated “Route 22. Beginning at Bedford in Lawrence County running thence in a northerly direction through Bloomington and Martinsville to Indianapolis.” (Source: Martinsville Reporter-Times, 1 July 1920 and Indianapolis News, 30 June 1920) Now, discerning readers (i.e. those that read my post of just two days ago) will be quick to point out that the route from Martinsville to Indianapolis was covered by the then Dixie Highway, which is roughly SR 37 today. One would think that route would be chosen for the final section of SR 22.

Unfortunately, politics, and the law creating the ISHC, got in the way.

Martinsville is the county seat of Morgan County. It goes without saying that Marion County’s seat is Indianapolis. A (more or less) direct route between the two made absolute sense. However, the second stipulation came into play. Both newspapers mentioned above, which printed the very same story word for word, reported “A hearing was given to Mr. Charles Mendenhall and others interested in the location of the state road connecting Martinsville and Indianapolis. They made a plea for the road to run through Mooresville, which was taken under advisement.”

Mooresville, in 1920, only had a population of 1,781. There were no larger towns between Martinsville and Indianapolis. A population of around 2,000 made Mooresville, relatively, a large town in the state at the time. Mooresville was already connected to Indianapolis via both the Indianapolis-Vincennes State Road (future SR 67) and the Indianapolis & Vincennes Railroad (actually, in 1920, this was part of the Pennsylvania Lines West of Pittsburgh, having been part of both the Vandalia and the Panhandle).

The whole thing came to a head with a hearing on 16 June 1920. “A hearing on the definite location of the state road between Martinsville and Indianapolis was given. Charles Mendenhall spoke for the route through Mooresville to Indianapolis, and Emmett Branch spoke in favor of what is known as the Bluff road. Judge McNutt, of Martinsville and Mr. Buchanan, of the postoffice department, Indianapolis, also sope (sic) in favor of the Bluf (sic) road.”

There were two differing factions when it came to locating the new SR 22. One favored a route west of White River, the other favored east of the river.

In the minute book of the meeting to determine SR 22’s location, on the same day, it was noted “moved by Mr. Crawford, seconded by Mr. Oliphant, that the state road connecting Martinsville and Indianapolis be located through Mooresville, through West Newton to Indianapolis. Motion carried unanimously.”

The selection was submitted to Governor Goodrich, whom had the job of approving all roads taken into the state highway system. The Governor approved the selection.

The newspapers make the following statement about the selection: “The route has been changed two of three times, at present the Mooresville road is it, but a good many people are wondering when the next change will be due and if when the final change is made, it will go straight up.”

Thus, the route to Bedford would march its way through Mooresville, crossing the White River west of Martinsville, where it would follow the Dixie Highway south to its end. It wouldn’t stay this way long. The old Indianapolis-Vincennes State Road from the White River bridge into Martinsville was given the number SR 12. By 1923, SR 22 was, in fact, moved to “go straight up.” The Dixie Highway was taken over as SR 22. The rest of the old Vincennes Road from Martinsville to Indianapolis would be changed to SR 12, matching the rest of the old route. The connecting bridge between SR 12 and SR 22 at Martinsville would remain part of the state highway system, albeit without any number that I can find.

When the Great Renumbering happened on 1 October 1926, SR 22 became SR 37, SR 12 became SR 67 and the connecting bridge was given the number SR 39. This SR 39 was disconnected from the rest of the same numbered route, and would be for years. But, having been in the state highway system for six years at that point, it explains why that small section of road was included at all.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Some may wonder why I am covering this topic so close to covering the Dixie Highway in Morgan County. The two ideas are really unrelated. I wanted to do an entry about expansion of the state highway system between 1919 and 1923. So, in that vein, I pulled up, on newspapers.com, articles with “state road” and “1920” in the search box. The articles mentioned were near the top of the list, and caught my eye. So, the original planned entry is still in a holding pattern as I wrote this one. This shows how the entry list here at ITH is never really set in stone. I tend to refer to it as set in mush. Now, if you excuse me, I am going to take my short attention span and see what else catches my eye while trying to nail down a specific idea.

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