Seymour

Indiana has always been proud of the fact that it is the Crossroads of America. Many cities in Indiana contribute to that nickname. And most people think of Indianapolis when the Crossroads moniker is brought up. But I want to focus on a city in south central Indiana that was not only a crossroads town, it was the crossing of the railroad that gave the city its name: Seymour.

The city itself came into being in 1852. That was the year that the Jeffersonville Railroad completed its track from its title city to Columbus through what soon would be Seymour. The Jeffersonville would be created in 1832 as the Ohio & Indianapolis Railway. In 1849, the railroad changed its name to the Jeffersonville Railroad Company.

In 1851, the State of Indiana chartered the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad Company. The goal of the company was to build a route that connected the Ohio River at Cincinnati to the Mississippi River at St. Louis. Its path through Indiana was far from settled when a mill owner in Rockford persuaded the railroad engineer to build the line two miles south of the then commercial center of Jackson County. That location south of Rockford where the O&M would cross would, in turn, be named by the mill owner after that railroad engineer: John Seymour.

The location had already been crossed by two state roads built in the decade or so prior to the creation of Seymour. The New Albany State Road entered the area from the north from Indianapolis. The original New Albany State Road turned east on the other state road, before turning south again bound for the Ohio River. That other state road connected Lawrenceburg (and Cincinnati) to Vincennes.

In the mid-1880’s, the city would have an addition to it crossroads status with the coming of the Evansville & Richmond Railroad. This would make Seymour a rail center, with direct connections (through the three railroads) to Indianapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Chicago. The sixth route out of the city would connect to the Vernon, Greensburg & Rushville at Westport.

With the creation of the Auto Trails, Seymour found itself on three routes. The Jackson Highway, marked by the number 69 on Rand McNally maps of the era, entered Seymour along the old state road connecting the city to Indianapolis. It then followed the Cincinnati-Vincennes Road to the southeast towards Brownstown and Vallonia. That old state road would also be used, from west to east, through Seymour for the route of Rand McNally’s route 90, known as the French Lick Route. Rand McNally route 96 started in Seymour, and left the town going south, twisting and turning its way through Dudleytown and Crothersville to ultimately join the old New Albany State Road.

When the Indiana State Highway Commission was first formed in 1917, Seymour found itself on even footing with Indianapolis when it came to the state Main Market Road system. The state created five main market highways. Market Highway 1 followed the old New Albany State Road from Indianapolis to New Albany. Market Highway 4 would cross Indiana on the old Cincinnati to Vincennes state road from Bedford to Cincinnati.

This status quo would remain in place through the Great Renumbering on 1 October 1926. Although the official name of the Main Market Highway would change to State Road in 1919, Seymour would still be on both SR 1 and SR 4. With the renumbering, the city found itself on two cross-country highways, when SR 1 became US 31 and SR 4 became US 50.

By 1940, a US 31 bypass would be built from Columbus to Seymour, passing both cities to the east. At the south end of the bypass, the new US 31 connected to the original US 31 where it departed from the US 50. Up to this point, US 31 came in to downtown Seymour from the north, turned east along US 50, then turned south again east of Seymour. The old US 31 into Seymour would first become US 31A, then changed to SR 11.

Today, Seymour is still on US 50, but is bypassed by both US 31 and I-65, the interstate built to follow the venerable old US route. SR 11 still follows the old US 31 route into the city. After many name changes, the old Ohio & Mississippi would become part of the Baltimore & Ohio. The Jeffersonville would merge with one of its competitors, and then a bunch of other companies, to become part of the Pennsylvania Railroad. CSX and the Louisville & Indiana, respectively, are the successors to those railroads that helped form the town in the first place. Trains still rumble through on those roads. The Milwaukee Road, the ultimate successor to the Evansville & Richmond would rip out the tracks from Seymour to Westport in 1961, and from Bedford to Seymour in 1978.

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