When the Auto Trail era began in Indiana, with the help of the Hoosier Carl G. Fisher, Fort Wayne was one of the cities that would benefit from this new found “Good Roads” movement. By 1920, the Rand McNally Auto Trails map listed six named routes passing through the city. These were, in numerical order according to the Rand, the Yellowstone Trail, the Ohio-Indiana-Michigan Way, the Hoosier Highway, the Lincoln Highway, the Custer Trail, and the Wabash Way.
The Yellowstone Trail, like the name suggests, connected both coasts to Yellowstone National Park. In 1919, the Yellowstone Trail was designated out of Fort Wayne along what was the previous year marked the Winona Trail. Or so it would seem. While they both went to the same place, their paths west of Fort Wayne were completely different. Well, sort of.
The original 1919 Yellowstone Trail and the Winona Trail and the Yellowstone Trail left Fort Wayne using the same road…Bass Road. As a matter of fact, both used the same path to Columbia City – as follows: Bass Road/CR 500 N and Raber Road into Columbia City. This was one of two direct routes between Fort Wayne and Columbia City.
By 1920, the Yellowstone Trail was rerouted between Fort Wayne and Columbia City. It still followed Bass Road, but then it turned north on what is now Eme Road to head into the town of Arcola. The Yellowstone followed Eme Road until it turned northwest, then west, on what is now Yellow River Road. At the end of Yellow River Road, the trail turned north to Leesburg/Old Trail Road. In 1920, this also became part of State Road 44. It was renumbered in 1923 to State Road 2. With the Great Renumbering, it became US 30.
Now, since the 1928 reroute of the Lincoln Highway and the Yellowstone Trail followed the same corridor, one would think that the road that is called Lincoln Way would have been the old Yellowstone Trail. I did. But a quick glance at maps of the era, the Yellowstone Trail entered Columbia City heading southwest, while Lincolnway enters Columbia City heading northwest.
The Yellowstone Trail east of Fort Wayne headed off towards Hicksville and Defiance, Ohio, using the route that would ultimately become Indiana State Road 37/Ohio State Road 2. It would be joined, at least to Hicksville, by the Hoosier Highway.
The Hoosier Highway south of Fort Wayne would follow what is now the State Road 1 corridor to Bluffton. When the state road system was put in place, it was given the number State Road 13, which would become State Road 3 with the Great Reumbering of 1926.
The Ohio-Indiana-Michigan Way entered Fort Wayne from the south roughly using the current US 27/US 33 corridor, which would be State Road 21 in 1920. It left Fort Wayne to the north using roughly the State Road 3 corridor, which didn’t get a state road number until sometime after 1926.
The Lincoln Highway is probably the most documented Auto Trail in history. Entering Fort Wayne from the southeast along the US 30 corridor, it was given the number State Road 2 in 1917. It left the city to the northwest, following the old Goshen Road. Today it is the US 33 corridor, but it was State Road 2, as well, in 1917/1919. It was changed to State Road 46 in 1923, when the designation State Road 2 was applied to the more direct Valparaiso-Fort Wayne route that is now US 30. In 1926, the State Road 46 designation gave way to, again, State Road 2. It stayed that way until the coming of US 33 in 1938.
The Custer Way started north of Fort Wayne at the Ohio-Indiana-Michigan Way and what is now Clinton Street. It followed what is now Clinton Street to Tonkel Road, which carried the Custer Trail into Auburn. While it would become part of State Road 1, it carried no state road designation until much, much later.
The last one is the Wabash Way. The route itself ended in Fort Wayne as a multiplex with the Hoosier Highway. Parts of the Wabash Way’s old routing is gone now, as it followed the Lower Huntington Road from Fort Wayne to Roanoke. It never did receive a state road designation.
Fort Wayne is the second largest city in Indiana, and as such, had the second largest number of important routes. The Auto Trail era was very good to Fort Wayne, as was the state road era.