Rights of Way on the National Road…

Indianapolis News, 16 December 1890

1890. The Postal Telegraph Company was placing telegraph poles and wires connecting Indianapolis and Terre Haute. Looking at a map, even then, it is quickly noticed that fastest way between the two is the old National Road. Oh, but not so quick.

The National Road was built by the Federal Government in the early to mid 1800’s. The road was built on land that was already owned by the Federal Government. The path of the road had changed from what was planned, but it did connect the seats of government in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois at the time. In 1848, it was ceded to the states.

In Indiana, the road was sold to Curtis Gilbert and others in 1850. They sold the road to the Western Plank Road Company. By 1890, a Terre Haute attorney, Joseph H. Blake, owned the majority of the stock in the Western Plank Road Company. This would come into play when it came to the Postal Telegraph Company.

Indianapolis News, 16 December 1890

From Greencastle to the Vigo County line, farmers were having none of the telegraph installers. Some farmers were threatening telegraph company workers. Some were cutting down the poles as they were put up. One farmer filed a lawsuit against the telegraph company. The company counter sued.

This brings us back to Mr. Blake, owner of the Western Plank Road Company. As owner of the company, and the National Road, Blake claimed the right of the road for traffic, such as street car lines, telegraph lines, and the like. It all came down to Mr. Blake not allowing the telegraph company to install lines along the National Road without paying for the privilege.

The Postal Telegraph Company would detour their construction before getting to Greencastle, running southward to follow the Bloomington Road into Terre Haute. Such behavior would continue when it came to the right of way on roads until facilities like the National Road would be purchased back by the counties.

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