US 31 Through Franklin

One of the hardest things to do as a researcher in transportation history is to put logic and active thought aside to deal with government plans. When I did the Road Trip 1926 series, I followed the maps issued by the Indiana State Highway Commission as close as possible. However, sometimes maps are unavailable, or worse, unknown to exist by me, so I end up making logical conclusions. Most of the time, this works out great. Other times, not so much.

Such is the case with US 31 through Franklin. When I did the “Road Trip 1926: US 31,” I naturally assumed that the original State Road 1 turned national highway went through Franklin following the old Madison State Road. It was, after all, the route that was used to make the highway. And it did.

A little research, and a knowledge of how the state works, and what I thought I knew needs a little tweaking. The Madison State Road came from Indianapolis and into Franklin along Main Street. It left Franklin to the south along State Street. A logical conclusion would be that State Street would be the old state road to Monroe Street, where it travelled Monroe to the courthouse. Here it got a little convoluted, since connecting Jefferson and Monroe Streets gets a little interesting.

But then I found a USGS topo map of Franklin from 1948. And the route of the old US 31 through the town became perfectly clear.

1948 USGS Topographic map of the US 31 bypass of Franklin, Indiana.

US 31 was such an important route that it was made a hard surface road very quickly. It was one of the first roads in Indiana to be made completely hard surface through the entire state. Because it was given such a treatment, it is easy to follow through Franklin, if you know where to look.

1948 USGS Topographic Map of the route of old US 31 through Franklin.

Armed with new information, I can now say, with more certainty, that the route of US 31 through the Johnson County seat came in from the north along Main Street. At Jefferson Street, it turned west to turn south on what is now West Court Street. (That street is now one way north.) West Court Street is only one block long, connecting Jefferson and Monroe Streets.

Here the old road returns to Main Street by going east on Monroe Street. Turning south on Main Street, the original US 31 travels until it reaches South Street. From here, it follows South Street east to the end of the road, which is State Street. South of this point was the original Madison State Road, and the route of US 31. To this day, it is still called Old US 31.

Then again, looking at the last snippet, I could still be wrong. A quick glance will show that there are three hard surface roads in Franklin. One is Jefferson Street from the courthouse west. That was SR 44 through Franklin. (SR 44 was decommissioned between SR 144 west of Franklin to I-65 east of the city.)

One is the route of US 31 as described above. The last one is Walnut Street from Main Street to Jefferson Street. It is entirely possible that this might have been part of US 31. I would doubt that to be the case. But it IS the point of this article to prove that I can be wrong occasionally when it comes to following roads through towns. Until access to more maps becomes available, or until things get back to semi-normal in the world, we will have to make do with what we can find online.

And keep searching, I will.

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