The Old Louisville Road

In the early days of Indiana, and even pre-Indiana, transportation, there was a trail leading from the Falls of the Ohio, at New Albany, to a ford in the Wabash River at Vincennes. That trail, or most of it, was an old trace created not by man, but by bison. It was called, for most of its length, the Buffalo Trace.

I have covered it in a previous entry here on the Indiana Transportation History blog. Today, I want to cover the section east from Vincennes to Wheatland. I have found a couple of old USGS topographic maps that show the old road connecting the two labelled as “Old Louisville Road.”

When I did the “Road Trip 1926” series entry on US 50, available here, some people asked me about the location of the US 50 route from Vincennes to Wheatland. I placed it, according to what I could figure out from available state Official maps, north of the Baltimore & Ohio tracks. And that was the accurate placement. For 1926.

What is now called Wheatland Road was shown on old maps as the Old Louisville Road. The first two maps show the Old Louisville Road, still mostly dirt and mud, as it was in 1942. The yellow line is the old road.

That is the original route of the 1923 version of SR 5. When the Great Renumbering happened in 1926, it became the official route of US 50…for a short time. The state was already replacing SR 5/US 50 to track south of the railroad when the routes were renumbered. It wouldn’t be long before the new US 50, connecting Vincennes and Wheatland, would be in place…with a much better surface and straighter route.

The above map is from Wheatland west, showing the old Louisville Road before and after the connection with what would become SR 550. This map was published by the USGS in 1944. The old road swoops into Wheatland from the northwest, connecting to the new road at that town. But east of Wheatland, US 50 was the old road.

A road trip involving US 50 would be incomplete if one didn’t use the route above, as it was the original US 50. There is only one section that is impassible today, as it was ripped out when the Vincennes bypass was built. The below snippet from Google Maps, available directly here, show where the old road would cross the railroad tracks in a straight line from Washington Avenue to Old Wheatland Road. This was the jumping off point for the first move of US 50, with Washington Avenue turning more east and south.

I would love to share maps of the Vincennes end of the road. However, the first available from the USGS online is from 1965, after the bypass had been built. The 1915 map available covers too much territory to show anything, and the old road, and Vincennes, are pretty close to the edge of the map. And there is no map available east of that location for that early.

The 1942 map is available from Topoview at the following link: https://ngmdb.usgs.gov/ht-bin/tv_browse.pl?id=def30bcaf7088af1f2e39b12f87ff2bd.

The 1944 map can be found at this link: https://ngmdb.usgs.gov/ht-bin/tv_browse.pl?id=810cc3befc24241b312a2bbcfb66be68

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