1920-1960: Bartholomew County Roads

Today, we look at the third county in alphabetical order in the State of Indiana. Bartholomew County would have very few changes in its state highway history. It was located on the Jackson Highway south of Indianapolis, along what would become State Road 1. That very same road branched at Columbus, with one branch continuing south to Jeffersonville and the other running to Madison. It was the latter branch that gave the name to the same road in southern Marion and northern Johnson counties.

January 8, 1821: Formation by statute effective February 12, 1821. The formation affected Jackson County and Delaware. The county was organized by act January 9, 1821, effective February 12, 1821.

Boundaries: “Beginning at the south west corner of section eighteen in township seven north of range four east, thence north to the northwest corner of township ten north of range four east, thence east with the line dividing townships ten and eleven north to the north east corner of township ten of range seven east, thence south with the range line dividing ranges seven and eight to the south east corner of section thirteen, in township eight north of range seven east, thence west to the range line dividing ranges six and seven at the north west corner of section nineteen in township eight north of range seven east, thence south with said range line to where it intersects Big Sand Creek, thence down said creek with the meanders thereof to its junction with Driftwood river, thence down said river with the meanders thereof to when an east and west line running through the centre of township seven north strikes the north west side of the aforesaid river, thence west with the said line to the place of beginning.”

The territory of Bartholomew County would change with a law passed on January 16, 1828. All of that territory in Range 3 East, townships 8, 9, and 10 north, would be attached to Bartholomew County. That territory, plus half of Range 4 east in the same townships, and six section in the northwest corner of township 7 north, would be removed from Bartholomew County to create the new Brown County effective 1 April 1836. A law of 17 February 1838 brought Bartholomew County to its present shape, with the removal of the final three sections of the northwest quarter of Range 4 East, Township 7 North that were still attached to the county. It was moved to Jackson County.

The County Seat location was chosen as part of sections 24 and 25, township 9 north, range 5 east on 15 February 1821. “The name Tiptona was suggested, but on March 20, the name Columbus was adopted.” The decision to change the name of the town, which had actually already been platted and settled, from Tiptona to Columbus upset one person in particular. I covered that in the article “The Location of the Mauck’s Ferry Road, A Case of Revenge” on 11 November 2020.

1920 Indiana Official State Highway Map

We start, as we always do, with the map of 1920. But, like Allen County that I covered last week, Bartholomew County was actually on the state highway system since 1917. Main Market Road 1 connected through the middle of the state from Jeffersonville to South Bend, including Scottsburg, Seymour, Columbus, Franklin, Indianapolis, Kokomo, Peru, Rochester and Plymouth. With the second creation of the Indiana State Highway Commission in 1919, it was changed from Main Market Road 1 to State Road 1.

The branch towards Madison that was mentioned in the first paragraph was given the number State Road 26, and was continued west of Columbus to Nashville in Brown County.

1923 Kenyon Map of Bartholomew County, Indiana

There were only two Auto Trails that connected to the county. The first was also mentioned in the opening paragraph, marked as (C) on the map to the left, which was the Jackson Highway.

1923 Indiana Official State Highway Map

The other, marked (P) was the Terre Haute-Columbus-Cincinnati Highway, connecting, pretty close, those three cities. The Jackson Highway followed what was by then State Road through the County. The THCC was made part of State Road 26 from west of Columbus to the city. East of Columbus, it sued county roads for its journey towards Greensburg. This will come back into play in a few short years with the Great Renumbering of 1926. The official map of 1923 showed no change in the state highway system at all in the county.

1926 Indiana Official State Highway Map

With the Great Renumbering, State Road 1 became what it is still known as today – US 31. The THCC highway through the county became SR 46, although it was only an authorized addition at that time east of Columbus. This road connected the county seats, directly, of Brown, Bartholomew and Decatur Counties (Nashville, Columbus and Greensburg). It connected to more (Bloomington, Spencer, Terre Haute and Lawrenceburg).

The Madison Road would become State Road 7. It would connected directly to the county seat of Jennings County, Vernon, but would end at the county seat of Jefferson County, Madison.

1930 Indiana Official Highway Map

Late 1930, and another state road was being authorized in Bartholomew County. Given the job of state roads was to connect county seats, this one would connect to the seats of Shelby and Hancock Counties (Shelbyville and Greenfield), among others. It was not given a number as of that time, however, it was an extension of State Road 9, which ended at Greenfield. The new extension of State Road 9 was authorized to the junction of State Road 46 between Petersville and Newbern.

1932 Indiana Official State Highway Map

By 1932, the extension of the now built State Road 9 was pushed all the way through the county to a point east of Seymour, through Elizabethtown. Another authorized addition coming from Bedford to Columbus was granted, as well.

1933 Indiana Official State Highway Map

That state road that would come in from Bedford would be completed the following year and given the number State Road 58. Ultimately, it was built to connect to US 31 south of Columbus and Garden City.

The State Road 9 extension listed in 1932 was removed from the maps of 1934 and 1935. That addition to State Road 9 would, however, still by in the hearts and minds of the Indiana State Highway Commission. In 1936, a new State Road 9 was being built from State Road 7 south to US 50 east of Seymour. And an authorized addition connecting State Road 46 to State Road 7 was in the works.

1936 Indiana Official State Highway Map
1937 Indiana Official State Highway Map

The State Road 9 extension would be added to maps for the 1937 issue. The connection from State Road 46 south to a point on the under construction new SR 9 west of Elizabethtown was complete. At that point, State Road 9 just dead ended at the construction. It is important to note that the route used by the extension of State Road 9 was in place for many, many years before the state decided to add it to the state highway system. Today, that route, coming off of State Road 46 (old State Road 9, I’ll get to that!) uses County Road 750 East and Legal Tender Road where it connects to US 31 southeast of Columbus.

1939 Indiana Official State Highway Map

By 1939, State Road 9 would be completed to its greatest extent. North of what is now Legal Tender Road going east into Elizabethtown, the new highway was given the designation State Road 9W. This, as you will see, would be a temporary thing.

1941 Indiana Official State Highway Map

A reroute of US 31 was in order in 1941. There had been talk of moving the old route of US 31 throughout the state. In Bartholomew County, this would happen twice. First, a new bypass of Columbus was under construction. At that point, State Road 7 from downtown Columbus to the new State Road 9W would become part of US 31, then all of State Road 9W, and State Road 9 from the end of SR 9W to Seymour, would be changed to US 31. Old US 31 would be redesignated US 31A. By the time the 1942 maps came out, the new US 31 was completed, and State Road 9 was removed from Elizabethtown, having been routed along what became County Road 200 South to its junction with the new US 31 (old SR 9W).

1942 Indiana Official State Highway Map
1945 Indiana Official State Highway Map

The other change in US 31 happened with the creation of Camp Atterbury in Johnson and Bartholomew Counties west of Edinburgh. To facilitate traffic to the new Army camp, the state expanded US 31 to a four lane divided highway. This required the bypassing of Edinburg, since the towns streets were narrow at that time. It did, however, add a new state road to the landscape. It was given the highest “mother” number of the state roads in Indiana (other than SR 135, which began life as SR 35…but that is another story). The old US 31 through Edinburgh would be given the designation State Road 79.

1950 Indiana Official State Highway Map

The only other changes in the state highway system in Bartholomew County prior to 1960 was 1) the construction of a new connection between US 31 and US 31A north of Columbus and 2) the widening of US 31 north of Columbus.

In the years to come, Interstate 65 would come to the county, US 31A would be renamed State Road 11, State Road 58 would be moved further south, State Road 46 would replace State Road 9 south of Newbern, and State Road 7 west of US 31. And State Road 79 would be given to the town of Edinburgh and removed from the state highway system. Ultimately, SR 11 from Columbus north would be also removed from the state highway system.

1957 Indiana Official Highway Map
1959 Indiana Official State Highway Map

Greensburg

On 31 December 1821, the Indiana General Assembly created a new county from lands that were part of the unorganized Delaware County. The county would be made official on 4 March 1822. That county would be named after United States Naval Commodore Stephen Decatur. Also in 1822, Thomas Hendricks founded a town near the center of the county. He named it after his wife’s home town in Pennsylvania: Greensburgh. It would become the county seat of Decatur County in July of the same year.

Greensburgh (spelling of the town’s name until 1894) would become a central point with transportation facilities that would connect it with the rest of the nation. The first big one, however, was a state road. The Michigan Road was built through the town, connecting Madison on the Ohio River to Shelbyville and Indianapolis on its way to Lake Michigan.

Several more state roads were built to the town around the same time. Roads were built to Columbus, Vernon, Rushville and Batesville. State roads at the time were paid for by the state, then turned over to the county for maintenance. This would give Greensburg connections to most of the state.

In 1853, the Lawrenceburg and Upper Mississippi Railroad was built through the town. The stretch from Indianapolis to Lawrenceburg, 90 miles of track, opened in 1853. At the end of that year, the company would change its name to the Indianapolis & Cincinnati Railroad. 14 years later, in 1867, the I&C was consolidated with the Lafayette & Indianapolis to create the Indianapolis, Cincinnati & Lafayette Railway.

It would be early in the 20th Century when the next transportation system connected to Greensburg. The Indianapolis, Shelbyville & Southeastern Traction Company would terminate in the city. This company would last until 1931.

The Auto Trail era brought three trails to the city: the Terre Haute, Columbus Cincinnati Highway; the Michigan Road; and the Tip Top Trail. The first two roads are self-explanatory. The Tip Top Trail would leave Greensburg toward Rushville and New Castle. More information on this highway is available in the post “Tip Top Trail.”

When the original batch of numbered state roads started appearing in 1919, Greensburg was included on two of the new state roads. One was SR 6, which was the Michigan Road through the area. The other was SR 36, which connected Greensburg to the National Road near Dunreith. By 1923, the THC&C Highway was added to the state road system from Greensburg to Lawrenceburg as SR 53.

With the Great Renumbering, Greensburg found itself on SR 3, SR 29, and SR 46. SR 3 started at Greensburg and worked its way north along the SR 36 corridor. Later, SR 3 would be extended southward toward Vernon. SR 29 would become US 421 in 1951. In the early 1960’s, another facility was added to the city, or at least close to it, when Interstate 74 was built.

The Location of the Mauck’s Ferry Road, A Case of Revenge

The Mauck’s Ferry Road, now called Mauxferry Road, was a state road that connected Indianapolis to Mauckport on the Ohio River in Harrison County. It left the Madison State Road in downtown Franklin, heading more or less due south to the town on the river. But its location, while a relative straight line, was due to a surveyor that felt slighted by the state of Indiana, and the naming of a town in Bartholomew County.

The town in Bartholomew County is now Columbus. Originally it was called “Tiptona,” after General John Tipton. General John Tipton was born in Sevier County, Tennessee. He would serve in the War of 1812, becoming a Brigadier General with the United States Army. With the formation of Bartholomew County in February 1821, the county seat was to be located in the town of Tiptona, a town which he had founded. That name lasted around a month…when the county commissioners, at a meeting in March 1821, changed the name to Columbus.

To say the General did not take this well is an understatement. Tipton had originally planned to move his home from Harrison County to the new Bartholomew County. With the change of the county seat’s name, he changed his mind. In 1823, General Tipton was chosen to survey the new “state road” from the soon to be capital city of Indianapolis to Mauckport. Indianapolis had been chosen as the capital of the state in 1820, and the town was platted in 1821.

In those days, much like in later times, a town’s location on a state road was held in high regard. Every town wanted to be on one. And Columbus, being a county seat, would automatically have to be. That was the major purpose of the state roads at the time…much like they are today.

General Tipton had other ideas. The original Mauck’s Ferry Road, when surveyed, covered the same territory that State Road 135 does today south of, and leading into, Brownstown. From Brownstown, the surveyor could have taken the road to Seymour (now US 50), which, by extension, would have also included the road leading from Seymour to Columbus (now SR 11).

That route would have cut the cost and time of surveying the Mauck’s Ferry Road quite a bit. But General Tipton decided to go cross country, and surveyed his new road to be two miles west of the new Bartholomew County Seat town. It would part of the first road to Indianapolis, with the portion from downtown Franklin to Indianapolis later to be known as the Madison State Road (now, mostly, US 31 – and Madison Avenue in Indianapolis and Greenwood). The Madison Road left Franklin to the southeast, following what is now State Street and Old US 31. The Mauck’s Ferry Road leaving Franklin along South Main Street.

Tipton’s career after the survey of the Mauck’s Ferry Road has its good and bad points. He served as a United States Senator from Indiana when he was tasked with replacing James Noble after the latter died in 1831. In November 1832, he was elected in his own right to serve as a senator. His time in the Senate led him to be chairman of two committees: Roads and Canals, and Native American Affairs. The latter put him in charge of the forced removal of the Potawatomi from their lands in northern Indiana near Plymouth to reservation lands in Kansas. This led to the “Trail Of Death,” where more than 40 natives, mostly children, died on the journey.

After serving his term as Senator, Tipton moved to Logansport to live out the rest of his life. He didn’t run for re-election in 1838 due to poor health. He left the Senate in March 1839, and died in Logansport a month later.

Columbus, very quickly after its becoming the county seat, removed any reference to Tipton inside the town. Logansport and Huntington both have streets to honor General John Tipton. In 1844, the new town of Tipton, as well as the county of the same name, were created, also in his honor. In a bit of irony, the county and town were created out of land that, up to that point, still belonged to the Miami Nation of native Americans.

Today, the Mauxferry Road has been decimated by the creation of Camp Atterbury in Johnson and Bartholomew Counties. As mentioned above, it still exists, more or less, from Brownstown to Mauckport. From Brownstown north, there are still some sections of the original road that exist. One part also is now part of SR 58. Columbus went on to have its share of the early state roads – being on the roads that led to Indianapolis, Madison, Jeffersonville, Bloomington, and Greensburg.

Indianapolis’ West Washington Street

It goes without saying that Washington Street in Indianapolis has always been an important facility. Since 1821, when the town of Indianapolis was platted, Washington Street has had a prominent role in the expansion of the city. When the National Road came to Indiana, it followed that same town path through the fledging Hoosier Capital. But today, I am going to fast forward into the 20th century to discuss how it became a major concrete ribbon through town, at least on the westside of Indianapolis.

No matter how important Washington Street was to the city, it had, at least outside of downtown, been not much more than what we would call two lanes wide for the first half of its life. With the coming of the automobile, these old narrow cow paths were going to have to be put on a path to make them usable by more people at a time. Way back in the middle 19th century there were discussions, heated at times, about the width of sidewalks on the street, since only the center was covered with gravel for traveling.

The Indiana State Highway Commission decided that the National Road would be part of the state highway system. This, one would think, would automatically include West Washington Street. It didn’t. It just so happened that Washington Street made a direct connection between SR 3 (US 40) both east and west of the city. But Washington Street was still a city street.

In 1937, there was some talk about the Board of Works and Sanitation of the City of Indianapolis widening West Washington Street from White River west to the city limits…at that time near Tibbs Avenue. That plan was in the works, but there was one project approved for the area: widening of Washington Street between Traub and Tremont Avenues, in front of George Washington High School.

The Indianapolis News of 16 January 1937 ran a full page story about the history and pending expansion of West Washington Street. That article mentioned that the widening of the street in front of Washington High School would allow for the creation of safety islands for students trying to cross the busy thoroughfare. West of the city limits, the old National Road, by that time US 40, was already four lanes wide. Through the city itself was a bottle neck.

But the plan never got off the ground. That same year, the General Assembly passed legislation that would remove Washington Street from city control and give it to the State Highway Commission. This would make any widening of the road a state project, no longer a city problem. While the city could ask for something to be done, the state would be the ones to do it. And the wheels of progress sometime work very slowly at the state level.

Fast forward a decade, or so. “The State Highway Commission will receive a recommendation for the rebuilding of 2.1 miles of West Washington Street between White River and Eagle Creek.” So states the Indianapolis News of 20 May 1948. Three months, at that time, had been spent on surveys to figure out exactly how to widening the old National Road.

The end point to the west is important to note here. Around 1937, a new bridge was built by the State Highway Commission to carry US 40 and US 36 across Eagle Creek. This new bridge would be built north of the old structure, and would also entail moving the intersection of Washington Street and Rockville Road (US 40 and US 36 respectively).

MapIndy aerial photograph of the intersection of Washington Street and Rockville Road, 1937.

The 1948 project would include widening West Washington Street to 60 feet wide. That included four 11 foot wide travel lanes, two in each direction, and two eight foot parking strips (one on each side). The then current road surface, consisting of brick and blacktop, would be completely removed and replaced with concrete. New sidewalks were also part of the project.

There was to be a one block gap in the project, however, due to a planning and construction question. The plans included an underpass, allowing Washington Street to go under the Indianapolis Belt Railway at Neal Street. State Engineer of Road Design, William H. Behrens, recommended that such an underpass be postponed until construction costs could come down. “He said he favors a gap of 1 block in the new construction at this point.”

A spokesman for the Indianapolis Railways stated that when the construction was underway, the company would remove its unused streetcar tracks from Washington Street from the car barns near White River (where the Indianapolis Zoo is now) to a point 100 feet west of Tibbs Avenue.

The News pointed out that “the State Highway Commission has charge of the project because Washington Street is part of Roads 40 and 36. It is also part of the old National Road.”

Indianapolis Star, 19 August 1951.

The next reference I have found to the expansion of West Washington Street, I will let speak for itself. It is the news story from the Indianapolis Star of 19 August 1951 shown above. Apparently, this was the second annual party to celebrate the completion of the 1948 project.

Michigan Road in Marion County

It is often times mentioned that the Michigan Road, connecting Madison on the Ohio River to Michigan City on Lake Michigan, is the first state road in Indiana. However, that is not entirely accurate. There were state roads that were build before the Michigan Road. The special spot that the Michigan Road has is that it was the first state road to connect across the entire state. Most roads to that point connected one town to another. And it connected to the state capital at Indianapolis.

New Bethel, Indiana, 1889.

Crossing Marion County, it entered from the southeast section of the county, roughly two miles north of the Johnson-Marion County line from Shelby County. The road had been built to Shelbyville, and went in a directly line, more or less, from that county seat to Indianapolis. Not many towns were built along the Michigan Road in Marion County. The first built would be New Bethel, known today as Wanamaker. The town is located two miles north and three miles west of where the road enters the county.

The next location to pop up along the road would be where the road crosses from Franklin Township to Warren Township. That that location, the road meets a north-south road heading south, and a road that runs almost the entirety of the line that separates Franklin and Warren Townships. That location would acquire the name of “Five Points” due to the roads there.

It should be noted that through the 19th century, and quite a bit into the 20th, this section of the road had been known as the Michigan Road. It also had a turnpike, then a free gravel road, name: Lick Creek & New Bethel Turnpike (Free Gravel Road). This road, like many others in Marion County, would keep its original name until it entered the city limits of Indianapolis. Until the late 1890’s, the city street name for Michigan Road was Michigan Avenue. This was changed due to the fact that there already was a Michigan Street in the city which had been on the original design of the town of Indianapolis in 1821. The name was then changed to match the direction it left Indianapolis… Southeastern Avenue.

The first section of the road “ended” at the National Road east of downtown. That is now the (redesigned) corner of Washington Street and Southeastern Avenue. As with other state roads at the time…and even into the 1930s when state roads made a come back, no city streets were part of the original state road. Indiana had a history of “local, local, local” government mentality. This means the state would stand back while local government entities took care of the little things. In towns, that meant roads and streets.

But that is not to say that there wasn’t a plan on how to get the road from one end of the county to the other through Indianapolis. According to the Indiana State Board of Accounts, in a book published in 1914, the route of the road through the state capital would include Circle Street (now Monument Circle), Ohio Street, and Indiana Avenue. When the Michigan Road was built, Indianapolis was barely bigger than the original mile square. So once the road got to the corner of Indiana Avenue, West and North Streets, it was out of the town again.

Heading north, the Michigan Road was built as an extension of West Street, turning north northwest to travel in basically a straight line to the Hamilton-Marion County line. When street names were applied to the old road, the name West Street was continued until the old road crossed the Central Canal. At what was then Seventh Street, the name changed to Northwestern Avenue until the city limits…where ever those were at the time. When the city expanded, so did the name Northwestern. Eventually, the name got to 38th Street, where the city officially ended. From there, then as it is today, it still maintains the name Michigan Road.

Heading to the northwest, again there were very few towns built along the old road. North of the crossing of White River and (again) the Central Canal, a post office was installed. The post office had two names in its history: Mount Pleasant; and Alliance. The “town” of Mount Pleasant, most of which is long gone, was tucked between what is now Cold Spring Road and 51st Street. (A common mistake is that a lost of people will call it Cold Springs Road…it is singular.)

Augusta, Indiana, 1889.

Further north is the town of Augusta. It is centered at what is now 76th Street and Michigan Road. The post office there would be called Augusta, until it was moved 1.5 miles west of town where the railroad was built. A new town called Augusta was created in the 1860’s in Pike County. When the post office was reestablished in the original Augusta, it was called Eck.

The Michigan Road keeps going, uneventfully, to the Hamilton-Marion County line at what is now 96th Street. Commercialization along the route, especially from below 86th Street to past the county line, as led to a removal of the country scenes that had graced this section of Marion County for years.

The Michigan Road, especially in Marion County, has also been a second class citizen when it came to the railroads. I mentioned about that the Augusta post office had been moved 1.5 miles west due to the railroad. This was in 1852, when the Lafayette & Indianapolis Railroad was built connecting those two cities. It rain parallel to the Michigan Road for most of the journey through Marion County. A new settlement was built south and west of Augusta, originally called Hosbrook. It would be later called New Augusta. I have done some work on researching New Augusta, as it came up when I was working on my genealogy. One of the important families in the town is distantly related to mine.

Another place where the Michigan Road lost its importance to the railroad is in the southeastern section of the county. Two miles east, and three miles south of New Bethel (Wanamaker) is the railroad created town of Acton. Acton is along the line that connected Indianapolis to Cincinnati via Shelbyville, Greensburg and Lawrenceburg. The line was built in 1853 from Lawrenceburg to Indianapolis.

In a strange twist of fate, during the railroad consolidation era of the late 1860’s, the Indianapolis & Cincinnati Railroad merged with the Lafayette & Indianapolis Railroad in 1867 to created the Indianapolis, Cincinnati & Lafayette Railway. Thus, two towns (Augusta and New Bethel) that were built along the same Michigan Road were basically replaced by two towns (New Augusta and Acton) built by what became the same railroad. The IC&L would become part of the founding members of the Big Four – the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway.