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

Wabash And Erie Canal

On 2 March 1827, the Congress of the Unites States at Washington granted land for the states of Ohio and Indiana to build a canal from Toledo, Ohio, to Evansville, Indiana. That canal, following the Maumee and Wabash Rivers, it would connect Lake Erie to the Ohio River. Along the way, many important towns would be included, not limited to Fort Wayne, Logansport, Lafayette, Terre Haute and Evansville. What was to be an important part of Indiana transportation ended with a thud not long after construction would be completed.

The land grants given to Indiana were acted upon almost a year later with, on 5 January 1828, the General Assembly appointed three commissioner to lay out the route of the canal. Disagreements between railroad and canal interests would delay the groundbreaking for the longest canal in the United States until 22 February 1832.

Construction would be slow on the canal. Part of this would be attributable to the sheer length of the project: 460 miles. Another contributing factor would be the fact that canal building, by its nature, is a slow process requiring lots of both manual labor and engineering. By 1837, construction was moving along when the economic Panic of that year hit the United States. The canal had reached from Fort Wayne to Logansport by that time. Most of the internal improvement projects in Indiana came close to a halt. The Wabash & Erie was no exception. Construction continued…but on a very curtailed pace.

Further construction would continue, however. By 1843, the canal connected Toledo to Lafayette. Five years later, it reached Terre Haute. And five years after that, in 1853, construction was completed to Evansville. This marked the completion of the entire canal, and water traffic, albeit slowly, could traverse from Lake Erie to the Mississippi River and beyond unencumbered. This would not last, however. It should be noted here that the section from Worthington to Evansville had the original name of the Central Canal, and as such would be included as part of the Wabash & Erie.

Dawson’s Fort Wayne Weekly Times of 20 November 1859 reported that the canal would be closed soon to navigation. Whether that would be for the winter or for good was never explained in the short blurb in the newspaper. This was after citizens along the canal route had written a letter to the General Assembly in February 1859 commenting that the state should give money to the canal company in an effort to shore up its horrible finances to keep it open. Their argument being that even though the canal has been a financial failure, it has served a vital function in opening up, and maintaining markets to, the towns along its path.

Another argument is that the federal government gave the state 1.6 million acres of land to build the canal, which the state did sell excess portions of. The state owes it to the canal, and to the people along the route, to make good on their duties to keep the canal running.

It would fall on mostly deaf ears.

Most of the problems with the canal were natural. The soft topsoil of Indiana led to a lot of dredging needed along the entire route. This along required a lot of money. Add to it the native animals of Indiana, especially muskrats, that would burrow through the canal walls. Keeping the canal open was a constant, and expensive, job.

While portions of the canal would start closing to traffic as early as 1859, the ultimate end came at Terre Haute in 1876, when the canal company, then based there, decided to start selling off canal lands. The last canal boat would make its run from Huntington in 1874. By then, a majority of the canal had fallen into disuse and disrepair. Parts of it were filled in to create wagon trails. Other parts were sold to railroad companies (read Wabash, among others) for the railroad right-of-way. Parts would, in 1926, become part of US 24.

There are several places in which the canal route is marked or even sections of the actual canal maintained. In 1991, while construction I-469 near Fort Wayne, an original canal lock was found buried in the ground. That lock, Gronauer Lock No. 2, would be partially preserved. Parts of that lock are in the Indiana State Museum.

Another remnant of the canal age, and a piece of what was to become the southern part of what became the Wabash & Erie, is the Central Canal through Indianapolis. The Central Canal was to connect the Wabash & Erie at Logansport, through Indianapolis, to Worthington and beyond to Evansville. When the original Central Canal project fell through, the southern part of that project became lumped with the Wabash & Erie.

Knightstown and Rushville State Road

I have mentioned many times about the creation of the original Indiana state roads. Those roads were passed into law by the General Assembly, built by the state, then turned over to county officials upon creation. Often times, these roads connected smaller Indiana towns to one another. Today, I want to focus on the Knightstown and Rushville State Road.

First, a little history. For starters, the very existence of Knightstown is a treasure trove of transportation history…due to its name. The town was named after Bucks County, Pennsylvania, native Jonathan Knight. Mr. Knight spent a great deal of his life working on transportation facilities. In 1816, he was appointed to map Washington County, Pennsylvania. While there, he became a county commissioner for three years. He was involved in the preliminary surveys of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and National Road between Cumberland, Maryland, and Wheeling, (West) Virginia. The National Road would be laid out to cross Washington County, Pennsylvania, connecting to the county seat at Washington. In 1828, he went to work for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which used some of the same right of way as the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. From 1830 to 1842, he was the Chief Engineer for the company. He later represented southwestern Pennsylvania in the U. S. House of Representatives.

Knightstown itself was built along the National Road in 1827. It was located north of the already in place state road connecting Indianapolis to Centerville. The National Road would also connect those two mentioned towns, although more directly. (Keep in mind that most early state roads were just the state improving roads that were already in place…so they tended to be more winding than later roads that were purposely built.) The old road would be located basically along the line separating Rush and Henry Counties.

The road that is the subject of this entry, the Knightstown-Rushville State Road, would leave Knightstown on what is now called Jefferson Street. An astute map reader will notice that today it is known as SR 140. It maintains that designation to a point south of what was the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home, now the Hoosier Youth Challenge Academy. The road then continues to the south southeast, twisting and turning its way to Rush County Road 550 North. The old road then turned east along that county road, then veered southeast on what is marked on Google Maps as either Rush County Road 140 West or Rushville Road.

After almost two miles, the old state road turned east again, this time along Rush County Road 400 North. And again, it veers south, where it is once again known as Rushville Road. It winds its way through the Rush County countryside, passing old School Number 5 at Rush County Road 300 North. Another twist and turn, the old road becomes an extension of Rushville’s Spencer Street. Roughly halfway between County Roads 200 North and 100 North, the old road’s route turns southeast along what is now Foster Heights Road. The road then turns due east before it connects to what is now Main Street in Rushville. Turning south completes the old state road’s route.

Rushville itself became the county seat of Rush County shortly after it was created from Delaware County (unorganized – and no relation to the current Indiana county of the same name) on 1 April 1822. But the time the county was created, and the town started being platted the following July, there was already a school at the location. The Post Office in the town opened teh same year the county was organized. Just like Knightstown, Rushville (and Rush County) was named after an eastern Pennsylvanian. This time, Benjamin Rush.

Michigan Road at Logansport

The Michigan Road. Indiana’s first true state road that connected Lake Michigan at Michigan City to the Ohio River at Madison, through Indianapolis. As was typical of the time, the state would build the road to the edges of towns, allowing the towns along the way to decide where the route would actually travel. The last outpost of “civilization” along this grand old road between Indianapolis and South Bend, when it was built, was the town of Logansport. And tracing the old road through the town is a decidedly interesting business.

A brief history. The original plat of Logansport, from the point where the Eel River enters the Wabash to Fifth Street was dated 1828. The town grew quite rapidly from there, adding Sixth through Ninth Street was added by 1835. This corresponds with the coming of both the Wabash & Erie Canal and the Michigan Road. The map that is used for sources in this entry comes from a real estate sales map. The town of West Logan was platted on the north bank of the Eel River in 1835.

1835 map of Logansport showing the crossing of the
Wabash River by the Michigan Road.

For starters, the entry into Logansport from the south has really never changed over the years. The road was built heading northeast along what is now Burlington Avenue. It crossed the Wabash River to Biddle Island, then left the island in a straight line over to Logansport’s Third Street. It still, to this day, follows the same path. The one thing that makes the first crossing of the Wabash different than normal crossings is that the bridge was not built perpendicular to the river. Most bridges at that time were, so to make them more stable and cost less to build. According to a map of 1835, the bridge is angled across the Wabash to Biddle Island, but straight across the Wabash north of the island.

But once inside the town, which at the time was in the area between the Wabash and Eel Rivers, it was a good guess. Based on maps of the area, it moved at least a couple of times. The state really wasn’t concerned with the town’s streets that the road followed, just where it would connect to the northeast bound Michigan Road that started along the northern bank of the Eel River.

1835 map of Logansport showing the bridge across the Eel River to connect the Michigan Road on the north side of the river to Logansport’s (now) downtown.

The same 1835 map mentioned above shows a bridge at what is now Fourth Street. One thing that should be noted here is that the lines forming the Michigan Road and Third Street are solid…not open at each of the street intersections in the town. This leads me to believe that the route of the Michigan Road followed (originally) Third Street to what is now Eel River Avenue, then crossing the Eel River at Fourth Street. This is shown in the map to the left. Two other important features that should be noted are the aqueduct over the Eel River that carried the Wabash & Erie Canal and the bridge over the canal along the north bank of the Eel River. The road running along the bank of the river is also marked with solid lines, with no “access” to roads that meet this path.

A current Google Map satellite image of the Fourth Street end at the Eel River shows that there is no house on the corresponding north bank of the river. I am not going to say that there never was a building there. Just that there isn’t one now.

1835 map of Logansport showing the Third Avenue and the Wabash & Erie Canal.

In relation to the Wabash & Erie, it crossed through Logansport along Fifth Street, turning easterly south of Market Street. That turn is now under Erie Avenue.

1835 map of Logansport showing the northern route of the “Great Michigan Road.”

The old road still makes its way north out of Logansport along its original path, as shown in the map above.

Later maps of the area show that the crossing of the Eel River was moved from the end of Fourth Street to the end of Fifth Street. This would mean that the old aqueduct for the Wabash & Erie Canal became a road bridge after the demise of the canal. According to an 1876 map of the town, the crossing had been moved again, this time to the end of Sixth Street, where it still is today.