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.

Indiana Vs. Terre Haute and Indianapolis Railroad

In 1899, the state of Indiana brought forth a lawsuit against the Terre Haute & Indianapolis Railroad for tax money due for the school fund. It started with a charter. In the early days of Indiana, to create a railroad company (and basically any company, as far as that goes), a charter for the company and its goals would have to be written and taken before the Indiana General Assembly for approval. I would love to say that these things were basically rubber stamped…but I truly have no way of knowing without extensive research.

The Terre Haute & Indianapolis Railroad was issued it original charter by the Indiana General Assembly in 1831. The name on the charter was the Terre Haute & Indianapolis. The TH&I was then issued a special charter as the Terre Haute & Richmond Rail Road on 24 January 1847. The company was to build a railroad between the two title cities, through Indianapolis. The official name of the company had changed twice between the special charter of 1847 and the court case of 1899. First, in 1850, the space was taken out between rail and road, making it the Terre Haute & Richmond Railroad legally. Then, in 1865, the name was changed to suit the actual extent of the railroad company. It became the Terre Haute & Indianapolis Railroad Company.

Newspapers of the time often refer to the legal action against the Terre Haute & Indianapolis as the Vandalia Case. By the time of the legal action, the TH&I was already leasing the St. Louis, Vandalia & Terre Haute, the only line (for a while) connecting Indianapolis to St. Louis. The St. Louis, Vandalia & Terre Haute was known most of the time as the Vandalia. The Vandalia was in financial trouble while under construction. Money was floated from five railroad companies to complete the route in 1870: Terre Haute & Indianapolis, Pennsylvania, Panhandle, Steubenville and the Indiana Central. The last three being consolidated later into the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway, also nicknamed the Panhandle. The Pennsylvania would gain control of the Panhandle and the Vandalia…although the Terre Haute & Indianapolis would fight it the entire way.

The whole case stemmed from how the charter for the TH&I was read, and who was doing the reading. The State of Indiana was of the opinion that the TH&I owed the School Fund somewhere between $1.2 and $2 million dollars. Obviously, the TH&I was of the opposite opinion. The entire case stemmed from a special charter that had been issued for the company in 1847, give or take a year. The new charter, keeping a provision from the old one, would allow the railroad to set its own passenger and freight rates, and allow for a 15% profit to be split among its shareholders after all of the construction bills have been paid.

The state, in its case, claimed that the TH&I was setting its rates to a point where it was earning 18% to 35% profits. Since the limit was 15%, the rest, the state continued, would be required to be paid to the state school fund. Vandalia saw things differently.

The South Bend Tribune of 4 October 1899 describes the beginning of the case as such: “Noble C. Butler, as master in chancery, began taking testimony, Monday afternoon (2 October 1899), in the case of the state against the Vandalia railroad for money due the school fund on account of the special charter under which the road operated 20 years ago.”

“Experts have been examining the company’s books to ascertain the exact earnings and the proportionate amount due the state, and their testimony is expected to be interesting. About $2,000,000 is claimed to be due the school fund from the railroad.” (Source: South Bend Tribune, 4 October 1899, pp 1 via newspapers.com.)

When the time came to defend itself, the Vandalia brought out John G. Williams, a man, according to the Indianapolis News of 17 January 1900, “who is said to know more about the affairs of the road than any other man.” Attorney Williams started talking about the charter of the Terre Haute & Richmond, the charters of other railroads, and the fact that when the original charters were written for the early railroads, the company had a choice between building a railroad and building a toll road. The state saw no real difference between the two.

He also mentioned that, according to the News, “one of the first roads built in the State was the Baltimore & Ohio. In the beginning, its cars were moved by horses and, when the wind was favorable, sails were hoisted on the cars to help propel them.” I would be that the News meant in the United States, as the Baltimore & Ohio wouldn’t have been in Indiana in 1831.

Reference is also made by the attorney for the railroad that in the beginning, the B&O charged 4 cents a ton a mile for moving of freight. “Modern railroads” (1900) are lucky to get one half cent per ton/mile. And passengers were actually weighed and charged essentially a pro-rated charge of 4 cents per ton/mile. If I am reading this right, since I weigh 200 pounds, it would cost me eight cents to travel by train from Indianapolis to Greenfield in those days. If I lived then…and the train actually was built to connect the two.

Mr. Williams went on to argue that the ability to regulate tolls by the state was left out of the charters of seven of the eight railroads that were incorporated in 1832. All eight of these charters allowed for the company to build a railroad or turnpike. Also in 1832, a company applied for a charter to build a bridge across the Ohio River at the Falls, the location of New Albany and/or Jeffersonville, and Louisville on the Kentucky side.

In 1832, five more railroads were incorporated, including the Evansville & Lafayette. It, like the Terre Haute & Indianapolis (1831 charter), had a clause stating that the State of Indiana could purchase the road after a certain period. Very few railroad company charters included the state regulation of the amount of dividends to its shareholders.

Ultimately, the Vandalia won the original case. Special Master Butler determined that the state was owed nothing by the Vandalia. The State appealed to the Superior Court, in which it was determined that the Vandalia owed the state of Indiana $913,000.

According to the Indianapolis Journal of 18 June 1902, as the case was being brought before the Indiana Supreme Court, “the charter provided that the company should pay the State its surplus earnings over the operating expenses and 10 per cent to the stockholders. The company surrendered its special charter in 1873 and has since operated under the general railroad law.” The company claimed that the surplus money was spent to improve the road, and there was no money left to pay the state.

The case before the Indiana Supreme Court lasted three days, ending on 19 June 1902. When the ruling went against the Vandalia, the Pennsylvania Railroad announced that they would appeal the decision to the United States Supreme Court. That decision was made on 28 November 1902.

The Indiana Supreme Court judgement ruled that the Vandalia must pay $913,905, and a six percent interest from the date of the Superior Court judgement. This brought to total to $1,028,143. Of course, the state was to only receive $771,107 of that, with the rest going to attorney’s fees. The Vandalia would fall into receivership after the ruling, and arguments between Illinois and Indiana receivers would follow.

31 May 1904, and the United States Supreme Court ruled, after much deliberation, that the Vandalia Railroad owed a grand total of nothing to the state of Indiana School Fund. This would go on to allow the Vandalia to consolidate the following railroads into one corporate entity: Terre Haute & Indianapolis, Indianapolis & Vincennes, Logansport & Toledo, Terre Haute & Logansport, and the St. Louis, Vandalia & Terre Haute. A consolidation which created the Vandalia Railroad Company on 1 January 1905.

Lebanon

1919 transportation map of Boone County, Indiana.

Lebanon, county seat of Boone County. Boone County was created in 1830, effective 1 April 1830. Lebanon would become the seat of Boone County after Jamestown was not met with a great deal of approval. The choice was made when Commissioners chosen to find a new site met at the center of the county and basically said “yep, this is it” on 1 May 1831. In 1833, the move was officially made…and the town was given a name. From that point on, Lebanon had been a crossroads town both in trails and trains.

The town would find itself along the paths of several “state roads” the were created in the 1830’s. The first I want to mention is the Richmond-Crawfordsville State Road. As the name suggests, it started at Richmond. I covered parts of this road several times in the past year. It basically follows what is now SR 38 out of Richmond to Noblesville, then SR 32 across Indiana through Westfield and Lebanon to Crawfordsville. This road would connect the town to the cross-state highway called the Michigan Road.

The second road that would traverse the town would be the Indianapolis-Lafayette State Road. This road started in near downtown Indianapolis, leaving Marion County on what was the original US 52. This is a topic we will come back to. This historic route would continue through the town to its terminus in Lafayette, where it ended right at the banks of the Wabash River. Through Lebanon, it would become Indianapolis Road southeast of town, and Lafayette Road northwest of it.

Another road connecting the town would become an important feed to Lebanon in the early 20th Century would be the Frankfort State Road. Frankfort would become the county seat of Clinton County in May 1830, two months after the creation of the county and one month after the creation of Boone County. (Yes, you read that right…Clinton County is one month older than Boone County!) The Frankfort State Road left Lebanon along what is now SR 39. But, like other early state roads, the path between the two towns was anything but a straight line.

1953 (1955 edition) USGS topographical map of Lebanon, Indiana.

The next topic of this crossroads town is the railroad. Lebanon would come to have three railroads connecting it to the rest of the country, and all three would be in the hands of the two largest railroads in the United States east: New York Central and Pennsylvania. The third would be, eventually, owned by both.

The Lafayette & Indianapolis Railroad was created on 19 January 1846 to connect the title cities. The route that was chosen took the railroad through Lebanon. (It should be noted that this railroad did some street running in Zionsville on its way to Lebanon.) The Lafayette & Indianapolis would be consolidated into several different companies to eventually become part of the Big Four – Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis.

The second railroad that connected to the town was the Midland Route, which started life in 1871 as the Anderson, Lebanon & St. Louis Railroad. The railroad would find itself in constant financial bad times, as most smaller roads did in Indiana. After one of its bankruptcies, the ownership of the company fell into the hands of both the New York Central (through the Big Four) and the Pennsylvania Railroad. It was planned to be used as an Indianapolis bypass. That plan never really came to fruition.

The last railroad that would connect to Lebanon would be the Indianapolis & Frankfort, a Pennsylvania Railroad line that would commence construction from Ben Davis, near what is now the Indianapolis International Airport, in 1913. The road was built because up to that point, the Pennsylvania had no direct route from Indianapolis to Chicago, and it was using trackage rights on other routes to connect to PRR tracks heading into Logansport. The railway was completely elevated through Lebanon, along the western edge of the town.

Before the Indianapolis & Frankfort came to town, though, Lebanon was already the center point of another railroad empire – the interurban. For a smaller city, Lebanon had three interurban routes crossing the town. The Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern Traction Company connected the town to Indianapolis, Crawfordsville, Frankfort and Lafayette. A short line connected to Thorntown. Unfortunately, the lines would be abandoned relatively quickly when they started going out of business. The Lebanon-Thorntown like would be abandoned 27 August 1926. The Indianapolis-Lafayette line would end services on 31 October 1930. In 1933, the Indiana State Highway Commission was attempting to acquire the right-of-way from Lebanon to Frankfort for SR 39. But the traction company that owned it had quit claimed the deed to the property…causing it to revert to the 66 owners of the land prior to the coming of the interurban.

When the Auto Trail era came into being, Lebanon was included in that, as well. The Indianapolis-Lafayette State Road, into Lebanon, and the Frankfort State Road north out of Lebanon, became part of the Jackson Highway. The Jackson Highway started in Chicago, roughly following the Dixie Highway, usually on a different path, to Nashville, Tennessee. From there, it connected to New Orleans. It entered Lebanon from the north on Lebanon Street, leaving town along Indianapolis Avenue.

Another Auto Trail that came through Lebanon was the Crawfordsville to Anderson. Just as it sounds, it crossed the state between the two titles cities along what would become, in 1926, SR 32. Most of the route is still in the same place, with the state making very few changes in SR 32 over the years (with the exception of north of Nobleville to Lapel). Later, this road would also carry the Pike’s Peak Ocean to Ocean Highway across Indiana. From 1916 to 1922, the PPOO connected to Indianapolis. From 1922 on, it connected (just like the Crawfordsville to Anderson) Crawfordsville, Lebanon, Westfield, Noblesville, and Anderson.

Lebanon also has the distinction of having the very first section of Interstate 65 that was built in Indiana. The section in question was built as a bypass of the town for US 52, skirting Lebanon along the south and west sides. When the interstate system was being created (and it was decided that I-65 would go from Indianapolis to Chicago instead of following US 31 like it did since southern Alabama), the logical route to use was what was already in place around Lebanon…a limited access highway that was wide enough to become part of the Interstate system.

Today, Lebanon sits with most of its transportation facilities close to intact. US 52 had been removed from the city in the early 1950’s. SR 32 and SR 39 still traverse the town. The Big Four railroad line from Indianapolis to Lafayette has long since been removed. The Midland Route to Westfield and Noblesville, likewise gone. CSX now runs trains along the old Indianapolis & Frankfort, which still connects to the title cities.

2019 USGS topographical map of Lebanon, Indiana.

State Roads, 1831 (Part 2)

This is a continuation of yesterday’s entry: State Roads, 1831 (Part 1). Remember: The concept of “state road” was completely different that it is today. Today, a state road is a road that has become the responsibility of the state transportation authority (for instance, now INDOT). Then a state road was a road that was authorized by the state, paid for by the state, but built and maintained by the county through which the road passed. So, basically, the state using Federal land proceeds to pay for, what will be, county roads. Some of these routes DID cross the line between the two different types of state roads.

Section 7: The section first listed in this act, from Frankford (Frankfort) to Delphi roughly follows US 421. The route to connect to the road that was mentioned in Section 6 of the same chapter, this road could have basically used a (more or less) straight line that follows SR 18 from downtown Delphi to SR 43. Or, followed what is now US 421 from Delphi to Michigan City. I am leaning toward the former.

Sections 8, 9 and 10: These sections talk about the Commissioners: their oaths, duties, paperwork to be done, and payment for service. Other things discussed was the fact that although the state is paying to make the road, it is the county’s responsibility to open and maintain them. The minimum requirement for the road to be open is that it be no more than 40 feet wide.

The three percent fund is the money that the Federal Government gave the state after the sales of Federal land. The state was given three percent of the sale price.

Section 11: Of the several places mentioned in this section, one (Baltimore) disappeared when the Wabash & Erie Canal was built on the opposite bank of the Wabash River, and another (Legrange) is very hard to find out any information. There is one old brick house left of Baltimore. It is located on SR 263 at Warren CR 1025S. (Strangely, Google Maps has SR 263 labeled “Old State Highway 63” as the street name.) The road starts at the Warren County line as Warren CR 600W. The original road has disappeared between US 136 and the old location of Baltimore.

Section 12: This is one of those “special acts” that I mentioned in my Indiana Toll Road(s) post on 24 May 2019. The state road starts at one person’s farm? Really? Exactly where IS Walker’s Farm in Parke County? At least from Clinton to Newport, the road roughly resembles SR 63 (or, at least, old SR 63).

The Acts of 1830, available here, shows more state road laws put into place that year. I will be covering those at a later date.