1920-1960: Adams County Roads

Today, I want to start a series, with a lot of maps, that shows the evolution of the state highway system in each county from 1920 to 1960. Starting with the first county, alphabetically.

First, let’s start with the creation of Adams County. Dated 7 February 1835, “formation by statute, effective on publication. The formation affected territory attached to Allen and Randolph counties. Adams was organized under an act of January 23, 1836, effective March 1, 1836.” The county was legally described as follows: “Commencing at the south east corner of Allen county, thence west with the southerly border of said county, to the north east corner of section five in township twenty eight range thirteen, thence south with the section lines to the township line between townships twenty four and twenty five, thence east with the said township line to the eastern boundary line of the state, thence north with the state line to the place of beginning.” This information was included on page 44 of the Laws of Indiana, 1834-35.

The county seat was also included in my source: “Commissioners appointed under the organization act reported to county commissioners on May 18, 1836, their choice of a site in section 3, township 27 north, range 14 east of the second principal meridian, where Decatur now stands.”

1920 Indiana Official State Highway Map

When the state highway system was officially created in 1919, state roads were being all over Indiana. The major purpose of the system was to connect to each county seat. To that purpose, the first of the new state roads to be added in Adams County was known as State Road 21. It was laid out, as shown on the 1920 map to the right, in a not so straight path connecting Geneva, Berne, Monroe and Decatur. From Decatur, it aimed off towards Fort Wayne.

I have access, through the state library online, to two different maps from 1923. The state did two things in that year. First, it issued the first official highway map since 1920, and two, the reason it was issued was due to the fact that the Indiana State Highway Commission was going through what I have referred to as the “Little Renumbering.” The other map, one that I use quite a bit, lists the state roads prior to the renumbering.

1923 Kenyon Map of Adams County, Indiana

The non-official map included the state road numbers in use at the time, as well as the Auto Trails that were in place. That map uses circles with numbers for the state roads. As shown on the map to the right, state road 21 is still the only state road in the county. But it was also known as the “Ohio, Indiana and Michigan Way” Auto Trail.

OIM Way Marker

The other road marked on that map, shown as “GG” is the “Huntington, Manitou, Culver Trail.” While the title cities were on the trail, it did connect to someplace in Ohio and possibly beyond. I am trying to find any information I can to figure it out. At the west end, the road went at least as far as Chicago.

The first renumbering of state highways in September 1923 didn’t affect Adams County at all. The former state road 21 remained the same afterwards.

1926 Indiana Official State Highway Map

The number of state roads in Adams County doubled with the Great Renumbering on 1 October 1926. The new SR 16 would cross through the county west to east, connecting Decatur to Huntington. What is now County Road 600 North east of Decatur was, at that time, SR 16. The road ended abruptly at the state line. There was a state road in Ohio (Ohio SR 109) that ended at the state line, as well. But it was one mile north of the new SR 16.

The old state road 21 would become part of the United States Highway system, given the number 27. The original route of OSR 21 was still followed across Adams County as US 27, including the curvy route from Geneva to Berne. Today, that route is known as County Road 150 West.

By 1930, State Road 16 was moved one mile north east of Decatur, to connect to what was Ohio State Road 17 (formerly Ohio SR 109). (Ohio changed state road numbers quite a bit…and have done that since.)

Indiana Official State Highway Map, 1 September 1932

1931 brought another state road to Adams County: SR 118. But there were also authorized additions to the state highway system crossing from Bluffton, in Wells County, through Monroe, to the Ohio state line near Willshire, Ohio. Another authorized addition, also starting near Willshire, crossed northwest bound to end in Decatur.

SR 118 started at SR 5 along the Huntington-Wells County line, due east through Berne to end at a county road at the Indiana-Ohio state line in Mercer County, Ohio.

1933 Indiana Official State Highway Map

The two authorized additions to the state highway system were given designations in 1932. The east-west route through Monroe was called SR 124. The northwest/southeast route was made a daughter of US 27, given the name SR 527.

1933 made another change to the state highway numbers in Adams County. State Road 16 would be removed from the county, with the road redesignated part of the United States Highway system as US 224.

1935 Indiana Official State Highway Map

Changes kept occurring in the connections to Adams County. In 1935, an authorized addition to the highway system was added to maps as SR 101. This road would start at the new US 224 (old SR 16), going north toward Monroeville in Allen County.

Another state road to US highway change was made in 1938, when the US 33 designation replaced SR 527.

By 1941, a US 27 Decatur bypass, moving outside the town to the west, would be in operation. US 33 still traversed Decatur, meeting US 27 north of the town. The new US 27 would also bypass Monmouth to the west, while US 33 still used the old route of US 27 to northwest of Monmouth.

Also that year, another state road was added to Adams County. That road, starting in Geneva and working its way west, north, and northwest towards Bluffton. It would be designated SR 116.

1941 Indiana Official State Highway Maps

Changes continued during World War II…but mainly with just marking the roads. According to the Indiana Official State Highway map of 1945, SR 101 was extended in its line from US 224 to SR 124. SR 116 was extended through Geneva, down to New Corydon and along the south county line.

Along the way, US 33 would connect to US 224, then “travel over” US 224 to US 27, where US 27 and US 33 would join forces again like they did when US 33 was created.

1945 Indiana Official State Highway Map

No changes were made for the next nearly decade and a half. By 1959, SR 101 between US 224 and SR 124 was moved to the east one mile. to its current location.

I hope that you like this possible series of articles. I look forward to your opinions and comments about it.

Creation of the Whitewater Canal

27 January 1836. An act was passed through the Indiana General Assembly that would create what would become the Whitewater Canal. Talk of a canal had been circulating the Whitewater River valley since 1822 or before. It was 1822 when articles about such a canal were being published. Around this time, delegates from Franklin, Wayne, Union, Randolph, Fayette and Dearborn Counties held a meeting at Harrison to look at the possibilities of creating a canal.

The talk of a canal had progressed to the point that a survey was started in 1824. The original surveyor, a Colonel Shriver, passed away while performing this function. A Colonel Stansbury took over the job of surveying the potential route of a canal. But winter set in before he could really start work, and the survey was put on hold. Until June 1834. That was when a survey performed by William Gooding was completed. That survey routed the potential canal down the Whitewater valley from Nettle Creek, near Cambridge City, to Lawrenceburg.

Support for all things transport would heat up in 1835. Work began on a large internal improvement bill to build railroads, roads and canals throughout the state. This would be the known as the Mammoth Internal Improvement Act (MIIA) of 1836. This law would create several projects that would help form early Indiana…and help bankrupt it, as well. This one bill helped push the state to create a commission to write a new state constitution in 1851…one that forbade the state going into debt.

The MIIA would specifically create what would become the Whitewater Canal. It was mentioned in section one of the act. “The Whitewater Canal, commencing on the west branch of the Whitewater river, at the crossing of the national road, thence passing down the valley of the same to the Ohio river at Lawrenceburgh, and extending up the said west branch of Whitewater above the National road as far as may be practicble.”

Anyone that has looked at a map of Indiana will notice one minor detail. The Whitewater River doesn’t go to Lawrenceburg. It actually connects to the Little Miami River northeast of Elizabethtown, Ohio. Those that wrote the MIIA noticed this, as well. It was mentioned in the bill that “if the state of Ohio shall ultimately refuse to grant leave for the construction of that part of the Whitewater Canal which passes through her territory” a railroad should be built from Harrison (Ohio) to Lawrenceburg. That railroad would have to stay within the borders of Indiana.

A total of $1.4 million was set aside for the creation of the Whitewater Canal. The act also allowed for a connection between the Whitewater and Central Canals (the Central Canal would connect through Indianapolis) somewhere in Madison or Delaware Counties.

Section 16 of the MIIA allowed for the board of Canal Commissioners “to enter upon and take possession of, and use any singular lands, streams, and materials of any and every description necessary for the prosecution and completion of the improvements contemplated by this act.” This gave the Commissioners, and anyone assigned by them, the right to take whatever was necessary to complete the Whitewater Canal, and the other projects listed in the MIIA.

The original minimum dimensions of the Whitewater Canal were later determined to be at least 26 feet wide at the bottom, 40 feet wide at the top, and have at least four feet of water depth. This was, however, subject to increasing, if such increase could be done without increasing the cost of construction. The tow path was to be at least 10 feet wide, with the berm bank (opposite bank) being at least six. Both banks would have to have sufficient footing at the bottom to allow a slope of 21 inches for each 12 of height. And the two banks would have to be built two feet above the canal’s waterline. The total right-of-way for the canal would then total 63 feet from outside shoulder of one bank to the outside shoulder of the other.

By 1839, the first section of the canal, from Lawrenceburg to Brookville, was opened. The first boat, the “Ben Franklin” owned by Long and Westerfield of Lawrenceburg, arrived at Brookville on 18 June 1839. Two more boats, the Litlle Western and the Niagara, arrived the next day.

1840 found the state in bad financial shape. The canal had been completed from Lawrenceburg to Brookville, and half of the work from Brookville to Cambridge City had been completed. This cost the state, to that point, $664,665. It was at this point all work on the projects listed in the Mammoth Internal Improvement Act was discontinued.

The Board of Internal Improvements, the government agency tasked with completing all of the MIIA projects, was abolished in January 1842. The plan was to move those projects from public works to private companies. The same month, on 20 January 1842, the Whitewater Valley Canal Company was chartered. The state then turned over all property involving the canal to the new company. The new company was to complete the canal to Cambridge City and receive, as compensation, all revenues from tolls, water power, rents and other incomes for 15 years after the completion of the project.

The canal slowly increased its length. By 1843, it had reached Laurel. Connersville became an active canal town in 1845. The end of the line at Cambridge City would be reached in 1846. The Whitewater Valley Canal Company spent a grand total of $500,000 to complete the original scope of the canal’s purpose.

Unfortunately, the hopes that the canal would prove a boon to the area were dashed relatively quickly. Most of the problems stemmed from bad engineering. By 1848, two aqueducts were swept away, and several feeder dams were nearly destroyed. Once fixed, navigation began again…lasting a year until the normal Indiana floods caused suspension of canal traffic once again.

The canal was put back into operational shape for a time. But things didn’t go well for the company that continued to lose money on the enterprise. It all came to a head on 26 November 1862 when the Cincinnati & Indiana Railroad Company took over the property under Indiana’s condemnation laws. The canal’s receivers were paid $55,000 for the property, and the railroad became the owner of the old canal. All property of the canal company within the state of Indiana would be deeded to the railroad. Ultimately, the railroad would become the White Water Valley Railroad, a part of the Big Four and the New York Central.

Early Railroad Projects, Even Some Became Roads

In the early days of Indiana, much attention and money was spent on transportation facilities. Most of Indiana was a wilderness, and connecting remote places in the state became a priority. Starting in 1832, the General Assembly started passing laws creating railroad companies. In those early days, railroad technology wasn’t as advanced as it would be in the decade or so to come. Some of these projects would be dumped as railroads, becoming toll roads instead. One even took over, in the eyes of locals, the routing of the National Road.

On 3 February 1832, an act was passed by the Indiana General Assembly to “incorporate the Richmond, Eaton and Miami Rail Road Company.” However, less than one year later, on 2 February 1833, an amendment to that act had been passed. The amendment stated that the company is “vested with full power and authority to construct a turnpike road, in lieu of the rail road.” (1833 Acts of the Indiana General Assembly, Chapter XCVII) The toll road that would be built as a result of this act and amendment would, in the Auto Trail days, become part of the National Old Trails road. It was treated as part of the old National Road between Richmond and Springfield via Eaton and Dayton.

Chapter CXXVI of the 1834 Acts of the Indiana General Assembly, approved on 24 December 1833, sets forth an act “to incorporate the Evansville and Lafayette Rail Road Company.” The act specified that the railroad should connect Evansville, Princeton, Vincennes, Terre Haute, Covington before ending in Lafayette. While investigating ICC reports from 1917-1922, I can find no reference to this company whatsoever. The part of the route south of Terre Haute would be followed by what would become the Chicago & Eastern Illinois.

Two chapters after the last one, an act “to incorporate the Indianapolis and Lafayette Rail Road company.” This railroad was different than the one that would eventually be built through Lebanon and Thorntown. This route was laid out to connect Indianapolis, through Jamestown, Crawfordsville, Columbia (Tippecanoe County) to Lafayette. The route prescribed roughly follows what became part of the Big Four route to Crawfordsville, then along the Monon to Lafayette.

The 1835 Acts of the General Assembly list several possible railroad or turnpike projects. One section (13) of Chapter XVI, “an act to provide for the further prosecution of the Wabash and Erie Canal and for other purposes,” would allow the governor “to employ a competent engineer or engineers” for the following projects: a railroad or turnpike from Madison, by way of Indianapolis, Danville and Crawfordsville to Lafayette; a rail or turnpike road from Crawfordsville by way of Greencastle, Bloomington, Bedford and Salem to New Albany; and a railroad from Evansville to Vincennes via Princeton.

Section 16 of the same act provided that “engineers shall examine a route for a canal from or near Indianapolis to the Ohio river, at or near Jeffersonville, and if found not practicable to construct a canal between said points, then said engineers shall survey a route for a rail or turnpike road from Jeffersonville to intersect the rail road line in this act (mentioned in Section 13 above) directed to be surveyed from Madison to Indianapolis, at or near Columbus.” Both a toll road and railroad would be built in this case…the road would become part of US 31 later, and the railroad would become the Jeffersonville. The Jeffersonville would end up buying the railroad that it was to connect to “at or near Columbus.”

Section 18 allocated money for surveying a railroad from Terre Haute to Vincennes. The “report the same with an estimate of the probably cost of constructing the same, to the next General Assembly.” Section 19 allowed the same for the Lawrenceburgh and Indianapolis railroad. All of the money spent on this act was to come from funds allocated for the Wabash and Erie Canal.

This is the total list of railroad projects put forth by the Indiana General Assembly prior to the massive projects that would ultimately nearly bankrupt the State of Indiana implemented in 1836. Part of that plan was covered here.

US 40 at Terre Haute

Terre Haute, Indiana. Opinions of the town vary. No matter your opinion of the city on the Wabash, one thing is certain. Terre Haute’s place in transportation history is set in stone. There are so many subjects that can be covered about that city. Today, I am going to focus on one of the early important parts of that history: the National Road.

But before we can focus on the National Road history, a little bit of Terre Haute history is in order. The “high land,” or terre haute in French, had been the site of a Wea native American village for an unknown number of years before white settlement came in the form of Fort Harrison a few miles north of what would become the town of Terre Haute. When the Wea were forced to move from the area, their orchards and meadows became the site of the new town which would become the Vigo County seat of government with the creation of that county in 1818.

Fast forward to 1834, when the National Road was completed across Indiana. The reason for Terre Haute being on the route was simply because the route was to connect the capital cities of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. The capitals of Ohio and Indiana are still in the same location as they were then: Columbus and Indianapolis. But, the capital of Illinois was at Vandalia, meaning a southwestly route from Indianapolis. (Had the capital of Illinois been moved to Springfield when the road was being planned, it’s entirely possible that what is now US 36 west of Indiana would be US 40.)

Because Terre Haute was on an almost straight line between Indianapolis and Vandalia, it was natural for the road to connect to what, up to that point, had been an important town on the Wabash River and the Wabash and Erie Canal. The original road would come into town via the same route it does today, Wabash Avenue. Below is a 1925 map of the route of the National Road through Terre Haute. (The complete map, which I recommend if you have any interest in Terre Haute, or any of the other connections to the “Capital of the Wabash” at the time can be found here: http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15078coll8/id/3626/rec/2)

1925 map of Terre Haute centering on the National Road

To show that little had changed, the following map (http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15078coll8/id/2890/rec/6) is from 1907. According to the hand written notes on the map, the red lines represent Terre Haute, Indianapolis and Eastern tracks, whether they be city street cars or the interurban to Indianapolis. The blue lines are the city boundary. (Honestly, the way those blue lines are drawn confuse the living Hades out of me. Check out the link!)

In 1917, the old road through Terre Haute was taken into the State Main Market Highway system as Road #3. (There were only 5.) Or, at least, it was supposed to be. Due to fighting about the Constitutionality of the Highway Law of 1917, the road would be designated but not officially under state maintenance until the new rewritten law of 1919. Thus, the National Road, along its original route, became State Road 3. In 1926, that was changed to US 40.

No changes would take place in the routing of US 40 until about 1974. At that point, westbound US 40 ran to US 41 (Third Street) on Wabash Street, turning north one block in multiplex, then turning west again to cross the new Cherry Street bridge over the Wabash River. Eastbound, it entered downtown on a new Ohio Street bridge to Third Street, where it turned one block north to Wabash Street and the original route.

1974-1975 Indiana Official Highway Map inset of Terre Haute

The next change would appear in 1977, when the eastbound used Ohio Street to 10 1/2 Street (at least that’s what it looks like on the official map of that year). The westbound route would turn north on Ninth Street to Cherry Street. It would stay this way until the mid 2010’s, when US 40 was completely removed from Terre Haute. At that time, the official US 40 route would be moved to “Old SR 46” (name on the street sign at this point), running south with SR 46 to I-70. US 40 then multiplexes with I-70 to just west of the Illinois-Indiana State Line.

1977 Indiana Official Highway Map inset of Terre Haute

West of Terre Haute, there would be several changes in the official route of US 40. Those I plan to cover at a later time.