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.

Michigan Road at Logansport, Revisited

Over a year ago, I wrote a blog entry about the Michigan Road at Logansport (“Michigan Road at Logansport“). In that article, I made a pretty good case for the route of the Michigan Road through the town, using an 1836 map of the towns of Logansport and West Logan (“Plan of the town of Logansport and West Logan“). This articles is not to counter that article. I want to show that source materials are important…and their distance from the original source, whether that be in distance or time, is also very important.

In 1914, the Indiana State Board of Accounts published a book called “Development and lands of Michigan Road.” I have mentioned this several times over the history of this blog. It is a very important research tool for those studying the Michigan Road in its entirety. The detail that the Board of Accounts gave to the book is incredible. And, because of the authoring organization of the book, it would be almost impeachable as a source. After all, the Michigan Road was built by the state of Indiana, which should have records of surveys, deeds, cash outlays, etc. And the Board of Accounts would have had those records.

If one looks at the map of the Michigan Road through Cass County (which is the link I provided above for the book from the State Board of Accounts), the map shows that the Michigan Road separates from what would become called the Burlington Road in Section 2, Township 26 North, Range 1 East, and heads due north to cross the Wabash River west of the town of Logansport. In today’s terms, this would be where Lynas Avenue turns away from Burlington Avenue.

Another important note. The Burlington Road was the same as the Michigan Road. The route out of Logansport, towards Burlington, would eventually be sold to a toll road company that would change the name. In Logansport, it was called Burlington Avenue because that’s where Third Street in town headed…to Burlington.

What is now Cicott Street from West Clinton Street to Wabash Avenue, is what is shown as the Michigan Road route through Cass County. This Board of Accounts book shows that the Michigan Road does not enter Logansport at all, but bypasses it.

Now this is where I said distance, in both time and location, are important. The Board of Accounts book was, as mentioned before, written in 1914. No matter the number of records available, it was still 80 years after the road was constructed.

The second thing at play is that nothing ever went completely to plan when it came to roadbuilding projects at the time. It is entirely possible that the surveyors purposely bypassed Logansport at the time. Granted, there was very little in that area of the state at the time. It would not have been like later road projects that were “encouraged” by local government and business officials to run the road through this town or that. (I call this the “oh, look at all the money I dropped” plan. It happened quite a bit…especially in the Auto Trail era.) There were very few people there.

I tend to err on the side of the 1836 Logansport map linked to above. First, it was created in 1836, while the town of West Logan was being planned. Two, the people making the map want it to be as accurate as possible, since it is a real estate company trying to sell lots in the aforementioned West Logan. Three, and most important, road builders, especially in that era, knew the importance of not skipping a town if they could at all help it. Logansport, no matter how small, would be an important place to get food, sleep and maintenance along the miles of vast forests and farms in northern Indiana at the time. Logansport, like Indianapolis, predated the road. Other points between those two came up because of the road.

Now, I know, there is nothing specifically showing in the 1836 map of Logansport that the route went through town. The closest thing to it is the word “Michigan Road” north of the Eel River, east of the Canal, and the fact that there is a bridge at Wall Street in West Logan to connect to Logansport. Oh, and the fact that the bridge from Biddle Island south is labeled “Michigan Road to Indianapolis.”

But these facts will keep my thought process as this being the original route of the Michigan Road.

1836-1838: Michigan Road in the Newspaper

Yesterday, I wrote an article about early state roads, and the Michigan Road. Today, I want to look at the Michigan Road…as it was related to the public in newspapers from 1836 to 1838. One of the most interesting things that I have found in this search is the fact that it was entirely possible that the Michigan Road, as we know it, might not have been built. It could have been a railroad route.

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 31 December 1836: Allocation of money involving the Michigan Road was the topic before the General Assembly in December 1836. $140,000 was appropriated “on a turnpike road commencing at Kirk’s on the Michigan road in Clinton county, thence through Frankfort to Delphi and Monticello in White county, and thence by best route to Michigan City.” Another $75,000 are allocated for the Michigan Road between Napoleon and Indianapolis. And yet another $175,000 is appropriated “in contructing a Macadamized road on the line of the Michigan road from Indianapolis to South Bend, thence to Laporte and thence to Michigan City The board are to ascertain whether a Macadamised road or rail road is the best and cheapest and to adopt the cheapest one.” Of this last allocation of funds, $25,000 was to be used to build a Michigan Road bridge in Marion County over the White River.

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 21 January 1937: Second reading of the Michigan Road bill is held. One representative, a Mr. Vandeveer, moved to indefinitely postpone the vote on the bill. That postponement failed, when only seven people voted for it. It was passed to the third reading. A survey of the road, with $2,000 allocated, was to be done in the summer of 1837. The bill was amended, requiring the third reading. In the amendment, the bill was changed to exclude the Board of Public Works to building either a M’Adam road or a railroad for the purpose of the Michigan Road. It was also mentioned that $300,000 was to be allocated for the building of the road. Two weeks later, that amount, and others already spent, would be the question of some members of the General Assembly.

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 04 February 1937: It was reported that the representative from Wayne County to the Indiana General Assembly, a Mr. Smith, was trying to make sense of the fact that the builders of the Michigan Road, already spending $22,000 more than allocated, wanted another $30,000. To this point, according to Mr. Smith, the money already allocated “has been squandered – sunk, sir, in the interminable swamps along the line without common discretion or common sense. What gentleman here will deny the fact, that one half the money expended on that road should have accomplished more than all that is done?”

On the very same page of the very same issue of the newspaper, a bill to “cause a survey and estimate to be made the ensuing summer, north of Indianapolis, through Logansport, South Bend and Laporte to Michigan City, with a view of ascertaining what kind of improvement is most practicable.” This survey would be done under the auspices of the Board of Internal Improvements.

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 1 July 1837: “Mr. Yandes, is authorized, in pursuance of law to cause a survey and estimate to be made, on the Michigan Road, through Logansport, South Bend and Laporte, to Michigan City – with a view of ascertaining the most practicable kind of improvement to be made.” Mr. Yandes “is further authorized, to expend so much of the Michigan road funds, as may remain (if any) after making the survey, in making temporary improvements on the Road, from Napoleon to Lake Michigan, so as to keep the road passible.”

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 16 December 1837: After the survey had been completed in the summer of 1837, the Michigan Road lands were to be disposed of. The report from Indianapolis stated that the proceeds of the sales of those lands came to $8781.70.

As mentioned in yesterday’s “Early State Roads” article, some state roads were funded to create a link to a single person’s property. In March, 1838, a bill before the general assembly was written to “locate a state road from Daniel Dales in White county, to intersect the Michigan road 8 miles north of Logansport.”

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.

Indiana State Highway Commission, and Its Delay

By the middle of the 1910’s, the Federal Government at Washington, DC, had around $85 million to help construction of roads throughout the United States. The vast majority of that, $75 million, for the construction of rural post roads, and $10 million for developing roads and trails partly or totally in national forests. The Indiana share of that money would be $2,109,00. Only if there was a state highway department to give that money to.

The Angola Herald of 19 January 1917 quoted George E. Martin, Assistant Professor of Highway Engineering at Purdue University, from the Purdue Bulletin: “Federal aid for road building is now a fact. The federal government will not treat with anything but a state. Some form of state organization is necessary to obtain that aid.” Basically, a state highway commission, or something like it, had to be created to take advantage of that federal money. That’s why there was a law working its way through the General Assembly at the time.

Unfortunately, it was going to be a hard sell in Indiana. After the disaster of the Mammoth Internal Improvement Act of 1836, and the new (Indiana) Constitution (of 1851) that came as a direct result of that Act, the state had been a model in local government responsibility. “Extreme local control” were the words used by Professor Martin. Indiana’s “laws have been drawn to give the people of the smallest subdivision of her territory the greatest latitude in the selection of the roads to be improved and the methods to be used for their improvement.” This created a very good system of local roads. “The results have been good in the past.”

One of the things hurting the road system in the state at that time was the way that roads were maintained at the time. While the roads belonged to the township and/or county (after they were purchased back from the toll road companies), maintenance was helped along by the fact that residents along the road had to help keep the road in shape at least two days a year (there were some exceptions due to health, age, etc.). The problem is that “road building is speedily advancing from rule of thumb methods to its proper place as one of the engineering sciences. It is no longer for every man to be a good road builder. To build roads, to meet present conditions r extensive training and experience. It is not possible for the small subdivisions to obtain men qualified to design and construct these modern highways.”

The problem was that the situation was changing rapidly with the coming of the automobile. The road system in the state was slowly becoming overcrowded. “Roads which were entirely satisfactory ten years ago are now inadequate to carry the traffic which comes upon them.” This, with the prospect of millions of federal dollars to help with the project, encouraged the state to finally decide to put together a state highway commission. Unfortunately, the whole bill was caught up in a Constitutionality fight like no other before in the state. (Covered here: Indiana Highway Laws, 1917 & 1919)

Plymouth

In north central Indiana, where the Yellow River is crossed by the Michigan Road, is a town that, ultimately, would be connected directly to Indianapolis if three ways, connected directly to New York City and Chicago the other way, and would become a home on two major Auto Trails of the early 20th Century, although one would be a reroute. That town is the county seat of Marshall County, Plymouth.

A little history: Marshall County was organized by an act of the Indiana General Assembly on 4 February 1836, which became effective 1 April 1836. The territory that became part of Marshall County would take parts of St. Joseph County directly, with some of the county having been under the jurisdiction, legally, of St. Joseph and Elkhart Counties. Because the original law creating the county was actually put together on 7 February 1835, the actual law creating Marshall County, passed the following year, moved the Marshall-St. Joseph County line three miles north. As originally enacted, the county line was the dividing line between townships 34 and 35 north. The law a year later moved that line north to the center point of township 35 north. Commissioners appointed on 1 April 1836 decided on 20 July 1836 that Plymouth would be the center of government for Marshall County.

By this time, the area around Plymouth was already connected to the rest of the state when it came to transportation resources. Okay, well, sort of. The Michigan Road had been created and built through the central part of Marshall County, north to south. Both Fulton (Rochester) and Marshall Counties were created at the same time. The Michigan Road, as such, was a route connecting Logansport and South Bend, with nothing in between. Also, the center of the county would be surveyed different than the rest of the county and state. For more information about that, check out my post “Survey Lines and the Michigan Road,” published 6 August 2019.

Railroads would come to the area in three forms, two of which would ultimately fall under the Pennsylvania Railroad umbrella. The first would connect Plymouth to both Chicago and Pittsburgh, via Fort Wayne. This railroad would start life on 11 May 1852 as the Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad. By 6 May 1856, when the railroad was consolidated with two other struggling railroads to create the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago (PFtW&C), only part of the route between Plymouth and Columbia City (45 miles) was partially completed. The PFtW&C would complete the route between Fort Wayne and Chicago in February 1858.

The second railroad that came to Plymouth would be what would become the Lake Erie & Western, and, in 1922, the Nickle Plate. The Cincinnati, Peru & Chicago Rail Way built a line south from LaPorte to end at Plymouth in 1855. Between 1863 and 1867, the Indianapolis, Rochester & Chicago Railroad began construction of the line connecting Peru and Plymouth. It was to be completed by the Chicago, Cincinnati & Louisville Railroad company in 1869. This company was sold at foreclosure and, along with the original Peru & Indianapolis (and its successors), formed the foundation of the Lake Erie & Western Railroad in 1887.

The last railroad to be completed to Plymouth was built by the Terre Haute & Logansport Railroad in 1883 and 1884. This was a line from Logansport to South Bend. In time, this line would become part of the St. Louis, Vandalia & Terre Haute Railroad company, also known as the Vandalia. Ultimately, it would become part of the Pennsylvania Railroad system, connecting the PRRs two major subsidiaries, the PFtW&C and the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway (aka the Panhandle), together at Plymouth.

Into the 20th Century, with the coming of the Auto Trails era, Plymouth found itself on multiples of these routes. First and foremost was the Michigan Road, which had been the catalyst for its location in the first place. The Dixie Highway, connecting Michigan to Florida, was also using the Michigan Road for its route from South Bend to Indianapolis. Also connecting those two cities was the Range Line Road, which separated from the Michigan Road at Rochester, with the Michigan Road heading towards Logansport, and the Range Line heading toward Peru.

East and west through the area gets to be a bit fun. Originally, the city was located on a road that connected Plymouth, Massachusetts, to Seattle, Washington, with a spot on the road in Wyoming that gave the route its name: the Yellowstone Trail. From the west, the Yellowstone would come into town along the Valparaiso-Plymouth State Road, then would share the Michigan Road/Dixie Highway/Range Line Road south out of town to what is now 12B Road, then headed east toward Bourbon. (Side note: there is a small jog in 12B road east of the current US 31, which is also an original part of Michigan Road. That jog is a remnant of the survey of the Michigan Road mentioned in the link above in the third paragraph.)

Now, because of the chronological order of things, the story of transportation in Plymouth moves to the Indiana State Highway era of 1917. Yes, 1917. Plymouth was one of the cities connected to the original original ISHC system when it was created in 1917. It is located on what was Main Market Road (MMR) 1. Because the law of 1917 was questioned under Constitutionality issues, it wouldn’t be until 1919 that the dust settled creating the ISHC that survives today as INDOT. MMR 1 would become Original SR 1. By 1920, another state road would connect to Plymouth, this time given the number 44. OSR 44 would follow the path of the Yellowstone Trail through the area. This would be changed to OSR 2 in 1923. OSR 2 was the original designation of the Lincoln Highway through Indiana. This will be important later. (Unless you have already looked at modern maps of the area and know the answer.)

When the Great Renumbering occurred on 1 October 1926, OSR 1 became US 31 and OSR 2 became US 30. It should also be noted that US 30 still didn’t leave Plymouth to the east. US 30 followed US 31 south to, again, what is now 12B Road. But the plans were in place to change this. The road that was being constructed to change the route of US 30, at least the first time, is currently called “Lincoln Highway.” Now, it wasn’t entirely officially the Lincoln Highway…not yet anyway. The Lincoln Highway Association set up two routes in Indiana. The first route, established in 1913, went through South Bend. The second route would more or less follow US 30 across the state (and into Ohio and Pennsylvania). This would be made official in 1928 (after the Great Renumbering).

The reroute of US 30 had been completed by 1929 (maybe earlier, still looking at sources that are hard to find). This reroute would straighten US 30 quite a bit between close to Wanatah to Warsaw.

Changes after that, as far as roads go, are these: the coming of SR 17 to the city in 1935; the US 31 bypass (and the naming of US 31A through town) in 1963; the building of the US 30 bypass north of town (while still maintaining US 30 through town) in 1965; and the removal of US 31A and US 30 through Plymouth in 1968. At the time of the removal of US 31A, SR 17 was continued along the route of the old US 31 (and its numerous names I won’t repeat) to the junction with the US 30 bypass.

The Vandalia line connecting Terre Haute and South Bend would also go away in time. Most of the Plymouth section would be officially abandoned by Conrail in 1984. The Nickle Plate line, or at least the tracks, are still in place connecting to Rochester, and for a short distance northwest out of town. Even the PFtW&C, which had been one of the most profitable lines, and home of one of its crack passenger trains (Broadway Limited between Chicago and New York), under the Pennsylvania Railroad umbrella, has been sold by the Norfolk Southern to another company.

Mammoth Internal Improvement Act of 1836, Briefly

1836. The Indiana General Assembly passed a law so large that it threatened, ultimately, to bankrupt the state. I have covered several projects included in this bill in several other posts. But, you never know exactly what was completely included until you read the whole thing.

Google Books has available quite a few digitized books containing the laws of Indiana passed by the General Assembly. Most of these are small. They vary in size from a little over 100 pages to around 350 or so. But 1836’s book is over 900 pages. Admittedly, there are quite a few pages dedicated to other items, including the creation of several counties. Also, for some reason, the scanned book includes other years’ laws. The Improvements bill is Chapter II, and starts on page 6.

“Chapter II, AN ACT to provide for a general system of Internal Improvements. (Approved January 27, 1836.)” This is the start of one of the largest bills ever passed in Indiana. Sections One through Three cover the creation and organization of the “Board of Internal Improvements.” It consisted of six new members, appointed by the Governor and approved by the Senate, and the present Canal Commissioners.

The major part of this bill starts in Section 4, which stated “said Board of Internal Improvement is hereby authorized and directed to adopt such measures as may be necessary to commence, construct and complete, within a reasonable time, the following public works.” This contains eight projects. This list starts on page seven of the Acts of 1836 book. The following is a brief list of the projects included. The text for most of the projects include the amount of money to be expended on that project. I will not be including those in this post.

1) The White Water Canal, commencing on the west branch of the White Water 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 said west branch of the White Water above the National Road as far as may be practicable. A connection between this canal and hte Central Canal is also authorized. If it can not be completed by a canal, then a railroad is authorized from the National Road to the Central Canal in Madison or Delaware county.

2) The Central Canal, commencing at a suitable point between Fort Wayne and Logansport on the Wabash and Erie Canal, thence to Muncie(town), Indianapolis, and then down the White River West Fork to the East Fork of the same river. From there, the most practicable route to Evansville.

3) An extension of the Wabash and Erie Canal from the mouth of the Tippecanoe River to Terre Haute.

4) A railroad from Madison, through Columbus, Indianapolis, Crawfordsville to Lafayette, called the Madison and Lafayette Railroad.

5) A McAdamized Turnpike Road from New Albany through Greenville, Fredricksburgh, Paoli, Mount Pleasant, and Washington to Vincennes.

6) Resurvey of a route from Jeffersonville, via New Albany, Salem, Bedford, Bloomington, and Greencastle to Crawfordsville. It is determined whether it is more practicable to construct a railroad or a McAdamized road. If it is to be a road, then it is to connect to the Salem and Ohio Turnpike Company.

7) Removal of obstructions to navigation in the Wabash River from Vincennes to the mouth of the river.

8) A survey to determine whether it is more practicable to build a canal or railroad from the Wabash and Erie canal at Fort Wayne by way of Goshen, South Bend, and LaPorte to Michigan City, to be called the Erie and Michigan Canal or Railroad.

The bill continues after Section Four. Most of the rest of the bill, contains authorizations for bonds to be issued and loans to be taken to accomplish the projects listed in Section Four. There were a total of 41 sections of the law. In the Acts of 1836 book, the last section is listed on page 21.

Indiana’s First Railroad

I have done numerous entries about the first Indiana long distance railroad, the Madison & Indianapolis. The M&I was part of the Mammoth Improvement Bill, which created a large number of canal, road and railroad projects in 1836. But the first railroad in Indiana predated the Improvement Bill by two years. It was also built in a town that was to be, temporarily, a major railroad city: Shelbyville.

Not much information is available for this first of its kind in Indiana. It was not a steam railroad, but horse drawn. The ending point was marked by the Indiana Sesquicentennial Commission in 1966 with the historical marker shown to the left. (Unfortunately, the marker has been taken down for the time being.) The location of this marker was near the corner of Broadway and McLane Streets, just east of downtown Shelbyville. Broadway Street is SR 44 in this section of town. It also happens to be the Historic Michigan Road.

Anyone that has a sharp eye, and a knowledge of the railroads of Indiana, will notice that the location of that marker also happens to be alongside the old Shelby & Rush Railroad line. That line connected the county seats of the named counties. It would become part of the Jeffersonville, Madison & Indianapolis.

Information is very scarce on this railroad, short of what was printed on the historical marker. Most of my sources don’t even acknowledge its existence. One of my favorite books, “Ghost Railroads of Indiana,” doesn’t even list it. I would assume that’s partly due to the fact that the Shelby & Rush essentially extended the little horse drawn, two mile line. One could assume that the railroad didn’t last long. I can’t even find even the name of this line. But I felt it was important to make sure that little line keeps its historic value in Indiana Transportation History.

Canals and the Mammoth Internal Improvement Act of 1836

27 January 1836. The state of Indiana was eleven months shy of celebrating 20 years of statehood. On that day, Governor Noah Noble signed what was to turn out to be one of the biggest disasters in state history: the “Mammoth Internal Improvement Bill.”

But this law didn’t come out of the blue. It actually had its roots following the War of 1812. Transportation throughout the United States needed improvement. Major improvement. Due to the expenditures, the federal debt over twenty years after the war amounted to $225 Million,

In Indiana, the history of the canal system started with an act of Congress approved on 2 March 1827. That act granted money to the states of Ohio and Indiana to build a canal to connect the Maumee River to the Wabash River. There were many political fights and alternatives recommended. So many, in fact, that it took until 3 October 1829 for an agreement between Ohio and Indiana to build the sections of the canal in their respective states. Work finally started in Indiana on 22 February 1832 on what would become the 459 mile long Wabash and Erie Canal. This canal would connect Toledo, Fort Wayne, Peru, Delphi, Logansport, Lafayette and Terre Haute. When completed, it was actually possible to travel by water from New York to points inland, and even to New Orleans, without going around Florida.

In an effort to further improve transportation to the center of the state, the subject law was passed. The Mammoth Internal Improvements Act allowed the state of Indiana to issue bonds up to $13 million at 5 percent. While $13 million is a lot of money today, it made up one sixth of the entire wealth of the state of Indiana at the time. This was a massive undertaking.

The law provided for several projects: canals, roads and railroads. At the time, the most “wow” projects were canals. While relatively expensive, canals could move more freight faster than other types of projects. For instance, it was reported that the Wabash and Erie Canal could move freight at 8 miles per hour. That’s lightning fast at that time.

And canals would be the major focus of the bill, much to the chagrin of Governor Ray of Indiana. He preferred railroads. At the time of passage, two canals were completed in Indiana: the Wabash and Erie and the Whitewater. Canal projects included in this law would connect these two canals. The Fort Wayne & Lake Michigan Canal was planned to connect Fort Wayne with Michigan City on Lake Michigan. A Whitewater extension was planned to connect Cambridge City, on the Whitewater Canal to a point in western Madison County west of Anderson. There it would connect to the Central Canal, connecting the W&E at Peru to near Marion, west of Anderson, Noblesville, Indianapolis, Martinsville, and Spencer. It would then connect back to the W&E near Bloomfield in Greene County.

The Central Canal started building in several places. One section near Anderson, the section from Broad Ripple to downtown Indianapolis, and one section through souther Marion County to the Bluffs of the White River at Waverly. Only the Indianapolis section was opened. It ended up being used for water power for mills and factories. Eventually, it came under the ownership of the Indianapolis Waterworks, later the Indianapolis Water Company.

The Wabash and Erie Canal ended up being quite the success…for about two decades. It then started falling into disuse. With not using the canal, it fell into disrepair. With neglect, and outright sabotage, most of the canal path today is gone.

And in the end, the Mammoth Internal Improvements Act ended up putting the state of Indiana almost into bankruptcy. The credit of the state was ruined. It also led to Article 10, Section 5 of a new Constitution adopted in 1851. That section states “no law shall authorize any debt to be contracted, on behalf of the State, except in the following cases: to meet casual deficits in the revenue; to pay the interest on the State debt; to repel invasion, suppress insurrection, or, if hostilities be threatened, provide for the public defense.” This, later, would affect the original State Highway Commission law enacted in 1917.

The Madison & Indianapolis Railroad

Originally published on 01 August 2014.

In looking through the book “Ghost Railroads of Indiana,” it mentions a few railroads affiliated with the first complete railroad in the state, the Madison & Indianapolis. It also mentions that even part of the M&I was abandoned early in its history. I knew that the section had gone away, I just never considered it abandoned. Let me tell the story, and you tell me what you think.

On January 27, 1836, the governor of Indiana (Noah Noble) signed into law a massive improvements bill. (Called, at the time, a “Mammoth Improvements Bill,” actually.) In that law, there were roads, canals, and railroads to be built, owned by the state. One of those was the Madison & Indianapolis.

The reasons for picking Madison are best left to another post. But in the first two years, the track stretched from North Madison, the starting point, to Graham’s Ford…with Vernon on line in June of 1839.

In 1841, when service was added to Madison itself, the railroad construction stopped at what is now Queensville. The state ran out of money. Further construction was halted until the state rid itself of the road in 1843, on the condition that service to Edinburgh be completed by July 1, 1846.

Construction was finally completed to Indianapolis on October 1, 1847, completing the first railroad in Indiana.

The M&I management was looking into other ways to feed traffic to the road. They purchased interests in such railroads as the Shelbyville Lateral Branch (Edinburgh to Shelbyville) and the Knightstown & Shelbyville.

In the midst of all this, a new railroad was started in Jeffersonville, to connect to Indianapolis. And construction moved right along until the “J” got to Columbus. There, it ran smack into the self-centered management of the M&I. The M&I would not allow any of the “J”‘s trains on it route. So, the Jeffersonville did what it had to do – started building right along side the M&I. This exercise in idiocy meant that the Jeffersonville could now run as far as Edinburgh on its own tracks. Again, right along side the M&I.

But the M&I was never really stable financially…and so it continued that pattern. Eventually, the M&I was in such bad financial shape that the Jeffersonville bought the M&I, creating the JM&I. The first order of business at that time was to eliminate the two roads situation between Columbus and Edinburgh. The company abandoned the original M&I line between the two points.

Then again, the M&I was also known for other bad moves in a chance to be a monopoly, or as close as they could be, to Indianapolis. For about nine months, the M&I was merged with the Lafayette & Indianapolis, running along what eventually became part of the Nickel Plate (where the Fair Train runs now). A court order ended that.

Another bonehead play was when the M&I management was approached to help build another railroad in the state from Indianapolis to Terre Haute. The M&I basically said that they were not in the business of financing questionable railroad routes. (As if the one they ran wasn’t.) The person they spurned went on to create a railroad that became a vital link between Indianapolis and St. Louis, MO. That person was Chauncy Rose, and his railroad went on to become the Vandalia, part of the Pennsylvania Railroad (which, in the end, so was the JM&I!)…linking Terre Haute to Indianapolis, South Bend and St. Louis in one big system. Oops.