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.

The Central Canal

16 January 1836.  The Mammoth Internal Improvement Bill passed the Indiana General Assembly.  With it, many projects were created to serve the residents of Indiana.  Two directly affected Indianapolis.  Those were the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad and the Indiana Central Canal.  Today, I want to focus on an article printed in the Indianapolis Jounral of 12 August 1900, which was actually a paper read by Mr. William H. Smith to the Indiana Centennial Association.

“At the time Indianapolis was a straggling village in the wilderness, containing less than than two thousand inhabitants.”  “It had been selected as the capital of the new State, but was located in the dense forests, without a cleared farm within twenty miles of it.”  At the time, there were no wagon roads in the state.  A buffalo trace connecting Vincennes and New Albany, and an Indian trail from the buffalo trace towards the center of the state.  Jacob Whetzel had obtained permission to build a trace from Brookville to the Bluffs of White River at what is now Waverly.  Transportation was very limited.  And hence, the call was put out to create infrastructure to open the state up.

The call for improvements started when the Federal Government built “a military road from Cumberland, Md., to St. Louis.”  The bill that passed the General Assembly consisted of a “number of canals, a railroad or two, and two or three turnpikes.”

The Central Canal was going to connect the Wabash and Erie Canal between Fort Wayne and Logansport to itself near Evansville via Muncie and Indianapolis.  The Wabash and Erie Canal “was being constructed under the aid of the general government.  It had been one of the dreams of Washington, the father of his country.” 

Two routes were considered for the canal.  The lawmakers preferred a route through Delaware County, as written into the law.  But another route, coming almost directly south from Logansport through Indianapolis.  This one was called the Pipe Creek Route.  To attach to Muncietown, as Muncie was called at the time, a feeder route would run to the town if the Pipe Creek Route was chosen.

Hundreds of men started work on the Central Canal almost as soon as the $3.5 million was allocated.  Real estate prices went through the roof.  A dam was built at Broad Ripple to funnel water into the future canal.  The canal was finished from Broad Ripple to downtown Indianapolis by the spring of 1839.  The water, turned directly into the new canal, took several days to get to Indianapolis from Broad Ripple.  This was due to the construction of the canal.  The water was seeping though the gravel bed where the canal was built.  “After the water was turned in at Broad Ripple the people of Indianapolis spent their days on the banks, watching for the coming of the tide to tell them that the first section of their canal was complete.”

The first excursion along the canal from Indianapolis to Broad Ripple happened on 27 June 1839.  The canal packet was drawn by two horses.  But the canal was never used for navigation purposes.  “Once and a while a boat loaded with wood would come to town, and on one or two occasions hay was brought, but as the canal was never completed it failed of ever being of any use for navigation.”

“Suddenly the whole scheme of internal improvements collapsed.  The financial panic of 1837 made it impossible for the State to secure any more money, and much of what had been obtained had been recklessly wasted by bad management.” 

The State tried to sell the improvements for private completion…only to find that the only project anyone wanted was the railroad from Madison to Indianapolis.  The Canal turned into a water power source for industry.  A woolen mill, two cotton mills, two paper mills, an oil mill, two flour mills and two saw mills were located along the canal.  “The supply of water was not sufficient, and the canal was damaged several times by freshets, and those who had leased water power refused to pay their rent.”  In 1850, the Governor started suing those that would not pay their rent. 

A series of private owners, starting with the original $2,400 given to the state by Shoup, Newman and Rariden, led the facility to be ultimately to come into the possession of the Indianapolis Water Works.

“In the original construction many of the owners of abutting property gave the right of way, while in some instance the right was condemned under the law.  Through Indianapolis it had appropriated Missouri street it full width of ninety feet.  If the town ever gave any assent to this appropriation it was lost when the records were destroyed by fire some years afterward.”  “Along Missouri street the ditch was filled up, and finally the railroad to Lafayette was constructed along that thoroughfare.”

“As to the Central Canal, it was a great oversight that the city did not buy it in.  With it the city could have owned its own water works, its own lighting plant, and would have had power to rent out that would have more than paid the cost of maintenance.”

Kokomo

On 1 May 1844, when Richardville County was created, it was actually centered on the survey range line separating Range 3 East from Range 4 East. This is the same range line that continues south through Tipton and Hamilton Counties, and forms the main drag through downtown Westfield and Carmel and stops being followed by a road facility just south of the Hamilton-Marion County Line. North of Richardville County, it formed the boundary between Cass and Miami Counties.

The law creating the county was dated 15 January 1844, and stemmed from an act of 16 February 1839, which provided that territory temporarily attached to surrounding counties “shall form and constitute a separate county to be known and designated by the name of Richardville, and at such time as the Indian title shall be extinguished and the population within same will warrant.” The territory in question became both Richardville and Tipton Counties in the end. The name of the county was changed from Richardville to Howard by a legislative act of 28 December 1846.

The site of the town of Kokomo was decided upon on 17 August 1844 as a spot on the Wildcat Creek. That location was west of the range line that formed the eastern boundary of Kokomo into the 20th Century.

The state, shortly after the creation of Richardville County, started extending the already in place Westfield State Road north to reach the new county seat of Kokomo. Unlike most state roads built before this time, the state could build the road right along the survey line, in this case range line, straight up to Kokomo.

Kokomo mainly depended on the railroad to become the manufacturing center it became before the 20th Century. The first railroad to Kokomo would be the Indianapolis & Peru, which also connected Noblesville to the title cities. It would become the Lake Erie & Western along the way. The city would also (eventually) be crossed by what would become the Clover Leaf route, which would, in 1923, joined with the Lake Erie & Western to become part of the Nickel Plate. What would eventually become part of the Pennsylvania Railroad, via the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad, would also cross Kokomo with its Chicago line between Richmond and Logansport.

1920 Rand McNally Auto Trails map
of the Kokomo area

The Auto Trail era brought named highways to Kokomo. The first one would be the Range Line Road (8 on the map), which, until south of Kokomo, followed that same Range Line as mentioned above. This route, south of Kokomo, was shared with the Belt Line (13).

But the Range Line (and the Belt Line) Road didn’t follow the survey range line into the city of Kokomo, which it had been following from northern Marion County. (It is Westfield Boulevard, Range Line Road, and Union Street in Hamilton County from Westfield south.) The Range Line Road south of Kokomo entered on Lafountain Street, before curving onto what is now Washington Street for its trip through the city itself. North of downtown Kokomo, the old Auto Trails still followed Washington Street to Morgan Street, where it turned east to Apperson Way. Apperson Way is on the survey range line. As shown on the map snippet to the left, the Auto Trails followed a circuitous route through Cassville.

The other two Auto Trails that connected Kokomo were the Ben Hur Route (91 on the map), which I covered in detail on 28 October 2019, and the Liberty Way (86), connecting Kokomo to Galveston and Walton to what will later become part of US 24 seven miles east of Logansport.

The Range Line Road would become, before this map was published, Main Market Road #1, and later State Road #1. The only other Auto Trail that would become part of the State Highway system at the time of the Great Renumbering would be the Ben Hur Route west of OSR 1 which was OSR 29. OSR 35 left Kokomo to the due east along Markland Avenue, which would later become US 35 (coincidence only…US 35 came to Indiana a decade after the Great Renumbering).

With the Great Renumbering: OSR 1 became US 31; OSR 29 changed to SR 26; and OSR 35 became SR 18. By this time, the route of US 31 north of Kokomo would have been straightened, bypassing Cassville to the west by 1/2 mile. This would put the highway on the survey range line north until it turned east toward Peru. Downtown Kokomo would be bypassed TWICE when it comes to US 31. But there was a chance there would have been now three bypasses of the city.

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.

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.