1912 Proposed Indianapolis Street Name Changes, Part 1

I have been covering Indianapolis street name changes for the past couple of days. It seems that almost every decade along the way had some major changes. I covered a major change with the annexation of the town Irvington and the Tuxedo neighborhood last Friday (Tarkington Street? Not so fast. ITH Blog, 18 December 2020). Today, I want to move into the 1910’s to see what I can find and share.

And it starts in 1912 with a very large proposed change. Most of these never made the maps of Indianapolis in an official way. Councilman Copeland introduced an ordinance that would make a ton of street name changes in the city. These were all submitted to the city council on 4 March 1912.

1905 map of the Arbor Avenue area on the
near westside of Indianapolis

The first one involved was was Shover Avenue on the near west side of the city. The recommendation was to turn Shover Avenue into an extension of Arbor Avenue. And it was. From Oliver to Gillette Street, Shover Avenue became Arbor Avenue. But somewhere along the way, the section from the north alley of Oliver Avenue to Henry Street was vacated for the Chevy plant. Arbor Avenue was moved to the east alley Coffey Street, and Division Street was removed completely. Today, Arbor north of Henry exists for a short distance, before being blocked off by a fence and a railroad spur that served the Chevy plant. Also, Division and Gillette Streets are on the private property side of that fence, no longer accessible be the general public.

In addition to Arbor Avenue, an Arbor Street was included in the ordinance along the same line as the Avenue. The new Arbor Street was to include Greeley Street from Washington Street to White River, Limestone Street from Owosso to Michigan, and Porter Street from North to Walnut. The only section of those three streets that still exist is that of Limestone Street, which now connects the end of the New York Street White River bridge to Michigan Street, where it turns into Eskenazi Avenue.

Another one that didn’t quite make it was the renaming of Mobile Street between Senate and Illinois, and Jackson Place, between Illinois and Meridian, to Bates Street. It is on the line of Bates Street east of East Street. No, the name of Jackson Place didn’t go away. It is still called that in front of Union Station.

Poplar Street, between Union and Chestnut Streets, and Bicking Street between Delaware and East Streets to be changed to Bradshaw Street. Not only did this change not happen, the streets in question are now missing from the landscape of Indianapolis. Both fell victim to Eli Lilly and Company.

Bedford Avenue between Raymond and Morris, and King Avenue between Vermont and Tenth Streets to Addison Street. Both King Avenue and Bedford Street are along the same line as Addison Street, but the change was never made.

Mulberry Street between McCarty and Frank Streets, and Union Street between LeGrande Avenue and first alley north of Schiller Street to Pennsylvania Street. I can tell you that at least the southern section, from LeGrande to the alley, did change its name to Pennsylvania. I used to live practically on the corner of both. The name of Chestnut Street would be removed from maps of Indianapolis, becoming an alley between Union and Talbott Streets from Morris to Adler Streets.

Paca Street between Indiana Avenue and Tenth Street was to become Bright Street. This Ransom Place street still maintains its name.

McCormick Place between Muskingum and Illinois Streets to become Anderson Street. This was the name of one of the downtown alleys. The city directory of 1913 states that McCormick is listed under W. Ohio Street.

Smith Lane, between Merrill Street and Stephan Place to Adelaide Street. Adelaide was the name of the alley between New Jersey and East Streets. This change didn’t happen. Today, it wouldn’t matter as Eli Lilly has mowed the entire neighborhood down.

1945 Polk Indianapolis City Directory S

The last one that I want to cover is one that actually did happen, eventually. On 20 June 2019, I covered the “The Indianapolis end of the Brookville (State) Road.” The original end of Brookville Road was at the National Road west of what is now Sherman Drive. The road that winds behind the shopping center at Sherman Drive and Washington Street was originally part of the Brookville Road. By 1900, the section west of Sherman Drive was called Brookville Avenue. In 1912, it was recommended that it be changed to Ewing Street. At some point, S. Brookville Avenue was changed to Brookville Boulevard, and Brookville Avenue east of Sherman Drive reverted to Brookville Road, the name it had originally. Maps and city directories into the 1940’s still show Brookville Avenue/Boulevard. It would be 1945 until the Polk City Directory would list the following entries: Brookville Avenue – Changed to N. Ewing. Brookville Boulevard – Changed to S. Ewing.

1930: A New Bridge over the Wabash at East Mount Carmel

Atlantic-Pacific
Highway marker

East Mount Carmel, Indiana. A train stop along the Southern Railway connecting Louisville, Kentucky, to St. Louis, Missouri. The town was also located on an Auto Trail called the Atlantic-Pacific Highway. Across Indiana, it would connect East Mount Carmel on the Wabash to Cincinnati via Princeton, Jasper, Paoli, Salem, Scottsburg, Madison, Vevay, Rising Sun, and Lawrenceburg.

But at East Mount Carmel, traffic was still fed across the Wabash River via ferry. As mentioned in other articles here on Indiana Transportation History, getting a bridge across the Wabash or the Ohio River, given that it would cross a state line (usually – the US 41 bridges actually are all in Kentucky, although they cross the Ohio), was a long process that often met with delays.

Hope was to be had when it was announced on the front page of the Mount Carmel (Illinois) Daily Republican-Register of 10 April 1930 that “Bridge Will Soon Span Wabash – Illinois-Indiana Highway Bridge That Will Span the Wabash River at Mt. Carmel.”

The bridge was the work of many years of planning. The State of Indiana wanted a bridge at Vincennes. They also wanted the State of Illinois to help with the cost. Illinois, however, had other plans. They wanted a bridge at Mount Carmel. And Illinois wanted Indiana to help pay for it. Neither state would budge on their plans…until the agreement was made that both bridges would be built.

Money for the Mount Carmel bridge was allotted by the Illinois General Assembly in 1927. A total of $225,000 was set aside for the construction. This new bridge would connect Illinois State Road 1 and Illinois State Road 15 to the Indiana State Highway system. This would become an extension of Indiana State Road 64.

The new bridge would be located 1000 feet south of the Southern Railway bridge that crosses the river near Mount Carmel. It would consist of a 22 foot wide roadway on twelve 225-foot spans. The bridge would provide 25 feet of clearance from the low steel to the high water mark of 1913. The Illinois approach was to be built at an elevation of three feet above the 1913 high water mark.

10 Apr 1930, Mount Carmel Daily Republican-Register

The bridge would be completed in 1932. By 1985, the bridge had fallen into disrepair. A plan to renovate the bridge was created while waiting for both Illinois and Indiana to decide to replace the bridge…which it did. The new bridge was placed just south of the original bridge.

Flooded Indiana

Weather in Indiana. Anyone that has been in the state at this time of year knows that we are entering what best can be described as the rainy season. With it comes the almost annual flooding that will inevitably occur. Flooding is something, though, that can happen at any time of the year. January is notorious for it. Though, it is not as though the flooding is a new thing. It has happened in Indiana for as long as there has been a state of Indiana. And possibly long before. Some of the floods make massive changes to the landscape of the state. Some just get a shrug of shoulders and a shake of the head.

One of the most changing floods in the modern history of Indiana has to be that of 1913. One of the most famous (road) victims of that flood had to be the Washington Street bridge in downtown Indianapolis. But the entire state was punished that January 1913. New Albany, at the Falls of The Ohio (a natural low water point in the entire river channel) almost everything south of the Southern Railroad and Pennsylvania Railroad tracks was under water. The Pennsylvania Railroad ordered that its freight house in New Albany be abandoned. Said freight house had been under five feet of water in floods of 1907. In Evansville, the Ohio Street bridge (I would assume over Pigeon Creek) is “paritally submerged by water,” according to the Evansville Press of 15 January 1913. Especially hard hit were towns along the Ohio River. Several of these would be partly wiped out. Some would be moved to higher ground.

The flood that changed Indiana the most was that of 1937. The area had been devastated by floods in 1936…but the winter of 1937 was more damaging. January 1937 saw the massive closing of state roads due to ice and flooding. The list that was published in newspapers on 23 January 1937 included large numbers of roads. Just the US Highways listed included: US 31 north and south of Seymour, south of Memphis, at Speeds and north of New Albany; US 31E north of junction with SR 231 and junction SR 62; US 41 at Hazelton and Patoka; US 50 west of Brownstown, from Lawrenceburg to Aurora, west of Washington; US 52 from Brookville to West Harrison; US 150 west of Palmyra, at Fredricksburg, at Prospect, and east of Shoals. The list of closed highway is roughly 12 column inches long in the Richmond Item of 23 January 1937. The same newspaper mentions that the only road open from Richmond to Cincinnati is US 127 through Eaton, Ohio.

The aftermath of the 1937 floods would change the landscape across the state quite a bit. In addition to plans for 13 new reservoirs (many of which would not be built), levee and bridge construction would be commenced throughout the state. It was noted that many of the city street bridges at Indianapolis were too short to be safe in case of a flood rivaling or beating that of 1913. Improvements would be planned, and budgeted, for the Warfleigh section of Indianapolis, the Fall Creek area of Indianapolis, sections of the Wabash River in Peru and Logansport, and the White River at Anderson and Muncie.

There are additional reports of flooded state roads and such from many years between 1927 and 1950. January 1932 reported that three sections of SR 37 between Bloomington and Bedford have been damaged by rock slides caused by the same rain that had that part of SR 67 between Romona and Gosport, and at Edwardsport, under water. More flooding reports appear in March 1925, March 1927, November 1927, January 1930, March 1933, May 1935, August 1938, February 1942 and April 1948. This is just a quick look at the available newspaper data.

Indiana – Car Maker Capital of … Well, Part 1

1914 Polk Indianapolis City
Directory listing of Automobile
Manufacturers in the city. Not all
were included in this list.

Today, we are going to discuss car makers that were based in Indiana. At one point, there were a LOT of manufacturers in the state. Today, I want to focus on companies based in Indianapolis. Not all of them, mind you. The picture to the left shows the entries in the Polk City Directory of 1914. Even then, companies such as Stutz, which participated in the 1911 Indianapolis 500, weren’t included in the directory. Since there were so many manufacturers in the state, there will be more parts to this subject very soon.

American Motor Car Company – Indianapolis [1906 – 1913]: One of the many automobile companies that had the guiding hand of Harry C. Stutz. Mr. Stutz came to Indianapolis from Ohio when he sold his former company to an Indianapolis concern. In 1905, he designed a new car, which would be the first made by the new American Motor Car Company. Soon after, Stutz left to become part of the Marion Motor Company. American went on to create what was best described at the time as “under powered, over priced luxury cars.” Their most well known car was called “Underslung,” where the chassis was actually set below the axles. This required 40″ wheels to keep the car off the ground. Over time, the Presidency of the company, along with that of Marion Motors, fell into the hands of J. I. Handley. It was the plan, in July 1913, to combine all of the companies under Handley’s influence into the J. I. Handley Company. This did not last long. By November, 1913, American would file for bankruptcy. The company would emerge from the bankruptcy in December, 1914, with the plan of starting car manufacturing again. It never happened. The American Company had locations at both the northwest corner of Illinois and Henry, and at 1939 to 1947 S. Meridian Street at the Belt Railway. Plant number 3 was located at 1965 S. Meridian Street.

Lafayette Motors – Indianapolis (Mars Hill) [1919 – 1922]: In 1919, a new motor car company was founded named after the Marquis de LaFayette, a French hero of the American Revolution. A cameo of his face was used as the logo on each car the company made. In 1920, the company started the Lafayette Building Company. The purpose of the second company was to build housing for the employees that were flocking to Mars Hill to work for the car company. Lafayette specialized in luxury cars. The company installed the first electric clock in automobiles. The company would come under new management in 1921. The new President, Charles Nash, was the President of the Nash Motor Company, as well. The fact that the two companies would remain separate didn’t last very long. It was announced on 29 July 1922 that the Lafayette Motors Corporation would be moving to Milwaukee, closer to the home base of Nash Motors. The name Lafayette would continue until full ownership, in 1924, was acquired by Nash. The Lafayette name would be used again, this time by Nash for a low cost automobile. Nash itself would last until 1954, when it merged with Hudson to create American Motors.

Stutz Motor Car Company – Indianapolis [1911 – 1935]: This company, founded as the Ideal Motor Company, would be started by Harry C. Stutz and Henry F. Campbell for the sole purpose, originally, to build the Bear Cat, a car designed by Harry Stutz. The first car made by Ideal was put together in five weeks from the founding of the company. That vehicle was part of the Indianapolis 500 in 1911. The company would change names in 1913 to Stutz Motor Car Company of Indiana. Stutz would leave the company in 1919. The following year, stock manipulation led the company to be delisted from stock exchanges. The company produced cars until 1935. In September, 1935, three stock brokers were indicted for trying, again, to manipulate Stutz Company stock. Henry Campbell died in September, 1936, in New York. Although Stutz Motor Company had more assets than debts, it filed for bankruptcy in April, 1937. While working through the bankruptcy, no agreements could be made with the creditors. In 1938, the Auburn Automobile Company started making a formerly Stutz produced vehicle – the Pak-Age-Car. For this, Auburn bought tools and machinery from the Stutz factory in Indianapolis, moving them to a facility in Connersville. This was shortly after the Stutz company was to be liquidated.

Marion Motor Company – Indianapolis [1904 – 1915]: The Marion Motor Company commenced work in 1904 at a plant in West Indianapolis at Oliver Avenue and Drover Street. They produced 50 cars in their first year. James I. Handley would gain control of this company, as well as the American Motor Car Company. His plan in 1913 is mentioned above with the American Motor Car paragraph. The Marion Company would, in 1915, combine with Imperial Motors to become Mutual Motor Company. This would close the West Indianapolis plant and the general offices in Indianapolis when the company moved to Jackson, Michigan.

Cole Motor Car Company – Indianapolis [1910 – 1924]: In 1910, Joseph Jeret Cole, founded the Cole Motor Car Company. One of the first, called “The Flyer,” a car built for “long, fast road journeys.” It had a 25 gallon gas tank and was powered by a four cylinder, 30 horsepower, engine. The cost, at the time, was $1,500. Cole was known for its luxury vehicles. After World War I, Cole sold a company peak of 6,255 cars in 1919, second only to Cadillac when it came to luxury cars. The company fell victim to the mass produced, cheaper cars that were very popular after the war. Cole had a choice, mass produce cars or quit making cars altogether. Joseph Cole decided to quit. This was after a failed merger between seven car companies, and even talks with William Durant about becoming part of General Motors. The last car left its East Washington Street factory in October, 1924. The company actually had two factories that are still standing: one known as 730 E. Washington Street, being used, as of the time of this writing, as Marion County Jail II, and one at Market and Davidson Streets, which is currently being used as the Marion County Processing Center. The original factory was in what is now the parking lot of the Jail II, right on the corner of Washington and Davidson Streets. The Cole Motor Car Company began liquidation after the last car was made. But unlike most companies being liquidated, the end result was that the company had money left over. All debts were paid off, and shareholders would get what was left over, roughly $39 per $100 share value. The real estate was sold, but purchased by the Cole family itself. And that is what the Cole Motor Company was after 1925 – a real estate company, leasing office space inside their one time factories. The company was listed as still existing even into the late 1980’s…but with no intention of ever producing cars again.

H. C. S. Motor Car Company – Indianapolis [1919 – 1926]: Another company started by Harry C. Stutz and Henry F. Campbell. Stutz started this company, along with a company that made fire engines (known as the Stutz Fire Apparatus Company) after leaving the Stutz Motor Card Company. Incorporated with $1 million in capital in late 1919. The company would build its factory at 1402 N. Capitol Avenue. As with other products created by Stutz, his new company was very popular in the city. The economy after World War I was very unstable, subject to very wide swings in soundness. 1921 was a very hard year for this new company. By 1923, however, the company was strong enough to buy a factory branch at 846 N. Meridian St. In 1925, Stutz left Indianapolis for Orlando, leaving his companies in the Hoosier capital to their own devices. This lasted around one year. In 1926, the company became property of creditors. 1927 saw the end of the company when it was liquidated.

Empire Motor Car Company – Indianapolis [1906 – 1919]: The founders of this company would be instrumental in the success of the automobile in general. One created two of the first Auto Trail roads in the country – the Lincoln Highway and the Dixie Highway. The other two would join the first in buying a large field along the Crawfordsville Road (and future Dixie Highway) where they would build what would become a world famous 2.5 mile rectangle known as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Carl Fisher, Arthur Newby and James Allison got together to create a car known as the Aristocrat. Allison, Fisher and Newby would put the company in a sort of hibernation in 1911. In early 1912, it was sold to other interests, which would commence building cars almost immediately. According to reports at the time, Fisher and Allison were rumored to want to retire from making cars. The last cars to come out of the Empire Motor Car Company would be the 1918 model year.

This is just the start of the lists. As I wrote at the beginning of this article, there will be more coming soon!

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.

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.

Carl Graham Fisher

There are few people that have had more influence on the current state of cross country travel than one Hoosier: Carl Graham Fisher.

Arguably, we owe the complete system of United States travel routes, whether it be US routes or Interstates, to a young man from southern Indiana that was not only interested in automobiles, but was also a promotion genius.

Carl Fisher was born in Greensburg, IN, on 12 January 1874. In the late 19th century, he became interested in bicycles. He opened a small bicycle shop with his brother. His love of bicycles led to his being involved in racing. This, in turn, led to an interest in the new automobile industry.

Mr. Fisher made his fortune, along with his friend James A. Allison, when he bought an interest in a patent to make acetylene headlights. The company formed to manufacture these headlights, Prest-O-Lite, went on to produce most headlights used on cars at the time. Prest-O-Lite began in 1904. It would be about a decade before the electric headlight became common. Fisher and Allison sold Prest-O-Lite in 1913.

While still owning Prest-O-Lite, Fisher had hands in two things that would change not only Indianapolis, but the entire country.

The first was as one of four people that put together a automobile test track in a large field along the Crawfordsville Road west of Indianapolis. That test track decided to put on a car race in 1909, which only met with disaster, injuries and death. Fisher convinced his partners to make some improvements in that track, paving it with 3.2 million bricks. In 1911, the race was tried again. Today, it is called the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The second was a brain storm. In 1912, Fisher conceived a great coast-to-coast road. That road would become the first Auto Trail, named the Lincoln Highway. It was this route that encouraged a then Lt. Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower to support the construction of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, or Interstate System, when Eisenhower became President of the United States.

After the sale of Prest-O-Lite, Fisher had another transportation brainstorm. He had already created the east-west route. Now a north-south route was in order. Starting in two locations, Chicago and northern Michigan, a series of roads was brought together in two paths to connect to southern Florida. According to sources, it was to allow people of his home state of Indiana to vacation in Florida. This highway was to be called the Dixie Highway.

His two ideas, the Lincoln and Dixie Highways ended up having a junction in South Bend.

Carl Fisher went on to work on other projects, just not as transportation oriented. He did create a city in a swampy area near Miami. That swamp would become Miami Beach.

Carl Fisher died on 15 Jul 1939 after a lengthy illness. Although he had lost his fortune in real estate with the stock market collapse of 1929 and following depression, he continued to work as a promotion man for his former partners.

Carl Fisher left an indelible mark not only on Indiana, but on the country as a whole.

Bonus fact: Neither of his highway brainstorms connected to his original home town, and only the Dixie Highway connected to his adopted hometown of Indianapolis. The Lincoln Highway, however, did connect to the namesake town of his hometown. Greensburg, Indiana, was named after the hometown of the wife of the founder of the town: Greensburg, Pennsylvania.