Newspaper Blurbs about Lincoln Highway in Indiana

I spend a lot of time looking through old newspapers. It all started with my genealogical research. But I realized that this blog could benefit from the very same resources. And, if you have followed this blog, you know I do use them a lot. Today, I want to cover some newspaper articles about the early days of the Lincoln Highway, and construction of same.

The Indianapolis News of 18 June 1914 spent almost an entire column page to the Lincoln Highway. The majority of the article was about what Carl Fisher planned when it came to both the Lincoln Highway and the Michigan Road in his home state. Fisher was in South Bend, witnessing the beginning of work on his brain child. According to the News, he “has started another big movement. It is the improvement of the Michigan road from Indianapolis to South Bend to connect the speedway city with the coats-to-coast highway and to give central and southern Indiana an outlet to it.”

Plans were also to have a “General Good Roads Day” in Marion, Boone, Clinton, Cass, Fulton, Marshall and St. Joseph Counties. He was also calling for the oiling of that road. Calls for a state trunk road system were announced, as well.

The plans for the Lincoln Highway in South Bend called for an 18 foot cement road way with three foot graveled shoulders on each side, make for a total 24 foot wide road right-of-way. Fisher let the St. Joseph County Commissioners know that specifications only called for a 15 foot roadway, with the same three foot shoulders. This would make the right-of-way a total of 21 feet wide.

The cement mixture, according to Fisher, was also too expensive for the work. He recommended that the mixture include one part cement, two parts sand and three parts gravel. This was the same mixture that had been successfully in use in Wayne County, Michigan. This one change decreased the cost of construction of the Lincoln Highway across St. Joseph County from around $194,000 to roughly $150,000.

The Lincoln Highway was, at the time of this article, also completely marked across northern Indiana. Traffic along the new Auto Trail was increasing with travelers moving between the two coasts. The prospect of major traffic from the east going to the California-Panama Exposition in 1915 was on the minds of the people involved with completing the highway across the United States.

Fisher also expressed his concern that the Lincoln Highway be built “under competent engineers and honest contractors.” His belief that “nothing shows worse than concrete construction any underlying graft. It only takes two or three years to label a skimping contractor a thief or an incompetent.”

As a human interest story, less than a month later, in the Indianapolis Star of 19 July 1914, it was announced that “Fred Callahan, the young man who walked from New York to San Francisco and who is now walking back over the Lincoln Highway, reached Ashland, O., a short time ago. He averages about thirty miles a day and has covered more than 5,000 miles. He carries a pack on his back weighing about thirty-five pounds. Callahan says the Lincoln Highway is being put in good shape all across the country, and he ought to know.”

An article covering the entire Lincoln Highway in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette of 13 January 1918 mentions that of the 94 counties crossed by the Lincoln Highway in the United States, only one has completely finished the concrete pavement of the route. That county is St. Joseph, Indiana. The same article mentions that there is an official feeder road to the Lincoln Highway at Dyer. That feeder road connects the coast-to-coast highway to the city of Chicago.

The Indianapolis Star of 7 July 1918 mentions the work that the Indiana State Highway Commission made appropriations for that year. The ISHC, created in 1917, had taken the original route of the Lincoln Highway into the fledgling state highway system. It was called Main Market Road 2. According to the newspaper, $37,000 was allocated for the Lincoln Highway between Elkhart and the Elkhart-St. Joseph County line. The same amount was earmarked be Elkhart County. St. Joseph County was also starting the grading of the highway near Osceola. A contract for a new bridge in St. Joseph County was also let.

Tree planting was the news of the day in the South Bend Tribune of 25 June 1921. St. Joseph County planned to plant as many as 5,000 trees along the national highways that connected to South Bend. Keep in mind that both of Carl Fisher’s “children,” the Lincoln Highway and the Dixie Highway, met in South Bend. The roadside was “barren,” according to the newspaper. They also ran the following two pictures to make their point.

South Bend Tribune, 25 June 1921.

One of the bad things about looking through newspapers for a topic like the Lincoln Highway is that it was such an important feature in the United States that news from across the country would appear in the newspaper. Most of the coverage was for the national perspective, not the Hoosier one. I will continue to scour the newspapers of the state to find more information like this. Just that some projects are so large that local information is usually mainly ignored.

Dixie Short Line

In the Auto Trail era, roads were popping up everywhere. Road Associations were being formed to cash in on the idea that people in the United States were more mobile than ever with the explosion of automobile manufacturing. Some became quite famous – and still serve as highway names, in spots, to this day. Some came and went without any real notice. Some were pipedreams that would never really happen. One of those was called the Dixie Short Line.

The Dixie Highway was a multi-route major Auto Trail, connecting the north to Florida. Due to this, the Dixie Highway started having a lot of “daughter” roads, although they were never officially related to the original road. One of those daughters traversed western Indiana as the Dixie Bee Line, a play on words because it was designed to be the “B” route of the Dixie Highway, and a “bee” line to the south, or faster way to the same destination.

Another of these “daughters,” although it was specifically mentioned that the name chosen was not to be an “infringement” on the other highway’s name, was the Dixie Short Line. What made this a “short” line is the more direct route that it took from Indianapolis to Cincinnati. The Dixie Highway followed the National Road east out of the Hoosier Capital, then turned southeast out of Richmond towards Eaton, Ohio.

The creation of the DSL was put together by members of the Brookville Commercial Club and the automobile routes committee of the Rush County Chamber of Commerce. This was announced in the Rushville Republican of 2 July 1915. “The Brookville men agreed with the Rushville people that the short route between Cincinnati and Indianapolis should be listed in the auto guides and this will be one of the first things taken up by the two bodies.”

According to the news story, “the name, ‘Dixie Short Line’ was suggested by Brookville and was adopted. The name is not an infringement on the name ‘Dixie Highway.'”

The Rushville Daily Republican of 12 May 1916 reported that signs marking the route had been paid for, but hadn’t been installed to that point. The Rush County Chamber of Commerce had asked the county motor club to install the “$18.50 worth of signs to mark the ‘Dixie Short Line,’ through Rush County.” “The club has the matter under consideration.”

“The proposed marking of the ‘Dixie Short Line’ is the outgrowth of several good roads meetings here and at Brookville to boost the motor route from Indianapolis to Cincinnati by way of Brookville and Harrison, Ohio, which is the same route that will be followed by the Cincinnati extension of the I. & C.”

The name of the road was used locally quite a bit…mentions of farm sales into 1920 is the location of the sale as on the “Dixie Short Line.” Most mentions of the road were in 1915 and 1916, as the local businessmen were trying to get the road recognized by outside organizations.

The Dixie Short Line started on the east side of Indianapolis. It started at the corner of what is now Washington Street and Sherman Drive. (Sherman Drive is three miles east of downtown Indianapolis.) The DSL commenced going south on Sherman Drive, crossing the Baltimore & Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroads, to the old Brookville State Road, still called Brookville Road today.

From there, the DSL simply followed the Brookville Road to the title city. This would take travelers through Rushville to Brookville. After Brookville, the DSL followed the Whitewater River to cross the Indiana-Ohio State Line at West Harrison, Indiana/Harrison, Ohio.

While my collection of available maps is not inexhaustible, I have only ever seen this road listed on one map – and that is shown below. It is the “Standard Series Map of Indiana,” published by the Standard Map Company of Chicago in 1919. It is available from the Indiana State Library digital collection.

To end the discussion of the Dixie Short Line, I want to share a paragraph from the Rushville Republican of 24 August 1949. “How many remember the short-lived campaign about 35 years ago (1915 to be exact) to rename the Brookville Road (now U. S. 52) as the ‘Dixie Short Line’? The campaign was sponsored by the Brookville Commercial Club and the Rush County Chamber of Commerce as a means of attracting the increasing automobile traffic between Chicago, Indianapolis and Cincinnati. We don’t think the ‘Dixie Short Line’ name ever stuck, due principally to the fact that the famed ‘Dixie Highway’ through Louisville got its name about the same time and the proposed name for the Brookville Road was too near like it. Anyway the boys tried and a good share of the traffic came through here even if they didn’t get a fancy name for the route.”

By 1920, the route that would have been the Dixie Short Line was taken over by the Indiana State Highway Commission to be known as State Road 39. As mentioned above, it would become part of US 52 in October 1926.

Indiana Reroute of the Pike’s Peak Ocean to Ocean Highway

When the Pike’s Peak Ocean to Ocean (PPOO) Highway was created in 1915, a meeting in Indianapolis was held “to promote the acquaintance of the people of Colorado with those of the states to the East.” (Source: Indianapolis Star, 21 April 1915) “The Cumberland and the National Roads form the eastern part of the Ocean-to-Ocean highway as it has been mapped by Pike’s Peak boosters.” While this is mostly true, between Richmond, Indiana, and Springfield, Ohio, that route wasn’t. I covered that on 13 September 2019 with the post US 40 East of Richmond.

Starting in 1916, the PPOO started its Indiana journey across the state by entering along what became US 36 from Illinois, connecting Rockville to Indianapolis (along the Rockville State Road). From Indianapolis, the road followed the National Old Trails Road to Springfield, Ohio, via Greenfield, Richmond, Eaton and Dayton. After Springfield, the PPOO connected to Columbus and Coshocton. This will be important soon.

Fast forward to the Muncie Sunday Star of 16 July 1922. The city of Muncie was looking forward to becoming accessible via a transcontinental highway. The PPOO was changing the route through the state. More to the point, the PPOO organization was thinking about it, but “as now seems certain.” This would make Muncie “the largest city in Indiana on the route and probably the largest city for a stretch of 250 miles or more through this section.”

The article goes on to state that “the trail already had been assured as far as Anderson on the west. The success of the effort to orgnaize a local chapter of the Pike’s Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway Association will determine whether the highway will continue on east over the proposed route or whether it will traverse points to the north of the city.”

So, what was the proposed route? At least in the 1922 change listed in that newspaper article? At Rockville, the new path would turn northeast to Crawfordsville. While a path is not specifically mentioned, maps of the proposal show a direct route between the two towns, making it possible for the PPOO to travel through Guion and Waveland on its way to Crawfordsville. From there, the route is pretty much a straight line through Lebanon, Noblesville, Anderson, Muncie, Farmland, Winchester and Union City. On the Ohio side of the state line, Greenville and Piqua would be on the new route before connecting to the original route at Coshocton.

Muncie Sunday Star, 16 July 1922, showing proposed route change to PPOO in Indiana.

When the PPOO was rerouted in 1923, Muncie got its wish. It was included on a transcontinental highway. The difference between what was proposed in 1922 and what became reality in 1923 was the section west of Crawfordsville. Instead of entering the state west of Rockville, the route through Illinois had also been moved north, leaving that state east from Danville. This made the PPOO come through Covington instead of Rockville.

Controversy again arose in 1925 concerning the routing of the PPOO. The Indianapolis Star of 08 March 1925 received a statement from H. D. Judson, of St. Joseph, Missouri, General Manager of the Pike’s Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway. The message read that a new map of the routing was released erroneously. What did this map show? In western Indiana, the route would be changed to connect to Attica. The reason for the controversy was that it was alleged that the change in the route was made with the assistance of the Indiana State Highway Commission…with Attica being the hometown of Chairman of the ISHC, Charles W. Zeigler. Since the proposal was listed as erroneous, I can find no maps that show the routing between Danville, Illinois, and Crawfordsville.

It was determined, according to Mr. Judson, that “it was with forethought and careful consideration of future needs that the highway was purposely rerouted to avoid Indianapolis, Dayton, Columbus, Springfield, O., and other cities on the National Old Trails.” A problem occurred when the Indiana PPOO association had taken subscriptions of money from towns along the abandoned route, including Dana and Montezuma. But Mr. Judson made it a point that sections of original SR 33 (became SR 34 [US 136] west of Crawfordsville and SR 32 east of that city in 1926) were in the list to be paved in 1925, making a good anchor for the road through the state.

Indianapolis News, 14 May 1934. Indianapolis is U. S. Crossroads

After the Great Renumbering, and the creation of the US Highway system, Auto Trails started disappearing from the landscape, having served the purpose of getting good roads supported by the government. A mention in the Indianapolis News of 14 May 1934 states the PPOO, at that time, had been rerouted through Indianapolis at some point, following the Rockville Road to the west of the city. A classified ad in the Franklin Evening Star of 23 January 1932 lists an 80 acre farm “located 26 1/2 miles west of Indianapolis, 6 1/2 miles west of Danville, and 1/2 mile east of New Winchester, Hendricks county, on State Road 36, known as Pike’s Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway.” The PPOO is still listed on SR 32 according to the Noblesville Ledger of 14 February 1931. This is listed in a classified ad for another 80 acre farm for sale north of Fishersburg and Lapel.