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.

The Liberty Way

Today, I want to return to the Auto Trail era. There were many Auto Trails created over the time before the US Highway system took full hold. Even today, the Auto Trail era lives in the names of city streets and county roads. The biggest one that comes to mind is the Lincoln Highway…both of them, actually. But some of the Auto Trails really made you want to ask one question: Why? Today’s road actually made me ask that very question: the Liberty Way.

Since this is an Indiana Transportation History site, I guess that it is good that I can’t find, so far, a map that follows this road outside Indiana. But then it makes me go back to the question above – why? The Liberty Way was an Auto Trail that started in Kokomo, connecting Logansport, Winamac, Bass Lake, North Judson, San Pierre, Kouts, Valparaiso, Hobart, East Chicago, and Whiting to Chicago. Those are the bigger towns along the way. The whole map is available at the Indiana State Library with this 1923 map. The Liberty Way was also shown on the 1920 Rand McNally highway map. Its routing was slightly different.

Basically, I want to do this with maps. Tracing the roads gets a bit complicated in this case. The red line on the maps marked “DD” are the Liberty Way in 1923. On the 1920 map, it is marked “86.”

1920 Liberty Way from Kokomo to Logansport.
1923 Liberty Way from Kokomo to Logansport
1920 Logansport to Winamac
1923 Logansport to Winama
1920 Winamac to Kouts
1923 Winamac to Kouts
1920 Kouts to Valparaiso
1923 Kouts to Valparaiso

The next two maps are a jumbled mess. Because of Indiana’s location, it has always been the crossroads of America. And these two maps show the importance of Chicago in the grand scheme of things when it came to highways. Indiana’s side of the state line near Chicago was cluttered with way too many road markers.

1920 Valparaiso to Illinois State Line
1923 Valparaiso to Illinois State Line

Doing a newspaper search for “Liberty Way” is not the straight forward grasp for information one would hope. Apparently that name was very popular for other places throughout the state. But an ad in the Logansport Pharos-Tribune of 23 July 1921 could tell you, using the Liberty Way, how to get to Bass Lake.

23 July 1921, Logansport Pharos-Tribune

Dandy Trail – Revisited

In the early days of the automobile, the Hoosier Motor Club created a scenic tour of Marion County. That tour, an 88 mile journey through the countryside around Indianapolis, was named the Dandy Trail. When one looks at a map, the only part of Dandy Trail that exists by that name is in the northwestern part of the county. And almost none of it was part of the original scenic tour route.

This particular route has been covered by me before in a post called “Dandy Trail.” Jim Grey, another blogger and co-admin of the Facebook companion to this blog, also covered it with his article “It’s 1921, and you’re taking a pleasure drive on the Dandy Trail.” But today, I want to put the Dandy Trail, and its changes, into a historical context.

Starting off with an overview of the section of the original Dandy Trail from about 65th Street south to its original connection with Crawfordsville Road from back in 1953. Above 56th Street, it wandered through the Eagle Creek valley on the west side of that stream. It crossed the creek at 56th Street, then followed the lay of the land on the east side of Eagle Creek. From 56th Street south, it was also mostly a dirt road…never having been improved over its 30+ years of existence.

The connection to Crawfordsville Road was made at what is now called Salt Lake Road, although, as one can tell by looking at the map, that name was actually applied to what is now 34th Street. The current westerly bend of the road, connecting it to the dotted line in the bottom left corner of the snippet, came later. I will cover that. That dotted red line is County Club Road.

The next snippet shows the next point of interest…crossing Eagle Creek. Now, I have shown this several times, but I have not been able to do so with maps that actually show the lay of the land before the reservoir was built.

The northern end of the interest area shows the town of Traders Point. The following snippet is from 1953, as well. Traders Point was located on the old Lafayette Road, just north of Big Eagle Creek.

Historical Topographic Map Collection

Several changes occurred in the path of the Dandy Trail between 1953 and 1967. First, the building of Eagle Creek reservoir. Second, the building of Interstate 74. And, as show in the following map snippet, the almost complete removal of Dandy Trail between 38th and 46th Streets. Also, the southern end was connected to Country Club Road, as it is today.

And as shown in this map, from 46th Street north to the northern end of this particular quad of USGS topo map, most of the original route was either placed in the flood plain, or in the actual reservoir. One can still see the outline of the old bridge over Eagle Creek near 56th Street in the topographical data. At this time, Dandy Trail didn’t connect between 46th Street and 56th Street.

Historical Topographic Map Collection

The northern end didn’t fair much better. Traders Point, a town prior to the building of the reservoir, was no more. But it wasn’t because it was in the reservoir…it was in the flood plain. I will post a link to that particular map to show exactly how much area the reservoir was expected to cover in case of emergency. This particular map shows the area in 1966. The road that is broken by Interstate 65 in the center of the snippet is the original Dandy Trail. Notice that it skirts the northern bank of the reservoir. It is still there today, although accessibility is questionable.

The last image I want to share is the 1967 topo map that had been updated showing conditions in 1980. The purple marks on this map show the updates. A new map was not made, just modifications to the old one. This shows the new Dandy Trail from 38th Street north to 56th Street.

In 1980, 46th Street became Dandy Trail as it turned north toward Eagle Creek Park. Today, that traffic situation is reversed, as 46th Street turns south to become Dandy Trail. Also, the intersection at 38th Street, which was 38th Street ending at Dandy Trail, has been changed over the years to become 38th Street westbound turning south to become Dandy Trail.

Very little of what is called Dandy Trail today is what was originally given that name. But the name survives…as if there is still a connection to the past. The name Dandy Trail seems strange on the Hoosier landscape. But it remains, even if we have to explain why it’s there.

The link to the Traders Point topo map showing the flood plain of the Eagle Creek Reservoir according to the United States Geological Service is this: https://ngmdb.usgs.gov/ht-bin/tv_browse.pl?id=16e9e185f52a80db3128924a7ab11716

Dec 1917: Main Market Roads Officially Announced

When the law creating the Indiana State Highway Commission was passed in early 1917, the announcement was also made that there were would five main market highways, later known as state roads, designated by that commission. There was a general idea of which roads would be involved, bot nothing set in stone. That is, until December 1917.

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette of 12 December 1917 announced the selection of the new main market highways. ISHC officials traveled throughout the state deciding which roads would be part of the new, and yet controversial, system. “A former election of four of the five routes was tentative, and although the general directions of the four roads announced formerly have been adhered to in the official selection, many changes have been made.”

The plan was to create a system which was typical of Indiana’s general demeanor: serve as many people as possible with as little cost and intrusion as possible. Due to the shape of the state of Indiana, it was decided that there would be three roads crossing the state, west to east, from the Illinois state line to the Ohio state line. One north-south road would be designated through the middle of the state. This was the basis of the first four main market roads. A fifth road would connect the fourth road to the Illinois state line in the southern part of the state. The December 1917 system included roughly 800 miles of roads.

The main market highways were officially described as follows: “No. 1. The highway beginning at the Indiana and Michigan state line, thence southerly through South Bend, Plymouth, Rochester, Peru, Kokomo, Westfield, Carmel, Indianapolis, Franklin, Columbus, Seymour, Scottsburg, Sellersburg, New Albany and Jeffersonville.” In the Auto Trail era, there was no one highway this route followed. It seems that it was planned very early to have a split in the highway at the south end, with one branch going to New Albany, and one going to Jeffersonville. And although the route numbers have changed, that split has existed in one form or another since that time.

Main Market Road #2: “The highway passing through the northern part of the state, beginning, at the Illinois and Indiana state line, thence easterly through Dyer, Valparaiso, Laporte, South Bend, Goshen and Fort Wayne via the Lincoln Highway to the Ohio and Indiana state line.” Depending on how one reads that, it could be that the Lincoln Highway was only used from Fort Wayne to the Ohio state line. This is far from true. It was decided that the entire original route of the Lincoln Highway through the state would be used for Road #2.

Main Market Road #3: “The highway crossing the central part of the state, commonly called the old national road trail, beginning at the corner of the Illinois and Indiana state line, thence easterly through Terre Haute, Brazil, Putnamville, Plainfield, Indianapolis, Greenfield, Knightstown, Cambridge City and Richmond to the Ohio and Indiana state line.”

Main Market Road #4: “The road crossing the southern part of the state, beginning at Evansville, thence easterly through Boonville, Huntingburg, Jasper, West Baden, Paoli, Mitchell, Bedford, Seymour, North Vernon, Versailles, Dillsboro, Aurora and Lawrenceburg to the Ohio and Indiana state line.”

Main Market Road #5: “The road connecting Vincennes and Mitchell, via Wheatland, Washington, Loogootee and Shoals.” Basically, this road was designated to connect main market road 4 to Vincennes. Again, this is due to the shape of the state. A (more or less) straight line across Indiana from Cincinnati west would, as is shown by the route of the current US 50, connect to Vincennes, leaving people south of there without a main market road. Evansville was, and still is, one of the top five largest cities in the state, population wise. So ignoring that city would not have been possible.

The article ends with the following: “The total mileage of the roads represents less than one-half of the total 2,000 miles of ‘main market highways’ which the commission may designate under the new state highway commission law prior to 1921.” The law that passed in 1917 created a state highway system so that Indiana could benefit from federal money for good roads. It wasn’t until the law was redone in 1919, with all of the 1917 law’s Constitutional questions answered, that the Indiana State Highway System was officially made part of the landscape.

The Yellowstone Trail in 1922

In the Auto Trail era, Indiana was a beneficiary of the massive good roads movement. There were many of these roads, and they were going every which direction. The Granddaddy of them all, The Lincoln Highway, crossed the state from Dyer to Fort Wayne..although through South Bend. A more direct route would come a little bit later. I covered that when I wrote about the Winona Trail. The following year, the Winona Trail would be taken over by the Yellowstone Trail. The Yellowstone Trail would cross the country just like the Lincoln Highway.

In November 1921, Fort Wayne held the annual convention of Indiana Trail Representatives. This convention was held at the Chamber of Commerce building. Surprise visitors arrived at that convention…officials from the Yellowstone Trail. The Fort Wayne Sentinel of 17 November 1921 announced that the Yellowstone Trail Association was to be more active during 1922. The General Manager of the Association, H. O. Cooley, of Minneapolis, had visited Fort Wayne to discuss the status of the trail. Many programs were mentioned by Mr. Cooley that would increase the visibility of the Yellowstone.

It was announced that the entire trail through Indiana would be marked with special iron signposts, as opposed to the common markers painted on utility poles, or the tin signs that the Yellowstone Trail used that were nailed to the same utility poles. Information bureaus would also be established across the country, with one in Fort Wayne and possibly one in Gary, to hand out information to tourists about the advantages of and facilities along the trail.

Unlike other states, the Yellowstone Trail was, in 1921, a road that was maintained by the Indiana State Highway Commission. This would help the Yellowstone Trail Association immensely. Since there was a program by the ISHC to pave its road in concrete, the Association stated that the entire route was “schedule for early paving in concrete.” Another plan that would be added to the road was unusual at the time. Two cars would travel the entire length of the Yellowstone Trail, visiting the above mentioned information bureaus, passing out information to people using the road, and information gathering about the conditions of the highway.

Construction along the Trail in February 1922 left the road, and its detour, in bad condition. “The temporary bridge five miles east of Columbia City is unsafe for heavy loads or trucks; the detour is bad. There is a temporary bridge between Atwood, Ind., and Etna Green, Ind., which is safe for light traffic, but dangerous for trucks. A good truck detour will be found by going west from Atwood one and one-half miles, then right one mile to school house, then left two and one-half miles into Etna Green.”

In August 1922, State Highway Commission construction caused confusion when it came to Yellowstone Trail trail out of Fort Wayne. It was best described in both the Fort Wayne Sentinel and the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette of 13 August 1922 as follows: “The best way to reach the Yellowstone Trail (or Leesburg road) is to leave the city over the Lincoln Highway, turning left on the Butler road and following this road until it reaches the trail, or following the Lincoln Highway as far as Lincoln school, turning left on the California road, which leads back to the Yellowstone Trail.” It is mentioned that the Hoosier Highway and Yellowstone Trail were closed east of Fort Wayne, and recommended that travelers leave Fort Wayne on State Street. The Yellowstone Trail opened to traffic on 29 August.

Another mention of the Yellowstone Trail in 1922 is in the South Bend Tribune of 31 January 1922. But it wasn’t about the trail itself. There was a plan at the time for the State Highway Commission to take over the Liberty Road, which would connect South Bend to the Yellowstone Trail. This idea would not happened for several years…with the Liberty Road becoming part of SR 23.

A most confusing announcement was made in the South Bend Tribune of 12 November 1922. “A representative of the Yellowstone Trail association was here Friday and stated that it was proposed to pave the Yellowstone trail from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis next year. The road has been surveyed.” It would have to be assumed that this means that the Yellowstone Trail would be rerouted? Not sure. But, it was noted in other newspapers that the route between Chicago and Fort Wayne was nine miles shorter using the Yellowstone Trail versus the Lincoln Highway through South Bend. Such a reroute would seem, to me at least, strange at least.

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!

Winona Trail

The Auto-Trail Era in Indiana led to a lot of different routes created for travelers. Some cross country routes, some were confined to the state of Indiana. Some of the routes disappeared as quickly as the appeared, at least as far as some people, and companies, were concerned. Today, I want to talk about an Auto Trail that lasted, according to Rand McNally, one year. That is the Winona Trail.

1918 Rand McNally Auto Trails Map. The route marked with the number 3 is listed as the Winona Trail.

The first reference to the Winona Trail depends on when the above map was published. The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette of 10 March 1918 stated that a new trail was being planned to create a short cut to Chicago from Fort Wayne. The new route would be called the Winona Trail, making a shorter drive to Valparaiso. The routes currently in use between the two cities included the Lincoln Highway, which connected through Goshen, Elkhart, South Bend and LaPorte, and an unnamed trail that connected through North Manchester, Rochester, Culver and Tefft.

The Fort Wayne Sentinel of 5 April 1918 reported that “Winona Trail Is To Be Established.” The route, “leading west of Fort Wayne through Columbia City over the Yellow River road, thence west through Larwill, Pierceton, Winona, Warsaw, Bourbon, Plymouth and Valparaiso, and eventually on to Chicago is to be established as a state highway.” Keep in mind that the Indiana State Highway Commission was in flux. The ISHC was created in 1917, but was dealing with a constitutional battle. That battle would not be resolved until 1919. So this reference to a “state highway” did not mean what it means today.

Rand McNally, one of the premier sources of Auto Trail information, removed the Winona Trail from their maps in 1919 with the coming of the Yellowstone Trail. That new road followed the same route the Winona Trail did. Since the latter was only in Indiana, while the former was a cross country route, one can assume that it was left off maps simply due to complete duplication.

The last reference to the Winona Trail in any newspapers (that I have access to, anyway) was made in the Fort Wayne Sentinel of 1 September 1921. This reference was made in a news story about the new “Washington Highway” that would connect Fort Wayne to Spokane in the west to Cleveland in the east. “The addition of this latest highway, in the opinion of Secretary H. E. Bodine, of the Chamber of Commerce, gives Fort Wayne the largest number of national highway of any city in the country.” The Winona Trail was mentioned in a list of the highways, other than the Washington Highway, that entered the city: Lincoln, Yellowstone, Ohio-Indiana-Michigan, Custer Trail, Hoosier, Wabash Way, and Winona Trail.

The route that was the Winona Trail/Yellowstone Trail would be added to the state highway system as SR 44 in 1920. With the first renumbering of the state highway system in 1923, this route was changed from SR 44 to SR 2, the number given to the original Lincoln Highway route. The Great Renumbering in 1926 gave the road the designation US 30. In 1928, the Lincoln Highway would be rerouted along this corridor.

When it was said and done, the afterthought route, directly connecting Valparaiso and Fort Wayne, and following the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago (Pennnsylvania) railroad that had even more directly connected the two for decades, would become the more important route across Indiana. A route that more or less started to create a way for visitors to get to Winona Lake.

The Hazelton Bridge

In the days of the Auto Trails, a second route adopted the name of “Dixie Highway,” this one being the “Dixie Bee Line.” In Indiana, much of this route followed what became State Road 10, and later US 41. In September 1921, work was started on a bridge over the White River north of the town of Hazelton, where the river forms the boundary between Knox and Gibson Counties. This bridge would replace the last ferry on the “Dixie Bee,” a ferry that had been in place for 40 years at the time of construction.

What makes this bridge special is its shear size. According to the Garret Clipper of 28 February 1924, “the bridge is said to be the largest on a state highway in the middle-west.” The massive size of this bridge is especially shown in its length. Including approaches, the bridge was nearly three miles long. The bridge consisted of a total of 29 spans: eight steel and 21 concrete.

Google Map image of the Hazelton Bridge. This image was snipped on 1 July 2019.

Built by the Stein Construction Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and costing $275,000, the bridge was 20 feet wide for its entire length, including approaches. It was rated to carry up to 20 ton (40,000 pound) vehicles. The bridge itself was 2002.5 feet in length, with approaches of 7448 feet (north) and 3800 feet (south). The bridge was “without draw,” or a non-moving bridge, that was 38.5 feet above the low water mark on the White River.

The steel spans had two different lengths: four were 198 feet; four were 84 feet.

The amount of construction material involved was massive: 1.5 million pounds of steel; 350,000 pounds of reinforcing steel in the concrete; 6,200 yards of concrete; and 13,000 linear feet of timber pilings. In addition, slightly more than 90,000 cubic yards of earth was used in building the northern approach.

The bridge had been longed for by residents of both Knox and Gibson Counties. As mentioned, the Hazleton Bridge replaced a ferry across the White River at this point. The problems with the ferry were typical when it came to Indiana weather. In the spring and fall, the amounts of rain received in the area caused the ferry to be put on hold for weeks at a time, suspending traffic flow at the same times. Again, according to the newspaper mentioned above, “traffic often was held in abeyance for weeks at a time.”

It was reported that this bridge “removes in Indiana the last obstacle on what is said to be the shortest motor route between Chicago, Florida and Gulf points.”

Google Map image of the Hazleton Bridge and southern approaches as of 1 July 2019.

All of the construction did have its problems later. The Indianapolis Star, of 15 January 1930, reports that “turbulent flood waters from White river threatened to destroy the three-mile fill leading to the Hazelton bridge on United States highway No. 41, late yesterday.” It was also stated that “the water was rising an inch an hour and highway officials expected the roadway to be covered before morning.” Members of the Indiana National Guard were sent to protect the Hazleton Bridge during this flooding incident due to reports of people wanting to blow up the bridge to alleviate the flooding problem.

The flooding in question affected not only US 41 at Hazleton, but points all along the White River south of Indianapolis. This especially affected areas around Newberry, Edwardsport, Spencer, Shoals, and Bedford. Highway officials were reporting that most state and county roads in these areas would not escape the flood waters.

The Hazelton bridge was in use from October 1923 until it was closed by officials of Knox and Gibson Counties on 03 April 1989. It had been in the state inventory until a bypass was built in 1961. Knox County officials wanted to close it for structural reasons in 1985, but work was done in 1986 to keep it open a little while longer. The weight limit on the bridge had been lowered in the 1970s to five tons for safety reasons. High water in April 1989, and parts of the bridge sinking six inches or more, helped make the decision to remove the bridge from use. According to the Vincennes Sun-Commercial of 6 April 1989, “the closing means an additional two miles for travelers coming to Vincennes from Hazelton.”

Vincennes Sun-Commercial, 06 April 1989

Now, as shown in the above Google Maps images, the bridge stands in a decaying condition, a testament to what had been one of the greatest bridge building projects in Indiana in the early days of the Indiana State Highway Commission.