Original SR 6, 9, 10, and US 41 and 52

Last year about this time, I was going through a series of articles called the “Road Trip 1926,” where I traced the routes of the roads maintained by the Indiana State Highway Commission, and their new numbers, as of 1 October 1926: the day of the Great Renumbering. It was nearly a year ago I covered the new US 52. I was always intrigued by the route that was assigned the number 52, especially at its northern end. US 52, originally, started at US 41 in Boswell, although the road was under construction to have US 52 end at US 41 northwest of Fowler, as it has been reported to have done since the beginning.

But the route to get to Boswell is what intrigued me. And in researching that, I discovered that Fowler has had a state road running through it since 1920, the first year the ISHC had added roads to its inventory after the first five were added in 1917. But then, it wasn’t what I thought, either.

Let’s just tackle this one road at a time, numerically.

1920 Indiana Official Highway Map of the subject area.

Original State Road 6: When this road was originally added to the state highway system, it started in Madison, following the old Michigan Road out of the city to Bryantsburg. At that point, it then used the old Madison-Versailles State Road to connect to Versailles. The next part of the trip connected Versailles to Napoleon, where it would follow the old Michigan Road to Indianapolis. If this sounds familiar, it is because it is still the rough route of US 421 today, and it was the route of the Michigan Road Auto Trail…although Versailles was never on the original Michigan Road.

From Indianapolis, the original SR 6 left Indianapolis via the original Lafayette State Road. At Lebanon, it turned north through Frankfort, Rossville, Delphi, ending at original SR 7 at Monticello. Now, you may be asking, “what does that have to do with the area you said you wanted to cover?” In 1923, the first state road renumbering occurred. OSR 6 turned west at Rossville onto what had been OSR 29 to end west of Oxford, south of Fowler, at OSR 9. But by 1923, OSR 9 had become OSR 10. More on that later.

1923 Indiana Official State Highway Map of the subject area.

The OSR 6 route would, on 1 October 1926, become part of US 52 and SR 22. The US 52 designation was a temporary one, as the road was already was a proposed relocation on the Great Renumbering map of October 1926.

1926 Indiana Official Highway Map of subject area

Most websites that cover the US highway system have US 52 ending northwest of Fowler in the 1926 plan. To be fair, as shown on the 1926 map above, it did…or would. The whole thing can be a bit confusing.

Original State Road 9: The only reason that OSR 9 is on this list is because that is what the road was in 1920. OSR 9 started, in 1920, in Rockville, heading north to meet the then Dixie Highway at Hillsboro. It then left Veedersburg, through Attica, Williamsport, Boswell, Fowler, ending at OSR 7 west of Goodland. In 1923, the number would change to OSR 10.

Original State Road 10: Starting, in 1920, in Evansville, travelling north through Princeton, Hazelton, Vincennes, Sullivan, Terre Haute, Clinton, Newport, and ending west of the Wabash River at OSR 33 (Dixie Highway) west of Covington. In 1923, the designation would change. OSR 10 would end at Clinton, where the old OSR 10 would be designated OSR 54 from that point north. OSR 9 would become OSR 10 starting in Rockville and heading north. Instead of ending at OSR 7, the OSR 10 designation would takeover the route that had been Original State Road 49 from Kentland north into the Chicago Metropolitan Area on the Indiana side of the state line.

OSR 10 would become the rough original route for US 41 in October 1926, with a newly constructed road heading north from Boswell to a newly constructed road halfway between Fowler and Earl Park heading into Kentland. Fowler itself would be off the state highway system for maybe two years while the new US 52 was being built through the area. Both US 41 and US 52 would be completely hard surfaced before the maps came out in late 1928 for the 1929 travel season.

1929 Indiana Official State Highway map of the subject area.

The Status of Indiana Road Building, 1928

Within the first decade of the second creation of the Indiana State Highway Commission, the state found itself building, maintaining and upgrading roads at a furious pace. Up to that point, the ISHC was taking over roads slowly. This also meant that paving of those roads was slowly creeping forward. But 1928 saw the biggest improvement in state highways to that time. The Indianapolis Star of 16 January 1929 had an entire section called the “Good Roads Review” that covered the feat.

After the passing of the second ISHC act in 1919, the state started adding to the highway system as it could. A limiting factor, at the time, was money. The ISHC finances were slow in coming together. But it was also important to hold to the mandate of connecting the seats of government for each of the 92 Indiana counties to each other via state highways. A program of road and bridge building was pushed by Governor Harry Leslie in 1928. To that end, the ISHC was hoping for a large infusion of money to further the program, and to put Indiana on par with its neighbors when it came to good quality roads. Governor Leslie addressed the General Assembly to pass a bill to give the ISHC an additional 5 to 6 million dollars for the goal.

At the time, the state highway system consisted of 5,000 miles of roads, 2,800 of which were still in need of improvement. Most state highways at the time were gravel. But maintenance costs were skyrocketing due to major increases in traffic. This led the ISHC to believe that paving, instead of maintaining, these roads was both more cost effective and beneficial to the motorist of the Hoosier State.

At the close of the 1928 fiscal year, Indiana had improved 1,060.1 miles of its Federal aid highway system. Most of that was spent towards paving the roads, not just maintaining them. To put it into perspective, Indiana had 4,701.5 miles of Federal aid roads at the end of the same fiscal year. That meant that only 22.5 percent of those road had been improved. This put Indiana 31st in the Union when it came to the mileage of those roads. Most other states were gravelling roads as Indiana was pushing concrete road surfaces. Texas, for example, had completed as much as 50% of their Federal aid roads, much of that in gravel.

The government of the state had placed a higher priority on the “more bang for the buck” idea of infrastructure improvements. This stemmed from when the state would just throw money at projects, and almost had to file for bankruptcy. That in turn led to the Indiana Constitution of 1851, which forced financial responsibility on the government.

But that didn’t help Indiana in the sheer numbers of paved mileage. Illinois and Michigan both had 6,000 miles of paved road. Ohio had 11,000. Kentucky, at the end of 1928, had 4,000.

The plan for 1929 called for 220 miles of paved roads to be added to the state highway system. The Star listed those projects in the collection of articles. US 24 (called State Road 24 in the newspaper – there is no difference, really) would have 75 miles of paving done in 1929: 35 miles between Monticello and Huntington; and 40 miles at the eastern end of the road. US 50 between Vincennes and Aurora would add 50 miles of pavement. SR 29 between Greensburg and Shelbyville, 27 miles, would also get the same treatment. Another planned project was 27 miles of SR 37 between Bloomington and Bedford.

Two gaps in US 27 between Fort Wayne and Richmond would be completed during the summer of 1929. One, a 12 mile stretch north of Winchester. The other, 10 miles south of Berne. SR 16 was planned for 15 miles of paving between Rensselaer and Remington. The last project listed included US 150, with about two miles near West Baden on the list.

Indianapolis and the Original ISHC State Road System

I have posted much about the creation of the Indiana State Highway Commission. As of the posting of this article, the age of the Commission is either 103 or 101 years old. The original ISHC was established in 1917…but met with a lot of problems. It was finally nailed down in 1919 and made permanent.

This also creates a dating problem when it comes to the state highways. The first five state highways, then known as Main Market Roads, were established in 1917 with the original ISHC. Two of those original Main Market Highways connected to Indianapolis. The original National Road had been given the number Main Market Road 3. The Range Line Road, connecting Indianapolis to Peru, and through further connections, to South Bend, was given the Main Market Road 1 label.

When it was finally established, the ISHC changed the name of the Main Market Road to State Road, in keeping with other states surrounding Indiana. The markers used along the roads, painted onto utility poles like the old Auto Trail markers were, resembled the image to the left…the state shape with the words “STATE ROAD” and the route number. In this case, as of 1920, State Road 2 was the original route of the Lincoln Highway through northern Indiana.

The state highway system was designed to, eventually, connect every county seat and town of over 5,000 population, to each other. Indianapolis, as the state capital and the largest city in the state, would have connections aiming in every direction. Most of those roads marked with the original numbers would still be state roads into the 1970s and early 1980s, before the Indiana Department of Highways started removing state roads inside the Interstate 465 loop…and INDOT finishing the job on 1 July 1999. These road were removed for state statutory limitation reasons, and I have discussed that in a previous blog entry. So I won’t do it here.

The original state road numbers that came to Indiana varied greatly, as did their directions. There were no set rules when it came to state road numbers. They were assigned as they came…and stayed that way until the first renumbering of 1923, or the Great Renumbering of 1926.

Let’s look at the original state roads in Marion County, some of which actually did not reach Indianapolis itself.

State Road 1: As mentioned before, State Road 1 was originally called Main Market Highway 1. North of Indianapolis, it followed the Range Line Road, a local Auto Trail, through Carmel, Westfield, to Kokomo and points north. The route north followed Meridian Street north to Westfield Boulevard, then Westfield Boulevard on out to Carmel and beyond. In Carmel, the old road is still called Range Line Road, and serves as the main north-south drag through the town, as it does in Westfield.

South of Indianapolis, State Road 1, like its Main Market Highway predecessor, followed the old Madison State Road out of the city to Southport, Greenwood, Franklin and Columbus. The original SR 1 route is still able to be driven through the south side of Indianapolis, with the exception of the section replaced in the 1950s by the Madison Avenue Expressway. But Old Madison Avenue exists, if you can find your way back there.

While the entirety of original State Road 1 became US 31 with the Great Renumbering, bypasses in Marion County were put in place very early. The northern section, through Broad Ripple, and Carmel was replaced as early as 1930. The southern section, including the Southport/Greenwood bypass, was put in place in the 1940s.

State Road 3: As mentioned above, Main Market Highway/State Road 3 followed the National Road through Marion County. One exception to this is the section of the 1830s National Road that crossed the White River downtown. That section of the old road was removed in 1904 with the demolition of the National Road covered bridge and its replacement with a new, and short lived, Washington Street bridge. With a couple of exceptions other than that (the Bridgeport straightening of the early 1930s, and the new Eagle Creek bridge built in the late 1930s), the old road was followed very accurately until the mid-1980s with the creation of White River State Park. The successor to original SR 3, US 40, was moved to make room for the park. Both US 40 and US 31 lost their designations on 1 July 1999 with the removal of those two routes inside the I-465 loop.

State Road 6: This old state road was a through route when it came to Marion County. From the north, it followed the route of the original Indianapolis-Lafayette State Road from Lebanon. After passing through downtown Indianapolis, it left the county using the original Michigan Road on its way to Shelbyville and Greensburg. The original State Road 6 followed the Michigan Road Auto Trail, not the Historic Michigan Road, meaning it still went to Madison, but it went by way of Versailles, which the historic road did not. With the Great Renumbering, the northern SR 6 became US 52, while the southern SR 6 became SR 29 – later to be renumbered again to US 421.

State Road 22: This road, as it was originally laid out, only lasted from 1920 to 1923. Out of Indianapolis, it followed the old Mooresville State Road through southwestern Marion County. It was designated the original route from Indianapolis to Martinsville, as described in this blog entry. This road will be discussed again a few paragraphs from now.

State Road 39: Another 1830s state road that was taken into the Indiana State Highway Commission’s custody in 1919. This road followed the old Brookville State Road from the National Road out of the county through New Palestine to Rushville and Brookville. The original end of that road, both the 1830s original and the 1919 state highway, is discussed here. The road would become, in October 1926, the other section of US 52 through Indianapolis. It would also eventually become the first state highway removed inside the I-465 loop in Marion County. And even then, it would be rerouted in the late 1990s to go the other way around the county.

That covers the 1919 highways. More would come to Marion County before 1923.

State Road 12: Originally, this road, north of Martinsville, was the old State Road 22 mentioned above. When a new SR 22 was created, the SR 12 number was continued from Martinsville to Indianapolis along the old Vincennes and Mooresville State Roads. This road, in October 1926, would become part of the new State Road 67.

State Road 15: While the southern route of the Michigan Road was State Road 6, the northern part, heading off to Logansport, was added later and given the number State Road 15. The entire route of the historic Michigan Road would never become a state highway, but major sections did…although late in the creation of the state highway system. With the Great Renumbering, this road became SR 29, and in 1951, redesignated, like its southern half, US 421.

State Road 22: Here we go again. State Road 22 was given to the route between Indianapolis and Paoli. In 1919, that included the route along the west bank of the White River from Martinsville to Indianapolis along the Mooresville Road. This was changed by 1923 to keep SR 22 on the east side of White River, where it followed the old Paoli State Road, and the Bluff Road, through Waverly to the south edge of downtown Indianapolis at Meridian and South Streets. This was one of the routes of the Dixie Highway through Indianapolis, and would later become part of SR 37 in 1926.

State Road 31: In 1920, when this road was originally created, it turned south to connect to the National Road west of Plainfield. It had followed the Rockville Road from Montezuma to Danville, then turned southeasterly to meet State Road 3. By 1923, the road was moved from what would later become part of what is now SR 39 to continuing on the Rockville Road into Marion County. State Road 31 would meet the National Road outside the city limits of Indianapolis at what is now the intersection of Holt Road and Washington Street. It would become US 36 before it was extended along the new section of what is now Rockville Road to the intersection at Eagle Creek with Washington Street.

State Road 37: One of two state road numbers that still served Indianapolis after the road numbers were changed in October 1926 (the other being State Road 31). The original State Road 37 left Marion County in a northeasterly direction on its way to Pendleton, Anderson and Muncie. Inside the city limits, the street name was Massachusetts Avenue. When it reached the city limits, the name of the road changed to Pendleton Pike. This still occurs today, with the name change at the old city limits at 38th Street. In October 1926, the number of this road would change to State Road 67.

There were two other major state roads in Marion County, but they weren’t part of the state highway system until after the Great Renumbering. One was the Crawfordsville State Road, part of the original Dixie Highway, connecting Indianapolis to Crawfordsville via Speedway, Clermont, Brownsburg, and half a dozen other towns. It would be added to the state highway system by 1929 as State Road 34. The number would change later to US 136.

The other road was the original Fort Wayne State Road, also known as the Noblesville State Road, but even more commonly called the Allisonville Road. It would be added to the state highway system in 1932 as State Road 13. Less than a decade later, its number would be changed to the more familiar State Road 37.

Fight for Adding SR 44 from Martinsville to Rushville

When the Great Renumbering occurred on 1 October 1926, most of the roads were just that, renumbered. One of the purposes of the State Highway system in Indiana was to connect the centers of county government to each other in the form of state roads. There was, however, a large missing section in this plan. In the “donut” counties surrounding Marion County, to get from, say, Martinsville to Shelbyville using the highways required going far out of the way to accomplish this task. Today, people use SR 44…but this was a very late addition to the entire plan.

When SR 44 was created on that day in 1926, the road only connected Connersville to Liberty on a less direct route than is used today. The road was also under construction from Rushville to Connersville, although the route hadn’t been completely set out before maps were issued showing the new road numbers. The centers of government of Shelby and Johnson Counties were served by only one state highway each. The seat of Morgan County was served by two, but they were both north-south routes. Shelbyville was on SR 29, Franklin was on US 31, and Martinsville was served by SR 37 and SR 39, with a connection across the White River to SR 67.

For someone to travel from, say, Martinsville to Rushville, using state highways, required going either through Bloomington, Columbus and Greensburg via SR 46 and SR 3, or going through Indianapolis using SR 37 and US 52. Both Franklin and Shelbyville were suffering from the same fate.

But this wasn’t always the case. In the Auto Trail era, these three cities were connected to Rushville using a road called the Minute Man Route. This Auto Trail connected Farmersburg, on the Dixie Bee Line (future OSR 10/US 41) through Clay City and Spencer to Martinsville. From there, it was a (more or less) direct line through Franklin, Shelbyville, and Rushville to Connersville. At Connersville, the Minute Man Route used a more northern route to Liberty than the 1926 version or the current SR 44.

The Minute Man Route was designated when the Lexington Automobile Company, which had a plant at Connersville, started building a new model of car. That car was called the Minute Man, with the name being chosen for the highway that would be marked at that time.

The four counties from Martinsville to Rushville started very quickly to get the State Highway Commission to accept the Minute Man Route into the state highway system. It began before the Great Renumbering, with newspaper articles published on 17 July 1926 in both the Rushville Daily Republican and the Martinsville Reporter-Times reporting that the Franklin Star covered a meeting on 15 July 1926 “for the purpose of promoting the movement to have the State Highway Commission take over and improve the Minute Man route which connects Shelbyville, Franklin and Martinsville.” It was brought up that the ISHC was “neglecting southern Indiana.” An investigation into the subject “found that in comparison to other counties, the counties crossed by the Minute Man route do not have the east and west improved roads that they are entitled to.”

The Franklin Evening Star of 13 September 1929, three years after the start of the movement, reported that Shelby County was taking a decided step in the direction of getting the road accepted by the state. The county government in Shelbyville authorized $15,000 “for the purpose of widening the narrow grade between Shelbyville and Franklin.” It was believed by the newspaper that this improvement would help in the effort to get an east-west state highway across these counties. The state rebuffed such efforts at that time.

In 1930, the ISHC added some 600 miles of roads to the state highway system. Alas, according to the Franklin Evening Star of 09 October 1930, “the 600 miles of road taken over by the state, did not however, include the proposed state highway between Rushville, Shelbyville, Franklin and Martinsville.” It went on to state “agitation for the inclusion of this route in the state system has been urged by business men of the four cities at various times during the four years but no formal action has been taken by the highway commission.” The ISHC stated that “action was prevented at that time by a lack of finances but that the route would be placed on the preferred list and taken over as soon as conditions would permit.” One problem with this excuse, at least in my eyes, is that the Three Notch Route had been taken over by the state, connecting Nashville and Trafalgar to Indianapolis as SR 35. The state saw this as a relief route to US 31 to southern Indiana.

This rebuffing by the ISHC of taking the Minute Man Route into the state highway system continued. The Franklin Evening Star of 10 December 1931 stated that a report to the ISHC made it “Hardly Possible That Cross-State Road Will be Put in Highway System Soon.” This report was made by I. N. Brown after a conference with John J. Brown, the director of the State Highway Commission. The study included extending the route to Richmond.

Partial success occurred in early 1932, with the Franklin-Shelbyville section of the road taken into the state highway system. The section of the road between Martinsville and Franklin was in limbo at the time due to failure to reach an agreement with Morgan County officials regarding the payment of a bill for $8,000, which the county owed the state.

Over the years, SR 44 has been straightened in many places between the four cities involved. There are many sections of road through especially Johnson, Shelby and Rush Counties marked “Old SR 44.” The route, however, is no longer a continuous road. In the past decade (as of this writing on 25 October 2019), SR 44 was decommissioned through Franklin. SR 44 ends, on the west, at SR 144, west of the city. East of the city, the official beginning/end of SR 44 is at Interstate 65. Parts of a truck route around Franklin exist, but an official state routing requires a long drive to either Indianapolis or Edinburgh.

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.