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.

Bicycling the Crawfordsville Pike

Indianapolis News, 09 May 1896, map showing “the Crawfordsville Route.” It should be noted that the “PCC&StL” notations on this map along the railroad tracks from Indianapolis to Danville and Indianapolis to Crawfordsville should read “CCC&StL,” as these are Big Four (NYC) tracks, not Panhandle (PRR) tracks.

Keeping with the Indianapolis News articles about bicycling routes from the city, today we focus on the Crawfordsville Pike, from the News of 09 May 1896. For starters, the Crawfordsville Road was built in the 1820s as the Indianapolis-Crawfordsville Road. It wasn’t the straight route that exists today. Marion County’s section was covered here. Outside Marion County, what became the Peoria & Eastern/Big Four/New York Central was built to dart back and forth across the original road. This was typical of railroad companies at the time, since road travel was sketchy most of the time.

Editor’s note: For those unfamiliar with the work “pike” in this context, here goes. “Pike” is a shortened version of the word “turnpike,” which was a term used to describe a toll road. At points where a toll was to be paid, a large stick, or pike, was put across the road. Once the toll was paid, the toll collector would turn the pike, or move it out of the way for passage.

The bicycle route recommends following, from the Circle, Illinois north to Indiana, Indiana out to Michigan, and Michigan Street out to Haughville. “At the second street beyond the river bridge” the rider should turn north. This is now Belmont Avenue. Belmont took the rider to, and along side, the White River. At the time, the White River Parkway did not exist. Continuing north meant meeting the junction of the Crawfordsville and Lafayette Roads at what is now 16th and Lafayette, although the connection was moved south to allow replacement of the intersection in the 1950s. (Being the parts of US 52 and US 136 at the time, the state made the decision to revamp the area.) The area is shown on the map below. Best described in the News, the bicyclist should “turn and go to a point where the road forks, one branch running north and one west. The west fork is the Crawfordsville pike.”

1889 Map of the area of what is now 16th Street and Lafayette Road. Grandview Street at the bottom of the snippet is 10th Street today. Crawfordsville Gravel Road is 16th Street. The city limits line on the right runs through Belmont Avenue. The bridge over White River, called the Emricksville Bridge, connected the old Crawfordsville/Lafayette Road to downtown to the same roads west of the river. That bridge was named after owners of the land in the area. Image courtesy of the Indiana State Library Digital Collection.

From here, the original road followed what is now 16th Street out to Cunningham Road northwest to (just shy) of what is now Crawfordsville Road. From this point, the old road “runs close to the Peoria & Eastern tracks most of the distance to Brownsburg, passing through Clermont and crossing the tracks twice. This stretch of road is almost level. There are only two small hills.” After Brownsburg, the road is level to Pittsboro. “Any lover of beautiful scenery who is the happy possessor of a camera would do well to take the extra trouble” to bring that camera along.

This changed once past Pittsboro. “From Pittsboro the road is devoid of unusual features, with the exception of a rather long hill about a mile and a half before reaching Lizton.” The writer of this article actually had some advice about this particular hill. “A little caution should be observed in taking this hill, and none but those having accident policies, with all premiums paid, should attempt coasting.” I guess that’s subtle.

1909 map of northern Hendricks County showing the route of the Crawfordsville Pike from Brownsburg to the county line northwest of Lizton. Snippet courtesy of the Indiana State Library Digital Collection.

Here’s where a little historic research is needed. The News states that “the railroad is again crossed before reaching Lizton. From this town the road leads north about three-quarters of a mile, then forks. The west fork should be taken.” According to maps of the era, like the 1909 shown above, the railroad crossover is west of Lizton by one mile. And that crossover is just about 1/2 mile north of the turn in the road. The road then follows closely the railroad on the north side of the tracks. This continues to just before the Boone-Hendricks County Line southeast of Jamestown.

The road crosses back over to the south side of the P&E tracks before leaving Hendricks County. After Jamestown, the road gets “more hilly.” It is also stated that if you have your camera, “at Raccoon creek the camera ‘fiend’ may again find scenery worthy of his instrument.” Before entering Montgomery County, southeast of New Ross, the road once again crosses the railroad tracks. The road here is still in place, with the exception of the bridge over the Big Raccoon Creek. The described trip uses what is now State Street entering New Ross, and follows that street, and the county road continuing from there, to the current US 136. All this time, the road is north of the P&E tracks.

From New Ross to Crawfordsville the route curved quite a bit, before entering the Montgomery County seat. “Crawfordsville is quite a bicycle town, and contains many riders. The wheelmen make it a point to be very courteous to visiting riders.”

A big goal in the early days of bicycling is called “the Century,” a 100 mile trip in one day. The article goes on to mention that following the Crawfordsville Pike from Indianapolis to Crawfordsville and back “will give the rider almost a century.” The article also mentions a more hilly route back to Indianapolis via the Rockville road, which “will make a ride of 110 miles.”