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.

A Quick Look At Today’s State Roads, From A Historical View

A Facebook direct message from a reader of the blog started the research bug going again. Now, while I am still looking up information on his particular subject (transportation to Center Valley in Hendricks County, particularly a possible railroad there), part of his subject did come up. As well as a few others. Today, I want to look at the things that I have found while researching that topic…while not finding much about the topic.

The “town” of Center Valley is along the route that would become State Road 39 just north of the Morgan-Hendricks line. A post office existed there from 1855 to 1902. But what is important is the route that rumbles north to south through the town…the aforementioned SR 39. It wouldn’t be until 1932 when that section of SR 39 was added to the state highway system. But, the designation “state road” goes back quite a bit…like 1833.

The 17th General Assembly of Indiana passed into law several state roads. The first I want to mention would be the one that would make Center Valley (or, more to the point Centre Valley) a place. The route that would eventually become SR 39 was built as the Martinsville-Danville-Frankfort State Road. The southern end would be part of the state highway system from 1920 – the bridge over White River west of Martinsville. The northern end would be part of original State Road 6, connecting Lebanon to Frankfort. As original SR 6, it would become SR 39 with the Great Renumbering.

Two more state roads would from Martinsville would be added to Indiana with this meeting of the General Assembly. The first is one that would not become part of the state highway system. It was described as “an act to locate a state road from Martinsville, in the county of Morgan, by the way of Cox’s mill and Solomon Dunagan’s, in said Morgan county, to Stilesville, in the county of Hendricks.” This is an example of how the General Assembly would set up a “state road” through a particular person’s land. I would assume that what is now Tudor Road, southeast of Stilesville, was part of this road.

Another state road project including Martinsville did make it to the state highway system… eventually. The act created “a state road from Martinsville, in Morgan County, to intersect the state road leading from Madison to Indianapolis, at Edinburgh, in Johnson county by the way of Morgantown in said Morgan county.” This state road would be added back into the state highway system in the 1930’s…as State Road 252. A history of that road is available from ITH here.

But Martinsville wasn’t the only beneficiary of that particular meeting of the General Assembly.

A state road was created by the General Assembly to connect the town of Lagrange, in Tippecanoe County, to Logansport, in Cass County. Where is LaGrange? Well, it was a town along the Wabash River at the Warren-Tippecanoe County line. It was founded by Isaac Shelby in 1827…and had a post office from 1832 to 1835. It’s prime was with the Wabash Canal during the riverboat era. When the Wabash Railroad was built on the opposite side of the Wabash River, the town of LaGrange just dried up and disappeared.

Another road that was created at that time would connect Williamsport to the Illinois-Indiana State line via Lebanon (sic), now West Lebanon, and the now abandoned town of Chesapeake (about two miles east of Marshfield). This route will require some research.

Part of the road that would become, in time, SR 46 between Newbern and Bloomington would be added as a state road in 1833. The original road would start at the Michigan Road in Napoleon, travel through Camden (unknown today), Newbern, and Columbus to Bloomington. The section from Newbern to Columbus was part of the state highway system as SR 46, until INDOT truncated SR 9, turning the old SR 9 into SR 46.

Stilesville would be mentioned again as a state road was created to connect it to Crawfordsville via New Maysville.

The last road for this article would be a road that is still in existence, more or less, but not part of the modern state highway system. The description of the act was “to locate a state road from Green Castle, in Putnam county, to Carlisle, in Sullivan county, by way of Manhattan in Putnam county and Bowlingreen and New Brunswick, in Clay county.” Some day, I want to do more research on this road.

Michigan Road at Logansport, Revisited

Over a year ago, I wrote a blog entry about the Michigan Road at Logansport (“Michigan Road at Logansport“). In that article, I made a pretty good case for the route of the Michigan Road through the town, using an 1836 map of the towns of Logansport and West Logan (“Plan of the town of Logansport and West Logan“). This articles is not to counter that article. I want to show that source materials are important…and their distance from the original source, whether that be in distance or time, is also very important.

In 1914, the Indiana State Board of Accounts published a book called “Development and lands of Michigan Road.” I have mentioned this several times over the history of this blog. It is a very important research tool for those studying the Michigan Road in its entirety. The detail that the Board of Accounts gave to the book is incredible. And, because of the authoring organization of the book, it would be almost impeachable as a source. After all, the Michigan Road was built by the state of Indiana, which should have records of surveys, deeds, cash outlays, etc. And the Board of Accounts would have had those records.

If one looks at the map of the Michigan Road through Cass County (which is the link I provided above for the book from the State Board of Accounts), the map shows that the Michigan Road separates from what would become called the Burlington Road in Section 2, Township 26 North, Range 1 East, and heads due north to cross the Wabash River west of the town of Logansport. In today’s terms, this would be where Lynas Avenue turns away from Burlington Avenue.

Another important note. The Burlington Road was the same as the Michigan Road. The route out of Logansport, towards Burlington, would eventually be sold to a toll road company that would change the name. In Logansport, it was called Burlington Avenue because that’s where Third Street in town headed…to Burlington.

What is now Cicott Street from West Clinton Street to Wabash Avenue, is what is shown as the Michigan Road route through Cass County. This Board of Accounts book shows that the Michigan Road does not enter Logansport at all, but bypasses it.

Now this is where I said distance, in both time and location, are important. The Board of Accounts book was, as mentioned before, written in 1914. No matter the number of records available, it was still 80 years after the road was constructed.

The second thing at play is that nothing ever went completely to plan when it came to roadbuilding projects at the time. It is entirely possible that the surveyors purposely bypassed Logansport at the time. Granted, there was very little in that area of the state at the time. It would not have been like later road projects that were “encouraged” by local government and business officials to run the road through this town or that. (I call this the “oh, look at all the money I dropped” plan. It happened quite a bit…especially in the Auto Trail era.) There were very few people there.

I tend to err on the side of the 1836 Logansport map linked to above. First, it was created in 1836, while the town of West Logan was being planned. Two, the people making the map want it to be as accurate as possible, since it is a real estate company trying to sell lots in the aforementioned West Logan. Three, and most important, road builders, especially in that era, knew the importance of not skipping a town if they could at all help it. Logansport, no matter how small, would be an important place to get food, sleep and maintenance along the miles of vast forests and farms in northern Indiana at the time. Logansport, like Indianapolis, predated the road. Other points between those two came up because of the road.

Now, I know, there is nothing specifically showing in the 1836 map of Logansport that the route went through town. The closest thing to it is the word “Michigan Road” north of the Eel River, east of the Canal, and the fact that there is a bridge at Wall Street in West Logan to connect to Logansport. Oh, and the fact that the bridge from Biddle Island south is labeled “Michigan Road to Indianapolis.”

But these facts will keep my thought process as this being the original route of the Michigan Road.

Carroll County Toll Road Violence

In the late 19th century, laws were passed to allow county governments to purchase the toll roads that existed. The toll road was appraised, and an offer was made by the county to the owners of the road. Often times, it was a pretty straight forward deal. Sometimes, it wasn’t.

In Carroll County, it was not.

Most of the toll roads in the state were gone by the start of the 20th century. However, there was at least one in existence, the Burlington Turnpike. As late as August, 1900, the Burlington road was still a toll road. The Indianapolis News of 23 August 1900 reports that the turnpike company was offering a $2,000 reward for the arrest, and conviction, of the person, or persons, that dynamited a toll house along the road on 21 August 1900.

To that point, according to the article, people opposed to the toll company have destroyed two bridges and two toll houses. The toll keeper at a third toll house received a letter on 22 August, warning him to leave the toll house by that night. He complied. There was thoughts at the time that the third toll house would be dynamited, as well.

The people of Carroll County are up in arms that this old road is still a turnpike. There are several forces at play in the situation, as well. Carroll County commissioners refuse to buy the road. This is also supported by the businessmen of Delphi, that believe that trade would migrate to Logansport. They believe that would take business away “which rightly belong to Delphi.”

Other argue, contrary to the state law concerning such things, that if the road becomes free, it should do so without Carroll County spending any money at all on the project. Cass County already purchased their share of the road. Carroll County offered $400 a mile for the Burlington Pike. The owners in Logansport turned it down for being too low.

The county commissioners, at this point, found themselves in a precarious situation. While it was the goal to make the Burlington Pike a free road, as it was the last toll road in Carroll County, it brought on two very different mindsets that led to a mob rule situation. First were the people that wanted the road purchased but balked at the price. On the other hand were the people that demanded that the toll road company just give it, for free, to the county.

And then the fecal matter hit the rotating air movement machine.

“When it finally became apparent that nothing was to be expected of the commissioners, mutterings of mob law were heard, and in May the big bridge over Deer creek, near Burlington, was burned. A few nights later the Rock creek bridge was fired, and the Rock creek toll-house was destroyed by dynamite. A guard had been stationed at the gate, but he meekly obeyed the leaders of the mob when told to hitch up his horse and get out.”

As if that weren’t enough, the Rock Creek “bridge was not damaged much, and on the following evening the work was completed by a charge of dynamite.” The toll road company responded by placing guards at bridges and toll houses. They also places armed men to patrol the nine miles of road between the Carroll County line and Burlington. “This plan proved effective until Monday night, when it was tacitly understood that hostilities would cease, pending a decision as to purchase. It developed, however, that this change of front was simply a ruse to rid of the guards, and the dynamiters got in their work again Tuesday night.”

The toll road, constructed in 1867, was built using subscriptions and work solicited along the route. The response was great. But the claim was that there was a promise to make the road free after 20 years, or 1887. Certainly not going into 1900. To add insult to injury, the residents of the area claim that very little had been done to the road over the past fifteen years. “The bridges were in poor repair, so that it was unsafe to run traction engines and heavy loads over them.”

Carroll County officials were, apparently, of no help. “The Carroll county officials have offered no assistance. Cass county condemns the lawlessness over the border and declares that such violence would not be tolerated in Cass.”

Another Indianapolis News article, dated 8 May 1901, states that the toll road company and Carroll County officials finally made a purchase agreement. The final purchase price was listed at $3,600. An astute reader will notice that the purchase price agreed to was $400 a mile. I’ll just let that sink in for a minute.

The last article mentioned that “this turnpike is a part of the old Government plank road from Indianapolis to Michigan City.” The section that I see six days a week going to and from work still has the original name: Michigan Road.

A follow up news story to the Burlington Road incident discusses the dynamiting of the old Wabash and Erie Canal dam across the Wabash River at Pittsburgh (unincorporated location across the Wabash River from Delphi) twenty years earlier. The guard was overpowered, and the northern half of the dam was blown up. According to the Indianapolis News of 24 August 1900, “no prosecution followed, and it is the opinion of many people now that the efforts of the turnpike company to prosecute those who used dynamite on the Burlington Road will also come to naught.”

As an aside, apparently mob rule in Carroll County was a big problem. Someone started a saloon in Burlington, only to have it repeatedly dynamited. The exact word used in the newspaper was “frequently.”

Toll Roads, and State Takeover

There was a point in Indiana transportation history when the majority of “improved roads” in the state were toll roads. The National Road, for instance, originally built across Indiana in the 1830’s, fell, by 1842, into the maintenance responsibility of the counties through which it passed. Congress turned over the National Road to the state in 1848. In 1852, the entire road was let to a toll road company.

The National Road wasn’t the only one. Almost every major road in the state went through the toll road treatment. It wasn’t only the “state” roads that ended up being made into turnpikes. Land owners could, and did, by law create their own toll roads.

In 1883, a law was passed by the Indiana General Assembly that allowed for the “Appraisement, Purchase and Conversion of Toll Roads into Free Roads, and for their Maintenance as Free Roads.” This allowed counties to purchase toll roads when :they have been petitioned to do so by a majority of the land owners and stockholders in said toll road.” Often times, it would be put to a vote by the residents of the county. From what I have seen in newspapers, Cass County (Logansport) tried at least three times to get a positive vote. It would take several years for this law to become fully used by the counties of the state.

The Richmond Item of 10 February 1893 reported that the county had issued its list of purchase prices for toll roads in Wayne County. (For instance, The National Road was appraised at $12,000. This would end up not being the original road east of Richmond, having been replaced by the Richmond-Eaton Pike. That road is now called “Old National Road.”) The Fort Wayne Daily News of 13 December 1897 reports that Allen County has finally appraised the Fort Wayne and Little River Turnpike, the last toll road in Allen County.

Indianapolis News, 25 October 1889. List of toll roads that
were purchased by the Marion County commissioners
to become “free gravel” roads.

The purchases were going on all over the state. Looking through newspapers.com, with a search of “toll road” from every available newspaper in Indiana, the number of newspapers is fairly large. That only includes entries between 1800 and 1940.

Indianapolis News, 25 October 1889. List of roads that still
collect tolls, but have been petitioned to be purchased.

The attached snippets show the toll and free road situation in Marion County in October 1889. The bottom of the picture to the left shows that, at this time, Marion County contained 215 miles of gravel road, 70 being toll roads. Looking at a map of Marion County of that period, this is just a very small percentage of the roads in the county.

Until the counties started taking over the turnpikes (or toll roads, you decided which to use), toll houses were not only a common sight all around Indiana, they were basically landmarks. There is still one in existence along the old Michigan Road northwest of Indianapolis. Another Jim Grey entry, “For sale: Michigan Road Toll House” covers this quite well.

Now, the only toll road in the state is the Indiana Toll Road that runs across the top tier of counties. It is basically an extension of one toll road (or turnpike in Ohio and Pennsylvania) from Chicago to Philadelphia. This may change in the future. No one can ever be sure.