1836-1838: Michigan Road in the Newspaper

Yesterday, I wrote an article about early state roads, and the Michigan Road. Today, I want to look at the Michigan Road…as it was related to the public in newspapers from 1836 to 1838. One of the most interesting things that I have found in this search is the fact that it was entirely possible that the Michigan Road, as we know it, might not have been built. It could have been a railroad route.

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 31 December 1836: Allocation of money involving the Michigan Road was the topic before the General Assembly in December 1836. $140,000 was appropriated “on a turnpike road commencing at Kirk’s on the Michigan road in Clinton county, thence through Frankfort to Delphi and Monticello in White county, and thence by best route to Michigan City.” Another $75,000 are allocated for the Michigan Road between Napoleon and Indianapolis. And yet another $175,000 is appropriated “in contructing a Macadamized road on the line of the Michigan road from Indianapolis to South Bend, thence to Laporte and thence to Michigan City The board are to ascertain whether a Macadamised road or rail road is the best and cheapest and to adopt the cheapest one.” Of this last allocation of funds, $25,000 was to be used to build a Michigan Road bridge in Marion County over the White River.

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 21 January 1937: Second reading of the Michigan Road bill is held. One representative, a Mr. Vandeveer, moved to indefinitely postpone the vote on the bill. That postponement failed, when only seven people voted for it. It was passed to the third reading. A survey of the road, with $2,000 allocated, was to be done in the summer of 1837. The bill was amended, requiring the third reading. In the amendment, the bill was changed to exclude the Board of Public Works to building either a M’Adam road or a railroad for the purpose of the Michigan Road. It was also mentioned that $300,000 was to be allocated for the building of the road. Two weeks later, that amount, and others already spent, would be the question of some members of the General Assembly.

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 04 February 1937: It was reported that the representative from Wayne County to the Indiana General Assembly, a Mr. Smith, was trying to make sense of the fact that the builders of the Michigan Road, already spending $22,000 more than allocated, wanted another $30,000. To this point, according to Mr. Smith, the money already allocated “has been squandered – sunk, sir, in the interminable swamps along the line without common discretion or common sense. What gentleman here will deny the fact, that one half the money expended on that road should have accomplished more than all that is done?”

On the very same page of the very same issue of the newspaper, a bill to “cause a survey and estimate to be made the ensuing summer, north of Indianapolis, through Logansport, South Bend and Laporte to Michigan City, with a view of ascertaining what kind of improvement is most practicable.” This survey would be done under the auspices of the Board of Internal Improvements.

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 1 July 1837: “Mr. Yandes, is authorized, in pursuance of law to cause a survey and estimate to be made, on the Michigan Road, through Logansport, South Bend and Laporte, to Michigan City – with a view of ascertaining the most practicable kind of improvement to be made.” Mr. Yandes “is further authorized, to expend so much of the Michigan road funds, as may remain (if any) after making the survey, in making temporary improvements on the Road, from Napoleon to Lake Michigan, so as to keep the road passible.”

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 16 December 1837: After the survey had been completed in the summer of 1837, the Michigan Road lands were to be disposed of. The report from Indianapolis stated that the proceeds of the sales of those lands came to $8781.70.

As mentioned in yesterday’s “Early State Roads” article, some state roads were funded to create a link to a single person’s property. In March, 1838, a bill before the general assembly was written to “locate a state road from Daniel Dales in White county, to intersect the Michigan road 8 miles north of Logansport.”

State Roads, 1831 (Part 2)

This is a continuation of yesterday’s entry: State Roads, 1831 (Part 1). Remember: The concept of “state road” was completely different that it is today. Today, a state road is a road that has become the responsibility of the state transportation authority (for instance, now INDOT). Then a state road was a road that was authorized by the state, paid for by the state, but built and maintained by the county through which the road passed. So, basically, the state using Federal land proceeds to pay for, what will be, county roads. Some of these routes DID cross the line between the two different types of state roads.

Section 7: The section first listed in this act, from Frankford (Frankfort) to Delphi roughly follows US 421. The route to connect to the road that was mentioned in Section 6 of the same chapter, this road could have basically used a (more or less) straight line that follows SR 18 from downtown Delphi to SR 43. Or, followed what is now US 421 from Delphi to Michigan City. I am leaning toward the former.

Sections 8, 9 and 10: These sections talk about the Commissioners: their oaths, duties, paperwork to be done, and payment for service. Other things discussed was the fact that although the state is paying to make the road, it is the county’s responsibility to open and maintain them. The minimum requirement for the road to be open is that it be no more than 40 feet wide.

The three percent fund is the money that the Federal Government gave the state after the sales of Federal land. The state was given three percent of the sale price.

Section 11: Of the several places mentioned in this section, one (Baltimore) disappeared when the Wabash & Erie Canal was built on the opposite bank of the Wabash River, and another (Legrange) is very hard to find out any information. There is one old brick house left of Baltimore. It is located on SR 263 at Warren CR 1025S. (Strangely, Google Maps has SR 263 labeled “Old State Highway 63” as the street name.) The road starts at the Warren County line as Warren CR 600W. The original road has disappeared between US 136 and the old location of Baltimore.

Section 12: This is one of those “special acts” that I mentioned in my Indiana Toll Road(s) post on 24 May 2019. The state road starts at one person’s farm? Really? Exactly where IS Walker’s Farm in Parke County? At least from Clinton to Newport, the road roughly resembles SR 63 (or, at least, old SR 63).

The Acts of 1830, available here, shows more state road laws put into place that year. I will be covering those at a later date.

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.”