Marion County Road Names, 1905, Part 1

One of my favorite things to do, if you haven’t guessed, is to look at old maps. One of my interests, especially, is to look at names that are printed on those maps, especially for roads. Seeing how long those road names have been on maps is interesting to me. Since I live in Marion County, and that county has the most available maps online, I spend a lot of time at looking at those. And the road names are very interesting. I want to share some of them today.

The map that I am looking at as I write this comes from 1905. One of the things with this map is that most of the names are on free gravel roads, roads that were, at one point, probably tolls roads. Not completely sure, but it makes sense in the scheme of things.

The first road that I want to mention was called the Fall Creek and Mud Creek Free Gravel Road. The road itself started in Millersville, at the end of the Millersville Free Gravel Road (now Millersville Road). Millersville, on the maps, is located one quarter mile west of the Washington-Lawrence Township line (which runs along what is now Emerson, or the same line, to 62nd Street) on 56th Street. As one can guess, the road name still exists, kind of. Now it is actually in two parts: Fall Creek Road and Mud Creek Road. The road itself ended at the Hamilton-Marion County line (now 96th Street).

Another road name that still exists on this map is the Hague Free Gravel Road. Yes, it is Hague Road today. But there were three extensions to the road that have different names today. First was a mile long, branching from the main road less than one half mile north of the start of the road at the Fall Creek and Mud Creek Road. That extension went west from the main road. Today, that extension is now called 71st Street.

The second extension from the Hague Road branched west, for three-quarters of a mile, one and a half miles north of the first extension. This connected the Hague Road to the town of Castleton. Today, it is called 82nd Street. The third extension, one and a half miles north of the second, branched east for one mile. It is now part of 96th Street.

Back to the second extension, at the end of the Hague Road extension, it connected to the middle of the Andy Smith Free Gravel Road. That road started at Allisonville Road, traveling east along what is now 82nd Street to where what is now Masters Road used to connect to 82nd Street. Here, it traveled north for one half mile, where it turned east for about two miles along what is now 86th Street.

For what is now Pendleton Pike from 30th Street to Oaklandon Road (and its junction with the Bee Line Railroad), had two different names. From 30th Street to Franklin Road, it was the Indianapolis and Lanesville Road. From that point to Oaklandon Road, and north on Oaklandon Road to the Bee Line tracks, it was the Indianapolis and Oakland Road. From here, an extension of the Indianapolis and Oakland Road followed alongside the railroad tracks to the county line. Both of the mentioned roads were also part of a longer former state road, which by 1905 was called the Pendleton Free Pike.

At the Bee Line tracks, heading north, along what is now Oaklandon Road, was the Germantown and Oaklandon Road. This free gravel road stopped one mile south of Germantown, which was located along Fall Creek at the county line (96th Street today). This road ended at 86th Street. From this point, county dirt roads were the way to get to Germantown, which is now submerged in Geist Reservoir.

What is now 46th Street east of the Indianapolis and Oakland Road, for about two miles, was called, at the time, the Asbury Free Gravel Road. This ended at a point half way between Mitthoefer and German Church Roads. From that point, the one half mile to German Church Road was officially an extension to the Asbury Road.

One half mile south of the Asbury Road was the Henry Bell Free Gravel Road. Technically, this road started at the Pendleton Pike, travelled south on Franklin Road to 42nd Street, and ended half way between Mitthoefer and German Church Roads, like the Asbury Road. Unlike the Asbury Road, the extension was on the west end of this path, connecting the Pendleton Pike to Franklin Road along 42nd Street.

Another road name that hasn’t really changed since the 1905 map is Mitthoefer Road. Now, having said that, there is some question as to the spelling of that road’s name, as the family, as I understand it, spelled it “Mithoefer.” I have seen street signs posted by the city of Indianapolis with both two “t”s and two “f”s, as in Mitthoeffer. Today, the city spells it with one “f” (most of the time). This road started at the National Road, running north to the line separating Lawrence and Warren townships (now 38th Street).

One of the most confusing roads, with many names, is now called German Church Road. First, let’s start with its most common name before it was changed by the county to match the interurban stop name along the National Road. From 30th Street south to the National Road, it was called the Franke Free Gravel Road. However, the other name was also commonly used – Holzhausen Road. To make matters worse, the Holzhausen Road had four extensions. One ran east from the end of the main road one mile to the county line along 30th Street. The second ran north from 30th Street to the Peoria & Eastern/New Castle Traction tracks (anyone familiar with the area, that right-of-way, since both the railroad and the interurban are long gone, it is along the north edge of the Hindu Temple of Central Indiana property). The third extension ran west along 30th Street for one quarter mile. The fourth extension ran one quarter mile west from the end of the third extension.

What is now Muessing Road, connecting the Brookville Road to the National Road, was once part of two different free gravel roads. And it gets a bit confusing, to say the least. For starters, the Cumberland Free Gravel Road left that town just like Muessing Road does today, angled to the southwest. From there, just like today, it followed a very curvy path to what is now Prospect Street. Here the Cumberland Road turned east, then south again almost immediately. The Cumberland Road didn’t go far from there. South of Prospect Street, the road makes a sharp turn to the west. Then, before the road turned south again along the half section line, the Cumberland Road abruptly ended. But, the Muessing Extension started at that exact point, running south along the half section line to the Brookville Road.

The last road I am going to cover today, as this will probably be a long series of articles, is the Bade Free Gravel Road. Now, looking at a map of southeastern Warren Township, there is a Bade Road on it. That current road was part of the original Bade Free Gravel Road. For a mile (technically, about a few feet short of one, but who’s counting?), from the Brookville Road to what is now Prospect Street was the beginning of the Bade Road. It retains that name today. However, the Bade Free Gravel Road turned east for three-quarter mile, then turned north for nearly a mile and a half to connect to the National Road. The east turn is now Prospect Street. The last 1.5 miles is now German Church Road.

There are a lot more roads to be listed. I am not sure how many parts this will be…but I don’t want to make them way too long.

1917: Main Roads to Fort Benjamin Harrison Need Work

When Fort Benjamin Harrison was built in Lawrence Township, in northeastern Marion County, getting there was quite the chore. It has been built along the Big Four’s Bellefontaine, or Bee, line. This allowed steam locomotives to pass by the new Army post on a regular basis. The Big Four, with its affiliation with the New York Central, could get Army traffic to and from the fort to almost any place in the United States without much effort.

The workforce for the new fort would come on either the Bee line, or the new Indiana Union Traction line that connected Indianapolis to Anderson, Muncie and Fort Wayne. Although it didn’t last much more than three decades, this was an important way to access the fort. The station for that interurban line still exists…and is open to the public as a Mexican restaurant (as of this writing) called the Hacienda.

But automobile traffic was becoming more and more important. Even more important was the transit of Army vehicles to and from Fort Benjamin Harrison. To that end, in the spring of 1917, the commander of the station, General Edwin F. Glenn, sought to get improvements to the road system to the fort. With this in mind, he held a conference with Marion County government and business leaders to share what he had in mind.

The Indianapolis Star, 10 June 1917. Map of the north east side of Marion County, showing improvements needed to access Fort Benjamin Harrison.

First and foremost in the General’s mind was the main road to the fort – the Pendleton Pike. Technically, the Pendleton Pike started at the limits of the City of Indianapolis at Bee Line connection to the Indianapolis Belt Railway just east of Brightwood Avenue (Sherman Drive). West of that point, it was called Massachusetts Avenue. The county had taken over the Pendleton Toll Road in the late 1880s. But little was done for its improvement or maintenance. By the time the Army created the fort, the road was little more than a connection to other roads in rural Marion County and downtown Indianapolis. Many battles were fought about the improvement of the road, lasting past the end of World War I, when such improvements were vital.

The Pendleton Pike, in 1917, was being improved…slowly but surely. The plan was to concrete the road from the Indianapolis City Limits to 38th Street, just west of what is now Shadeland Avenue. From there, the first of the two sections to the fort’s main north-south entrance, would be improved with heavy stone. This would take the heavy stone from 38th Street to the old Noblesville-Franklin State Road, or Franklin Road. The next section would be graveled. This section ran from Franklin Road to the Yerger or Acre Free Gravel Road, now known as Post Road. The section of the Post Road, connecting Pendleton Pike to the interior of Fort Benjamin Harrison, was being hard surfaced with a “special preparation,” according to the Indianapolis Star of 10 June 1917.

The next road to get attention was the “54th Street Road,” connecting west from the fort to Millersville. Those of you from the area might be a little confused. The village of Millersville was along the Fall Creek, just inside the Washington Township border at what is now Emerson Way. The main drag from Fort Benjamin Harrison is now called 56th Street, not 54th. That road was built along the half-survey line starting where the Millersville and Fall Creek Free Gravel Roads come together near what is now Emerson Way at Millersville Road. The highlighted section of the following MapIndy photo, from 1952, shows the original route connecting the Millersville Road to the old Fall Creek & Mud Creek Road. (At the time, what is now Rucker Road continued south of what is now Fall Creek Road. It would be that way until sometime before 1962, when two lakes were built. The Rucker Road extension would finally be taken out sometime between 1979 and 1986.)

The Millersville Road, according to the Indianapolis Star “is by no means a direct route to the fort. It begins at Thirty-eighth street and Fall Creek and meanders northeast about eight miles to the famous Baker’s bridge and thence southeast a quarter of a mile to the fort grounds.” Baker’s Bridge is along the old Noblesville-Franklin State Road, now called Boy Scout Road, in the northwest corner of the Fort Benjamin Harrison grounds. General Glenn wanted the entirety of the Millersville Road covered with gravel…a job that, according to the General, with five wagons in two days. The first three miles of the Millersville Road had already been improved with asphalt. The next half mile being oiled gravel. The rest of the road was gravel…and work was being done at the time to repair damage done by large, heavy, loads transiting the road.

Other roads being worked on for access to the fort were the National Road from Irvington to Acre Road, Emerson Avenue, Arlington Avenue, 34th Street and the Acre Road itself.

At the time, National Road was the actual name of the Washington Street extension outside the limits of the City of Indianapolis at Sheridan Avenue in Irvington. West of Sheridan, it was Washington. East of that point, it was the National Road. The first mile of the National Road, from Sheridan Avenue, was being concreted. That would end near what is now Shortridge Road and Washington Street. The next two miles from Shortridge Road east were already concreted at that time. That would take it to a point east of Acre (Post) Road. The Acre Road, as of 10 June 1917, was closed for construction of a stone road stretching five miles north to the Pendleton Pike and into the fort.

Emerson and Arlington Avenues were also under construction at the time. Both were being concreted from Washington Street (both are west of Sheridan Avenue) to the Pendleton Pike. Emerson Avenue met Pendleton Pike at roughly 30th Street. Emerson Avenue, at least the southern section of said, ended at the Bee Line. Neither 30th Street nor Emerson Avenue crossed the railroad tracks, and passage past those tracks was done at an underpass on 32nd Street.

Arlington Avenue meets Pendleton Pike (now Massachusetts Avenue) at 34th Street. Improvements along 34th Street included asphalt paving from the Lake Erie & Western (Nickel Plate) Railroad crossing for three miles to the east to what was the northern section of Emerson Avenue. From there to Arlington Avenue, 34th Street was a stone road. Prior to being called 34th Street, the road was the Fall Creek & Warren Township Free Gravel Road.

It would take some time until the roads were improved for to the General’s liking. With the creation of the Indiana State Highway Commission in 1917, the National Road was taken over as Main Market Road #3. It wouldn’t be until 1923 that the Pendleton Pike would find itself part of the state highway system, entering that system as Original State Road 37. By then, the war was over, and traffic to Fort Benjamin Harrison had, while not stopping completely, had slowed considerably as it normally does after the completion of a war. The fort would, eventually, get its connections to the road system other than SR 67/US 36 (Pendleton Pike). In 1941, 56th Street west out of the fort would become part of SR 534, a designation it would only hold for a few years before that state road was routed straight down Shadeland Avenue. With the building of the Interstate system, which was technically built for the defense of the United States, Fort Benjamin Harrison would find itself with two exits from I-465 (Pendleton Pike and 56th Street) and one on I-70 (Post Road). I suppose the Post Road exit on I-74 could technically be listed as part of that…but it is quite a distance from the Fort.

Bicycling the Fall Creek and Mud Creek Road

On 16 May 1896, the Indianapolis News covered the bicycle route along the Pendleton Pike. That trip went as far as Oakland (now Oaklandon). The continuation of the coverage included leaving the Pendleton Pike to head north toward the town of Germantown, which was on the Hamilton-Marion County line north of Oaklandon. (Germantown is now under Geist Reservoir. There are times, in low water periods, when the old town makes an appearance!)

At Fall Creek, slightly west of due north of Oaklandon, was the Willow Mill. This would have been reached by travelling what is now Sunnyside Road now to the Fall Creek. Just like Germantown, that spot is under Geist Reservoir. Willow Mill would be, roughly, at 86th Street and Sunnyside Road. One mile west of that point was the Fall Creek and Mud Creek Road.

The trail north out of Oaklandon was very, very rough. “It is not a difficult matter to find the worst” of the several ways to get across from Oaklandon. But, for the sheer beauty of a ride, following the Fall Creek and Mud Creek Road would be the one to take.

Palmer’s Official Road Map of Marion County, Indiana, 1895

The Fall Creek Road was one mile from the previously mentioned Willow Mill. This was because the old road followed what is now Sargent Road out of the Fall Creek valley. Climbing out of the valley itself requires walking the bike up a large hill. Between that hill and the Fall Creek Pike, four and a half miles from Oaklandon, “are several pretty good dips and rises.” Here, the Fall Creek Road runs north and south (more or less, if you know Sargent Road). “The rider should turn south.”

One and a half miles later, the road starts down a steep hill, “which, if taken properly, is fine coasting. At the foot of the hill, which brings the road nearly to Fall Creek.” The road then turns southwest, following the creek fairly closely. The road dips in and out of the Fall Creek valley for nearly two miles. This “presents an ever-changing view and makes a picture which will cause many to pay more attention to the beauties of the valley than to their wheels and thereby cause trouble.” The road, mostly, is in excellent condition. But like other roads of the time, there were bad spots that could creep up. It was always recommended that riders pay attention to the road at all times.

After two miles of hilly travel, which the newspaper reports as usually aiming the right direction for riders heading toward Indianapolis, the road swings more to the west for about a mile. This area, today, is Fall Creek North Drive, the road having been replaced with the building of I-465 through the Fall Creek valley. It should be noted that part of this route, before turning more west, had been part of the Noblesville-Franklin State Road, connecting the two title cities. Through most of Marion County, the name is shortened to Franklin Road.

The Fall Creek Road changed names as it crossed Fall Creek at Millersville. This is nine miles from Willow Mill. The route to be followed changes to the Millersville Free Gravel Road. This road runs along the south side of Fall Creek until connecting with 22nd Street (now 30th Street). From there, the trip back to downtown Indianapolis uses the Allisonville Free Gravel Road, now known as Central Avenue and Fort Wayne Avenue, before ending at North and Pennsylvania Streets.

Indianapolis and Its Decoration Day Race

If there is one thing that Indianapolis is known for, it is racing. Oh, yes. Almost anyone in the WORLD would respond “Indianapolis 500” if you mention the city. Memorial Day weekend has become a time when the population of the city doubles and triples, with all of the visitors coming to watch “the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” But the subject of this post isn’t something related to a farm field with a large rectangle with curved corners in Speedway. As a matter of fact, the subject article of this post dates from the Indianapolis News of 23 May 1896, some 13 years before that other race started.

Before it became known as Memorial Day, 30 May of each year was known as Decoration Day. The holiday floated depending on the location of 30 May on the calendar. It was declared a Federal Holiday in 1868. In Indianapolis, the end of May signified, among other things, the end of the “rainy season,” otherwise known in the rest of the world as Spring. The weather starts getting drier and hotter right after Decoration Day. So it made almost perfect sense to use that holiday as a day to get together to watch a race.

Indianapolis News, 23 May 1896. This map shows the route of the annual Decoration Day Bicycle Road Race of 1896.

The Indianapolis Cycle Club and the Cycle Board of Trade put together the annual Decoration Day Road Race through the streets of Indianapolis. At the time of the source article, thirty men were in the list of racers. Those racers, unlike previous years, weren’t all from Indianapolis. Entries would be taken until 26 May, the following Tuesday. It was estimated that seventy-five to one hundred riders would be at the starting line when the race kicked off. Batches of racers would be set off on the 13.625 mile course at intervals of one minute.

Prizes for the race, due to its amateur status, could not include money. But there were 38 prizes to be given to the riders. The rules state that each rider is only allowed to win one prize. Prizes include four different bicycles, tires, suits, caps, hats, electric lantern, a Kodak, fishing rods, shoes, lamps, golf hoses, sweaters, luggage and a speed indicator. These prizes came from merchants across the city. Carl G. Fisher, future creator of the Lincoln and Dixie Highways, and his bicycle store donated two sweaters, a pair of shoes, and a “speed indicator.”

The course was chosen due to the relative good condition of the route. “It is probable that not another road race will be run on Decoration Day throughout the entire country on a finer course than the one which will be used here.” There are a few bad spots along the way, but they are few and far between.

The race started at the corner of Meridian and 14th (now 21st) Streets , heading north to 30th (now 38th) Street. Here it turned west one block to follow Illinois Street, which since it was outside the city limits at the time, was called the Indianapolis and Westfield Road (which is now Illinois Street and Westfield Boulevard to Broad Ripple). From there, it followed what is now Broad Ripple Avenue to the Fall Creek and White River Gravel Road (now called Keystone Avenue). South along the Fall Creek Road, the course then turned southwest onto the Allisonville Pike (now Fall Creek Boulevard). The Allisonville Pike went as far as what is now 38th Street, with the Allisonville name being used across that numbered street. The route then turned south on Meridian Street at 30th, going back to the starting point at 14th.

A three block stretch of asphalt starts, and finishes, the course. Two bad street car track crossings, one at 26th (34nd) Street and the other at 28th (36th) Street, are encountered. From the Fall Creek bridge to 30th (38th) Street is “one of the worst spots along the whole course.” Potholes and loose gravel make this section a rough going. Turning at 30th (38th) Street gets interesting, with a wooden culvert to be crossed, with boards at one end being lose. Three-eighths of a mile after turning onto Illinois Street riders will encounter a small rise. Further along Illinois Street requires crossing a wooden culvert, a small wooden bridge and climbing a 200 yard long, fairly stiff hill. “This hill stops just beyond the carriage entrance for Fairview Park (now the location of Butler University).” This entrance would be at what is now 46th Street. From here, for the next one-half mile, is a gradual down grade. At the canal, the route drops along a steep grade for about 100 yards.

“Some riders may seek to cross the canal and take advantage of the cycle path, but this will not be allowed.” The first quarter mile along what is now Westfield Boulevard is reported in excellent condition. Then comes 300 yards of horrible conditions, including potholes on both sides of the road. After that, fresh gravel with wheel tracks already in place on each side of center.

At Broad Ripple, the course encounters the Monon tracks and follows the street car tracks along what is Broad Ripple Avenue (previously 62nd Street). The Broad Ripple section is reported as being the worst section of the entire course. One of the best parts of the route is along the Fall Creek and White River Road. “Men who are still in the hunt will be able to come down this road at a lightning clip.” This road runs along the west border of Malott Park (at what is now 52nd Street), and just south of the village is the crossing of the Lake Erie & Western Railroad (Nickle Plate). (As an aside, the street that runs along the railroad tracks is now called Erie due to the name of the railroad company. This is common throughout Indianapolis.)

A turn onto Allisonville Pike (Fall Creek Boulevard), the LE&W tracks are crossed again near 38th Street. Then the course, still following the old Allisonville Pike turns west along 38th Street until Meridian Street, while the Allisonville Road turned south on what is now Central Avenue. The Monon tracks are crossed again on the west side of the Fairgrounds. At Meridian Street, the repeat of the conditions encountered on the way out happens. To avoid having racers cutting across the course, checkers were located at each cross street. “If the race is at all close, there will be a great sprint from Fall Creek to the tape.”

Racing, it seems, has been a part of Indianapolis’s Memorial Day for much longer than the creation of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which included a partner that provided prizes for this race.

** edited 06/03/2021 by Paula Trefun Simpson to note that the ‘canal’ mentioned was the Central Canal