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.”

Dec 1917: Main Market Roads Officially Announced

When the law creating the Indiana State Highway Commission was passed in early 1917, the announcement was also made that there were would five main market highways, later known as state roads, designated by that commission. There was a general idea of which roads would be involved, bot nothing set in stone. That is, until December 1917.

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette of 12 December 1917 announced the selection of the new main market highways. ISHC officials traveled throughout the state deciding which roads would be part of the new, and yet controversial, system. “A former election of four of the five routes was tentative, and although the general directions of the four roads announced formerly have been adhered to in the official selection, many changes have been made.”

The plan was to create a system which was typical of Indiana’s general demeanor: serve as many people as possible with as little cost and intrusion as possible. Due to the shape of the state of Indiana, it was decided that there would be three roads crossing the state, west to east, from the Illinois state line to the Ohio state line. One north-south road would be designated through the middle of the state. This was the basis of the first four main market roads. A fifth road would connect the fourth road to the Illinois state line in the southern part of the state. The December 1917 system included roughly 800 miles of roads.

The main market highways were officially described as follows: “No. 1. The highway beginning at the Indiana and Michigan state line, thence southerly through South Bend, Plymouth, Rochester, Peru, Kokomo, Westfield, Carmel, Indianapolis, Franklin, Columbus, Seymour, Scottsburg, Sellersburg, New Albany and Jeffersonville.” In the Auto Trail era, there was no one highway this route followed. It seems that it was planned very early to have a split in the highway at the south end, with one branch going to New Albany, and one going to Jeffersonville. And although the route numbers have changed, that split has existed in one form or another since that time.

Main Market Road #2: “The highway passing through the northern part of the state, beginning, at the Illinois and Indiana state line, thence easterly through Dyer, Valparaiso, Laporte, South Bend, Goshen and Fort Wayne via the Lincoln Highway to the Ohio and Indiana state line.” Depending on how one reads that, it could be that the Lincoln Highway was only used from Fort Wayne to the Ohio state line. This is far from true. It was decided that the entire original route of the Lincoln Highway through the state would be used for Road #2.

Main Market Road #3: “The highway crossing the central part of the state, commonly called the old national road trail, beginning at the corner of the Illinois and Indiana state line, thence easterly through Terre Haute, Brazil, Putnamville, Plainfield, Indianapolis, Greenfield, Knightstown, Cambridge City and Richmond to the Ohio and Indiana state line.”

Main Market Road #4: “The road crossing the southern part of the state, beginning at Evansville, thence easterly through Boonville, Huntingburg, Jasper, West Baden, Paoli, Mitchell, Bedford, Seymour, North Vernon, Versailles, Dillsboro, Aurora and Lawrenceburg to the Ohio and Indiana state line.”

Main Market Road #5: “The road connecting Vincennes and Mitchell, via Wheatland, Washington, Loogootee and Shoals.” Basically, this road was designated to connect main market road 4 to Vincennes. Again, this is due to the shape of the state. A (more or less) straight line across Indiana from Cincinnati west would, as is shown by the route of the current US 50, connect to Vincennes, leaving people south of there without a main market road. Evansville was, and still is, one of the top five largest cities in the state, population wise. So ignoring that city would not have been possible.

The article ends with the following: “The total mileage of the roads represents less than one-half of the total 2,000 miles of ‘main market highways’ which the commission may designate under the new state highway commission law prior to 1921.” The law that passed in 1917 created a state highway system so that Indiana could benefit from federal money for good roads. It wasn’t until the law was redone in 1919, with all of the 1917 law’s Constitutional questions answered, that the Indiana State Highway System was officially made part of the landscape.