The Liberty Way

Today, I want to return to the Auto Trail era. There were many Auto Trails created over the time before the US Highway system took full hold. Even today, the Auto Trail era lives in the names of city streets and county roads. The biggest one that comes to mind is the Lincoln Highway…both of them, actually. But some of the Auto Trails really made you want to ask one question: Why? Today’s road actually made me ask that very question: the Liberty Way.

Since this is an Indiana Transportation History site, I guess that it is good that I can’t find, so far, a map that follows this road outside Indiana. But then it makes me go back to the question above – why? The Liberty Way was an Auto Trail that started in Kokomo, connecting Logansport, Winamac, Bass Lake, North Judson, San Pierre, Kouts, Valparaiso, Hobart, East Chicago, and Whiting to Chicago. Those are the bigger towns along the way. The whole map is available at the Indiana State Library with this 1923 map. The Liberty Way was also shown on the 1920 Rand McNally highway map. Its routing was slightly different.

Basically, I want to do this with maps. Tracing the roads gets a bit complicated in this case. The red line on the maps marked “DD” are the Liberty Way in 1923. On the 1920 map, it is marked “86.”

1920 Liberty Way from Kokomo to Logansport.
1923 Liberty Way from Kokomo to Logansport
1920 Logansport to Winamac
1923 Logansport to Winama
1920 Winamac to Kouts
1923 Winamac to Kouts
1920 Kouts to Valparaiso
1923 Kouts to Valparaiso

The next two maps are a jumbled mess. Because of Indiana’s location, it has always been the crossroads of America. And these two maps show the importance of Chicago in the grand scheme of things when it came to highways. Indiana’s side of the state line near Chicago was cluttered with way too many road markers.

1920 Valparaiso to Illinois State Line
1923 Valparaiso to Illinois State Line

Doing a newspaper search for “Liberty Way” is not the straight forward grasp for information one would hope. Apparently that name was very popular for other places throughout the state. But an ad in the Logansport Pharos-Tribune of 23 July 1921 could tell you, using the Liberty Way, how to get to Bass Lake.

23 July 1921, Logansport Pharos-Tribune

Kokomo

On 1 May 1844, when Richardville County was created, it was actually centered on the survey range line separating Range 3 East from Range 4 East. This is the same range line that continues south through Tipton and Hamilton Counties, and forms the main drag through downtown Westfield and Carmel and stops being followed by a road facility just south of the Hamilton-Marion County Line. North of Richardville County, it formed the boundary between Cass and Miami Counties.

The law creating the county was dated 15 January 1844, and stemmed from an act of 16 February 1839, which provided that territory temporarily attached to surrounding counties “shall form and constitute a separate county to be known and designated by the name of Richardville, and at such time as the Indian title shall be extinguished and the population within same will warrant.” The territory in question became both Richardville and Tipton Counties in the end. The name of the county was changed from Richardville to Howard by a legislative act of 28 December 1846.

The site of the town of Kokomo was decided upon on 17 August 1844 as a spot on the Wildcat Creek. That location was west of the range line that formed the eastern boundary of Kokomo into the 20th Century.

The state, shortly after the creation of Richardville County, started extending the already in place Westfield State Road north to reach the new county seat of Kokomo. Unlike most state roads built before this time, the state could build the road right along the survey line, in this case range line, straight up to Kokomo.

Kokomo mainly depended on the railroad to become the manufacturing center it became before the 20th Century. The first railroad to Kokomo would be the Indianapolis & Peru, which also connected Noblesville to the title cities. It would become the Lake Erie & Western along the way. The city would also (eventually) be crossed by what would become the Clover Leaf route, which would, in 1923, joined with the Lake Erie & Western to become part of the Nickel Plate. What would eventually become part of the Pennsylvania Railroad, via the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad, would also cross Kokomo with its Chicago line between Richmond and Logansport.

1920 Rand McNally Auto Trails map
of the Kokomo area

The Auto Trail era brought named highways to Kokomo. The first one would be the Range Line Road (8 on the map), which, until south of Kokomo, followed that same Range Line as mentioned above. This route, south of Kokomo, was shared with the Belt Line (13).

But the Range Line (and the Belt Line) Road didn’t follow the survey range line into the city of Kokomo, which it had been following from northern Marion County. (It is Westfield Boulevard, Range Line Road, and Union Street in Hamilton County from Westfield south.) The Range Line Road south of Kokomo entered on Lafountain Street, before curving onto what is now Washington Street for its trip through the city itself. North of downtown Kokomo, the old Auto Trails still followed Washington Street to Morgan Street, where it turned east to Apperson Way. Apperson Way is on the survey range line. As shown on the map snippet to the left, the Auto Trails followed a circuitous route through Cassville.

The other two Auto Trails that connected Kokomo were the Ben Hur Route (91 on the map), which I covered in detail on 28 October 2019, and the Liberty Way (86), connecting Kokomo to Galveston and Walton to what will later become part of US 24 seven miles east of Logansport.

The Range Line Road would become, before this map was published, Main Market Road #1, and later State Road #1. The only other Auto Trail that would become part of the State Highway system at the time of the Great Renumbering would be the Ben Hur Route west of OSR 1 which was OSR 29. OSR 35 left Kokomo to the due east along Markland Avenue, which would later become US 35 (coincidence only…US 35 came to Indiana a decade after the Great Renumbering).

With the Great Renumbering: OSR 1 became US 31; OSR 29 changed to SR 26; and OSR 35 became SR 18. By this time, the route of US 31 north of Kokomo would have been straightened, bypassing Cassville to the west by 1/2 mile. This would put the highway on the survey range line north until it turned east toward Peru. Downtown Kokomo would be bypassed TWICE when it comes to US 31. But there was a chance there would have been now three bypasses of the city.

Indiana Auto Trails, Revisited

Indiana. The Crossroads of America. When the Auto Trails came to the state, there were quite a number of them. In 1922, there were 34 to be exact. While the State Highway Commission was busy putting state road numbers everywhere, people at the time still followed the colorful markers that appeared on utility poles throughout the state. In November 1922, an article was published in several newspapers across Indiana describing those Auto Trails. Those articles showed the signs that were posted along the way, and a brief description of the route. Anyone that has seen these lists in person know that the order of the highways is a bit weird. Yellowstone Trail is always listed first. Why? Because Rand McNally, when publishing the “official” Auto Trails maps in the late 1910’s and early 1920’s listed it first. It wasn’t the first such road…but Rand decided it would be.

Auto Trails Quick Take, Part 3

This is part three of the quick description of the Auto Trails, as listed in the Lafayette Journal and Courier of 1 November 1922. It gives a general idea of the roads that most of which would be accepted into the State Highway System. The numbering used corresponds to the numbers used on the Rand McNally Auto-Trails maps of the late 1910s through the mid 1920s.

(Note – all information in this entry comes directly, word for word, from the mentioned newspaper. Some may disagree with what was written.)

(69) The Jackson Highway from Chicago to New Orleans, crossing Indiana by way of Crown Point, Rensselaer, Lafayette, Frankfort, Lebanon, Indianapolis, Franklin, Columbus, Seymour, Salem and New Albany. Originally marked by the highway association marked in parts by the automobile association and last year thoroughly remarked by the automobile association.

(81) The Wabash Way, extending from Fort Wayne to Danville, Ill., following the Wabash River by way of Huntington, Wabash, Peru, Logansport, Delphi, Lafayette, and Attica. Marked in part by local clubs, then by our state organization, and last year re-marked by the state organization.

(82) Terre Haute-Columbus-Cincinnati Trail, extending from Terre Haute to Cincinnati by way of Spencer, Bloomington, Columbus, Greensburg, Batesville and Lawrenceburg. Marked by the clubs along the route and partially re-marked by the state association.

(85) The Adeway, Indianapolis to Chicago by way of Crawfordsville, Attica, Fowler, Kentland, Morocco, Lowell and Hammond. Marked by the H.S.A.A. The Adeway joins with the Dixie Highway at Crawfordsville and has never been marked from Crawfordsville to Indianapolis as the Adeway.

(86) The Liberty Way, Chicago to Kokomo by way of Gary, Valparaiso, Kouts, North Hudson, Bass Lake, Winamac, Logansport and Kokomo. Marked and in many places re-marked by the automobile association.

(90) French Lick Route, Cincinnati to Evansville by way of Aurora, Versailles, North Vernon, Seymour, Brownstown, Bedford, Paoli, French Lick, Jasper, Huntingburg, and Boonville. Marked by the automobile association from the Ohio line to French Lick; is not marked from there to Evansville due to the unsatisfactory condition of the road at the time of route was established. This part of the route is now under construction by the state highway commission.

(91) The Ben-Hur Trail, from Terre Haute by way of Rockville, Crawfordsville, Frankfort, Kokomo and Marion going to Huntington. Marked in part by local clubs, finished and partially re-marked by the state association.

(94) Toledo-Angola-Goshen Trail [known as the TAG Trail], extending from Goshen by way of Lagrange, Angola, and straight east to Toledo. Marked by motor clubs along the route.

(96) Pigeon Roost Route, extending from Seymour by way of Scottsburg to New Albany. This route was originally marked by clubs at Seymour and Scottsburg, and partially re-marked by the state association. It is now practically replaced by State Road No. 1.

(97) Midland Trail, from coast to coast, entering Indiana at Vincennes, crossing the state by way of Washington, Loogootee, Shoals, Paoli and New Albany. First marked by county organization, partially re-marked by Hoosier State association out of New Albany. On list for re-marking the balance of the way to Vincennes.

(98) Huntington-Manitou-Culver Trail, extending from Chicago to Lima, O., by way of Hammond, Crown Point, Hebron, North Judson, Bass Lake, Culver, Rochester, Lake Manitou, North Manchester, Huntington and Decatur. Thoroughly marked by the state association.

The Dandy Trail, not shown on the auto trail maps, but extending for eighty-eight miles around the city of Indianapolis. Marked and re-marked by the Hoosier Motor club.