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.

OSR 2/US 30 at Plymouth

When the Indiana state highway system was being expanded in 1920, one of the additions was what was, at the time, the Yellowstone Trail from Valparaiso to Fort Wayne. This Auto Trail snaked its way across the Hoosier landscape, nowhere near anything resembling a straight line. It was added to the system as SR 44, connecting at both ends with SR 2, or the Lincoln Highway. The original route had the road entering Plymouth from the west and the south. The Yellowstone Trail, and the state highway that came after, didn’t go straight through the Marshall County seat.

1923 Indiana Official State Highway Map showing SR 2 between Hamlet and Columbia City.

That was about to change. But first, a number change was in order. In 1923, the Indiana State Highway Commission started changing state road numbers. One of those that would change would be the Lincoln Highway…and SR 44. The SR 2 designation was moved from the Lincoln Highway to the Yellowstone Trail. This “straightened” the road between Valparaiso and Fort Wayne…SR 2 no longer ran through Goshen, Elkhart and South Bend. But the road still was a winding mess between Warsaw and Plymouth.

With the concept of federal aid funding sitting in the background, the state decided it wanted to fix the twists and turns of the original Yellowstone path. The first reference to this project that I found was in August 1925…but it wasn’t good news. The project was “abandoned” due to a $5 million shortfall in federal funding. Or, more to the point, a belief that the state was going to get $5 million from the federal government that hadn’t quite made it to Indianapolis. Two projects were actually put on hold with that shortfall…both of which were in northern Indiana. One was the SR 2 project. The other was the Dunes Highway along Lake Michigan.

The article that made it to most Indiana newspapers in mid-August 1925 lamented that the northern part of the state would be paying for the delays in funding. It also mentioned that most of the road was a hard surface (paved) road from Columbia City eastward to Fort Wayne. The section shown both in the map above and the one below show that the road is “gravel or stone (not treated)” between Warsaw and at least Hamlet…through Plymouth.

1926 Indiana Official State Highway Map showing the new US 30 (former SR 2) from Hamlet to Columbia City. This map also shows the pending reroute of the same road from Warsaw to Hamlet.

The new maps issued in late September and early October 1926, with the Great Renumbering, show the construction is at least still planned, as the circles on the map are listed as “proposed relocations.” The new US 30, which was SR 2, would be given a straighter route from Warsaw to Plymouth. And it would actually enter Plymouth from the east, not follow SR 1/US 31 south out of town like it did originally.

In relative terms, it wouldn’t take long for this new road to be completed. The South Bend Tribune of 20 November 1927 reported that construction was almost complete in a plan to avoid crossing the Pennsylvania Railroad for 75 miles, something the old Yellowstone Trail/SR 2/US 30 did quite a bit. As of the writing of the article, 16 miles to the west of Plymouth were completed. This connected US 30 to SR 29 (now US 35), a “recently improved asphaltic macadam” road.

As a side note, the section west from SR 29 to Hanna was also part of the project, but was in a serious holding pattern. The road was “a stretch of about 10 miles in which no concrete has been laid and cannot be laid this year because of two sink holes in the vicinity of the Kankakee river which have materially resisted grading and filling by the contractors.” That section of US 30 is still in use today…albeit a bit wider than it was at that time.

East from Plymouth, the road was open, according to the Tribune, to Bourbon, a span of 10 miles. Four bridges being constructed between Aetna Green and Warsaw were all that was standing in the way of opening the road on or about 1 December. The article mentions that the route actually enters Plymouth from the east along Pennsylvania Avenue. This is due to a bridge on what is now called Lincoln Highway over the Yellow River being built. Pennsylvania Avenue connects to Michigan Street (old US 31) just north of the old Pennsylvania Railroad Fort Wayne Line (and, for those that are landmark oriented…right at the Penguin Point restaurant).

And, in case you are wondering, the name Lincoln Highway would be officially applied to this road in 1928, one year after this construction. The places where the name “Yellowstone Trail” still exist as a road name were sections of the original path of that road…parts that weren’t improved as a part of the state highway system.

Plymouth, Kankakee & Pacific Railroad

In 1869, a new railroad was chartered to connect Plymouth, in Marshall County, to near Bureau, Illinois. It was a plan to build a road to connect the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago to the Rock Island & Pacific. Within four years, most of the roadbed had been graded. And the company was put into slumber mode due to the Panic of 1873.

Plymouth Weekly Republican, 22 September 1869: “Hon. Jas. McGrew, President of a railroad, visited our town this week to interest the citizens in a new line of railroad that is to be built from some point on the P. Ft. W. & C. R. R., in Indiana, through Kankakee City to Barean (sic), Ills., on the Rock Island and Pacific railroad. A company has been organized in Illinois to build that portion of the line which is in that state.” Both of the companies that would be connected by this railroad “are anxious to have the road built, and will iron it as soon as graded and tied.”

The Illinois section of the road, the Kankakee & Illinois River Railroad, was chartered in Illinois on 16 April 1869. The new railroad on the Indiana side, called the Plymouth, Kankakee & Pacific, would receive its charter on 7 January 1870. These two companies would be consolidated on 20 October 1870. The company would keep the name of the Indiana half of the railroad – PK&P.

The first sign of things to come for this road appeared in April 1871. According to the Plymouth Weekly Republican of 27 April 1871, “The Chicago Times, and in fact all of the Chicago papers, of April 12th contained an item relative to the sale of the Plymouth, Kankakee & Pacific Company.” Basically, the company was being reported as sold to the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific. While this would have been entirely possible, given the feeder route status of the PK&P, there was one group of people that were not notified that the company had been sold. The company itself. As it turned out, right below the above mentioned article was a denial by the PK&P that such a sale had even happened.

Things came to a screeching halt for the company when William C. Richards, Kankakee, filed a petition in bankruptcy against the Plymouth, Kankakee & Pacific. The claim was based on eight first mortgage bond coupons for the railroad. Those eight coupons were to be paid, in gold, on 1 July 1873. They were valued at $35 a piece. There were hundreds of said coupons that were not being paid, as well payments for other law suits.

The bankruptcy put the railroad into a holding pattern. For years. In March 1879 it was reported that there were some mumblings about the PK&P being purchased by the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago. When the company had suspended operations in 1873, most of the grading had been done and bridges built…at least on the Illinois side. There was hope that the PFtW&C would complete and operate the railroad as soon as possible. Such hope was misplaced.

The company languished even more. At this point, all the work had been done on the Illinois side. It had done no work whatsoever in Indiana. Finally, the PK&P was sold at foreclosure to John S. Cushman on 5 May 1881. On 11 July of that year, it would become the Indiana, Illinois & Iowa Railroad of Illinois. 11 August 1881 saw the II&I of Iowa chartered. 14 September 1881 was the date of creation of the Indiana version of the II&I. They were all consolidated on 27 December 1881 to form the ultimate Indiana, Illinois & Iowa.

The II&I used the routing of the original PK&P, at least to Knox, Indiana. The II&I used that right of way set apart by the PK&P to build from Momence, Illinois, to North Judson, Indiana in 1883, a total of 56.2 miles. Three years later, the line was extended to Knox. The last 33.39 miles from Knox to South Bend were completed in 1894.

Through a few consolidations, what was originally part of the Plymouth, Kankakee & Pacific would become part of the New York Central on 23 December 1914. I covered that railroad in the article “The New York Central in Indiana.” Plymouth never did get the new railroad that would connect it to the Pacific Ocean via the Rock Island and the Union Pacific.