Ben Davis and Mickleyville, Wayne Township, Marion County

1852. The Terre Haute & Richmond Railroad was building its main line from Terre Haute to Indianapolis. Six miles west of the center of town, the railroad decided that they would build a station. But only if someone would take care of it. There were no takers, and the railroad skipped the place. There was, however, a signal put in place in case someone did want to board or leave the train in the empty field 3/10th of a mile south of the National Road.

It would be over two decades before a platform was built at the location. This was after the assignment of a ticket agent, John Pierson, that would go to the railroad location to sell tickets right before train time. Mr. Pierson would go on to acquire a lease from the railroad, by this time the Terre Haute & Indianapolis, so that he could build a small station and store room. In 1877, the Ben Davis Post Office would be opened, and two years later an express office was added to the station.

1895 map of Ben Davis Post Office

But the station never belonged to the railroad itself, so John Pierson sold it to another person, Wilson Morrow. Morrow went on to sell the station, and the goods in storage, to Humphrey Forshea, the then current station agent. Forshea was also the name of the road that stretched south from the National Road to a point 1 mile south of what is now Minnesota Street, as shown in the 1895 map to the left. The end of the road shown on the map is roughly where High School Road turns east to go around the Indianapolis International Airport.

The station and post office was named after Benjamin Davis, a first customer of the Terre Haute & Richmond Railroad. Mr. Davis would ship loads of wood and lumber from the future Ben Davis to Indianapolis. He was born in Lewis County, Kentucky, on 27 October 1821. He died at his home at 2406 Parker Avenue, in Brightwood, on 24 January 1899. He had been a railroad contractor and the owner of a livery stable in the city.

Another town in the area was located where what is now Morris Street crossed the National Road. J. A. Mickley, merchant, built a store at the location that would later be called Mickleyville. Mr. Mickley would become a cobbler at Ben Davis after coming to Indiana from Pennsylvania in 1868. In 1873, he moved to the National Road location. Mickley Avenue, which is a block west of Washington Street and Morris Street, was named after the unincorporated town.

When the National Road was a toll road, the tollgate was located at what became Mickleyville. This makes sense since what is now Morris Street was also a privately owned road…called the Emma Hansch (Free Gravel) Road, which ran from the county line (now Raceway Road) east to the National Road. East from the National Road, along the same line of Morris Street, was the Jesse Wright (Free Gravel) Road that extended eastward to what is now Warman Street.

There were other post offices started in Wayne Township, Marion County. Including one along the National Road, called Bridgeport. Others, which I will cover in a later post, included: Clermont (Crawfordsville Road and the Peoria & Eastern Railroad); Mitchell Station, at the Wall Street Pike and the Baltimore & Ohio; Brooklyn Heights, on the Lafayette & Indianapolis between what is now 34th and 38th Streets; Glendale, north of Crawfordsville Road (16th Street) on the Lafayette Road; Sabine on the Indianapolis & St. Louis Railway near what is now Girls School Road; Maywood on the Vincennes State Road and the same railroad; Haughville; and Mount Jackson, both of these last ones were along the National Road.

Bicycling the National Road West from Indianapolis

Route map from the Indianapolis News, 11 April 1896, showing bicycling routes.

Today’s Bicycling Thursday I want to go back to the Indianapolis News of 11 April 1896, which covered routes west of Indianapolis, starting with the National Road. While the article mentions shorter routes that use other roads back to the city, I want to stick to what is now Washington Street.

The first part of the journey was pretty much straight forward: “starting from Meridian and Washington streets, the run is out Washington street, which is paved some distance west of White River.” Before this point, the crossing of the White River could be done using one of two bridges, with more information available at “Indianapolis: Washington Street & National Road Bridges.” “Beyond the pavement, to the point where the National Road proper begins, the street is badly cut up.” This would be the section from roughly the Belt Railway to Mount Jackson, mentioned later. It was also mentioned that, while the road was in bad shape, the “going is good in the center of the car track.” Keep in mind that the “car track” mentioned here is that of the street cars.

1889 map of Mount Jackson and Haughville along Washington St.

“The National road starts from Mount Jackson, three miles out, and runs off a little southwest.” The town of Mount Jackson stretched from what is now Belmont to Tibbs Avenues, south of Washington Street. (Haughville proper was along the same stretch, north of Washington Street.) At what is now Warman, the “Indiana Insane Hospital” property was located. This property would be later named Central State Hospital.

At the edge of the hospital property, “a dirt road running northwest, skirting Haughville and crossing the Osterman (10 Street from White River to the Danville State Road), Crawfordsville and Lafayette roads.” This is now Tibbs Avenue.

1889 map of the National Road from the Eagle Creek crossing west, also showing the original connection of the National and Rockville Roads.

After passing the hospital, the old road passes over Eagle Creek “on a good iron bridge, the approaches to which are easy.” It then crosses the Big Four railway, which at the time was an at-grade crossing. The road then turns more to the southwest. Here “there has been a liberal supply of fresh gravel distributed over the road for about one mile, but there is a hard path at the side.” Also, there are two dirt roads branching from the main road in this section. One goes to Maywood, which is now Tibbs Avenue south of Washington Street. The other is between Tibbs and the place where the original Rockville Road turned northwest from the National Road (that intersection is now where Holt Road meets Washington Street).

About a mile from Rockville Road, the old road crosses a toll road that is a continuation of Morris Street from Indianapolis (and has that name today), the Emma Hanck turnpike. “Six miles from the city is a grocery and blacksmith shop, which may be used to good advantage by unfortunates.” This is between Morris Street and High School Road, which was called the Forsha Turnpike, which connected the National Road to Ben Davis Post Office. At seven miles from the city, a “pleasant resting place for the first riders” at a big saw mill. A dirt road near this point, running north and south, could allow a rider wanting a short ride to connect back to the city via “half a dozen turnpikes running east and west.”

At a point 9.5 miles from the city, where the road passes through a small, well shaded village called Bridgeport. The road then continues over White Lick Creek and rumbles toward Plainfield over what was a recent installment of fresh gravel. Finally, before leaving Marion County, the rider will come across a “large nursery, with green and white buildings and storehouses, situated on the side of a hill” just at the edge of the county line.