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.

Tip Top Trail

By 1920, the state of Indiana was crossed by a vast number of named routes, called Auto Trails, that connected many of the bigger towns of the state. Some of these were cross country routes. But many were only in Indiana. Today, we are focusing on the Tip Top Trail, one of those Indiana only roads. The maps included in this post are from the Rand McNally Auto Trails Map of 1920. The Tip Top Trail is labelled as [3] throughout those maps. A downloadable copy of this map is available from the Indiana State Library.

This route crossed eastern Indiana, starting near Madison on the Ohio River. Technically, the road ended at the Michigan Road in North Madison. Starting due west along what is now SR 62, the TTT turned northwest along the old Indianapolis-Madison State Road which is now SR 7. This routing took travelers through Wirt, Dupont and Vernon to enter North Vernon. At North Vernon, the French Lick Trail crossed west to east across town. The French Lick Trail here would later become US 50. The French Lick Trail is marked on this map as [90].

As the Indianapolis-Madison State Road continued to the northwest, the TTT left North Vernon due north aiming the same direction as what is now SR 3. This connected Brewersville, Westport, Letts and Horace before connecting, and multiplexing, with the Terre Haute-Columbus-Cincinnati (THCC) Trail (labelled as [82]) west of Greensburg. West of Greensburg, the THCC became, roughly, the route of SR 46. East of Greensburg, the THCC connects to Batesville and Lawrenceburg, where the above mentioned French Lick Trail begins at the junction of the THCC.

At Greensburg, the TTT crosses what Rand McNally labels as [26], known as the Michigan Road. The southern end of the TTT actually ends at the same road.

There are places between North Vernon and Greensburg where the old TTT would later become part of the state road system. Other places, the TTT went screaming across rural Indiana on county roads that, in some circumstances, have been removed from maps.

The next section of the road continues along the SR 3 corridor north on its way to connect to the National Road at Dunreith. Before getting there, the towns of Sundusky, Williamstown, and Milroy are traversed before the county seat of Rush County, Rushville. Here, the Minute Man Route crossed west to east. The Minute Man route, although connecting several county seats, was almost not ever included in the state highway system later. It would be long after the Great Renumbering that it would make it…I covered that with the post “Fight for Adding SR 44 from Martinsville to Rushville.”

Still following, roughly, the SR 3 corridor, the TTT continues northward. 13.5 miles north of Rushville, the TTT connected to, and multiplexed with, the National Old Trails Road. This multiplex only lasted about one half mile. Here the TTT turned north out of Dunreith on West Street, soon to become Old Spiceland Road. This carries the route through Spiceland into New Castle. The TTT is crossed by the Hoosier Dixie Highway.

Parts of the old TTT would be added, and removed, from the route of future (current) SR 3 between New Castle and Muncie. It leaves the current SR 3 south of Mount Summit, continuing due north (more or less) before turning west due east of Springport. There it, again, aims due north through Oakville to Cowan. West of Cowan, the TTT turned north once again, following Cowan Road and Hoyt Avenue into Muncie. At Muncie, the TTT connects to the Hoosier Highway (connecting Muncie to Indianapolis and beyond) and Hub Highway (Greenville, Ohio, to Lafayette).

The Hoosier Highway and the Tip Top Trail travel together north out of Muncie. At Hartford City, they split ways, with the Hoosier Highway multiplexing with the Auto Trail called the Belt Line, which winds its way across Indiana. The Tip Top Trail continues north toward Warren.

North of Warren, the road keeps going toward Huntington. Here, the TTT connects with three Auto Trails. First is the Wabash Way [81]. This trail connects Fort Wayne with Peru, Logansport, Delphi and Lafayette. Second is the Ben Hur Route, which I covered earlier. Third is another Indiana only Auto Trail called the Huntington-Manitau-Culver Trail, connecting Rochester, Indiana, to Lima, Ohio.

The next destination for the Tip Top Trail is Columbia City. Here, the east-west Auto Trial that connected to the TTT was a coast-to-coast highway known as the Yellowstone Trail. Later, after the creation of the United States Highway System, the Lincoln Highway was rerouted along roughly the same corridor.

From Columbia City to the end of the Tip Top Trail roughly follows the current SR 9 corridor through Merriam, Albion, Brimfield, and ends at Rome City. At Merriam, the TTT crossed the original routing of the Lincoln Highway. At Brimfield, the Toledo-Chicago Pike crosses east to west. At Rome City, the end of the Tip Top Trail comes with the junction of the Ohio-Indiana-Michigan Way.

Auto Trail Quick Take, Part 1

This entry is a 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.)

(1) The Yellowstone Trail enters Indiana from Chicago, extending by way of Gary, Valparaiso, Plymouth, Warsaw, Pierceton, Columbia City, Fort Wayne and thence to Cleveland. Well marked with metal signs on poles.

(2) The Chicago Trail barely cuts the corner of the state, extending from Detroit to Chicago, entering Indiana and Michigan City, passing through Gary, Indiana Harbor and Whiting.

(3) The Tip-Top Trail, extending from Lagrange on the north straight south by way of Albion, Columbia City, Huntington, Hartford City, Muncie, Newcastle, Rushville and Greensburg. Thoroughly marked by H. S. A. A. (Hoosier State Automobile Association).

(4) The Dixie Bee Line, extending from Chicago down the edge of Illinois, entering Indiana near Danville, Ill., going through Clinton and Terre Haute, and leaving at Evansville to cross Kentucky and Tennessee to Florida. Thoroughly marked and re-marked by the H.S.A.A.

(8) The Range Line, extending from Indianapolis to Rochester by way of Carmel, Westfield, Kokomo and Peru. Was marked by the county organizations enroute and is now replaced by State Road No. 1.

(9) Ohio-Indiana-Michigan Way, extending from Cincinnati by way of Richmond. Fort Wayne and Kalamazoo, Mich. First marked by the county organizations and remarked by the state organization. Some parts of this route are yet to be remarked. “O-I-M” on the poles.

(12) The Toledo-Chicago Pike enters Indiana at Butler, extending west through Waterloo, Kendallville and joining the Lincoln Highway at Ligonier.

(13) The Belt Line, same being a continuation of the Bloomington Way in Illinois, entering from Hoopeston, Ill., crossing the state by way of Lafayette, Kokomo, Marion, Hartford City and Portland. Marked by the county organizations – on schedule for remarking by the state association outfits.

(16) Hoosier Dixie Highway, extending from Goshen to Cincinnati by way of Warsaw, Wabash, Marion, Anderson, New Castle, Cambridge City, Connersville and Brookville. Marked by the Hoosier Dixie Highway association through its county organizations and remarked in parts by the H.S.A.A.

(17) Minute Man Route extending from Farmersburg on the west, across the state by way Spencer, Martinsville, Franklin, Shelbyville, Rushville, Connersville and Liberty. Marked by state association – on our list from remarking now.

(22) National Old Trails Road, established by government, marked by red, white and blue bands partly by local clubs and partly by the state organization, but more dependable marked by special enamel steel signs placed at frequesnt intervals across the state. Coincides with State Road No. 3 across Indiana from Terre Haute to Richmond. (The section east of Richmond is not the same road established by the government.)

(23) Wonderful Way, same being a branch of the Atlantic-Pacific Highway branching off from that route at Paoli and extending south by way of Corydon, New Albany and along the river by Charlestown, Madison, Vevay, Patriot, Rising Sun to Cincinnati. Marked by the H.S.A.A.

(24) The Hoosier Highway, extending from Detroit to Memphis, crossing Indiana by way of Fort Wayne, Bluffton, Huntington, Muncie, Anderson, Martinsville, Spencer, Worthington, Washington, Petersburg, Oakland City, Princeton and Evansville. First marked by the Hoosier association with a red “H” on a white background and now remarked with a black “H” on a white background. Northern half of route just repainted.