The Ohio-Indiana-Michigan Way

In the Auto Trail era, I have mentioned many times that there where many roads that crept up all over the state. Many of these Auto Trails connected Indiana to far flung locations across the United States. Today, I want to discuss a road that connected Cincinnati, Ohio, to Kalamazoo, Michigan, through the eastern part of Indiana – the Ohio-Indiana-Michigan Way.

On old Rand McNally maps of the era, the OIM was listed as number nine in their list. I was never sure why Rand put the roads in the order they did. It certainly wasn’t in any kind of chronological order, since the Dixie Highway and the Lincoln Highway, two of the longest, most important and oldest Auto Trails around, were numbers 25 and 34 respectively.

Most of the original road is still followable today. From the south, it entered Indiana at College Corner, Ohio, southeast of Liberty. After passing through Cottage Grove, it made its way into Liberty. In Liberty, from what I can tell, it followed Liberty Avenue, Union Street, turning north on Main Street, then followed Market Street north out of town. Since it entered Indiana, it followed the route now covered by US 27. North of Liberty, an old bypassed section of the same US 27 is the original route of the OIM.

Just north of Potter Shop Road, or Old Indiana 122, the OIM turned northeast on Esteb Road, which it followed until it connects back into US 27. South of Richmond, the old road and US 27 split again, with the old road following Liberty Avenue on its way into the Wayne County seat.

Leaving north out of Richmond, it again follows what is now US 27 towards Chester. Before reaching that town, the old road turns north to follow Arba Pike, then turns northwest on Martin Road to again connect to the current highway.

After leaving Fountain City to the north, a small section of the road is now out of service. At Bockhofer Road, to follow the old OIM, turn left and then turn right on Hough Road. This trip will keet the traveler off of the modern highway for a little over 2 miles, when the old road and the current highway come together again to travel to Lynn.

At Lynn, a westerly turn onto Church Street will take the traveler out of Lynn. At the end of Church Street, at County Road 100 East, the OIM turned north. Here it followed that county road for five miles, where, at CR 300 South, it connects, once again, to US 27. Just north of CR 200 South, it followed what is now Old US 27 into, and through, Winchester.

The section through Geneva gets a little hard to follow. North of Geneva, however, the road veers to the northeast, following Covered Bridge Road to CR 0, which it follows to north of Monroe. Again, the old OIM connects to the current US 27 north of the town. At Decatur, the old road turns onto Winchester Street, the through town follows Second Street. Again, it connects to US 27 for its journey toward Fort Wayne.

At Fort Wayne, Decatur Road is the original path of the OIM…while US 27 was rerouted to the west. It’s best to follow US 27 through Fort Wayne. North of the city, the road changes to become SR 3. South of Huntertown, the old path veers off onto Lima Road and old State Road 3 until the two come back together north of Avilla. South of Kendallville, turn onto Main Street to enter that town. Here, it basically follows US 6 to SR 9, where it turns north bound for Michigan.

The next major detour from a state road occurs south of Valentine, where the OIM turned west on what is now County Road 500 South. At LaGrange, the OIM followed what is now Old State Road 9 north out of town to what is now SR 120. Here it turned west to connect back to the current SR 9 for the last of its journey to the Michigan State line and points north.

US Highways: They are actually State Roads

I originally posted the following in the Indiana Transportation History group on 11 Jun 2014. It has been slightly edited to correct some “oopsies” in my original.

For those old enough to remember (and I, unfortunately, am not one of them) before the Interstate system came into being, and US routes were the cross-country method of auto transport, this post is for you.

Somewhere lost in the history of transportation is the true story behind the US Highway system. Believe it or not, the Federal Government was late to the “good roads” party, and really only joined it half-heartedly. Let me explain.

Near the end of the 19th Century, there was a craze sweeping the nation – bicycling. The problem was that most roads at the time were basically dirt paths through the country. Some were graveled, yes. Some were bricked, but mainly only in towns. Those that rode bicycles started clamoring for better roads to reliably and safely use their new-fangled transportation method.

The US Post Office was also involved in this movement, mainly because mail was that important. And delivering the mail in some rural locations was troublesome at best.

With the creation of the automobile boom in the early 20th century, the Good Roads Movement started including the drivers of the horseless carriage. Again, because most roads at the time were dusty at best, and practically impassible at worst.

Clubs started nationwide to encourage auto travel (the Hoosier Motor Club was one). Clubs were also started to encourage the creation of travel routes that were more than dirt roads to the next county seat.

These last clubs led to many named highways throughout the nation. For instance, Indianapolis was served by the (Andrew) Jackson Highway, Dixie Highway, Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway, National Old Trails Road, the Hoosier Highway, Michigan Road, the Range Line Road, the Hills & Lakes Trail, and the Hoosier Dixie.

The most famous of the Road Clubs was the Lincoln Highway Association, which crossed Indiana through the northern tier of counties. On its trip from New York to San Francisco, it passed through Fort Wayne, Ligonier (included because it was the SECOND Ligonier on the route – the other being in Pennsylvania!), Goshen, Elkhart, South Bend, La Porte, and Valparaiso. (As you can guess, it wasn’t exactly a straight line at first!)

In 1926, the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO), in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Public Roads finalized a national route system that became the US Highways. This was to combat the numerous named highways that led to some major confusion among the automobile traveling public. The system was discussed starting in 1924, with a preliminary list issued in late 1925.

Named highways painted markers on utility poles most of the time. It, apparently, was not unheard of to have numerous colored markers on one pole. And new named highways were popping up monthly. (They even kept appearing after the numbered highways started appearing.)

A misconception is that a US Highway is a Federal road. US Highways have a distinctive shield with a number. It can also have, legally, a State Road marker. That’s because US highways were really just state roads that shared the same number for its entire distance. So SR 40 in Indiana was also SR 40 in Illinois and Ohio, and so on. (INDOT has even posted SR 421 signage on SR 9 at the entrance ramps to I-74/US 421 in Shelbyville.)

While US highway numbers have come and gone across the state, most of them appeared in one of two phases – 1927 and 1951.

The original US Highways in Indiana were: 12, 20, 24, 27, 30, 31, 31E, 31W, 36, 40, 41, 50, 52, 112, and 150.

The second major phase included US 136, US 231, and US 421.

Between these two phases, the following roads were added:
– US 6 (1928)
– US 33 (1937)
– US 35 (1934) It required changing SR 35 to SR 135.
– US 36 – Yes, it is listed twice. US 36 originally ended at Indianapolis from the west. It was extended east in 1931.
– US 152 – Mostly followed US 52 (Lafayette Road) north from Indianapolis from 1934 to 1938. It never left the state, so it was downgraded to mostly state road 53 (which, strangely, was added BACK into the federal numbering system as US 231).
– US 224 (1933)
– US 460 (1947-1977)

These were added to the system in sections. For instance, US 6 came into Indiana from the east and ended up being routed along what, at the time, was Indiana State Road 6.

There have been many changes in the original US highways. Some have bypassed towns in many places (like US 31). Some have just been removed from the system (like the northern end of US 33). Some were replaced by the interstate system created in 1956 (like US 27 north of Fort Wayne).

The beginning of the end of the major importance of the US Highway system started in 1947, when AASHO deemed it “outmoded.” This led to the creation of the interstate system with a law signed by President Eisenhower in 1956.