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.

Marion County: Wall Street Pike

Today, I want to look at a road that most people wouldn’t know by the name. I will not share the name it has today until the end, so that I can keep my readers guessing throughout the article. But, suffice it to say, it is an important road on the westside of Marion County. It was also a toll road that led from the Crawfordsville Pike westward to the Hendricks County line. It would also keep the “Wall Street Pike” name until it was officially changed in 1968.

But I want to share a couple of stories about the road today.

Indianapolis Star, 7 July 1927. Wall Street Pike covered bridge over Eagle Creek burned to the ground.

In July 1927, a fire destroyed the Wall Street Pike covered bridge over Eagle Creek. The bridge according to the Indianapolis Star of 7 July 1927 was described thus: “After stubbornly fighting the onrush of civilization and modernity for more than sixty years, the covered bridge over Eagle Creek on the Wall street pike, about four and a half miles northwest of Indianapolis, was destroyed by fire yesterday afternoon.”

The Wall Street Pike Bridge was one of only four covered bridges left in Marion County at the time of the fire. The article goes on to locate the three remaining ones: White River near Southport, Indian Creek a short distance east of Fort Benjamin Harrison, and Williams Creek at 75th Street.

Arrival of the fire department, from Engine House #9 at 537 Belleview Place, was too late to save the structure. Before the first spray of water hit the bridge, it was was wavering on its foundation. It then fell into the creek. Hundreds of people watched as the bridge timbers sank into Eagle Creek. “The timbers seemed to recall the countless number of buggies, carriages, old farm wagons, oxen teams, pioneers on horseback, and others, that had passed over it since the day it was dedicated with speeches and music by the Indianapolis ‘town band.'”

The cost of the bridge, when it was built, was estimated at $15,000. It was estimated that it would cost three times that much to replace it in 1927 with the same materials. The structure had been built using black walnut and ash trees, often hewn by local farmers. Maintenance of the bridge, which mainly consisted of reflooring, had been done over time. The last time was about three weeks before the fire.

Wall Street Pike was closed for several weeks while a new $20,000 concrete bridge was built in the place of the old covered bridge. County commissioners would be asked to fund the new bridge…and the appropriation would be brought up at the next meeting.

“Until erection of the concrete bridge the open space between the banks of the stream where the old bridge once stood will reflect its memory and if creeks could talk, the waters would mourn the loss of a good, true and lasting friend.” (Source: Indianapolis Star, 7 July 1927)

The other story I wanted to share is that of the Pugh homestead. Jacob Pugh came to Marion County from Randolph County, North Carolina, in 1821, shortly after the creation of the county itself. He purchased hundreds of acres on the north side of the survey line that would become Wall Street Pike. A son-in-law purchased even more land to the northwest of Jacob Pugh. That land would later become Camp Dellwood.

Indianapolis Star, 20 December 1931.

The pictured house above was built by one of Jacob’s sons, Jesse, in 1846. It had been built from tulip wood. In the 1920’s, the house was sold to the Ashby family.

To tie this back to Indiana Transportation history, the beginning of the article in the Indianapolis Star. “Wall Street pike branches west from Crawfordsville road at the old toll gate which is still standing about six miles from the center of town. West from Eagle creek on this pike, which was one of the first gravel roads in this vicinity, stretches a double row of maple trees, forming a green avenue for about half a mile.”

Now comes the time I bring the Wall Street Pike into the present. From the public announcements in the Indianapolis Star of 9 March 1968 comes the following snippets:

“Pursuant to Section 20 of Chapter 283 of the Acts of the Indiana General Assembly for 1955, as amended by Chapter 380 of the Acts of the Indiana General Assembly for 1959, the Metropolitan Plan Commission of Marion County, Indiana, proposes the following Resolutions Establishing, Reestablishing or Changing The Names of Certain Streets in Marion County, Indiana:”

“68-ST-R-2 – That the name of the street presently known as WALL STREET PIKE from Cunningham Road continuing west to W. County Line Road, is hereby changed to, established as and will hereafter be designated as W. 21ST STREET.”

County Roads – Getting Named

County road names. Most people don’t give it much thought. A year ago, I wrote an article about the names used around the state for the county roads. Today, I want to look at some of the histories that I have found about the subject.

The subject of naming rural roads was taken up at different times in different parts of the state. Until that point, roads may or may not have had names…but not as some sort of system. Marion County, for instance, had names like Wall Street Pike (West 21st Street from Speedway west) or the name of the resident that paid to have the road maintained. There really was no pattern to any of it.

The Cambridge City Tribune, of 9 August 1900, described the rumblings like this: “In some parts of Indiana a plan is being discussed for having all the county roads named. At the road crossings the names will be placed on posts, something like the old fashioned finger boards. In addition to that each farmer will have his name displayed on a post at the road side at the entrance to his grounds. Something of the kind will be done in all rural districts with the next few years, and it is very much needed. Farmers are beginning to discuss the matter at their meetings.”

St. Joseph County, according to the South Bend Tribune of 2 April 1918, had been working on names for the county roads since the summer of 1917. A plan was accepted and adopted by the St. Joseph County commissioners on 4 March 1918. The current names were placed on the county roads then. In 1934, the South Bend Tribune made sure to point out that rural roads in St. Joseph County were all marked the same way city streets were…with signs hanging high above the road.

The reasons for naming county roads involved things like mail delivery and safety. In the days of the automobile, it made sense to name the roads for travelers to be able to find places. But it started out as an attempt to be able to speed mail delivery. With rural routes all over the state, it was not unheard of that someone’s mail would be delivered to the wrong part of the county. Giving houses numbers, and roads names made mail easier to locate. As for safety, it goes without saying that if the farmer on such and such road had a structure that was on fire, unless the emergency crews where such and such road was, and where the farmer lived, that fire was going to be completely destrucutive.

The most common method of naming county roads in Indiana was called the “Purdue Grid Coordinates.” It is a system where every place in the rural areas of the county are assigned a location based on a central point in the county. This system often involves the north-south middle of the county to be called “Meridian,” and the east-west to be called “Division.” But that is up to the particular county, actually. Some counties do use “00” for the center.

The system was created by researchers for Purdue University’s Joint Highway Research project in the School of Civil Engineering. The plan was to create a system that would allow easier directions for rural areas. For example, the Lafayette Journal and Courier of 9 Jan 1954, used the following example of Doc Smith trying to find Ben Miller’s farm: “take this highway north about five miles, and then instead of turning with the highway at the big pear orchard, continue straight ahead on the County Farm gravel road. It winds a bit, but after about two miles you’ll come to a five-point intersection. Take the road that cuts slightly to the left, follow it to the second crossroad, then turn left. It’s only about a mile from that corner to Wahoo. You’ll have to inquire at the grocery store for Ben’s farm.”

Franklin County, in 1953, was still considering a naming system for the roads of that area. It had been recommended several years earlier, but nothing was ever done.

Hamilton County decided to start looking at their road names in 1958. It started with a report by the Jaycees. That took several years to work on. It was decided that Hamilton County would not use the Purdue grid system, since most people preferred names to numbers. Numbers were assigned from Indianapolis, giving rise to street numbers above 96th to 296th. Each county road, however, that went north and south was given a secondary number to show how far east and west of Indianapolis’ Meridian Street you were. While names were decided upon in the early 1960’s, most addresses weren’t completely determined until the 1990s.

On 10 October 1961 the Rushville Republican printed the following question when it came to county road names: “Is Rush County going to be among the last in the state to get its county roads named and numbered and house numbers for its rural residences? Decatur County is the latest to join the fold. It’s not a costly procedure and it makes it so much easier to locate places in the country. All it takes is a nod, and a bit of cash, from the county commissioners to permit this community to keep up with its neighbors.”

It would be 1962 when all counties in Indiana finally had a system in place, and signs posted. Indiana had passed a law in 1961 requiring all county road intersections to have road name signs posted.