A Quick Look At Today’s State Roads, From A Historical View

A Facebook direct message from a reader of the blog started the research bug going again. Now, while I am still looking up information on his particular subject (transportation to Center Valley in Hendricks County, particularly a possible railroad there), part of his subject did come up. As well as a few others. Today, I want to look at the things that I have found while researching that topic…while not finding much about the topic.

The “town” of Center Valley is along the route that would become State Road 39 just north of the Morgan-Hendricks line. A post office existed there from 1855 to 1902. But what is important is the route that rumbles north to south through the town…the aforementioned SR 39. It wouldn’t be until 1932 when that section of SR 39 was added to the state highway system. But, the designation “state road” goes back quite a bit…like 1833.

The 17th General Assembly of Indiana passed into law several state roads. The first I want to mention would be the one that would make Center Valley (or, more to the point Centre Valley) a place. The route that would eventually become SR 39 was built as the Martinsville-Danville-Frankfort State Road. The southern end would be part of the state highway system from 1920 – the bridge over White River west of Martinsville. The northern end would be part of original State Road 6, connecting Lebanon to Frankfort. As original SR 6, it would become SR 39 with the Great Renumbering.

Two more state roads would from Martinsville would be added to Indiana with this meeting of the General Assembly. The first is one that would not become part of the state highway system. It was described as “an act to locate a state road from Martinsville, in the county of Morgan, by the way of Cox’s mill and Solomon Dunagan’s, in said Morgan county, to Stilesville, in the county of Hendricks.” This is an example of how the General Assembly would set up a “state road” through a particular person’s land. I would assume that what is now Tudor Road, southeast of Stilesville, was part of this road.

Another state road project including Martinsville did make it to the state highway system… eventually. The act created “a state road from Martinsville, in Morgan County, to intersect the state road leading from Madison to Indianapolis, at Edinburgh, in Johnson county by the way of Morgantown in said Morgan county.” This state road would be added back into the state highway system in the 1930’s…as State Road 252. A history of that road is available from ITH here.

But Martinsville wasn’t the only beneficiary of that particular meeting of the General Assembly.

A state road was created by the General Assembly to connect the town of Lagrange, in Tippecanoe County, to Logansport, in Cass County. Where is LaGrange? Well, it was a town along the Wabash River at the Warren-Tippecanoe County line. It was founded by Isaac Shelby in 1827…and had a post office from 1832 to 1835. It’s prime was with the Wabash Canal during the riverboat era. When the Wabash Railroad was built on the opposite side of the Wabash River, the town of LaGrange just dried up and disappeared.

Another road that was created at that time would connect Williamsport to the Illinois-Indiana State line via Lebanon (sic), now West Lebanon, and the now abandoned town of Chesapeake (about two miles east of Marshfield). This route will require some research.

Part of the road that would become, in time, SR 46 between Newbern and Bloomington would be added as a state road in 1833. The original road would start at the Michigan Road in Napoleon, travel through Camden (unknown today), Newbern, and Columbus to Bloomington. The section from Newbern to Columbus was part of the state highway system as SR 46, until INDOT truncated SR 9, turning the old SR 9 into SR 46.

Stilesville would be mentioned again as a state road was created to connect it to Crawfordsville via New Maysville.

The last road for this article would be a road that is still in existence, more or less, but not part of the modern state highway system. The description of the act was “to locate a state road from Green Castle, in Putnam county, to Carlisle, in Sullivan county, by way of Manhattan in Putnam county and Bowlingreen and New Brunswick, in Clay county.” Some day, I want to do more research on this road.

State Roads, 1831 (Part 2)

This is a continuation of yesterday’s entry: State Roads, 1831 (Part 1). Remember: The concept of “state road” was completely different that it is today. Today, a state road is a road that has become the responsibility of the state transportation authority (for instance, now INDOT). Then a state road was a road that was authorized by the state, paid for by the state, but built and maintained by the county through which the road passed. So, basically, the state using Federal land proceeds to pay for, what will be, county roads. Some of these routes DID cross the line between the two different types of state roads.

Section 7: The section first listed in this act, from Frankford (Frankfort) to Delphi roughly follows US 421. The route to connect to the road that was mentioned in Section 6 of the same chapter, this road could have basically used a (more or less) straight line that follows SR 18 from downtown Delphi to SR 43. Or, followed what is now US 421 from Delphi to Michigan City. I am leaning toward the former.

Sections 8, 9 and 10: These sections talk about the Commissioners: their oaths, duties, paperwork to be done, and payment for service. Other things discussed was the fact that although the state is paying to make the road, it is the county’s responsibility to open and maintain them. The minimum requirement for the road to be open is that it be no more than 40 feet wide.

The three percent fund is the money that the Federal Government gave the state after the sales of Federal land. The state was given three percent of the sale price.

Section 11: Of the several places mentioned in this section, one (Baltimore) disappeared when the Wabash & Erie Canal was built on the opposite bank of the Wabash River, and another (Legrange) is very hard to find out any information. There is one old brick house left of Baltimore. It is located on SR 263 at Warren CR 1025S. (Strangely, Google Maps has SR 263 labeled “Old State Highway 63” as the street name.) The road starts at the Warren County line as Warren CR 600W. The original road has disappeared between US 136 and the old location of Baltimore.

Section 12: This is one of those “special acts” that I mentioned in my Indiana Toll Road(s) post on 24 May 2019. The state road starts at one person’s farm? Really? Exactly where IS Walker’s Farm in Parke County? At least from Clinton to Newport, the road roughly resembles SR 63 (or, at least, old SR 63).

The Acts of 1830, available here, shows more state road laws put into place that year. I will be covering those at a later date.