Marion County Road Names, 1905, Part 1

One of my favorite things to do, if you haven’t guessed, is to look at old maps. One of my interests, especially, is to look at names that are printed on those maps, especially for roads. Seeing how long those road names have been on maps is interesting to me. Since I live in Marion County, and that county has the most available maps online, I spend a lot of time at looking at those. And the road names are very interesting. I want to share some of them today.

The map that I am looking at as I write this comes from 1905. One of the things with this map is that most of the names are on free gravel roads, roads that were, at one point, probably tolls roads. Not completely sure, but it makes sense in the scheme of things.

The first road that I want to mention was called the Fall Creek and Mud Creek Free Gravel Road. The road itself started in Millersville, at the end of the Millersville Free Gravel Road (now Millersville Road). Millersville, on the maps, is located one quarter mile west of the Washington-Lawrence Township line (which runs along what is now Emerson, or the same line, to 62nd Street) on 56th Street. As one can guess, the road name still exists, kind of. Now it is actually in two parts: Fall Creek Road and Mud Creek Road. The road itself ended at the Hamilton-Marion County line (now 96th Street).

Another road name that still exists on this map is the Hague Free Gravel Road. Yes, it is Hague Road today. But there were three extensions to the road that have different names today. First was a mile long, branching from the main road less than one half mile north of the start of the road at the Fall Creek and Mud Creek Road. That extension went west from the main road. Today, that extension is now called 71st Street.

The second extension from the Hague Road branched west, for three-quarters of a mile, one and a half miles north of the first extension. This connected the Hague Road to the town of Castleton. Today, it is called 82nd Street. The third extension, one and a half miles north of the second, branched east for one mile. It is now part of 96th Street.

Back to the second extension, at the end of the Hague Road extension, it connected to the middle of the Andy Smith Free Gravel Road. That road started at Allisonville Road, traveling east along what is now 82nd Street to where what is now Masters Road used to connect to 82nd Street. Here, it traveled north for one half mile, where it turned east for about two miles along what is now 86th Street.

For what is now Pendleton Pike from 30th Street to Oaklandon Road (and its junction with the Bee Line Railroad), had two different names. From 30th Street to Franklin Road, it was the Indianapolis and Lanesville Road. From that point to Oaklandon Road, and north on Oaklandon Road to the Bee Line tracks, it was the Indianapolis and Oakland Road. From here, an extension of the Indianapolis and Oakland Road followed alongside the railroad tracks to the county line. Both of the mentioned roads were also part of a longer former state road, which by 1905 was called the Pendleton Free Pike.

At the Bee Line tracks, heading north, along what is now Oaklandon Road, was the Germantown and Oaklandon Road. This free gravel road stopped one mile south of Germantown, which was located along Fall Creek at the county line (96th Street today). This road ended at 86th Street. From this point, county dirt roads were the way to get to Germantown, which is now submerged in Geist Reservoir.

What is now 46th Street east of the Indianapolis and Oakland Road, for about two miles, was called, at the time, the Asbury Free Gravel Road. This ended at a point half way between Mitthoefer and German Church Roads. From that point, the one half mile to German Church Road was officially an extension to the Asbury Road.

One half mile south of the Asbury Road was the Henry Bell Free Gravel Road. Technically, this road started at the Pendleton Pike, travelled south on Franklin Road to 42nd Street, and ended half way between Mitthoefer and German Church Roads, like the Asbury Road. Unlike the Asbury Road, the extension was on the west end of this path, connecting the Pendleton Pike to Franklin Road along 42nd Street.

Another road name that hasn’t really changed since the 1905 map is Mitthoefer Road. Now, having said that, there is some question as to the spelling of that road’s name, as the family, as I understand it, spelled it “Mithoefer.” I have seen street signs posted by the city of Indianapolis with both two “t”s and two “f”s, as in Mitthoeffer. Today, the city spells it with one “f” (most of the time). This road started at the National Road, running north to the line separating Lawrence and Warren townships (now 38th Street).

One of the most confusing roads, with many names, is now called German Church Road. First, let’s start with its most common name before it was changed by the county to match the interurban stop name along the National Road. From 30th Street south to the National Road, it was called the Franke Free Gravel Road. However, the other name was also commonly used – Holzhausen Road. To make matters worse, the Holzhausen Road had four extensions. One ran east from the end of the main road one mile to the county line along 30th Street. The second ran north from 30th Street to the Peoria & Eastern/New Castle Traction tracks (anyone familiar with the area, that right-of-way, since both the railroad and the interurban are long gone, it is along the north edge of the Hindu Temple of Central Indiana property). The third extension ran west along 30th Street for one quarter mile. The fourth extension ran one quarter mile west from the end of the third extension.

What is now Muessing Road, connecting the Brookville Road to the National Road, was once part of two different free gravel roads. And it gets a bit confusing, to say the least. For starters, the Cumberland Free Gravel Road left that town just like Muessing Road does today, angled to the southwest. From there, just like today, it followed a very curvy path to what is now Prospect Street. Here the Cumberland Road turned east, then south again almost immediately. The Cumberland Road didn’t go far from there. South of Prospect Street, the road makes a sharp turn to the west. Then, before the road turned south again along the half section line, the Cumberland Road abruptly ended. But, the Muessing Extension started at that exact point, running south along the half section line to the Brookville Road.

The last road I am going to cover today, as this will probably be a long series of articles, is the Bade Free Gravel Road. Now, looking at a map of southeastern Warren Township, there is a Bade Road on it. That current road was part of the original Bade Free Gravel Road. For a mile (technically, about a few feet short of one, but who’s counting?), from the Brookville Road to what is now Prospect Street was the beginning of the Bade Road. It retains that name today. However, the Bade Free Gravel Road turned east for three-quarter mile, then turned north for nearly a mile and a half to connect to the National Road. The east turn is now Prospect Street. The last 1.5 miles is now German Church Road.

There are a lot more roads to be listed. I am not sure how many parts this will be…but I don’t want to make them way too long.

1889: National Road in Warren Township, Marion County

Since it was built, the National Road has held an important place in the history of Marion County. Obviously, the city itself benefitted from the coming of the road. The road was built from east to west, which means when it reached Marion County, Warren Township would be first in line.

1889 map of Cumberland, Indiana

Cumberland. The town was laid out shortly after the coming of the road. The name of the town came from the other name for the National Road. Or, more to the point, the terminus of the road – Cumberland, Maryland. The town was laid out by Henry Brady on 7 July 1831. The original plat only included four blocks, bounded by what was called North, South, East and West Streets (now Niles Street, Saturn Street, Muessing Street and one that no longer exists).

The railroad would come to Cumberland in 1853. The Indiana Central Railway built 71.94 miles of track that year, connecting Indianapolis to the Ohio state line east of Richmond.

The next things that were encountered on the way west were a church and a toll gate one mile west of the county line. The church, built in 1855, was St. John’s Church, but the corner stone is written in the language of the congregation – German. The road would be named later German Church Road. The toll house was opposite the church, on the southwest corner of German Church and Washington.

At the corner of the National and Franklin Roads, a country schoolhouse was located on the southwest corner.

1889 map of Irvington, Indiana

Irvington. Before entering Center Township at what is now Emerson Avenue, the town of Irvington in encountered. Incorporated in March 1873, it was designed as a town of “refinement and culture.” That same year, the Northwestern Christian University was enticed to move to the new town with a 25 acre land donation and a grant of $150,000. The university was tucked between the two railroads that ran through the area, and along the western edge of the town.

Subway Street, Beech Grove

When the Big Four Railway started to build their new yards in what would become the city of Beech Grove, they realized very quickly that train traffic was going to be, at best, horrifying for those that were trying to get to the town from the north and east. The main road from the north was the line separating Center from Warren, and Perry from Franklin townships. This would be called First Avenue in the new town of Beech Grove, and Emerson Avenue in the rest of Marion County.

1905 Map of the Beech Grove area, before construction of the town. Center of the map is where the four townships (Center, Franklin, Perry and Warren) meet, now the intersection of Emerson and Albany Street (Troy Avenue).

This road, before Beech Grove was built, stretched from a point in Washington Township, near Millersville, to the Johnson-Marion County line east of Greenwood. Part of this was considered to be part of the Churchman Free Gravel Road extension when the Big Four started buying the property. What became Albany Street (Troy Avenue in the rest of Marion County) extended from the Bottoms Road (now Harding Street) to what is now Kitley Road near the Hancock-Marion County line.

With the construction of the new railroad shops, and the new town, at Beech Grove, the railroad knew that it wouldn’t be long before it came up that two major roads in the county were being clogged by rail traffic. The elevation movement had already been in full swing in Marion County, although there were no such facilities completed to that point. Arguments were still being had about who was supposed to pay for all the bridges necessary to accomplish the plan. It was here that the planners decided to make sure that both carriage (and later car) traffic was unimpeded by the mass amounts of train traffic.

Emerson Avenue would be cut off just north of the Big Four railroad tracks north of the new town. This would put the cutoff just shy of 1/2 mile north of Albany, or 1/2 mile south of what would become Raymond Street. A new street would be built just north of the northern right-of-way of the railroad tracks, where it would connect 1/2mile east of Emerson, becoming the continuation of Troy Avenue. About 2/10’s of a mile east of Emerson, a new road would be built at a 90 degree angle to the railroad tracks, going under said railroad tracks, connecting to the new Second Avenue and the street running along the southern railroad right-of-way (to become Bethel Avenue) in Beech Grove.

1956 MapIndy aerial photograph of the Subway Street/Connection Street/Emerson Avenue/Bethel Avenue area near Beech Grove. west of the spur tracks leading into the Beech Grove Shops is a stub end of Emerson Avenue starting at Subway Street. It would connect to essentially a long driveway and a house west of Emerson and south of the railroad tracks.

The first street mentioned would be given the name “Connection Street.” The road that would go under the railroad tracks would be called “Subway Street.” The name subway actually has a historical context in Marion County. When traffic at Indianapolis Union Station got beyond horrible, the city of Indianapolis decided to build an underpass along Illinois Street, under the railroad tracks at the station. This was, for years, called the Illinois Street Subway, although it was more a bridge, even a tunnel, than a subway.

This wasn’t to say that Emerson Avenue disappeared completely between the two sides of the railroad tracks. A small section of Emerson Avenue existed from Subway Street north to a road, and house, 1/4 mile north of Albany Street. It existed this way for years. Until the early 1970’s, as a matter of fact.

Indianapolis Star, 15 April 1971. The photograph shows a four lane bridge in the middle of nowhere, over the tracks of what was, at the time, the Penn Central Railroad at Beech Grove. That bridge would be connected to the surrounding area, and would carry Emerson Avenue into Beech Grove from the north.

The new Emerson Avenue bridge over the Penn Central tracks, as they were called then, was completed in Spring 1971, although the connections to the new bridge weren’t complete. The road that connected to the house in the 1956 photo above would become the new Subway Street, which was turned to intersect and cross Emerson Avenue north of the old connection point.

1956 MapIndy aerial photograph with a 2020 overlay of then current conditions. This shows the driveway and the house, that would be removed when Subway Street was relocated with the building of the Emerson Avenue bridge north of Beech Grove.

The new ending of Subway Street would be at Fifth Avenue, instead of Second. Sections of the old Subway Street, from the new turn to Second Avenue, still exist to this day, almost 50 years later. And looking at the Google Map, or even MapIndy, will show that the property lines of the old Subway Street are still valid.

The railroad that created the town of Beech Grove is long gone. The Big Four became part of the New York Central, officially in 1930. The New York Central gave way, in 1968, to the Penn Central, which found the NYC merging with its long time rival the Pennsylvania. Soon after the creation of the National Passenger Rail Corporation, called Amtrak, there was a move to have Amtrak purchase the Beech Grove shops from Penn Central. This would happen in 1975.

A quick glance at the MapIndy property records leads to some confusing things, however. The property that the Amtrak shops is on does actually belong to the National Passenger Rail Corp. But it has to cross property that is still legally owned by the Penn Central Transportation Company. Now, I realize that the tangled web of property ownership and changing railroads can cause such things. But the property right next to it is owned by New York Central Lines LLC c/o CSX Transportation. As does most of the property north of the Amtrak Shops and south of the railroad mainline. The property records lead to a lot of fun reading. There are four different railroad companies legally listed as owners in that area: National Passenger Rail Corp.; CSX Transportation; New York Central Lines LLC (CSX); and Penn Central Corp (c/o C E Parker General Tax Agent Penn Central Trans Co, Chicago, Illinois). What’s strange is that all the property owned by the Penn Central is exempt from property tax.