Tag Archives: Michigan Road

How early roads shaped our lives

Over the past few weeks, I have become more aware how early roads shaped our lives. While visiting some friends in Madison, Indiana, one of them asked what was the first highway in Indiana. After some thought I correctly answered the Michigan Road.

The Indiana State Legislature commissioned the Michigan Road in 1826, thus predating construction of the National Road in Indiana by one year. The Michigan Road became a key route in opening the state for settlement by connecting Madison on the Ohio River to Michigan City on Lake Michigan via the new state capital in Indianapolis.

Pioneers used the road as a path to homesteading new lands up through the central part of the state. Imagine these intrepid souls coming down the Ohio River on flat boats and disembarking at Madison – a long, hard journey. Next, they procured their homestead deeds and then set out along the Michigan Road to their new land on the frontier in Indiana.

The road was improved over the course of the 19th century and early 20th century as a series of county, state, and US highways. Now, it is officially recognized as the Michigan Road Historic Byway by the State of Indiana. You can retrace the route of the Byway by following the directions here.

1916 Map of South Bend

1916 Map of South Bend

I have two links to the road. My father was born on a farm along the Michigan Road just west of South Bend. A little while later, while he was growing up, this section of the road became part of the Lincoln Highway. He later used the road to move to Indianapolis shortly before the start of World War II. Road improvements on this section of the road, in October 1914 during Good Roads Day, were some of the first along this route to northern Indiana. I was born near the Butler University campus not far from where the Michigan Road crosses the White River. I can still recall hearing the trucks crossing the river bridge and climbing the hill on their way out of town.

Just south of the river is the highest point in Indianapolis at Crown Hill Cemetery. This is a great place to get a panoramic view of the city.

The road as it winds through Indianapolis from the southeast to the northwest provides a good indication of migration to the city and its development as thoroughfare.

1916 Map of Indianapolis

1916 Map of Indianapolis

So, what’s your story on how early roads shaped our lives?

Ligonier Indiana Automotive Landmarks

Yesterday, I enjoyed a great day at the Indiana Lincoln Highway Association Retreat for board members and guests in Ligonier, IN. In the morning, we took a walking tour of downtown and discovered some Indiana automotive landmarks.

Reo Cars Ghost Sign

Reo Cars Ghost Sign
in Ligonier Indiana
Copyright © 2012 Dennis E. Horvath

As we walked north on Cavin St. (the former N. Lincolnway) someone noticed a ghost sign for the Ligonier Garage on the south façade at 106 South Cavin. A little while later, we visited the Ligonier Historical Museum on Main Street. The folks there were very helpful in providing reference materials to attempt to date the sign. A 1914 Sanborn map noted that the first floor of the building was a garage with a cement floor, but no proprietor was listed. A 1916 Chautauqua program had a Reo advertisement with the same address.

Mier Carriage & Buggy Co.

Mier Carriage & Buggy Co.
in Ligonier Indiana
Copyright © 2012 Dennis E. Horvath

Earlier while driving around town, I noticed a three story building with a crumbling west façade at 104 North Water St. While perusing the same 1914 Sanborn map, I discovered that this was the former site of the Mier Carriage & Buggy Company. The map provides a description of how materials and finished vehicles flowed through the building. Sales, body making, wood working, and wheel shop were on the first floor; with painting, varnishing, axles, and rubber tiring on the second floor; and body finishing and upholstering on the third floor.

The Mier Carriage & Buggy Company had the distinction of building the first three-story building in town. A.B. Mier joined his father Solomon Mier in the buggy business at the turn of the twentieth century. They ventured into the automotive field in 1908, when they added a two-cylinder engine with a friction transmission and double-chain drive to their buggy offerings. They sold about 100 of these high-wheeler runabouts with solid rubber tires and right-hand drive controls for less than $600. Longer wheelbase motorized runabouts, stanhopes, and surreys were offered for 1909. Thereafter, the Miers returned to exclusive manufacture of horse drawn carriages and wagons.

Unfortunately, with the deteriorating condition of this structure, it looks like we will soon lose another Indiana automotive landmark. I understand that currently, there are no plans to save this building.

It’s time to get out and enjoy some Indiana automotive landmarks along the Lincoln Highway, Dixie Highway, National Road, and the Michigan Road. In the future, I’ll share upcoming events along these highways. Visit the Indiana Lincoln Highway Association website for more information.