Some of the first roads in Elkhart County, Indiana
From: Pioneer History of Elkhart County, Indiana
With Sketches and Stories
By: Henry S. K. Bartholomew
Press of the Goshen Printery
Goshen, Indiana 1930


PEOPLE who travel over the paved roads of which Elkhart county has a goodly number can scarcely imagine what the condition of those roads was when they were first laid out. Most of them were cut through the woods and the vehicles which passed over them had at first and for a number of years to wind around stumps, bumping over the roots and miring down in the "chuck holes" which were worn by the wheels. Dr. M. M. Latta once told the writer that when he first saw Goshen, which was in 1840, even in Main street there were still quite a number of stumps and the wagon tracks were somewhat like those in the roads which had been opened through the county. Almost a century has elapsed since the first roads were laid out and the transformation from that primitive condition to the paved highways has been so gradual that nobody can trace the steps that were taken from time to time to effect the improvement. As late as forty years ago the roads where the land was heavy clay were so muddy in late fall and early spring as to be almost impassable. Particularly was this true in the regions where there was or had been a heavy growth of timber and which were known as "thick woods" districts.

The first road laid out through Elkhart county was the one that was known for many years as the Logansport road, on account of its haying its beginning at Logansport. It was authorized by an act of the legislature, approved December 29, 1830, a little less than a year after the county was erected. The road was ordered by this act to be laid out from Logansport via Turkey Creek and Elkhart prairies to the northern line of the state in the direction of Pigeon prairie in Michigan territory. It entered the county from the south not far from Milford Junction, ran north with some variations to and through Goshen, covering its Main street; then northeast, constituting the old Goshen and Middlebury road to a point a mile south of Middlebury. From there it went north through Middlebury and angling somewhat toward the state line. The road still remains substantially as it was laid out and is one of the familiar highways of the county. The legislature appointed as viewers for this road William Latta and John Jackson of Elkhart county and Alexander Chamberlain of Cass county. They were ordered to meet May 1, 1831 and when their work was completed to file their report in Elkhart county and Cass county.

The second road is a county road, laid out by order of the board of commissioners at its second session, held in November, 1831. Following is the provision therefor, as it appears in the records of the board: "Ordered that John Penwell, Jacob Puterbaugh and John Adams be and they are hereby appointed road viewers to view, mark and lay out a road, commencing on the western boundary of the county, where the road now crosses the county line that leads from Pleasant Plain to South Bend and thence to South Bend and thence up the St. Joseph river in the direction of Pigeon prairie." This is the road which extends from the west line of the county, just south of the St. Joseph river, passing through Elkhart, Bristol and Vistula and a part of it forming the Elkhart and Bristol road. The road mentioned in the order as extending from Pleasant Plain had not then been laid out, but was used by travelers to and fro between the towns of Fort Wayne and South Bend. It is now a part of what is known as the Mishawaka road.

The third road was the old Fort Wayne road as it was known and is still known by the older residents. Previous to the laying out of this road travelers passing toward the west or northwest followed the old Indian trails where they could do so and where this could not be done they cut roads through the dense forests. Fort Wayne was then the trading point for all northern Indiana and was also the seat of the government land office. All who took up homesteads on government land had to go there to secure title to their homes. The difficulties encountered in these journeys became so great that the legislature recognized the necessity of providing a better highway and passed an act "to establish a road from Fort Wayne in Allen county to South Bend in St. Joseph county by way of Gocean in Elkhart county." ( Note the peculiar spelling of Goshen). The act names Nathan Coleman of the county of Allen, James Blair of the county of Elkhart and Samuel Martin of the county of St. Joseph as commissioners to mark, survey and locate a state road from Fort Wayne in Allen county, by the nearest and best route to South Bend in St. Joseph county, making "Gocean" in Elkhart county a point. The commissioners were instructed to have respect to individual property so far as not to increase materially the distance of said road. They were to receive a dollar a day for their services. George Crawford one of the pioneers of the village of Pulaski, and afterward a leading citizen of Elkhart, was chosen to survey the road. This was an extremely difficult task which he completed late in the fall of 1832 and the building of the road was done the next year. In an article written for the First National Bank of Elkhart and published in the Elkhart Truth, Frank J. Stahr says: "Crawford and his assistants, traveling with an ox team and camping out at night, had discouraging obstacles to contend with and overcome. Throughout the seventy-six miles from terminal to terminal, there was only an occasional homesteader with his rough cabin in the clearing, and all the rest was unbroken timber or river vegetation. His notes show that at Benton the Elkhart river was two hundred feet wide with eight hundred feet to be bridged. The region traversed by the pioneer highway was destined to become as fine as the best agricultural country in the middle west". To the traveler who passes over the former Lincoln highway between Fort Wayne and South Bend, it seems scarcely possible that such a condition ever existed. Mr. Crawford and the men who assisted him certainly did a great work for this section of Indiana when he made this survey and the citizens of the counties through which the road passes should not permit his name to be forgotten. From the time this road was completed it has been one of the most important highways in the state, rivaling the old national road and the Michigan road. Like all of the state roads it was laid out sixty-six feet wide.

The same legislature which authorized the building of the Fort Wayne road also passed an act to establish a state road from the county seat of Grant county to the county seat of Elkhart county. The act was approved January 24, 1832. Lewis Rogers was appointed to survey the road and was ordered to begin the work June 1, 1832. The road which was laid out at this time is the one generally known as the Huntington road.

In 1836 the legislature passed an act appointing James Davis of Elkhart county as a commissioner to view, mark and lay out a state road from the village of Elkhart by way of Jamestown to intersect the Michigan road near the old boundary line running west between townships 36 and 37. This is section eight of the act.

Section twelve of the same act names Luke Hulett of Elkhart county, Anthony Niles and D. B. Hereman of LaGrange county as commissioners to view, mark and locate a state road from the town of Goshen in the county of Elkhart on the nearest and best route through the center of LaGrange and Steuben counties to the Perrysburgh road where it strikes the eastern line of the state. This is probably the road which leads from Lincoln avenue a little north of east to the county line.

The road from Bristol to Middlebury was laid out in 1834 by order of a legislative act. An act approved January 13, 1845 orders a re-location of the road, naming Samuel P. Judson, James Brown and Henry Warren as commissioners for that purpose.

The first road from Goshen to Bristol followed the old Indian trail and wound around the hills, marshes and ponds. It started in a northeasterly direction, coinciding substantially with what is now Middlebury street to the William Vesey farm just outside the city limits, and now owned and occupied by William Kitson. Then it went north past what was for many years the Wolfe farm and from there it angled a little northwest to where the Pleasant View church now stands, where it crossed Pine Creek. At that place the first bridge was built in the township. From there it went almost due north to the stone house which was built by C. A. Barthel and occupied by him until he died. Then it angled northwest to the Neff farm, then almost due north to the Rowdabush farm, occupied for many years by the late Frank Heald. From that place it angled northeast to Bristol. The road was fourteen miles long. In 1846 the present Goshen and Bristol road was laid out.

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