Tag Archives: Samuel M. Ralston

Experiencing the Original Dixie Highway in Indiana

September 15, 1915, marked the celebration of Dixie Highway Day in Martinsville, IN. Governor Samuel M. Ralston, Carl G. Fisher, and W. S. Gilbreath, field secretary of the Dixie Highway Association, attended. The celebration, as the name implied, marked the completion of the Dixie Highway through Morgan County.

The three Hoosiers were met on the outskirts of town by directors of the Chamber of Commerce, Company K of the Indiana National Guard, the Martinsville Band, and a host of school children. The parade extended through the business district and on to the two-and-one-half-mile stretch of brick highway, where Governor Ralston laid the first brick.

Dixie Highway Day 1915
Governor Ralston, laying first
brick on the Dixie Highway

At the time, Morgan County had an abundance of knobstone shale within its borders, famous all over the country as paving and building brick material. Martinsville and Brooklyn had three brick plants producing a daily capacity of more than 100,000 bricks.

Governor Ralston complemented the Morgan County citizens for their foresight in his luncheon remarks, “Martinsville is noted for the curative properties of the water. Her sanitariums are widely famed and those institutions will be a standing invitation for the traveling public through the means of the Dixie Highway to avail themselves of your local advantages. Those who plan for greater conveniences for the people of their day and join in storing up blessings for future generations are in the highest and best sense of word public servants. I congratulate you upon the fine spirit of this occasion and the willingness I see here on all sides manifested to do your part in the inauguration and consummation of this public work.”

Knobstone Brick
Knobstone Brick
on the Dixie Highway

Scarborough’s 1916 Official Tour Book recommended this alternate trip from Bloomington to Martinsville. “Until this section of the Dixie Highway is improved, tourists should travel from Bloomington through Ellettsville to Gosport and then on through Paragon to Martinsville, thus avoiding the rough roads and bad hills of the more direct route through Morgan County.” That is why the original alignment goes northwest out of Martinsville across the White River.

To travel on this original alignment of the 1915 Dixie Highway from the Morgan County Court House at the corner of Morgan and Main streets, go north one block and turn left (west) on to West Pike Street. Go seven blocks to North Park Avenue and turn right (north) and then take the immediate left turn onto Bob Gay Parkway. Just past the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department building on the left, the original brick section of the Dixie, proceeds for about 0.7 of a mile toward the White River Bridge.

Original Dixie Highway
Original Dixie Highway
in Martinsville, IN

I invite you go to Martinsville to experience this 100-year-old brick section of the Dixie Highway in Indiana.

For more information on Indiana rides & drives follow this link.

Check out the book Dixie Highway in Indiana

1915 Dixie Highway in Indiana

In early 1915, boosters for the various routes for the proposed Dixie Highway had a few weeks to gather information regarding their favored route for presentation on May 20th. Carl G. Fisher and Thomas Taggart of Indianapolis, both members of the commission, displayed maps of the proposed Indiana routes. The final route: South Bend to New Albany, by way of Plymouth, Rochester, Logansport, Indianapolis, Martinsville, Bloomington, Bedford, and Paoli was a combination of two of the six proposed routes. The commission also approved a route from Chicago to Indianapolis, by way of Danville, Illinois, through Crawfordsville.

Dixie Highway Day
Governor Ralston laying the first brick in a stretch of the Dixie Highway in Indiana

According to reports from the Indiana delegation session at Chattanooga, Tennessee, there was one fight after another. Politics played its part in the whole affair with senators, congressmen, ex-governors, and party leaders from each state being represented. For a time there was such confusion and bitterness that it was feared the whole proposition would be abandoned. Finally, it appeared that all could be satisfied, and the routes through Cincinnati and Louisville were approved.

By mid-August, Thomas Taggart proposed the Dixie Highway should not be for automobiles only. He said it should be so built that it would be just as good for a farmer to haul a load of hay or corn to town as it will be for the automobilist to make a tour in his car. Good roads, he said mean more to the farmer than anyone else, for they mean that he can get more for his products by getting them to market cheaper and quicker. “This is a practical proposition,” he said. He encouraged the election of good men who are interested in the good roads question and awakening public sentiment.

Later in the month, the Christian Science Monitor noted, “The Dixie and the Lincoln Highways will represent engineering achievements which should endure for centuries. We have passed beyond the age of the chariot, but this is the age of the automobile, over these roads, these free roads which shall bring to the north and the south alike, these modern chariots shall roll in unending streams.”

On September 15, 1915, in Martinsville, Indiana, business cares were cast aside, factory, store and school doors were closed and every son and daughter from Morgan County joined in a mammoth celebration of “Dixie Day.” The celebration marked the completion of the Dixie Highway through the county. Governor Samuel M. Ralston, Carl G. Fisher, and W. S. Gilbreath, field secretary of the Dixie Highway Association, lent dignity to the occasion.

A parade formed on the outskirts of town and then marched through the business district and on to the newly completed brick highway stretch. Governor Ralston laid the crown brick bearing his name on a pillar built in commemoration of the day. Then, he laid the first brick in the two-and-one-half-mile stretch of the new Dixie Highway. After a luncheon, the Governor crowned Miss Marguerite Mars as the Dixie Highway Queen. He also commended the county’s production of 100,000 bricks per day of these famous knobstone shale paving bricks.

South Bend wound up with the distinction of being on the main lines of the Lincoln Highway, the National Parks Highway, and the Dixie Highway.

In 1915, Indiana was getting around to improving its roads with concrete and brick highways to enhance travel and get farm goods to market. Today the Dixie Highway and the Lincoln Highway offer many pleasant stretches for our driving pleasure. I invite you to check them out.