Tag Archives: South Bend

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.

1916 Map of Indianapolis
1916 Map of Indianapolis

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.

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

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

My links to early Indiana automobiles

While traveling on the Lincoln Highway just west of South Bend, Indiana, I was reminded of my links to early Indiana automobiles. Let tell you the rest of the story.

My father was born in 1909 on a farm along Michigan Road, the predecessor to the Lincoln Highway, just west of South Bend. Every time I go down Lincolnway past the airport I think about the time Dad took us to the edge of the airport sometime in the late 1950s. We found the remains of his Sumption Prairie schoolhouse. He mentioned the family farm was nearby on western end of the airport grounds along the highway. Today, this area has been greatly altered by numerous airport expansions.

I feel a link to the Lincoln Highway since his farm was along the road when it was routed in 1913. I can imagine Dad going to school, working and playing in the area. He was a witness to the early motorists along this famous pike.

After his family moved into town and he graduated from South Bend Central High School, he completed his Tool Maker Apprenticeship at Studebaker Corporation.

V. J. Horvath at Studebaker 1929
V. J. Horvath at Studebaker 1929

He told many stories about running a piston ring grooving machine along the engine manufacturing line. During the Depression, he left Studebaker and later moved to Indianapolis to work at Allison Division of General Motors.

Mormon Meteor II being loaded
Mormon Meteor II being loaded

I found this photograph in his photo collection of the Mormon Meteor II being loaded onto a truck. The Mormon Meteor II was built at Auburn’s Factory in Connersville, Indiana, in 1937. I can only speculate how he might have been involved with this Bonneville racer.

After World War II, he left Allison to work at machine shops around Indianapolis. During some of the work at these shops, he produced components for race car builders around Central Indiana.

My links to early Indiana automobiles started with the Lincoln Highway, Studebaker Corporation, and mid-century race cars. Then, while I was a youngster, Dad took me to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway many times. One of my earliest recollections is of Jack McGrath working a roadster around the first turn. Dad was my long-time racing companion.

My first-hand interest in automobiles started in the early 1950s and continues today. Thanks Dad!

To find more about Indiana car culture follow this link.

Check out the Dixie Highway in Indiana

Have you read the Images of America: Dixie Highway in Indiana. This book provided many memories about my links to the Dixie Highway in Indiana. Authors Russell S. Rein and Jan Shupert-Arick provide a fascinating historical photo tour of this once major highway.

Dixie Highway in Indiana
The Dixinana Cafe and Service Station
south of La Paz on the Dixie Highway

For me, these links begin with being born about a mile from where the Dixie passes by Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. I used to catch the bus home from high school across the street from the cemetery’s main gate at 34th and Boulevard. Also during high school, I caught butterflies and collected leaves in the cemetery. These days in the fall, my wife and I enjoy visiting the auto pioneer graves of James A. Allison, Carl G. Fisher, Howard C. Marmon, Harry C. Stutz, and the Duesenberg brothers.

The route was the brain child of Carl G. Fisher who proposed a highway linking Chicago to Miami Beach. In September 1915, the first brick was laid in Martinsville, Indiana, on the first official section of the Dixie Highway. Although Fisher’s goal was to encourage the growth of Miami Beach as a resort location, he also helped the economies of those Indiana communities along the Dixie Highway.

My first memories of traveling the Dixie are as a youth on trips from Indianapolis to South Bend. I remember going through the narrow stretch of sycamore trees in Carroll County that is now marked by the Sycamore Row marker. What an experience with the semis passing in the opposite direction.

Seeing the Crosley station wagon atop Roger’s Steak House in LaPaz reminded us that we were nearing South Bend. Other South Bend landmarks included Bonnie Doon’s Drive-IN restaurant, the Drake Motel, and the Studebaker factory just south of downtown.

On the way back home to Indianapolis, passing the Toll House at 4702 N. Michigan Road meant we were a few minutes from home.

All of these landmarks from my youth are documented, plus many more. Images of America: Dixie Highway in Indiana provides a compelling look at the route’s history. It’s one that you might enjoy contemplating a drive along the Dixie Highway in Indiana.

Peruse Images of America: Dixie Highway in Indiana at Amazon.com.

To find more about Indiana car culture follow this link.

1915 Lincoln Highway Film Tour

On May, 15, 1915, Henry C. Ostermann, council-at-large for the Lincoln Highway Association with his wife in the official Stutz, led group of intrepid travelers on a Coast-to-Coast trip from the Atlantic Ocean shore in Coney Island, New York to the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.

Cars ready for the start in Coney Island
Cars ready for the start in Coney Island

The purpose of the trip was not only to show the practicability of an ocean-to-ocean trip by automobile with the new era of road improvement stimulated by the Lincoln Highway, but also to film civic and industrial life and points of scenic beauty along the route that could be used in making the various sections of the country better acquainted with each other. The film was later exhibited at the exposition, schools, clubs, and other organizations of civic nature in other parts of the country

Official cars on the 3,384 mile trip represented Studebaker, Stutz, Packard, and Wayne Pump Company of Fort Wayne, Indiana, R. E. Spencer and Leon Loeb served as official film operators for the association and traveled in the Stutz. E. A. Holden, Ostermann’s secretary, accompanied Studebaker Corporation’s officials R. C. Sackett and J. Meinzinger in securing important road data of interest to motorists. T. A. Stalker and C. K. Reiling drove the Packard, and Mr. and Mrs. O. P. Canaday rode the Wayne Pump Company car.

J. M. Studebaker at construction near South Bend
J. M. Studebaker at construction near South Bend

South Bend, Indiana, staged a transportation pageant to celebrate “Lincoln Highway Day” and its transportation heritage, all of it captured by Lincoln Highway film crew. Thousands lined both sides of streets crowding into front yards and overflowing onto front porches. J. M. Studebaker drove one of his first carriages that was continuously used for over 60 years. Abraham Lincoln’s carriage also built by Studebaker was displayed. Of the 300 feet of film allotted to filming in South Bend, 175 were necessary to capture the pageant.

The tourists were received at every stopping point with utmost cordiality and enthusiasm. Most of the cities were decorated in holiday bunting, with a suspension of business operations. Citizens turned out in large numbers hoping that they might appear in the film.

Dipping their wheels in the Pacific Ocean
Dipping their wheels in the Pacific Ocean

Upon arriving in San Francisco on August 25th, the official vehicles dipped their wheels in the Pacific Ocean and then proceeded on to the Panama Pacific International Exposition.

Unfortunately no copies of the official film exist today because of the explosive nature of the film stock. Thank goodness, E. A. Holden captured still photographs to document his scrapbook, which is the source of the photographs used here. What an interesting glimpse of travel 100 years ago.