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.
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.