Indiana’s early, rural roads were often little more than a pair of dirty tracks through the countryside that were unsuitable for all but the most basic forms of transportation. Around the 1860s, turnpikes sprung up to address the problem. Privately-owned toll roads that were maintained to higher standards, turnpikes got their name from a “pike,” a spiked barrier that was physically turned by the toll house operator to provide access to travelers. In the 1880s, eleven turnpikes radiated out of Muncie1, and Bethel Pike was one of them. Later, it became part of the early Hub Highway.
Turnpikes were most often named after the places they connected, and the right of way for the Muncie & Bethel Turnpike Company was granted in March, 18692. A local farmer and industrialist named Jacob W. Miller was one of the company’s most prominent organizers and served as the first president of the corporation3.
Ten years later, the company held its yearly meeting at the Delaware County Courthouse. Stockholders passed a resolution to lower the toll and abolish passes4. The following year, the road was damaged by heavy rains, costing $200 to repair5. In 1883, fifteen of Delaware County’s turnpikes collected $83,714.68 in tolls, which was $53,000 more than it cost to maintain them6! Naturally, that tidy profit infuriated the farmers who used the turnpikes most, and a spirited debate erupted in the newspapers about their utility. Eventually, county officials began to buy up the old turnpike companies, and the last was purchased in 18997.
Shortly after the turn of the century, early automobile clubs began to promote national auto trails that were, in many ways, precursors to today’s state highways. By 1922, the Hoosier State Automobile Association had laid out a whopping thirty-four marked routes that crisscrossed Indiana8! One was the Hub Highway, which was first planned in 19179.
The highway got its name because it served as a “hub” that connected the Sciota Harrison trail from Chillicothe to Portsmouth, Ohio with the Jackson Highway to Chicago and the Bloomington Way to Bloomington, Illinois at Lafayette, Indiana`10. Guy C. Baker of Greenville and Everett Moffit of Muncie were two of the road’s early officials11, and the highway opened in 1918, appearing on the Rand McNally Auto Trails Map as “36.”
Driving on the Hub Highway was nothing like hopping on an interstate today: it was established along existing roads and often jogged at section lines by taking ninety-degree turns. To accommodate its disjointed routing, the automobile association called for no fewer than five poles marked with the Hub Highway logo per mile between crossroads, along with three markers on the near side of any turns and two signs on the far corner of any intersection where the highway continued straight12.
The Hub Highway’s opening ceremonies were grand: in Indiana, a delegation of more than a hundred people left Union City, picking up more as they passed through Winchester, Farmland, Parker, and Selma. The group was joined by Muncie’s delegation at the Delaware Country Club before they proceeded to the Hotel Kirby downtown for lunch. Afterward, they headed further northwest, where they were met with similar delegations from Alexandria and Elwood.
In Delaware and Madison counties, the Hub Highway followed the Muncie and Selma Pike to East Main Street in Muncie. There, it turned north onto High Street, traveled up to Wheeling Avenue, and followed Bethel Pike towards Alexandria where it entered that city as Washington Street. About three miles west of Alexandria, the road turned north to join Superior Street through Orestes, then turned west to follow the Alexandria-Elwood Pike towards Elwood and Tipton.
In 1919, the Indiana State Highway Commission awarded the first contracts to build official state highways. Bethel Pike and the segment of the Hub Highway that follows it was not among them, but the rest of its track from Ohio to Elwood eventually became State Roads 21, 28, and 32. Nevertheless, nearly all of the Hub Highway’s path on Bethel Pike is still drivable today, starting from Wheeling Avenue in Muncie.
Bethel Pike and the segment of the Hub Highway that follows it begins at Neely’s Addition at Wheeling Avenue northwest of downtown Muncie as Bethel Avenue. Neely’s Addition was platted in 1893, but most of its houses date from 1910 to about 1940. Today, the neighborhood mostly consists of rental properties occupied by Ball State students.
Aside from a generous selection of craftsman bungalows, many of the buildings that frame Bethel Avenue’s next half-mile are nondescript multi-units as the road skirts Ball State’s northern boundaries. This building was constructed in 1949 as Turner’s Drive-In. Ten years later, Baker’s Milky Way opened at the site. It’s been a Pizza King since 1964 or so.
Ball State’s Worthen Arena looms over Bethel Avenue’s first half mile. Erected in 1992, the gymnasium seats 11,500 to watch the Cardinals play basketball and volleyball. From there, Bethel passes more of Ball State’s outdoor athletics fields and stadiums as the part of Muncie it traverses transitions into a heavily-trafficked commercial strip surrounding McGalliard Road. Here, the old road passes its first community west of Muncie, known as Andersonville. The hamlet probably took its name from Alice J. Anderson, who owned 118 acres near the intersection of Bethel Pike and Hagedorn Road, now known as Tillotson Avenue13.
Andersonville was small and featured little more than a gas station, grocery store, and a handful of houses14. Center Township’s District 3 schoolhouse also stood near the community. It was commonly known as McClellan and Phillips before it closed in 190315. Although it was visible on maps published by the Indiana State Highway Commission up through 1980, I believe that nothing remains of the schoolhouse or the community today.
Originally a farm lane, McGalliard Road was extended and expanded repeatedly beginning in the late 1950s to eventually serve as State Road 332, which connects Muncie with I-69. In 1973, McGalliard was extended to four lanes from Tillotson Avenue to Bethel Pike, which cut the pike into two discontiguous segments connected by Chadam Lane. The intersection of Bethel, Chadam, Clara Lane, and Timber Lane is one of the busiest in the county. More than 25,000 vehicles passed through there every day in 199516! A state proposal to alleviate the traffic congestion by replacing the Chadam Lane crossover with an extended Everbook Lane nearby was shot down in 198517, and a city proposal was shot down ten years later. Though some small improvements have been made at the intersection, traffic jams remain the unfortunate norm.
Most of Muncie’s big box stores and hotels are located around Bethel Avenue past its crossing with McGalliard. The area basically serves as Ball State University’s front door, and the university is the main reason for most to come to Muncie off of the highway. In the year 2000, Bethel Avenue’s traffic patterns were altered north of the Morrison Crossing shopping center to widen the road, alleviate congestion, and better provide access for a strip of homes located on Allison Avenue18. Eastbound traffic stays on Bethel, but cars headed west must peel off on Baker Lane to access Morrison Road.
The road leaves Muncie’s city limits at Morrison Road, about three miles northwest of where it starts. From there, Bethel Pike is a typical two-lane country road. Two miles west of Morrison Road, it passes Antioch Church. The church got its start in 1891 as one of three congregations that worshipped at the Pleasant Run Church three and a half miles southwest on Jackson Street Pike. In 1894, the German Baptist Brethren group left and erected this building19.
Past Antioch Church, Bethel Pike’s rural nature couldn’t be more of a stark contrast to the bustling commercial strip only a few miles back. Two miles after the church, Bethel Pike briefly jogs to the north on County Road 700-West before it resumes its northwesterly path. Hub Highway signposts once directed traffic to continue west there.
The Job Garner-Jacob W. Miller house sits at the north side of the jog. Built at some point between 1835 and 1850, the Greek Revival house is one of the oldest homes in Delaware County. Jacob Miller -the farmer and industrialist who served as the first president of the Muncie and Bethel Turnpike Company- died in 1902, but his wife lived in the home for two years until her own death20. In 1957, the property was purchased by Bernell Mitchell, Jacob Miller’s great-great grandson, and remains in the family today. In 1986, the home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Just past the house, Bethel Pike enters what was once the community of Harrison. Platted in 1864 on Garner’s farm, the village was probably not much more than a rural post office established twelve years earlier21. After Jacob Miller purchased the farm, the post office was shuttered, and Harrison disappeared.
Miller founded his original farm about a third of a mile west of the jog in 1839 after he walked here from Madison, Indiana. In the late 1800s, farmers drove animals past his land to the livestock pens two miles south at Reed Station22, so an 1868 farmhouse on Miller’s land was subdivided to allow the family to rent temporary accommodations to the cattle drivers. Though it’s no longer divided, the old inn retains two front doors as a reminder of its history23. Today, it’s also still in the family as part of a working Hoosier Heritage Farm.
The village of Bethel sits less than a mile from Miller’s farmhouse. The first indication that you’re somewhere rather than nowhere is the Bethel Church and cemetery. The first Bethel Church, a log cabin that housed a United Brethren congregation, was built in 1834, two years after Indiana’s first land grants were issued. A second sanctuary was built on the south side of the turnpike in 1867 on Joshua Null’s land24. By 1916, enough parishioners had died or moved away that the United Brethren Conference decided to shut the church down. Thankfully, area residents initiated a campaign to buy the building from the conference before it could be closed. All those dead parishoners had a big impact on the church: shortly after the congregation was saved, the building was moved closer to the turnpike to make room for more graves. The current sanctuary was completed in 1953 after the cemetery ran out of space25.
The village of Bethel itself sits on the other side of Jake’s Creek, a tributary of the larger Killbuck Creek that was named for Jacob Miller. Today, the community consists of the church, an abandoned building, and ten or eleven houses. A mile north, Harrison Township’s District 6 schoolhouse once served the community from its site at the intersection of Langdon and Royerton Roads26.
Bethel was platted by Charles Lindley in 1837 as “Bethlin,” possibly a rural corruption of the word “Bethlehem27.” After Harrison dried up less than a mile to the west, Isaac Stout established a post office in Bethel. Stout named the post office after himself and operated it out of a store he owned at the southwest corner of Bethel Pike and Langdon Road. The post office was discontinued in 190128, and afterward, an old man named Hedgeland carried mail from Gaston to Muncie through Bethel since the turnpike was the only gravel road in all of Harrison Township for many years29.
The abandoned building in Bethel -by far the area’s most prominent structure- was built in 1897 as an Oddfellows lodge. Seven charter members30 met on the building’s second floor, and the first story was most often home to a general store that later featured a pair of gas pumps. In the 1940s, Sherman and Lucille Ratcliffe operated the Bethel General Store, living in the former lodge hall that had been renovated into an apartment31. Today, the building appears empty, but whoever owns it now occasionally sells bicycles from out front.
Bethel Pike crosses over I-69 a mile and a half after it reaches its namesake. From there, it travels six-and-a-half miles before it arrives at Alexandria, where the old Hub Highway follows Washington Street toward Orestes on its way to Elwood along the modern-day routing of State Road 28. Tomorrow, we’ll explore the rest of the road from I-69 to State Road 28.
1 Haimbaugh, F.D. (1924). History of Delaware County, Indiana. Volume I. Historical Publishing Company [Indianapolis]. book.
2 Kemper, G. W. H. (1908). A Twentieth Century History of Delaware County, Indiana, Volume 1. book, Lewis Publishing Company.
3 National Register of Historic Places, Job Garner-Jacob W. Miller House, Delaware County, Indiana, National Register # 86001264.
4 Educational (1879, March 6). The Muncie Daily News. p. 1.
5 City Items (1880, March 8). The Muncie Daily News. p. 1.
6 Toll and Free Roads (1883, October 1). The Muncie Morning News. p. 3.
7 Greene, D. (1953, October 6). Seen and Heard in Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 6.
8 Motorists, Here are Markings of State’s Highways (1922, November 1). The Lafayette Journal and Courier. p. 9.
9 Spurgeon, B. (1984, March 20). Seen and Heard in Our Nieghborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 4.
10 Hub Highway Is Organized (1917, September 27). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 3.
11 Hub Highway is New State Trail (1917, September 27). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 2.
12 (See footnote 8).
13 Delaware County Indiana (1900). Map Collection, Indiana Division, Indiana State Library. map.
14 Greene, D. (1977, March 1). Seen and Heard in Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 4.
15 (See footnote 2).
16 Yencer, R. (2000, March 26). McGalliard tops at traffic counts, congestion. The Muncie Star Press. p. 78.
17 Cleland, T. (1985, May 17). McGalliard-Bethel change opposed. The Muncie Evening Press. p. 1.
18 Yencer, R. (2000, July 6). Busy Bethel slowed by reconstruction. The Muncie Star Press. p. 7.
19 Country Church Comes Alive With Antiques, Crafts, Show (1972, October 8). The Muncie Star. p. 18.
20 (See footnote 3).
21 Flook, C. (2019). Lost Towns of Delaware County, Indiana. The History Press [Charleston]. book. p. 115.
22 Wickliffe, K. (2012, April 1). A piece of Indiana HISTORY. The Muncie Star Press. pp. 34-37.
23 (See footnote 22).
24 McBride, M. (2006, June 21). Volunteers preserve cemetery. The Muncie Star Press. p. 15.
25 New Bethel Church to Replace 80-Year-Old Structure (1953, October 8). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 36.
26 Griffing, B. N. (1887). An atlas of Delaware County, Indiana. map, Philadelphia, PA; Griffing, Gordon, & Company.
27 (See footnote 21).
28 Forte, J. (n.d.). Indiana Delaware County. Jim Forte Postal History. Retrieved January 14, 2023, from Jim Forte Postal History.
29 Greene, D. (1949, May 3). Seen and Heard in Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 4.
30 (See footnote 2).
31 (See footnote 29).
9 thoughts on “Bethel Pike: Eight miles of the old Hub Highway from Muncie to Bethel”
Nice. I didn’t know about this auto trail. I also never realized that some auto trails were meant, at least on some level, to connect to more major auto trails.
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I didn’t either until three days ago!
Jim- actually, Richard Simpson had a post about the auto trails I stumbled across in the very late stages of pulling this together. I’d found the same article in the Lafayette newspaper he did, and used it to recreate the Hub Highway marker.
Well done Ted! Very interesting read.
I live just a few miles from SR28 in Tippecanoe Co. And not far from the Jackson Hwy.
Thanks, Greg! I know very little about the Jackson Hwy. I’ll have to learn more!
Very nice history paper, thank you for all the hard work
THANK YOU FOR DOING THE WORK OF A LOCAL HISTORIAN – ONE WHO ACTUALLY USED PRIMARY SOURCES TO GIVE A HISTORICAL “LOOK BACK” AT THE ORIGINS OF BETHEL PIKE & other “pikes” we wonder about, but do not know the history of. What an inclusive article introducing things I have never heard of!! I intrigued to find out Bethel Pike was a leg on an extensive combination of “Pikes” connecting many communities, including Alexandria where I taught for 30+ years. [The Madison County & Alexandria Monroe Township Historical Societies are researching & publishing information about 1st white settler in Alexandria, Micajah Chamness (spring 1821), & other historical information for the upcoming Madison County Bicentennial Celebration)
I have lived between 700W to 750W for almost 80 years. So many of the structures mentioned in the Bethel community are familiar to me. In fact, my father, Bernell Mitchell, worked at the general store that existed in the 1st floor of the Odd Fellows Lodge. And both he & his mother Edna Main Mitchell (both descendants of Jacob Miller) attended the District 6 School House you mentioned being located 1 mile north of Bethel Pike on Langdon Road. It is thanks to my dad (& his daughter & son-in-law Lee & Kathleen Caward) that the Jacob Miller homestead has been preserved in excellent condition. His son Larry & Vickie Mitchell live in Jacob Miller’s original home which was used during the cattle drives you mentioned.
Lucille Ratcliffe, who lived in the “Bethel Store” & ran a general store in the late 1940’s – early 1950’s, was my Sunday School teacher at the Bethel Church of the Brethern you mentioned, now replaced by the cement block Bethel Church (constructed in 1950’s) across the road from the Bethel Cemetery. Current cemetery officers are Larry Mitchell, Randy Stout, Ron Thomas, & Kathleen Caward – all local community members. Special thanks go to Lee Caward & Randy Stout who have been & are spending many unsung volunteer hours restoring and cleaning up the cemetery.
Thanks too for the information on the artisian wells in this area. You should print an updated “History of Delaware County, Indiana,” in 2 volumes by Frank D Haimbaugh, 1856-1924!!
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Thank you so much! You’re a wealth of information. Your family has a lot of history in the area. How cool!!