The Dunkirk & Moore Pike: There’s gold in that thar…gravel?

D.B. Moore was a Delaware County farmer and an early advocate for free public roads. A resident of rural Niles Township, Moore was deeply suspicious of big-city big-wigs and their big-time motives! That’s part of what makes his story -and the story of the Dunkirk & Moore Pike1– interesting. That, and gold. Gold makes everything more intriguing.

The Dunkirk & Moore Pike, as it appeared in Griffing, Gordon, & Company’s 1887 atlas of Delaware County.

Early rural roads were terrible. Turnpikes -privately-owned toll roads that used their funds to pay for upkeep and maintenance- tried to solve that. A whopping eleven of them radiated out of Muncie by 18802! In 1883, fifteen of Delaware County’s turnpikes collected $83,714.68 in tolls, which was $53,000 more than it cost to maintain them3. That tidy profit infuriated the farmers who used the turnpikes most, so a spirited debate erupted in the newspapers about their utility. Eventually, county officials began to buy up the old turnpike companies4.

D.B. Moore’s writings on the topic were frequent components of the editorial pages. “When the people of Delaware County realize that they have some rights that Muncie lawyers and shysters are bound to respect,” he wrote, “we can then hope to improve our country and move on in the grand march of progression, but just as long as farmers will allow that class of men to think and act for them and dictate to them, just so long will enterprise be checked5.”

D.B. Moore’s gravel pit, as it appeared on December 20, 2022.

D.B. Moore was not just a friend of the downtrodden farmer: he had a vested interest in building public roads since he owned a quarry from which stone could be used to pave them. As local officials floated taking control of Delaware County’s turnpikes, Moore proposed that they pay for one that connected his property to nearby Dunkirk6. After contentious debate towards the proper assessed value of Moore’s road, commissioners finally agreed to his pitch, paying Jon T. Gardner and John Linville to build Dunkirk & Moore Pike, sometimes known as the Moore Free Gravel Road, for $4,0327.

Given the controversy surrounding the assessed value of the road he intended to use his gravel to build, it should come as no surprise that Moore later became a candidate for County Assessor in 1900. The following year, he sold 140 acres of his land to Edward Weinman for $7,0008 but continued to operate the gravel quarry. That’s where the real intrigue starts.

In 1901, D.B. Moore raced to the big city with mineral specimens he’d found in the gravel from his pit: Moore was sure that the samples he found were gold, and needed Muncie’s highfalutin’ professionals to tell him if he had. So much for being suspicious of those big-city big-wigs!

Pyrite. Image courtesy Wikimedia user James Petts under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

A jeweler advised that what Moore had discovered was nothing but common pyrite- fool’s gold. Nevertheless, D.B. Moore was undeterred and took his samples to Congressman George Q. Cromer, who offered to send the minerals to the federal assay, or mineral-testing, office9.

Eventually, a reporter from The Muncie Evening Times tracked Moore down. The two sprinted to Andrews Drug Store in downtown Muncie to perform some tests. The mineral samples were submerged in hydrochloric acid and acetic acid, chemicals which dissolved the rocks but left the metal embedded into them intact. Subsequent tests disintegrated silver, iron, and copper, but left the mystery materials undisturbed10.

The Dunkirk & Moore Pike about two miles west of Dunkirk, as it appeared on December 20, 2022.

Moore was steadfast in his belief that he’d struck gold and was elated by his luck11, just as you or I would be if we discovered that the ornamental pear tree out front seemed to bloom with winning Hoosier Lottery scratch-offs. Unfortunately, Moore’s fastidiousness in using his gravel to maintain the road that took his name may have actually decreased his wealth, if it was really gold he’d found: As The Muncie Evening Times put it, “How much gold, if gold it is, has been spread over the roads, cannot be estimated. There has been no previous mineral formation discovered in the county but this does not dampen the ardor of Mr. Moore12.”

D.B. Moore’s gravel quarry, as it appeared from the air in 1967.

Accounts of a palatial estate in Niles Township are absent from the newspaper, so it seems likely that he didn’t strike gold in his quarry after all. In fact, there’s little mention of Moore after his adventure. In 1905, he applied to receive black bass from the Indiana Fish Commission to stock what was, by that point, known as Moore’s Lake13. He died three years later, at the age of 69 and was buried in Black Cemetery near the Muncie Drag Strip.

The segment of County Road 1200 that was once the Dunkirk & Moore Pike, highlighted in green. Satellite imagery courtesy Google, copyright IndianaMap Framework Data. Landsat /Copernicus, Maxar Technologies, USDA/FPAC/GEO.

D.B. Moore’s free gravel road, now known as East County Road 1200-North, has outlived the man behind it for more than a century. Moore’s segment of the road is about 3.5 miles long and begins near his property at the corner of 1200 and North County Road 550-East. A drive along it is typical of traveling down any other county road.

Niles Township’s Huffman school on the Dunkirk & Moore Pike. Photo taken April 17, 2021.

Niles Township’s Hufman schoolhouse sits half a mile west of Moore’s gravel pit on the old pike. Samuel Selvey deeded the township a section of his land to build a schoolhouse there in 187914 after it was relocated from a plot on George Huffman’s property. The school closed after the 1914-1915 term, and its students were probably sent to Dunkirk15.

The Moore And Dunkirk Pike as it appeared on December 20, 2022.

Moore’s Pike extends another three miles past the schoolhouse as it makes its way towards Dunkirk. Unfortunately, none of my inspections of its pavement over the years have yielded any riches.

The Dunkirk & Moore Pike deposits eastbound travelers at Indiana State Road 167 at Dunkirk’s southernmost edge. There, the road passes the town’s Crown City Lanes bowling alley and an auto mechanic’s shop before it reaches State Road 167, which connects the community with Albany and was first designated in 193116.

The entrance to Frank Merry Park. Photo taken December 20, 2022.

If you fancy yourself a modern-day forty-niner and want to see Moore’s Pike for yourself, start by taking IN-167 from Albany to the Family Dollar in Dunkirk and make a left onto what’s signed as Eaton Pike, or East County Road 1200-North in Delaware County. From there, dig your way west until you reach North County Road 550-East. Want to check Moore’s old quarry? Go a third of a mile south of the pike and prepare your pick-axe, scuba gear, and membership card: in 1955, Moore’s old pit became part of the privately-owned Frank Merry Park17.

Sources Cited
1 Griffing, B. N. (1887). Mt. Pleasant Township. An atlas of Delaware County, Indiana . map, Philadelphia, PA; Griffing, Gordon, & Company.
2 Haimbaugh, F.D. (1924). History of Delaware County, Indiana. Volume I. Historical Publishing Company [Indianapolis]. book.
3 Toll and Free Roads (1883, October 1). The Muncie Morning News. p. 3.
4 Greene, D. (1953, October 6). Seen and Heard in Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 6.
5 Free Turnpikes (1880, September 1). The Muncie Times. p. 2.
6 Commissioners Allowances (1882, March 25). The Muncie Morning News. p. 3.
7 Commissioner’s Court (1883, May 4). The Muncie Morning News. p. 3.
8 Delaware County, Indiana. (1882, March 1). Deed Book 49. p. 310.
9 A Gold Mine In The County (1901, October 24). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 1.
10(See footnote 9).
11(See footnote 9).
12 (See footnote 9).
13 Applicants for Fish (1905, March 29). The Muncie Star. p. 5.
14 Delaware County, Indiana. (1879 May 30). Deed Book 44. p. 403.
15 Delaware County Public Schools. (1915). School directory, Delaware County public schools, Delaware County, Indiana 1915-1916. Muncie, IN. 
16 Maintenance on 391 (1931, September 25). The Franklin Evening Star. p. 3.
17 Recreation Area for Use of Glass Plant Employees (1955, September 6). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 1.

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