Wheeling, New Wheeling, and the CI&E Railroad

Indiana University says that nearly two-thirds of the 23 million acres that make up Indiana is farmland1. As much as we’re known for corn and soybeans, that wasn’t always the case: pioneers clear cut enormous swaths of forest down in the years after they arrived here, which means tree lines that seem random to us in 2023 are usually anything but! One stretch, visible from Old US-35 in northern Delaware County, hides an old alignment of the Chicago, Indiana & Eastern Railway. New rail during the gas boom meant big money for any town on its path, and the line’s completion convinced an entire community to try and reorganize itself nearly a mile west of where it stood.

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INDOT right-of-way markers are here, there, and everywhere

Looking for a fun game to play next time you’re bored in the car? I sure was when I headed to South Carolina a couple months ago before I knew how common state right-of-way markers are. In Indiana, the monuments normally demarcate the boundaries of roads owned and operated by the department of transportation, and they’re everywhere. Sometimes, they pop up in unexpected places.

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Edisto Island’s old Steamboat Landing still brings in the boats

I’ve said it before, but Edisto Island, South Carolina, is remote: there’s only one bridge in and out! Before there was even a bridge, though, travelers from nearby Charleston had to sail to the island. One route was via the Atlantic Ocean, a sixty-mile trip that, while direct, could be very dangerous1. Another way was through an “inner passage” that followed coastal rivers upstream between several islands. Sailing the inner passage took longer, but it was the safest way to get to Edisto2. Today, the island’s Steamboat Landing still provides access to Steamboat Creek, a branch of the Edisto River, for a modern variety of watercraft.

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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.

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Twelve more miles of the old Hub Highway from Bethel to Orestes

Early automobile clubs in Indiana began to promote national auto trails that predated official state highways around the turn of the twentieth century. By 1922, the Hoosier State Automobile Association had laid out thirty-four of them1! One was the Hub Highway, which connected Lafayette and Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1917. In Delaware and Madison Counties, the road followed Bethel Pike from Muncie to Alexandria. There, it took Washington Street towards Orestes.

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Bethel Pike: Eight miles of the old Hub Highway from Muncie to Bethel

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.

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The Bridge to Edisto Island, South Carolina

With only one road in and one road out over the Dawhoo River, Edisto Island -a barrier island between Savannah and Charleston- is a place that seems hidden from the world in many ways. That’s great for tourists and vacationers! Unfortunately, its detachment from the rest of South Carolina has presented the island’s inhabitants with many difficulties over the years.

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The abandoned Ferris wheels of Royal Blue, Tennessee

I have an overactive imagination that occasionally leads me to question whether or not things I think I’ve seen are real. The first time I experienced that phenomenon was when I was a kid and happened past a disembodied steeple rising from a cornfield. The second time was years later: I thought I found water gushing from a boulder in a rural display of some biblical miracle. The third time was about a decade ago. I was driving down I-75 towards Knoxville when I stopped to get gas. I swear that I saw the unmistakable outline of a Ferris wheel gazing down at me from the mountainside! Ten years later, it turns out that I had.

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“Buy me a coffee” to help support what I do here, if you want

We’ve officially made it into the second week of 2023. In just seven days, this blog has already welcomed nearly half of the visitors it saw in all of 2022! I only started in September, granted, but I’ve been blown away by how many people have found my peculiar interests and obsessions compelling enough to stop by. I have no doubt that it’s going to be a great year here!

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