Monday, April 22, 2013

Illinois roads almost a century ago; Indianapolis almost 2 centuries ago

Fulton County, Illinois, and vicinity -- state road map 1925

The ever-faithful University of Wisconsin Internet Scout's Report for 12 April 2013 (volume 19, number 15 -- quite an old resource in internet time) alerted me to a digital collection of State of Illinois road maps beginning in 1917. (The interface will require a little patience if you're looking for a particular year.)

In 1925 paved roads (solid lines) were scarce. Dotted lines were projected roads. Black-and-white roads were "graded." White roads were "dirt." Passenger trains were not superfluous at this time! -- but construction was moving rapidly. The 1926 map shows impressive changes (the series itself provides a microhistorical overview of road construction). And by 1929 the state published a map in two colors, with red solid lines indicating "interstate" highways.

This 1925 map shows no county lines, but does give population figures (hard to see in this image) for incorporated towns. It includes many hamlets now all but forgotten. Also check out the "stairstep" roads (Vermont to Ray, for instance) where the road evidently followed right-angle section lines rather than a diagonal path.

For a significant further step back in time, check out the named roads (no claims as to pavement!) in 1917, complete with their colored or symbolic insignia and individual names (no route numbers). Yes, in those innocent days there was a Swastika Line, and the roads themselves are shown in railroad style, with the towns as little circles within the route line.

Three generations of my family grew up in the range of this map -- my mom's generation in San Jose (on the Mason-Logan county line) in the early 1930s, mine in Farmington in the 1950s-60s, and our kids' near Summum in the 1970s-1980s, both in Fulton County.

Moving east a bit . . .

If you want to delve into the deeper past, IndyGenealogist Ron Darrah has a much-used three-volume find for you in the Indiana State Library, Thelma M. Murphy's 1985 typescript, "Marion County, Indiana, Pioneers Prior to June, 1830." She wrote, "It was a labor of love and it helped to be told 'it can't be done.'" That's the spirit. Thanks, Ron.

"Illinois State Highway Maps," Illinois Digital Archives ( : accessed 12 April 2013).

Ron Darrah, "248. Indy Source for Pre-1830 Ancestors," IndyGenealogy, posted 10 April 2013  ( : accessed 12 April 2013).

Harold Henderson, "Illinois roads almost a century ago; Indianapolis almost 2 centuries ago," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 24 April 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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