Lincoln Highway Association

Indiana Chapter
vol. 3, #1    Fall, 1999

"Why am I getting this in the mail?" The original Lincoln Highway Assocation was formed in 1913 to promote the creation of America's first improved transcontinental highway. The Lincoln Highway was laid out, made driveable by automobiles, and bit-by-bit turned into a modern superhighway of the day.

In 1992, a new Lincoln Highway Association was born to bring together people and organizations from across the nation interested in exploring and celebrating the history of this highway, as well as its potential. Amateur historians, professional historians, business owners, tourism professionals, antique car buffs, cultural archaelogists, libraries, historical societies, chambers of commerce, people who like to drive around, and armchair travelers who simply enjoy reading the national journal have united to recapture the thrill of the highway. All are welcome to join in with us who are willing to leave the limited access expressway now and then.

Members from Indiana of the national Lincoln Highway Association are automatically also members of this Indiana State Chapter.  Other L.H.A. members may request to become Indiana Chapter members.

Hammond Lake County Times, Tuesday, 21 August, 1917
INDIANAPOLIS, IND. Aug. 21.--Following a meeting of the newly-created State Highway Commission of Indiana at Indianapolis, announcement is made of a plan to hasten the improvement of the four main, through, connecting highways of the state at the earliest possible moment. One of the roads will run north and south through the center of the state and the other three will cross the state from east to west.

The Lincoln Highway has been selected as the main road in northern Indiana to benefit through the efforts of the commission. Previous improvements on this transcontinental route in Indiana have been made locally by the counties in practically all instances and so great has been the interest in the Lincoln Highway that wonders have been accomplished in the way of road betterment. Indiana has more miles of new-laid concrete on the Lincoln Highway than any other state crossed from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

With the aid of the State Highway Commission it is probable that the few remaining miles of bad going will soon be eliminated.

[Yes, things have changed over the years. Now the concerns have progressed from simply paving roads for the first time to repaving them yet once more, replacing old bridges, and reconfiguring highway interchanges to accomodate ever larger trucks.]

Where is the Lincoln Highway in Indiana? It runs across the north end of our state, entering from Ohio east of Fort Wayne and leaving into Illinois southwest of Gary. That's the short answer.
Indiana is blessed with a couple different Lincoln Highways and a whole bunch of little bypassed segments, too. The original route laid out in 1913 follows parts of U.S. 30, S.R. 930, U.S. 33, U.S. 20, and S.R. 2. Numerous portions are not numbered at all. What gives?

Well, it did not start out that way. It was first simply the Lincoln Highway. The numbers came later. Rerouting of the various federal and state highways continues to change what signs you will see as you drive along but the historic route will never change of course. Following the old Lincoln Highway can be quite a puzzle in places but that is part of the fun. That is what I keep telling myself anyway.

So what is the other main Lincoln Highway route through Indiana? In 1927, a new short-cutting route was built along the Pennsylvania Railroad between Fort Wayne and Valparaiso. The length of the highway was shortened; South Bend and other cities were no longer served by the Lincoln, while towns along what became U.S. 30 boomed.

Which route are we interested in? The Indiana Chapter concerns itself with both routes, as well as with each of the different little urban reroutings, progressive bypassings, and even curve realignments. They are all part of the history of the Lincoln Highway.

three historical plaques commemorating the Sauk Trail, which coincides, for the most part, with the original Lincoln Highway, from Rolling Prairie to Dyer

Fort Wayne - Fort Dearborn Trail
in rest area, between US 20 and Oak Knoll Road (original Lincoln Hwy) south of Rolling Prairie

Great Sauk Trail
73rd Av at Van Buren in Merrillville

Sauk Trail
Ostermann monument on US 30 in Dyer includes a Sauk Trail marker

What do we do in the Lincoln Highway Association? We read stories about the road, its past, present, and future, in the quarterly Lincoln Highway Forum. That is worth the annual $25 dues alone ($5 of which goes to support your state chapter.)

We attend annual national conventions to learn more about its history, to meet fellow Lincoln Highway buffs, and to tour the road together. We assemble locally and statewide to share information, work on projects, and enjoy the highway.

Yes, we drive up and down the road. Sure, the interstates are handy when we're in a hurry to get somewhere. But when we wish to have some fun, soak up the scenery, shop at some historic, old businesses, or take in a tourist attraction, then we take the Lincoln.

The Lincoln Highway was not entirely created from scratch early this century. It connected up discontinuous pieces of existing roads and improved them for use by cars.

The western portion of Indiana's Lincoln follows an ancient Indian trail, the Sauk. "The trail was important into the 19th century," as one marker styles it. Actually parts of it were the main route to Chicago up through their becoming the main transcontinental roadway.

Another marker calls it "a southwest fork of the Fort Wayne-[Chicago] Trail," while Calumet Regionites would consider the Fort Wayne trail to be a branch of the Sauk. That Fort Wayne trail east of the marker was the original Lincoln route. Indiana's Lincoln Highway has had a long and colorful history.

Gravel stretch of original Lincoln Highway. Abandoned but not forgotten. No, you don't have to be crazy to enjoy visiting historical remnants of old roads and learning their stories.

Peter Youngman, 10 Cedar Court, 1115 Ogden Dunes, Ind. 46368-8709
Indiana state director, Lincoln Highway Association

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web-published 16th December, 1999, and altered 22nd October, 2003