Friday, April 10, 2015

Trails and Roads

A local historian who prefers to remain anonymous sent me this interesting layered map. He took Ross Township section of Solon Robinson's Descriptive Map of Unsold Lands (from, courtesy of Steven R. Shook), which dates to circa 1838, and layered it over the circa-1874 plat map made available by the Merrillville-Ross Township Historical Society. Both maps have the sections outlined, making comparison easier, but Anonymous Historian had to do a little tweaking of the images to get the section lines to match.

Comparison of Ross Twp. Maps, ca. 1838 and ca. 1874 by AinsworthIN

One thing that surprised me concerns the "Juliet Road," aka the Joliet Road, which developed out of the Sauk Trail and eventually became the route of the (old) Lincoln Highway, now better known as 73rd Avenue. Back when I found out that Ainsworth Road had been an Indian trail, I got the impression from a map in Ken Schoon's Calumet Beginnings that it was only a minor branch. The 1838 map above suggests that the Joliet Road left the 73rd-Avenue route around modern-day DeKalb St. and followed the Ainsworth Road route instead. This would have made Ainsworth Road a main route for people coming into Ross Township from the east circa 1838 — who would ever have suspected?

Harms Road may be a remnant of the "Road to Laporte." You can see on the 1838 map some swampy areas that the Road to Laporte avoided. But west and east of Harms Road, no trace of that older road survives.

The unnamed road running diagonally north-south, crossing the Joliet Road just east of Merrillville, seems to correspond to the "Potawotami Trail" on Ken Schoon's map. Our anonymous historian points out to me that some remnant of that trail may survive in Merrillville Road, between Merrillville and Crown Point.

You will notice that the roads/trails in the two maps don't match up perfectly. We have differing theories about this, Anonymous Historian and I. He thinks the roads may actually have shifted as shown between the two maps; they had almost 40 years to do so. I'm inclined to attribute at least some of the differences to the difficulties of mapping in 1838 and the idiosyncracies of the drawers of the two different maps. While it's quite possible that the settlers changed the roads, I'm wondering whether the rivers and creeks, which also vary somewhat between the two maps, could actually have moved so much in only 40 years.

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