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1826 The Michigan Road

In 1826 the Pottawatomie Indians signed the Mississinawa Treaty which ceded a strip of land to the State of Indiana making possible the construction of a road from the Ohio River to Lake Michigan. After much deliberation it was decided that the prosperous and influential river town of Madison on the Ohio River would be the southern terminus.

Surveying began around 1828 and the road was mostly completed by 1834. The Michigan Road, as it was called, was one of the most important routes in the State of Indiana. It became a key thoroughfare in opening up the state to settlement and connected the valuable commerce of the Ohio River to the new state capitol. It became a conduit through which flowed the thousands of pioneers hungry for land in the new state and beyond.

From here settlers could access the vast stretch of land that lay beyond the Wabash River and northward to the upper Ohio Valley, but it was not an easy journey. The Michigan Highway traversed through swamps where forest streams choked it with windfalls, underbrush and debris. Rocky stretches filled with ruts as deep as the axles on wagons made movement almost impossible at times. The track was passable during good weather but much of the year it was a meandering, muddy stream.

None of this, however, deterred a population intent upon the acquisition of rich land and the promise of a better life for themselves and their families and the highway ushered thousands into the interior. Much of the road and its roadside architecture still exists and it has been suggested by some that the Michigan Road be designated a Hoosier Heritage Trail for the state’s upcoming be-centennial.