The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
By C.V. Windsor
For The Madison County
This article, written in 1983, was printed in a recent edition of The Gazette, the Madison County Historical Society newsletter. The author died in 1995.
Visiting friends may have complained to you that our city is somewhat difficult to find ones way in and there is some basis for that. After all, there is only one long, uninterrupted north to south street, Madison Avenue; east to west, you have to go from Cross Street south to 38th Street to find the next unbroken stretch running east and west.
Two main reasons cause this situation, the town is very old, as Midwestern towns go, and then there’s the river.
The oldest roads (once trails) are the Muncie Road along Ohio Avenue, out past Mounds Park entrance to Chesterfield (before the Anderson Airport got in the way), Daleville, Yorktown and Muncie, along the high ground above the river bottoms. The Pendleton Pike, out Pendleton Avenue through the Guide Lamp plants, running along the high ground west of the Prairie Creek bottoms, is another. A third is the old 8th Street road, out past Park road and down the hill, then west past Hamilton and south of Perkinsville, to Strawtown. Note: at the bottom of “that hill” there was one of the fords across White River.
On the easterly bank was the road running east to the old Moss Island mills; north, it headed to Frankton. Another road ambled southerly between the present Main Street and Central Ave. to a point somewhere south of the old Midland railroad, then got out to present Columbus Avenue possibly in the neighborhood of 21st Street. It became the Columbus Pike and went to New Columbus and Markleville. Still another road started northeast at the intersection of Main and Fifth Streets, crossed the river by a ford not far west of the old Main Street bridge (an abutment still exists), became the AIexandria Pike, continued northeast to Killbuck Creek bridge, where the Moonsville Pike turned east. The Fishersburg Pike (there wasn’t any Lapel at this period) went out 11th Street to the Green’s Branch bridge at John Street, then headed southwesterly out of town.
Names, not numbers
Within these road lines, the present city grew. Mostly, the various subdivisions and additions were parts of farm tracts, so the lines were compass-oriented. The earliest layouts, here and in most of the Midwest, were based on 16 city blocks to the mile. This made each block 330 feet long, or 20 rods; square rods translated to acres easily, 160 square rods equals one acre, so this was common.
I might mention here a couple of local fords that I forgot, one about at the east end of Sixth Street and one at the point where an extension of Columbus Avenue would hit the river. On the north side, there was until not many years ago a track running south from East 10th Street just east of Nursery Road, down to this place.
Streets were most usually, given names, rather than numbers; the small, map I have here shows the names of the early Anderson layout, the sources were geographical, like Water Street, honoring some notable, as Washington Street (now 9th), or Hamilton (5th), some local developer or family, such as Fletcher or Williams (11th). Sometime along in the Eighties, it became popular to number one set of streets, mainly as a convenience to the Post Office. An ordinance passed in the middle ‘80s here, changed the names of the east-west streets in the downtown section. Our (then) City Clerk, Marie Riggs and her assistant, Mrs. Brumback, did a lot of searching for this ordinance, and were most cordially helpful. They found Ordinance 441 which changed many more names, but we have not yet located the earlier document.
The ordinance covers a large number of streets outside of the old town center. As most of you know, the Courthouse fire of 1880 destroyed the original plats of the city, so we don’t really have definitive records of the early period.
The Madison County Historical Society, 15 W. 11th St., Anderson, is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.