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In case you missed our January 22 show, "Hook’s and Haag: drug stores once iconic in Indiana" Click here to listen to the podcast.

In case you missed our January 15 show, "WW II pin-up girl, auto engineer in China and more links to Wabash" Click here to listen to the podcast.

In case you missed our January 8 show, "A collector’s guide to Indianapolis memorabilia: encore"
Click here to listen to the podcast.

January 29, 2022

The National Road: pioneer highway into Indiana

Mile MarkerIt's been called the most significant road in Indiana history. The National Road, which begins in Cumberland, Md., was a major route through the wilderness that thousands of early settlers used to reach Indiana. The pioneer road, which was completed in rough and rugged form through Indiana in 1834, bisects the Hoosier state east-west from Richmond to Terre Haute.

Suggested by none other than George Washington, the National Road was the country's first federal highway project and initially ended in Vandalia, Il., an early state capital of Illinois. Other state capitals – including Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio, were built on the National Road or in anticipation of its construction.

The construction of the road was arduous, an aspect that Nelson will explore with his guest, Ball State University history professor Ron Morris, vice president of the Society of Indiana Pioneers. An expert on in-migration to Indiana, Ron has traveled extensively on the National Road. Beginning in the 1920s, much of the road was designated as U.S. 40, an era that Hoosier History Live explored during a show in 2013.

For this show, we will focus on the earliest era of the road, particularly the challenges involved with its construction. During the pioneer era, workers were confronted by tall, towering trees, deep forests and meandering rivers and streams.

As an early 19th century engineering solution, some unusual bridges – called "S" bridges because of their distinctive, reverse curve, were built for the National Road. A few "S" bridges, which were designed for crossing curvy streams (particularly those with uneven banks), still remain in Ohio and were used by travelers to reach Indiana. We also will explore mile markers and toll houses on the National Road. 

In addition to Indianapolis, where the National Road enters as E. Washington Street, Indiana towns that were built on the National Road – or flourished during the pioneer era because of it – include Cambridge City, Greenfield, Plainfield and Brazil.

Ron MorrisSimply put, the National Road opened up settlement for the state, then considered part of the "West". Construction of the first part of the National Road in Cumberland, Md., which is on the Potomac River, began in 1811. That was five years before Indiana became a state. In addition to George Washington, key figures in the push for the National Road included presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, along with Albert Gallatin, who was secretary of the treasury in both of their administrations. Gallatin corresponded with John Badollet, secretary of the Indiana Territory; their letters document the push for the National Road and the challenges involved. 

The Indiana National Road Association celebrates the heritage of the road, both during the 19th century and its U.S. 40 era.

Our guest Ron Morris lives in Centerville, another historic Indiana town on the National Road. Because of his expertise about in-migration to early Indiana, he was a guest on a Hoosier History Live show about the Cumberland Gap. It's the pass in the Cumberland Mountains in southern Kentucky near that state's junction with Tennessee and Virginia, that many pioneers also used to reach the Indiana wilderness.

Ron also was a guest on a show about Indiana's Civil War governor, Oliver P. Morton. Ron owns and has restored a historic house where Morton lived; it's in Centerville on the National Road.

Roadtrip: Historic Bridges of Carroll County

Freedom BridgeGuest Roadtripper Terry Kirts, Sr. lecturer in creative writing at IUPUI, suggests we travel about an hour and a half northwest of Indianapolis to visit Carroll County and two of its wonderful historic bridges.in Delphi.

The City of Delphi was fortunate to obtain the Freedom Bridge, which was originally built in 1897, dismantled and then reconstructed in 2002. Originally meant for Conner Prairie, the bridge found its location in Delphi, Indiana. Now, it forms the new connecting link for the historic Monon Trail. The development of the Hoosier Heartland Highway (SR 25) had cut the trail. Hence, the 302-foot bridge found its new resting place spanning the highway. Also, it brings a bit of history into the surrounding agricultural historic district.

Then, just south of the Freedom Bridge is the Monon High Bridge, the second highest railroad trestle in Indiana. For the nearly 3,000 people that call Delphi home, the Monon High Bridge is a treasure. The bridge has been used as a backdrop for photo shoots like senior pictures, wedding photos, or to simply capture the beauty of the untouched nature that surrounds it.  Sadly, the Monon High Bridge is noted as the site of the still unsolved 2017 murders of two Indiana teens.

And lastly, Delphi hosts the Indiana Bacon Festival in August! 

From the Hoosier History archives

Hoosier History Live looks back . . .

. . .at our June 2016 show featuring two World War II veterans in their 90s as guests.  

Hoosier History Live has featured Hoosiers who served during what has been called "the most significant and influential event of the 20th century". We had invited survivors to share insights about their lives before, during and after World War II. Our guests were Paul Maves, a retired civil engineer who then lived on the west side of Indianapolis. During World War II, he was a bombardier with the Army Air Force and served with a squadron that provided aerial support during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. And our guest Walter Dreyfus, then from Greenwood, was retired from the insurance industry. A Navy veteran, Walter served on ships off North Africa, Italy, England and France. He helped ready some minesweeper ships for the D-Day invasion and helped retrieve - and do sea burials for - bodies found after the historic invasion. Both of our veteran guests have passed away. Also in the studio that day was author Ron May, who had interviewed both veterans for his book “Our Service Our Stories.”

Hoosier History Live has produced a number of shows focusing on World War II, called "the most significant and influential event of the 20th century”. Other Hoosier History Live shows have featured interviews with veterans of WWII, including programs in January 2014 and February 2015. Guests on those shows included veterans whose stories are shared, respectively, in the books World War II: Duty, Honor, Country and World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana.


Nelson Price, host and historian
Molly Head, producer/general manager, (317) 506-7164 
Ryan DeRome, associate producer

Cheryl Lamb, administrative manager
Richard Sullivan, senior tech consultant
Pam Fraizer, graphic designer
Garry Chilluffo, consultant


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Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Twitter logo for Hoosier History Live.Acknowledgments to WICR-FMFraizer Designs, The Indiana AlbumMonomediaIndiana Historical BureauIndiana Landmarks, Henri Pensis, Kielynn Talley, Genesis Brown, Heather McIntyre, and many other individuals and organizations. We are independently produced and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorship and through individual contribution at the yellow button on our newsletter or website. For organizational sponsorship, which includes logos, links, and voiced credits in the show, contact Molly Head at (317) 506-7164 or email her at molly@hoosierhistorylive.org. Our media reach continues to grow via podcasting.

Thank you!

We'd like to thank the following recent individual contributors who make this show possible. For a full list of contributors over the years, visit  Support the Show on our website.

  • Dr. James Madison
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  • Michael Freeland and Sharon Butsch Freeland

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