Road Trips

Converging Michigan Road alignments in Napoleon, Indiana

In 2008, I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end, documenting the road and its built environment. Here is an installment of that trip report.

The original alignment of the Michigan Road meets the Michigan Road Auto Trail (US 421) alignment in Napoleon. The map labels the road as 850N, but it is signed Michigan Road. Notice that if you follow the Michigan Road’s path straight north, it meets US 421 somewhere north of Jackson St. My guess is that it used to do just that, but was abandoned after the road that is now US 421 was built.

This excerpt from an 1856 Indiana atlas in the David Rumsey collection, supports my theory. I’ve highlighted the Michigan Road in blue and the road from Versailles and Osgood that became US 421 in red.

Andreas, A.T. Ripley County, Illustrated historical atlas of the State of Indiana, Baskin, Forster & Co., Chicago, 1876., via the David Rumsey Collection.

North of the turn, the road becomes a gravel path briefly, as this southbound photo shows.

Former Michigan Road alignment?

It provides access to the Lutheran Cemetery. Past the cemetery’s north edge, the gravel becomes two-track briefly and then the road disappears. I would like someday to explore along this corridor for clues.

Lutheran Cemetery, Napoleon, Indiana

Napoleon was platted in 1820 with an east-west main street that is State Road 229 today. The Michigan Road is Madison St.

Check out the burglar alarm above the door of the 1904 Napoleon State Bank building on the northwest corner of Main and Madison.

Napoleon State Bank, Napoleon, Indiana

The current Napoleon State Bank stands on the southeast corner. This bank has four branches in nearby towns and has managed to stay independent, which is no mean feat today.

Napoleon State Bank, Napoleon, Indiana

I ducked down Main Street for a minute, where I found the 1838 Central House, a former stop for people driving hogs from Indianapolis to Cincinnati along an early stagecoach route. It is used today for the occasional play or musical.

The Central House

Back on the Michigan Road, this building houses the Bonaparte’s Retreat restaurant.

Bonaparte's Retreat tavern, Napoleon, Indiana

On the southwest corner of Wilson St. stands this flour mill, about which I have so far been able to find out nothing.

Flour mill, Napoleon, Indiana

What’s really interesting about this building is seeing the two new signs painted on it with all the old ones long fading.

Flour mill, Napoleon, Indiana

The only White Lily flour I have been able to find information about is pretty much a Southern institution, well known for making the most tender biscuits. But that White Lily flour was, until 2006, made exclusively in Knoxville, Tennessee.

On the northwest corner of Wilson St. is this very large old house. It’s the Elias Conwell house, which I wrote about here.

Elias Conwell House, Napoleon, Indiana

The old house stands at the east end of Berry’s Trace, later known as Brownstown Road. It ran west to at least the east fork of the White River, where it joined the old Three Notch Road that ran from Indianapolis into Brown County. (Most of the Three Notch Road is State Road 135 today; read about it here.) I haven’t been able to figure out Berry’s Trace’s route for certain.

Berry's Trace marker

Heading north out of Napoleon, this little creek comes out from behind a gas station and runs alongside the Michigan Road.

Creek along the road

Directly across the street, drivers are reassured they’re still on US 421 as they leave town.

US 421 (Michigan Road), Napoleon, Indiana

Shortly, the road leaves Ripley County and enters Decatur County.

Next: The Michigan Road in Decatur County.

I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.

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2 thoughts on “Converging Michigan Road alignments in Napoleon, Indiana

  1. Marcus Davenport says:

    Hello! I found your post through a facebook page dedicated to old road alignments. If you haven’t already, check out the Ripley County GIS: https://ripleyin.wthgis.com/

    Look at Napoleon on this map (search for 69-05-29-223-003.000-012), you can see Michigan Road met at Monroe St which use to cross US-421. These modern plat maps are GODSENDS to road nerds like us!

    Happy driving!

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