US 50 in Indiana: Introduction

On three Saturdays in the summer of 2010, I drove as many old alignments of US 50 as I could find in Indiana, from Ohio to Illinois.

US 50 in North Vernon

As that road-trip season began, I couldn’t choose from among a number of interesting Indiana roads I had yet to explore. But then I received an email from the owner of the Elias Conwell house, which stands on the Michigan Road in Napoleon. From her I learned a few things about Mr. Conwell, including that he was a prominent businessman in the Ohio River town of Aurora. When I looked into it, I found a street in Aurora bearing his name that might have been US 50 at one time. That did it; US 50 it would be.

I made my first US 50 road trip in June from the Ohio state line west to Seymour, my second in July from Seymour to Shoals, and my last in August from Shoals to Vincennes and the Illinois state line.

US 50 is one of the original US highways from 1926. Like all highways with numbers that end in zero, it originally stretched across the nation, from Ocean City, Maryland to Sacramento, California. It was extended to San Francisco in the 1930s, making it a coast-to-coast road. But then in the 1970s, the road was truncated to West Sacramento as Interstates overtook the old road west of there.

Across most of the nation, US 50 has roots in roads much older than 1926. In Indiana, US 50 began as a series of auto trails and local roads. In 1917, Indiana stitched many such roads statewide into its first numbered highway system. When US 50 came to life in 1926, it was signed along the entire length of original Indiana State Road 4 from the Ohio line west to Shoals, and along the portion of original Indiana State Road 5 from Shoals west to the Illinois line. Indiana’s State Road system was entirely renumbered in 1926 with the advent of the US highway system.

Like so many highways, US 50 has been straightened and widened in some places and outright moved in others, leaving behind a wealth of old alignments. But even with all my old maps and road guides, I found it challenging to trace US 50′s original route in some places. But where I was able to find the old road, I found plenty of great things to see.


Since I made this trip, the late Richard Simpson traced all of US 50’s 1926 route across Indiana onto screen shots of Google Maps. It highlights some alignments I missed, which I will call out as I share this trip report.

I shared a lot of this road trip on this blog in 2010, but not all of it. Each Friday for the next eight weeks I’m bringing over my comprehensive, county-by-county road trip report from my old Roads site on

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5 responses to “US 50 in Indiana: Introduction”

  1. J P Avatar

    This will be interesting – 50 is the one old major east-west US highways across Indiana that I have almost no experience with, given how far south in the state it sits.

    Have you ever made the trek across US 30?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I haven’t done US 30 yet. I mean, I’ve driven on portions of it, but I’ve never documented it. I want to do an epic road trip of the Indiana Lincoln Highway and all of its later alignments, which would include US 30. Someday.

  2. brandib1977 Avatar

    My home is about two miles off of Route 50 in Ohio so it has always been a constant in my life. I am in the western US this week and was excited to drive part of Rt 50 in Colorado. It’s always fun to pick up that ribbon of road and know that it’s my connection to home.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh nice. I’d love to do 50 across Ohio someday. I’ll bet it’s a lot of fun to drive in your part of the world.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        It is fun. Portions are a little curvy and hilly while others are flat as a pancake. Rt 50 goes through Chillicothe where they have the outdoor drama and other fun things that you and your wife might enjoy. Come this way and I’ll meet you guys for lunch or something!

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