I made this road trip along State Road 67 in southwestern Indiana in tribute to Richard M. Simpson, who passed away unexpectedly at the beginning of 2021. Richard wrote the fantastic Indiana Transportation History blog, and ran the popular Indiana Transportation History group on Facebook. I now share administration of both with his widow.
Richard wrote a wonderful series of posts in which he mapped onto current maps every State Road and US highway that existed when that system came to be in 1926. He analyzed old maps and road guides to figure out which roads the original alignments of those roads followed. Then he made series of screen shots of each highway, and drew a line along the entire original alignment. It had to be an enormous amount of tedious work! You can see the whole series here.
Richard was excited about this segment of SR 67’s original alignment leading to and away from Romona. A bridge over a small creek no longer carries traffic, and the road is closed on either side. It’s been that way for a long time, and Richard wanted to drive in as far as he could to see it. He and I planned to do it together, but he passed away before we could plan the trip.
On this map snippet I traced the entire original route of SR 67 in blue, except for the portion that is closed. Rather, this portion of the road doesn’t exist anymore.
Southbound Old SR 67 to Romona begins in Gosport on Main Street, an east-west road that becomes Romona Road as it heads out of town toward Romona. This is what the beginning of Romona Road looks like.
Facing this, and knowing what the aerial imagery of this road looked like, I got cold feet and didn’t drive it. I wasn’t sure whether my mid-sized sedan was a good choice for navigating what looked to be a little-traveled road. I worried about having some sort of problem or not finding a place to turn my car around, not having good mobile-phone signal, and having to walk all the way back to town to get help. Here’s what this road looks like from the air near where maintenance on it ends. It looks like Romona Road is maintained to this point to connect to three roads. This is the last of them, and it dead ends at someone’s house. Beyond here, given the out-of-service bridge, there’s no point in maintaining Romona Road.
The current alignment of SR 67 was built by 1938, leaving this alignment behind. It was never a great road to be this highway, as it hugged the railroad tracks that pass through here and cross them three times, twice at odd angles.
We detoured along current State Road 67 to the other end of this old alignment, and drove it north to Romona. This road was paved all the way.
It’s a stretch to call Romona a town; it’s more a collection of residences. Founded in 1819 as Brintonville, it took the name Romona in the 1880s to honor the novel Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson. I don’t know how or why the spelling was changed from the novel’s title, and I’ve seen some references to this place as Ramona.
Here’s what the southbound road looks like as it leaves Romona.
We intended to stop, make a couple quick images, and go. I’m never comfortable being an obvious stranger in small, out-of-the-way places like this. But immediately a fellow came out to greet us and find out what we were up to. When I said that we were out exploring Old State Road 67, he smiled and said, “Yes, this used to be the highway! You can walk the railroad trestle up to see the bridge if you want. The deck’s collapsed but otherwise it’s still there.” We said that we had stopped only for a minute and would soon be on our way. He then pointed out the rock by a small tree that spelled out the town’s name, spelled Ramona rather than Romona. I suppose he knows where he lives better than Google Maps does! He told us he made that stone some years back.
Fortunately, Indiana bridgefan Tony Dillon walked the tracks to photograph this bridge in 2009. It’s a Pratt through truss bridge built in about 1910.
Next: The town of Spencer.