Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Interstate 1, Fairfield exit

The question of why the settlers in the East Fork settled at Fairfield is probably best understood by facts that are not in evidence.

In other words, who knows for sure? I think it's fair to assume that the Hannas and the Logans and the Templetons did not travel a thousand miles without having something of an idea what they were buying.

Adventure being one thing, predictable adventure something entirely different. As if there weren't enough bears and lions and tigers (oh, my) in the rich woodlands along the Whitewater River.

So, why did these men choose the lands they chose? Perhaps it had something to do with the obvious: If you can't get there, then go somewhere else.

We read extensive research that describes the valley as heavy with timber, though there are reasons to suggest that some parts of it didn't have many trees.

It's also safe to assume that the settlers at times followed existing trails through the thicket. After all, if there's a path, take it. If there isn't a path, there's a reason nobody thought it was useful or necessary to put one there, so no point following that.

A 1907 research document in the Indiana History Magazine discusses the development of the road system in Indiana, or what there was of it in 1810.

Of these primitive ways for travel and transportation the earliest, long antedating the white man's advent, were the Indian trails -- narrow, winding routes beaten by many feet traveling in single file, and akin to the paths made by animals.

It's fairly safe to conclude that the paths made by animals were for reasons that are generally animal in nature. The paths made by the humans probably went somewhere that mattered to humans. So when in doubt, take the human path.

Assuming that the tribes had something resembling a pattern for travel and commerce, the paths would have linked to places that benefitted them, such as places to catch fish, places to build dwellings ... or baseball stadiums.

If those original settlers were paying attention to the signs and had something of an idea what they were buying from the government, it's fairly clear that they ended up in the East Fork in the places they did because ... well, one could stand a better chance of surviving.

The human propensity for intercommunication as distinguished from mere gregariousness was revealed by those obscure forest highways, and by virtue of that they were something other than mere random ways -- they were a system. If this system could be restored in a chart we would be surprised, no doubt, to find what a network it formed, reaching over the country in various directions.

As time went on, the roads improved, essentially linking the people who had come to Indiana. One tends to connect a source of commerce to another source of commerce. By the 1820s, roads were getting better under state government control.

The government funded part of the road system, and a user tax added still another share. There were toll roads in places. The "road tax" was levied on real estate.

Another more Libertarian source of road maintenance in the 1820s required "all male inhabitants between the ages of 21 and 50, except preachers and certain other exempts, to work on the roads two days in each year, when called out, or pay an equivalent thereof."

Where roads were being established in the area known as New Purchase, in central Indiana, men were expected to contribute four days of labor per year, though that rule was rescinded in 1827.

The research document also suggests that the road-building program in Indiana had its share of graft, mistakes and self-serving projects. It's nice to know that in the 21st century, we no longer have that problem with highway projects.

A lot of the road work in the 1820s was completed during the term of Gov. James B. Ray, whose home was in Brookville.

Source: Indiana History Magazine

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