The Madison State Road in Indiana: Vernon

The Madison State Road in Indiana: Vernon

The Madison State Road in Indiana: Vernon

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The Madison State Road in Indiana: Vernon

Southbound from Columbus, State Road 7 is routed along the Madison State Road, or at least follows the Madison State Road corridor. The Madison State Road is pushing 200 years old, and in its early days was almost certainly little more than a dirt path, perhaps even with remains of ground-out tree stumps still in the roadway. The road might have meandered more than State Road 7 does today. Check out this snippet from an 1884 atlas of Jennings County showing the town of Scipio. That’s the Madison State Road entering from the upper left an exiting at the lower right. Notice how it enters Scipio, first crossing Wyaloosing Creek and then Sand Creek.

Here’s how SR 7 enters Scipio today. Notice how different the shape of the road is in this area now vs. then. Especially notice how SR 7 crosses only Sand Creek, and in a different location from where the road did in 1884.

Map data ©2024 Google.

Looking at aerial imagery around Scipio, there is no trace of any road anywhere near where the 1884 atlas showed the road going. But that’s not surprising. Dirt paths, even gravel roads, will disappear given enough disuse.

In short, SR 7 is the closest thing we have to the Madison State Road from Columbus to Madison. It’s close enough.

However, now I wonder whether the Scipio Covered Bridge used to carry the Madison State Road.

Scipio Coverd Bridge

Check out how the road leading southbound away from the bridge meets SR 7 at a narrow angle. A road leading away from the bridge northbound could well have followed the path from the 1884 atlas.

Map data ©2024 Google.

SR 7 passes through North Vernon with nothing worth stopping to see. It misses the heart of this small city by several blocks. Until some years ago, the main highway through North Vernon was US 50; that highway bypasses the city to the north now. But while it was still US 50, I documented it; see it here.

North Vernon dwarfs neighboring Vernon, an unusual situation where the town with the directional addition to the name became larger than the town with the base name. Vernon is quite small. It is also the seat of justice in Jennings County.

Map data ©2024 Google.

Interestingly, the Muscatatuck River almost entirely surrounds Vernon. It flows around it from the north, along its east and south sides, and then along its west side. This creates a land channel northwest of Vernon providing a narrow passageway in for SR 7.

Vernon is one of those frozen-in-time towns you occasionally find in Indiana. There’s enough activity here, thanks to being the county seat, to keep it minimally viable. There’s not enough activity here that old buildings are demolished for new developments.

Vernon
Vernon
Vernon
Vernon
Vernon

Here’s the Jennings County Courthouse. It had just been TP’d.

Jennings County Courthouse
Jennings County Courthouse

How SR 7 leaves Vernon is clear. Do you see what could be an earlier path of SR 7 on this aerial image? I do.

Imagery ©2024 Airbus, Maxar Technologies. Map data ©2024 Google.

The Madison State Road left Vernon along a slightly different path. It still turned from Poplar onto Jackson on its southbound journey. But it continued on to Posey Street to where it met Washington Street, before turning to cross the river. Today, Washington Street ends at Perry Street, and Posey Street ends slightly south of Jackson Street.

Immediately after SR 7 crosses the river, there are two snippets of an older alignment of SR 7. The first is in the upper left of the map and the second is labeled CR 55 S.

Map data ©2024 Google.

Here’s what CR 55 S looks like, northbound, from its south end.

Original alignment

From here, it’s SR 7 all the way to Madison. The Madison State Road diverges from SR 7 on Madison’s north side, however.

Next: The Madison State Road in Madison.

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Hi, I’m Steven, a Florida native, who left my career in corporate wealth management six years ago to embark on a summer of soul searching that would change the course of my life forever.

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