From an article by Dr. Carl Bogardus, Sr. printed in the Scott County Journal and Chronicle, July 23, 1970.
On December 31, 1821, the Bethlehem-Rockford State Road was established. It was surveyed and built in 1822. This was the road which was in 1825 declared a Post Road by the Government, and in 1836 this same road was incorporated and was further improved and operated as a toll road for an indefinite length of time. Remnants of this old southeast to northwest state road are still used today as country roads in Scott County. State Highway 203 coming north out of Lexington utilizes a part of this old roadbed for a few miles.
On March 3, 1817, a Post Road was established from Lexington to Salem and Paoli over the Cincinnati Trace. In 1818 routes were established from Lexington, through New Washington and Bethlehem to New London on the Ohio River ten miles below Madison and from Lexington through Paris to Vernon. In 1825 a Post Road was established from Jackson Post Office at Rockford, on the White River (Seymour was not laid out as a town until 1852), crossing the Muscatatuck at Slate Ford and going through Albion, New Frankfort, Lexington, New Washington to Bethlehem, where it ferried the Ohio River and continued on to new Castle, Kentucky.
Congress continued for a few more years to make special enactments whereby Post Roads were provided. The roads of southern Indiana, however, remained practically unchanged from 1825 until the mail was carried by the railroads, beginning about 1850. The report of the Postmaster General for 1825 states that “half of the intelligence of the country is still carried in saddlebags.”
In the late forties a craze set in for plank roads. They were made of heavy planks spiked together like a bridge floor. These were good for a time, but after a few years would loosen, warp and rot. In those days, the approximate cost of a road built of three-inch white oak planks was $2,000 per mile. Old timers say that you could hear a stagecoach coming over a plank road a mile or two away, so noisy were the loose boards under the wheels of the vehicle and the feet of the horses.
The first plank road to be built in Scott County was the one built by the Madison-Lexington-Brownstown Turnpike company, following the incorporation of the company on February 16, 1848. The lumber used to construct this road is said to have been cut off of the English Estate near Lexington. On September 9, 1858, editor David Campbell, M.D., of the “Lexington Clipper,” made the following editorial comment in regards to this old road: “we have often wondered whether the Madison, Hanover & Lexington Plank Road Company have any intention of McAdamizing the road as far as this place. It surely ought to be done, as the plank is in a very bad condition.”
It was not until the late fifties that gravel became more procurable in Indiana and begun to be used in building roads and the entire state became well traversed with private toll roads with their little toll houses and long sweep poles of the toll gates.
Then in 1879 legislation was passed for the county control of free turnpikes and the authorization of tax levies for that purpose. Toll roads in Indiana soon became nonexistent.
Lexington Township, being nearer the limestone quarries of Clark County, was the first to import that material for road resurfacing purposes. It was in 1920 that a limestone outcropping on the Hardy Farm in Lexington Township was investigated and found to be suitable for the purpose of road building and a quarry was opened up, which is still in use today. Then Scott County stopped the use of the slate and creek gravel on its roads and began using only crushed limestone.
Today the State of Indiana has one of the finest systems of public highways in the entire country. Little Scott, Indiana’s third smallest county, is traversed by seventy-six miles of state and federal highways, and in addition, we have 266 miles of county roads which, except during periods of deep freezing and destructive thawing such as we had during the winter of 1950-1951, can usually be traveled by any sort of vehicle the year around.
Our present day transportation system is a far cry from what it was it was 150 years ago when Captain Ephraim Kibby undertook the almost hopeless task of cutting the Cincinnati Trace through the wilderness and made the first roads across Scott County