Fascinating manuscript map with contemporary annotations, showing a portion of the proposed route of the State Road between New Albany, Indiana and Princeton, Indiana, prepared by John L. Smith at the direction of the Indiana General Assembly (and in part against their wishes) in 1831.
In 1831, John L. Smith of Leavenworth, Indiana, was appointed commissioner and instructed, by Act of the Indiana General Assembly, to establish a road from New Albany (on the Ohio River, near Louisville, Kentucky), through Corydon, Leavenworth, Fredonia and Perry County, to Princeton (then Prince Town), Indiana--a distance of approximately 110 miles. The road would become an important route across southern Indiana, from the Ohio River to the Wabash River and the Illinois-Indiana Border. However, either because of a struggle between the towns of Leavenworth (where Smith was an important local merchant) and Fredonia (both of which were vying to become the County Seat), or because the route through Fredonia added an extra 3 or 4 miles to the proposed road, Smith preferred a more direct route which passed two miles north of Fredonia.
On the verso of the manuscript map offered here, Smith notes that he has prepared " A Plat of the Change of the Road (through Harrison County) Leading from New Albany by way of Corydon Fredonia to Prince Town as viewed and marked by John L.Smith. . . " Link here to verso: /gallery/enlarge/21225a
The legislators were not pleased. Whichever was the cause of Smith's revision of the route, it caused considerably controversy. As a result, the General Assembly passed a subsequent act, again instructing Smith to run the road through Fredonia. The act states in relevant part:
And whereas much dissatisfaction prevails among the citizens in consequence of an expressed determination of the commissioner to change the road so that it will not run through the town of Fredonia. On that account be it further enacted that John L. Smith of Leavenworth shall not be permitted to make any change so as to prevent its passing through the town of Fredonia but shall be governed by the original law which makes Fredonia one of the points through which the road was to pass.
The map offered here covers the area from just west of Leavenworth to Corydon, near the Indiana-Kentucky border. The proposed route tracks what is now Old Forest Road from the Leavenworth area to Corydon, passing north of Big Indian Creek after a crossing at Cole's Ferry. Several locations along the route are shown, including Cole's Ferry and the Rhodes, Boydon and other properties.
John L. Smith was one of the founders of the town of Leavenworth, Indiana, where he and Zebulon Leavenworth, opened shops in 1819. A John L. Smith would later perform survey work on the State Road projects in the Western part of the Carolinas in 1837, including a " Map of the State Road from Franklin No. Ca. to Georgia Line agreeable to an act of Assembly 1837 by J. L. Smith Comr" which is in the North Carolina State Archives and attributed to "John L. Smith." No definitive connection has been made, but the signatures on the maps are very similar.