Indiana/Illinois National Road Revisited
We drove out to Marshall because I'd heard that a stone bridge from the 1800s was still in use along the Road. We found the little bridge alongside a park on the west side of town. This map shows where.
The bridge is made of precisely cut Indiana limestone and was built without mortar. It is the last National Road stone bridge left in Illinois.
I'm in the photograph above shooting the photograph below, of the bridge's keystone.
Michael and I walked under the bridge and saw this farm. If it weren't for the car parked under the carport, we might have thought the bridge was a portal to 1840.
I found two right-of-way markers near the bridge. The first was in the park south of the bridge. It's hard to tell, but it reads "R-O-W."
Another R-O-W marker lay a bit east of there, also south of the road. It was elevated a few feet from the roadbed but lay at about a 10 degree angle with the ground. I tried to lift it, but it wouldn't budge.
The brick National Road continues, broken in spots, west of Marshall beyond the last chance to turn onto US 40, as this map shows.
Shortly we reached a spot where a length of cement road paralleled the brick road. The cement road split from the brick road on the east end, but it ended about 50 feet later before merging back with the brick road. This road looked to be about one car wide, which left us guessing about its purpose. Was it a picnic area?
Shortly the brick disappeared, leaving only the cement pad. As the road approached a creek, a narrow gravel road picked up where the cement pad ended. We had walked this segment of road, but realized it was intact enough that we could have driven it. The gravel road even turned right before the creek and proved access to US 40.
When we reached a crossroads, I realized I could drive my car along this
segment of the road. So I walked back to it and did just that. Michael filmed
At the creek, we walked out onto the former bridge approach and looked below, but saw no bridge ruins. The approach itself was the only evidence of the bridge.
We walked back to the car and headed west. Just before we reached the turnoff for the National Road leading to Clark Center we stopped to see a spot where I thought there was a creek and a corresponding missing bridge on the old road when I was there in July. On the map below, Main St. is the National Road. It used to go east through there through the trees and parallel the current road by maybe 50 feet. We stopped about where it crosses the ridge of trees.
I had been wrong; there was no creek, and the road went through. We found something on the road that I hadn't noticed on my July trip – the burned-out shell of a 1980s Plymouth Caravelle or Dodge 600.
We walked around the car to the two-track road beyond. I thought in July that a bridge approach had been there, and that the two tracks had perhaps been worn in by utility crews repairing the lines, since the poles still follow the old road. But the two tracks are lined in National Road brick.
Created 12 February 2008. Updated 27 July 2009.