The National Road in Illinois

The Jim Grey Page Roads


Most of the six miles to Martinsville, the National Road ran to our south. At first, the old road was separated from US 40 by maybe fifty feet, the narrowest gap we saw. The brick road was intact but grown over. Then we noticed that it didn't look like brick anymore. Just east of Martinsville we found a place to turn in and look, at 100th St, I think. And there the National Road was, paved in cement. Some clever person erected a basketball goal along the former highway. I'd say it was just good old-fashioned Hoosier hysteria, but we were in Illinois.

While it was exciting to see the cement, and even though the brick had become somewhat commonplace as we drove the 25 miles or so to this point, I was sad to see the bricks go. Brick roads have a little romance. They're like the cute woman who smiles big and tilts her head down as she looks up at you, pupils as big as saucers you feel the desire to go and see where this leads. A cement road, on the other hand, has all the subtlety and grace of a swimmer on the Soviet Olympic swim team. It's all business, and it ain't pretty.

About a mile later later we found the turnoff to the National Road leading into Martinsville. It was signed Cumberland Road. The railroad track that parallels the National Road met us here, and it would be nearby most of the rest of our trip. The track shows up as the brown trace on the map. Cumberland Road curves to cross it, but I suspect that the road marked as Farm Lane on the map used to be the National Road. It lines up perfectly with Cumberland Road on the other side of the tracks. There was a gate across Farm Lane with the farm's name on it, so apparently the road is now private.

We took the turnoff about 2/3 of the way across the map. Notice the utility wires passing directly overhead, whispering the road's original path to us. The road was barely two lanes wide.

Just as Cumberland Road straightened out, which by the way lines up pretty good with where Farm Lane ends, we entered Martinsville. The railroad track remains the brown trace. It swings two or three blocks south of the National Road through town.

We quickly entered downtown. This photo is of the north side of Cumberland Road west of York Street, which is Illinois State Road 5. Notice the old blinker hanging over the intersection.

Downtown Martinsville wasn't as bright as downtown Marshall, but at least the buildings looked reasonably well maintained. Here's the south side of the same block. This was the main block of downtown. The next block had a few businesses on it, but the rest of Cumberland Road in Martinsville was houses. Heading out of town, Cumberland Road was much wider than it was coming in.


Start 01 State Line 02 Livingston 03 Marshall 04 Clark Center
05 Martinsville 06 Casey 07 Greenup 08 Greenup bridges 09 Illinois country
10 Effingham 11 Altamont and St. Elmo 12 Vandalia 13 Going home


Created 22 July 2007.
These pages, including text and photographs, are copyright 2007 by Jim Grey. (Replace # with @ if you click that link to send me e-mail.)
Maps are screen shots from Windows Live Local. All copyrights acknowledged.