Indiana’s Historic Pathways has made its way across Jackson County and 15 other southern Indiana counties since Oct. 16, 2009.
The route takes motorists along U.S. 50, but most people wouldn’t have had a clue about the historical significance or the richness of the attractions in communities along with way — until recently.
In October, the Indiana Department of Transportation began putting up signs featuring a black Eastern American bison on an orange background displaying the rolling hills of southern Indiana. That includes more than a dozen signs put up along U.S. 50 in Jackson County this month.
In all, the state installed 200 signs along the 161 miles of the federal highway from the Aurora area near the Ohio state line to Vincennes and U.S. 150 at the Falls of Ohio State Park to Shoals, where it connects with U.S. 50. Most of the signs located along both federal highways are placed at junctions with state roads.
Story continues below gallery
There’s more to the signs, however, than just looking nice, said Linda McCormick, who is Jackson County’s representative on the board of Indiana’s Historic Pathways.
“The signs gives us some more credibility,” she said.
The signage, paid for through a federal grant, also is about bringing more tourism dollars to Jackson County, McCormick said.
“We think they will help promote Jackson County and bring in more economic development,” she said. “We think there’s potential for jobs and more business for our shops, restaurants and hotels.”
McCormick said Jackson County has a lot to offer visitors, with one of the most important being the Medora Covered Bridge.
The bridge, in fact, already is doing its part to attract tourists here, she said.
Morris Tippin with Friends of the Medora Covered Bridge said the bridge attracts 15,000 to 20,000 people a year from all over the country and the world.
“We’ve had three from other countries this month,” said Tippin, who bills himself as the “Troll under the Bridge.” Tippin spends much of his time at the bridge logging in visitors and performing maintenance chores. He also maintains a website about the bridge, medoracovered bridge.com.
In November, there were visitors from four countries — Japan, Mexico, Peru and South Africa. In October, visitors were from Canada, China, France, Germany and Ireland.
The busiest month this fall for visitors to the bridge from outside the county was in September when people from nine countries, including Australia, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland and the United Kingdom, came to see the bridge.
Tippin said visitors tell him they are always on the lookout for things that are the longest, tallest, biggest or oldest. The bridge is one of those, as it’s billed the longest historic covered bridge in the country.
Some of those visitors wind up staying to see other attractions in the county and nearby communities, and they also might spend a night or two at hotels in the Seymour area, Tippin said.
Tippin said any extra publicity generated by the Indiana’s Historic Pathways signs would be welcomed.
“I don’t see how it could hurt anything,” he said.
Besides the bridge, McCormick said Jackson County has so many other things to see and do, and many of those can be found on a 1,000-piece puzzle map. The map features historic, natural, scenic, recreational and cultural places and festivals and other events.
Some of the attractions are Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, Jackson-Washington State Forest and Skyline Drive, Starve Hollow State Recreation Area and historic downtown districts in both Seymour and Brownstown.
The puzzle map may be purchased from the Bicentennial Planning Committee of Jackson County at its office at 202 S. Main St. in Brownstown or online at jackson- co-indiana-bicentennial.org. They also are available at the Jackson County Visitor Center, 100 N. Broadway St., Seymour, or the Jackson County Court-house, 111 S. Main St., Brownstown.
McCormick said every time someone decides to visit Jackson County, it enriches the lives of everyone who lives here.
“I just hope what happens is that everyone realizes the jewel we have here as far as the historic buildings and events,” she said.
Teena Ligman, a public affairs officer with the U.S. Forest Service office in Bedford, said the sign project is a way to promote the establishment of Indiana’s Historic Pathways.
The forest service is involved in part because U.S. 50 passes through areas near the Hoosier National Forest.
“One of our missions is rural development, and my job in public affairs is to help with community development and marketing with our local communities,” Ligman said.
Indiana’s Historic Pathways is a National Scenic Byway that tells the story of the early settlement and transportation in the state along with westward migration.
It began with the footpaths worn down by the now extinct Eastern American bison on their annual trek between Kentucky and the Falls of the Ohio to the prairies of Illinois. That’s the reason the bison was chosen to be placed on the signs.
The footpaths, now known as Buffalo Trace, later were used by Native Americans and European settlers.
After creation of the Indiana Territory in 1800, a road was constructed just north of Buffalo Trace. It served as a stagecoach and wagon route, eventually becoming U.S. 150.
In the 1950s, the railroad along with a parallel road provided east-west access across the region, linking Cincinnati to St. Louis. U.S. 50, constructed in the 1920s and 1930s, links the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.
For information about Indiana’s Historic Pathways, visit usi.edu/ihp/index.aspx