Short History of Roads and Highways – Indiana Edition
Chapter title – Indiana Pioneer Traces
Major Ephraim Kibbey carved the first road to cross what would become the State of Indiana. The two-year task began in 1799 and finished in 1800.
Major Ephraim Kibbey (1754 – 1809)
New Jersey native Ephraim Kibbey joined the army during the American Revolution at the beginning of the conflict and served until it ended. A trained land surveyor, he traveled west to the mouth of the Little Miami River on the Ohio River in 1788 and became one of the first settlers of Columbia, Ohio. He joined the team of surveyors that worked at surveying the Symmes Purchase, exposed to harsh conditions and attacks by the natives. He joined the forces of General Anthony Wayne in his efforts to subdue the Amerindian tribes of the area. He served as Captain of the rangers that scouted the vast forests, keeping track of the warriors movements for the General. After the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, peace returned to the Ohio River Valley area and Kibbey returned to his surveying work.
In 1799 he began cutting a road through the forests that would lead from the Great Miami River to Vincennes on the Wabash River. After surveying and cutting about seventy miles of road, Kibbey and his crew became separated. he hunted for his companions unsuccessfully and returned to Columbia starved and thin. he had subsisted on roots for several days while traveling through the forest. Kibbey returned to surveying the road and completed it sometime in 1800. He reported the road as being somewhat over 155 miles in length. The route of this road is known in several places. It went through present day French Lick and portions of it survive in the Hoosier National Forest. A one-half mile section of Old Trail in Martin County is part of this old road. It met the Buffalo Trace, following that ancient route to Vincennes.
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