History Behind Naming the Roads

Naming Convention

East and West roads: named after statesmen, authors, and deceased County Officials. Among these names are those of Watson and Van Nuys, in honor of the retiring United States Sen. James Watson and his successor Frederick Van Nuys.
The new names include those of several Presidents. Those of Indiana author's, such as James Whitcomb Riley, U.S. Vice Presidents, such as Schuyler Colfax and Thomas Marshall, are to be found on the name posts. There is no road named for now Vice President Warren Fairbanks.

Road signs

North and South Roads:

Named after flowers, trees, and shrubbery. Charles Roy, Commissioner for the 1st District, spent many days in the Mishawaka and South Bend libraries picking names for these roads.

Numbering System of the Roads: 

The numbering system in 1933 was said to be unique. Beginning at the southern most boundary of St. Joseph County, the east-west roads were numbered from 200 to 290 and beginning at the western boundary of the County, the north-south roads were numbered 100 to 196.

First Change: 

In 1933, under the direction of the Board of Commissioners and the County Surveyor, sweeping changes were made in the names of the County roads.

  • Names of 32 of the 60 east-west roads were changed, and 4 new road names were added.
  • Names of 43 of the 84 north-south roads were changed, and 10 new road names were added.

Second Change: 

In 1937, the numbering system was changed again.There were 83 north and south roads in the county, 61 east and west roads, 30 angling roads, and 10 trunk highways. The plan called for house numbers on east and west roads starting at the Elkhart County line, 100 numbers allotted in each mile. The county is approximately 25 miles across from east to west and 20 miles long from the Michigan state line to the Marshall County line on the south. A piece of Lincoln Township in the southwest corner of the county extends three miles farther south than the rest of the County, to the Stark County line.

All roads being given numbers corresponding to their respective distances from the north or east county lines. As an example, Brick Road, which is about two miles from the north line of St. Joseph County, was numbered 200-S.

The letter "S" indicates that the road is an east and west road and is south of the Michigan line, while the letter "W" in a road number indicates that the road is west of the Elkhart County line and runs north and south, as: Apple Road No. 150-W, denoting that this road is one and a half miles west of the east county line and runs north and south.

Final Change:

In 1955, a proposal to change the road names again, was given a public hearing. The proposal was to change the numbering system to one based upon the distance from a base line road. Purdue University worked out a system that required the north-south roads be based upon distances from U.S. 31, and the east-west roads were based upon distance from Kern Road. This system is similar to that adopted by LaPorte County.

This 1955 proposal was not adopted, but one phase of the plan proposed in 1955 was accomplished and that was the house numbering system that we have in place today. There were 1000 house numbers assigned per mile of County Road.

The north-south numbers started at the Michigan State line with number 50,500 and ran south to Starke County, which is 73,000. The east-west numbers started at the Elkhart County line with 10,000 and ran to LaPorte County line, which is 34,000. The rural numbering system plan was completed in the summer of 1957. It is still in effect today outside any municipality. The municipalities were allowed to keep their own numbering system.

An effort was also made at that time to eliminate some of the duplication of road names, such as Crumstown Highway, Crumstown Trail, and Crumstown Avenue.