The Portable LaPorte County was written around 1978 as part of a larger LaPorte County History Project conducted by Michigan City Public Library and the LaPorte County CETA Project. Click through the chapters below to learn more about the history of LaPorte County.
Paul St. Arnaud
Under the sponsorship of the Michigan City Public Library and the LaPorte County CETA Title VI Special Projects program, the LaPorte County History project has accomplished a great deal towards the preservation of our past. Two one-hour films and eighteen slide-cassette programs on the history of LaPorte County have been researched, written and produced by the project staff. Over 6000 historic photographs have been copied onto 35mm slides; 70 of them have been included in this booklet. Over 100 older residents of the county have been interviewed on topics ranging from maple sugar harvesting to reminiscences of an era of horse troughs and one-room schools. These tapes have been indexed and transcribed. Some of the interviews have been published in monograph form by the project staff. Members of the LaPorte County History Project have conducted, at no charge, numerous slide shows on historic topics for county, church, civic, and school groups. With the cooperation of the Michigan City school system, we have video-taped our slide-cassette programs for the future use of the students. All the materials collected or produced by the History Project are available through the Michigan City Public Library.
The Portable LaPorte County introduces the reader to the history of the county. It is organized in three sections and includes a map designed to make local historical research both educational and enjoyable. The Portable LaPorte County is not a complete or comprehensive history. We ignored much of our county’s recent past in order to cover that which already has or is now rapidly disappearing from our lives and we urge county residents to further investigate their history. It is only with an understanding of the past that we can create a strong future.
An Introduction to La Porte County
The area of land we today know as LaPorte County was originally a place of great natural diversity and abundance. On the north bordering Lake Michigan stretched a belt of high, billowing sand dunes; on the south along the Kankakee River was a vast domain of watery marsh where wildlife of all kinds lived in incredible numbers. Between these two regions were areas of dense hardwood forests, broken here and there by open expanses of rolling tallgrass prairie. Sparkling, gem-like lakes dotted the hills and thousands of springs fed clear, rushing creeks.
The landscape of most of LaPorte County was created approximately 20,000 years ago when the last great period of continental glaciation was on the wane. During the past million years four huge masses of ice formed in northern Canada and swept south to bury the northern region of the United States under thousands of feet of glacial ice. LaPorte County was totally covered by ice at least three times. The last glacier – known as the “Wisconsin” – crept south over our county 30 to 40 thousand years ago. As it advanced southward, it bulldozed the Lake Michigan basin deeper and swept away earlier glacial deposits. After reaching southern Indiana the glacier then started to melt back again as the climate warmed. Most of LaPorte County was uncovered 16,000 years ago, at which time the retreating ice mass dropped a tremendous load of rock debris and sand in a broad belt of high ridges we now call the Valparaiso Moraine. The melt water from the glacier flowing off the moraine created a gently sloping plain which extends to the Kankakee River. The glacier eventually retreated to Canada, where it completely wasted away about 5,000 years ago. The melt water from the glacier filled the vast depressions of the Great Lakes basins, including that of Lake Michigan. In LaPorte County, Lake Michigan has rested at several different levels, the highest being 60 feet above the present level. Sand dunes formed along the different shorelines. The large dunes of today developed only about 4,000 years ago when Lake Michigan began to stabilize at its present height of 580 feet above sea level.
Forests soon followed the retreat of the glacier northward. At first came spruce and fir trees; later came pine trees and hardwoods. Hardwood forests covered much of the northern half of the county in Pioneer times and provided early sawmills a great wealth of timber. White pine grew on much of the sandy and marshy land along Lake Michigan. Further south occurred small openings in the dense forests where grasses and wildflowers provided the tallest cover. The French explorers and fur traders called these openings “prairies,” their word for meadow. Around LaPorte was the Door Prairie, or Burr Oak At Door Village, which led like a door to the western Prairies; from this LaPorte, or in English, the door, got its name. The tall grasses that flourished on the prairie created lush grazing grounds for small herds of bison and elk. They were hunted not only by Indians, but also by numerous wolves and cougars, or mountain lions. Quail and prairie chickens likewise made the prairies their homes. Among the oak trees scattered here and there, as well as in the dense forest, huge flocks of passenger pigeons fed on acorns and roosted by the millions at night amid the trees. The small patches of northern prairies broadened out a few miles further south into wide, flat vistas. These sometimes were wet and marshy, and here snipe, woodcock, mink, and otter thrived.
Along the southern border of the county, the Kankakee River lazily snaked its way through a vast area of open, broad marshland. This area was home to countless numbers of fish, frogs, cranes, muskrats, and otters. Each fall tremendous numbers of geese, swans, and ducks rested and fed here, creating one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in North America.
About 2,000 years ago, LaPorte County was colonized by the Hopewell people. Farmers and warriors, the Hopewells built a vast empire stretching from Missouri to western Pennsylvania and from the Great Lakes to Tennessee. Their major settlement in LaPorte County was on the border of Mill Creek. Here, in what is now the town of Union Mills, were found a series of burial mounds. When excavated in the 1870’s, these mounds yielded some of the finest examples of Hopewell pottery ever found. This burial practice, begun by the earlier Adena peoples, had reached a zenith under the Hopewells. Important leaders were buried with articles of flint, copper, mica, shale, cannel coal and slate; platform and effigy pipes sculpted into human forms were placed near the body. The mound sites were probably not villages in themselves, but rather ceremonial centers for a cluster of smaller communities. The1000 year dynasty of the mound builders ended by 500 A.D. with the destruction of the Hopewells by either conquest or disease and crop failure. Only mute fragments of the lives of these ancient people remain today.
The Pottawattomie Indians knew and loved this land. They fished, trapped, and hunted and picked the wild cranberries and blueberries that sprinkled the marsh. Using their dugout canoes, they plied the waters of the Kankakee, camping on small wooded islands which dotted the marsh. The Pottawattomies had several temporary village sites throughout the county which they used on a seasonal basis. In summer they shunned the mosquito-plagued marshes and moved to higher ground or to the dune country along Lake Michigan. A complicated web of interconnecting trails tied their domain together. One of these was the Great Sauk Trail, a transcontinental route that linked the western plains with eastern Canada. The trail passed through LaPorte County connecting later with what became Hudson Lake, LaPorte, Door Village, and Westville. The Sac Indians of Illinois traveled over this route to Fort Maiden near Detroit. Here they collected annuities from the British for helping them in the War of 1812 against the Americans. Pottawattomies still inhabited the county several years after white men began to live here. They were very peaceful and curious about the strange ways of the whites, but their presence was irritating to land hungry white settlers. The last of the Indians were force-marched out to Kansas in 1838 by the U.S. government, a journey remembered as the Trail of Death.
White men passed through LaPorte County in the late 1600’s. French missionaries such as Father Marquette entered the wilderness of northern Indiana and Illinois converting the native Indians to Catholicism. He is believed to have been the first white ever to set foot in LaPorte County when he preached to a group of Pottawattomie Indians along Trail Creek in 1674. Shortly after this, in 1679, LaSalle led an exploratory expedition from Montreal through this area with the purpose of securing a new inland empire for France with a series of fortifications and trading posts in the upper Midwest. Part of his journey which led him down the Kankakee River from South Bend along southern boundary of LaPorte County. For the next 150 years, other French-Canadians passed through the area, intent mainly on trapping beaver, mink, and otter and trading with the Indians. Whenever possible they traveled by canoe along the shores of Lake Michigan and then followed inland water routes throughout the whole Midwest down to the Gulf of Mexico. As far as is known, these Frenchmen never developed a permanent settlement in LaPorte County.
By the early 1800’s, the people of the United States were slowly moving westward from the crowded Atlantic seaboard states into the new lands of the Northwest Territory. The Ohio River and its tributaries became the main highway for many of these settlers. Traveling by wagon along primitive roads to the headwaters of the Ohio, settlers loaded their possessions and families onto flatboats and floated downriver to Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Once there, they slowly moved northward along the banks of small rivers and streams through the dense forests and steep hills of these new lands. Many of these pioneers came from the South and the Border States. By 1816, enough people were living in Indiana to make admission as a state possible. But no easy means of reaching the fertile lands north of Indianapolis existed until the 1825 completion of the Erie Canal; travel from the East to the shores of the Great Lakes was now possible. Settlers virtually exploded along the canal, eager to trade the thin New England soils for the rich Midwestern prairies.
In the meantime, Hoosier politicians, concerned about the dominance of Southerners and Southern feeling in Indiana, began to seek means of tying the state politically and economically with the North. The Erie Canal and Great Lakes shipping made it possible for goods to reach the Eastern markets by a shorter northern route, rather than by the river systems to New Orleans. Obviously a port would have to be constructed on Lake Michigan; Hoosiers believed that if this were done not only would the northern lands be settled but Indiana, with all the rich agricultural products of the Midwest flowing through her lakeport, would become one of the foremost states in the Union. Accordingly, in 1828, surveying and construction of the Michigan Road was begun. Running northward from Madison, on the Ohio River, the Michigan Road would pass through the state capital and the broad fields of Indiana to the mouth of Trail Creek where a lakeport was envisioned.
The first white settlers began arriving in LaPorte County in late 1828 or early 1829, attracted by the prospect of cheap government land. Because of difficulties in communication due to the distance and terrain, settlers frequently had little idea of how many others there were living in the general area. The two best candidates for first settler are Miriam Benedict, who settled near Westville in March, 1829, and Asa Harper, who built his cabin near the Hudson Lake Baptist Mission in 1828 or 1829. Slowly, other pioneers began arriving, many of them traveling in their ox-drawn wagons along the unimproved Michigan Road, until there were 2 or 3 tiny communities in 1831.
Major Isaac C. Elston, a wealthy and influential resident of Crawfordsville, had a great deal of interest in the prospect of a town and harbor at the northern terminus of the Michigan Road. His friends in the Indiana legislature and his conversations with the commissioners who had surveyed the mouth of Trail Creek in 1828, all convinced him that the port would be located there. In 1830, when the Trail Creek site was chosen for Indiana’s lakeport, Major Elston bought the creek mouth and the adjoining land, sight unseen for $1.25 an acre. A year later, he finally traveled north to survey his lands and lay out the future town of Michigan City.
In the same year, James and Abram Andrew were platting the town of LaPorte. The Andrew brothers had built the first 15 mile segment of the Michigan Road north from Madison. When their job was completed, they found that the Michigan Road Authority was unable to pay them in cash. They accepted script paper which could be exchanged for land in the northern part of the state, for their labors. They also set out in the fall of 1831 to inspect the area. It is very possible that they and Major Elston traveled together over the Michigan Road to LaPorte County.
The following year was a momentous one. LaPorte, with its small resident population and central geographical position, became the county seat; there were two cabins, at the most, in Michigan City at that time. In later years an intense rivalry developed between the two cities for prominence in county affairs. In May of 1832, the Black Hawk War scare banded most of the scattered settlers of LaPorte County together for defense while others fled to the East and safety. For a time settlement slowed, but when it became well known that the Pottawattomie had remained peaceful and that there had been no real Indian threat, the pulse of settlement quickened. By 1835, most of the government land had been sold. New settlers were arriving every day along the Michigan Road; ships were beginning to take on and unload freight at Michigan City even though there was no harbor. The first settlers in the county survived in a frontier environment complete with Indians, stagecoaches, wild bears, and wolves. They lived in log cabins and farmed small patches of ground painfully wrested from the forest and prairie. But LaPorte County changed as swiftly as the rest of the country during these early years. In rapid succession such improvements as better roads, banks, industries, frame houses, theatres, hotels, etc., came to the area, all the result of a fortunate combination of geography and easy transportation. The removal of the Indians in 1838-39 secured title to their lands for settlers and resulted in increased settlement. Both the Money Panic of 1837 and the California Gold Rush of 1849 may have helped the county by winnowing out those who were not satisfied with the slow, steady, relentless growth and development of this area.
When the railroads reached LaPorte County in 1852, they ushered in a confusing period of phenomenal growth, expansion, depression and upheaval. In many ways the railroads meant the demise of Michigan City as a major commercial port. Once smaller centers like Hanna and Wanatah had direct rail connections with Chicago and the Eastern markets, nearby farmers shipped their farm produce from these points rather than haul them to the lake harbor.
At the same time, the railroads created new industries in LaPorte and Michigan City by making raw materials and markets more accessible. The Haskell-Barker Car Co. and the M. Rumely Co., both mainstays of the county economy, were started in the 1850’s to supply the railroads with needed products. The location of the engine repair shops in the two towns also created many new jobs. Unfamiliar ethnic groups began to join the original settlers in LaPorte County; the Irish and the Germans came with the railroad and stayed to work in the new factories or to form farming communities. The Northern Indiana State Prison was located in Michigan City during this period partly to provide a cheap labor pool by contracting convicts for work in the numerous factories. High energy, high hopes and a restlessness characterized this period in the development of LaPorte County. The railroads, by making travel faster and easier, began the slow process of binding the individual areas of the United States together into a single entity.
The great conflict of the Civil War dominated the decade of the 1860’s. Feeling for the Union ran high in LaPorte County. Many of the residents had originally come from New England states and there were several Underground Railroad stations scattered across the county. Hundreds of county men volunteered and trained for combat in the three army camps in Michigan City and LaPorte. Factory and farm production boomed under the impetus of the war. Wheat and hogs, mainstays of the agricultural economy, were shipped by rail to the East for eventual use by the army. LaPorte County was a major troop shipping point and these same railroads carried thousands of men from the Midwest to the southern battlefields. The manpower drain created by the Civil War brought about the first use of machinery on county farms; manufacturers of threshing machinery would stage demonstrations of their products for county farmers. The overwhelming tragedy of civil war was brought forcibly home to the people of LaPorte County when in May, 1865, the funeral train of Abraham Lincoln passed through on its way to Springfield, Illinois.
After the war, growth in LaPorte and especially Michigan City slowed due to a slump in the economy. Farmers were hit by a drop in prices after 1865 because of decreased demand for foodstuffs. In Michigan City prison labor kept some factories open while in LaPorte the Fox Woolen Mills attracted new workers. But in 1870, economic disaster struck LaPorte with the removal of the Michigan Southern machine shops to Elkhart, Indiana. Over the next ten years, population dropped slightly as the railroad-related industries left the town. In contrast, the 1880’s was a boom period for Michigan City. The population virtually doubled as old industries, such as Haskell-Barker under the management of John H. Barker, expanded, while new industries were attracted by the abundance of labor. The harbor, dredged in 1869, was enjoying a renaissance; hundreds of ships brought lumber from the vast forests of Michigan and Wisconsin to the many Michigan City wood and finishing factories.
The technology which had been devoted to war uses was now concentrated upon the development of agricultural aids. Inventions such as the Rumely Company’s portable steam engine and improved reapers and threshers opened up more prairie lands. Farmers were beginning to expand the size of their acreage and to specialize in farm productions. Ice-refrigerated railroad cars were introduced and Chicago stockyards were now able to ship cattle and hogs, slaughtered for market. Chicago firms began harvesting the ice on LaPorte’s numerous lakes, shipping it packed in county-harvested marsh hay by freight car direct to the stockyards. As the demands for Midwest cornfed beef and pork grew, county farmers increased livestock production.
These years also saw the beginning of an unusual industry in LaPorte and Michigan City. The natural beauty of the LaPorte lakes induced many people to spend their summers there, living in hotels, cottages and canvas tents. A variety of cultural, religious, and purely entertainment activities were offered for these visitors and residents. In Michigan City, excursionists came by boat and train to enjoy the lakefront, tour the prison and take in the view from high atop Hoosier Slide. Great women and men of the day, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Horace Greeley, came and spoke to clubs and associations throughout the county.
Life in the cities became more sophisticated during the 1880’s and 1890’s. Police and fire protection were instituted on a semi-professional basis. Sewers, gas and electric streetlights were installed; streetcars became a common sight and some people even had telephones. Increasingly, life in LaPorte and Michigan City was becoming more like life in Chicago or New York. Through magazines and newspapers, cultural experiences could be shared by large segments of the American population, even the remote farm families.
Although 95% of the county was in use as farmlands in the early 1900’s, an increasingly larger percentage of the population was moving to the cities, searching for work at Haskell and Barker or Rumely companies or one of the other expanding factories. Many of those migrating to the towns were displaced farm families. The farmer’s dependence on the labor-saving steam threshers and tractors drove many to mortgage their lands in order to buy the equipment. After incomes dropped in the post-war period, the mortgages were unpaid and the farms lost. Farmers who survived this depression began to increase farm size to profitably use their machinery, buying out other farmers’ holdings. The Kankakee River was straightened and its surrounding marshlands, once a wildlife area rich in deer, beaver and waterfowl, was extensively dredged and ditched as man claimed lands from the wet prairie soils.
Horse and wagon remained as the farmer’s main method of short-haul transportation, but streetcars and interurbans were constructed to provide urban populations of Michigan City and LaPorte with greater mobility. As horse-drawn and electric streetcars had earlier connected city dwellers to job and stores, interurbans connected city to city. By the early 1900’s, Michigan City and LaPorte residents were able to quickly and conveniently travel to South Bend, Elkhart and Chicago. A super-interurban, the Airline, which was to have linked Chicago non-stop to New York, was abandoned after only 19 1/2 miles were constructed near LaPorte.
The defined work week of the factory laborer allowed the development of a leisure industry. Organized entertainment in the form of Chautauquas, circuses, dog and pony shows and vaudeville acts now arrived by railroad to offer their amusements. Band concerts were frequent and well-attended; neighborhood taverns and factories sponsored baseball games. The lakefront activities also intensified as Sunday afternoons were spent cruising LaPorte’s lakes or bathing and picnicking at Michigan City’s beaches.
Factory jobs were plentiful although hours were long and the pay low. Both city and farm dwellers needed goods and services that once were supplied from within the family but now were provided in exchange for cash. Dairies, grocery markets, butcher shops, clothing stores, restaurants, hospitals and drug stores increased in number and importance throughout the county.
The growing urban demand for farm goods was met by increased farm dependence on the Rumely Oil Pull tractor, gas combines, and the advice of the newly-appointed county agricultural extension agent, L. B. Clore, the first in Indiana. Urban migration from the farms continued as farmers were unable to buy the new machinery and compete against other producers; still, the factories demanded more labor. Industrialists such as the Barkers and Rumelys found it in the steerage ships and railroad cars which transported millions of Germans, Poles, Irish, Syrians, Jews, Italians, Turks, and Blacks across the oceans or the countryside to American cities.
Fleeing famine, revolutions, or a crumbling peasant system, these immigrants powered the American industrial revolution of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Although arriving with dreams of owning land, many became trapped by the unfamiliarity of customs, beliefs, and languages in the often hated cities. To survive in the new land and retain pride in their old ways, the immigrants established neighborhoods or communities separated by language and tradition from the surrounding areas: Germantown, Canada, Swedeville, Polish Town. Churches were built where the beliefs of the old country could be followed and passed on to the youth. The hope of the future, the children were expected to continue their father’s ways while becoming American. If they could, parents sent their young to church schools where the home language of German or Polish was used. Those unable or unwilling to blend into American society because of language, religion or physical characteristics were still tolerated, as all immigrants had been since America’s colonization, because there was a need for their labor and skills.
Immigrant labor proved to be essential in the running of factories and farms during WW 1. The newly-arrived Syrian or Pole, like the long-time citizens, sent their young to fight and die. Everyone worked for the war effort on the home front, saving toothpaste tubes and peach pits for recycling into chemicals, buying Liberty bonds and knitting dough boy caps and scarves. German schools closed and German was dropped from regular use in the church and home as these and other immigrants struggled to become American.
Americans were afraid after the war. Returning from the fighting to an economy suffering post-war adjustments, the soldiers had to fight again, but this time for peacetime work. Willing to do the dirtiest job at the lowest wage just to survive, the immigrants were often hired instead of the vet. These people with their unknown languages and strange customs began to be looked on with fear and distrust; organizations promising to save America for the Americans were wholeheartedly accepted by sections of the population. The Ku Klux Klan found favor in northern states by harassing the peoples immigrating to the cities to find work: the Jews, Blacks and Catholics. With torchlight parades, angry speeches and fiery crosses, the Klan persecuted those who did not agree with their views. Both the state and much of the local governments were controlled in the 1920’s by Klan sympathizers. The KKK did not decrease in size or power until the Klan-controlled government failed to stem off the Depression of the 30’s.
Prohibition, the restriction of the type and availability of liquor, did not stop area residents from enjoying bootlegged liquor and bathtub gin. The sounds of the big bands enticed hundreds to the lakefront ballroom, the Oasis, or the Hudson Lake Casino. Thousands crammed Floyd Fitzsimmon’s Sky Blue Arena in Michigan City to see national prizefights before the state government closed the arena for illegal activities.
The radio was invented in the 1920’s, further increasing the linkage of county residents to the rest of the country. Influential and pervasive, radio newscasts, soap operas and jingles created a common set of values, goals and dreams in which any listener could share.
Further loss of isolation was assured by the popularity of the automobile. Offering convenient transportation, the auto and truck allowed LaPorte County farmers and industrialists access to any desired market. Improved road construction, begun with the popularity of bicycles twenty years earlier, was completed; towns were soon linked by a concrete network of roads and highways. Just as the railroad had decided the future of many small towns, the auto and improved roads caused the decline of many once-thriving farm marketing centers into quiet residential areas. The auto allowed people in the outlying areas to work and shop in the higher paying factories and better stocked stores of LaPorte and Michigan City. The car and interurbans also allowed workers to move away from their offices and factories’ central city locations; towns grew rapidly out of their city limits as people chose to commute from their country cottages. Suburbia became an established part of the American dream as bedroom communities such as Long Beach and Trail Creek were established.
As Americans increasingly enjoyed their Sunday drives and summer vacations, the economy was faltering. With crop prices low after WW I and lands mortgaged to buy machinery, farmers were unable to buy manufactured goods. Without the farmers as consumers, industries began to cut production. Workers were laid off and savings depleted. Banks closed as customers tried to withdraw money already spent. National investments crashed and the country was in the midst of the Great Depression of the 1930’s.
As more county residents lost jobs, the lines for food stamps at the township trustees grew longer; the sight of tramps and hoboes became a common one and handouts a frequent request. Thousands of farms across the country were sold to creditors or foreclosed because of unpaid mortgages. The Advance Rumely Company went into receivership because of unpaid bills and was acquired by the Allis-Chalmers Corporation; Haskell-Barker Company was acquired by Pullman Standard as orders for railroad cars and the subsequent profits dropped.
To create needed jobs, Congress authorized a Works Progress Administration. Hundreds of laborers were hired by federal, state and local governments to conduct research or complete construction jobs. LaPorte and Michigan City both qualified for WPA funding and much of the construction work on Fox Park and the lakefront pier, zoo and Washington Park was done by WPA workers.
The nation and county’s economies did not recover until WW II created a demand for food and supplies. Factories and farms increased or shifted productions: Reliance produced uniforms instead of men’s shirts and children’s underwear and Allis-Chalmers switched from tractors to anti-aircraft guns. Many women received their first introduction to shop work as local companies were forced to hire women to replace drafted and enlisted employees.
LaPorte County was chosen as the site of one of 70 ordnance plants across the country. On over 20 square miles of converted cornfields near Kingsbury, workers recruited from throughout the nation built and tested thousands of bombs, fuses, and shells daily. The influx of laborers, many of them southern Blacks and Whites, to the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant was the largest immigration experienced by county residents since the 1920’s.
Industry and agriculture suffered initially in peacetime. Some factories had been unionized during the war and strikes protesting drops in post-war incomes were common. The federal government created price supports, surplus plans and Soil Bank programs to help farmers adjust to the drops in food demand and prices after the European nations resumed food production. More county farmers joined Farm Bureau Co-ops, which had been established in the ’30’s to help the farmer by offering cooperative buying and marketing.
The use of the auto increased as gas rationing was lifted; as Americans grow more reluctant to leave their cars, drive-in movies, banks, and restaurants were developed. The federal government assumed the cost of construction of transcontinental super highways and mile-a-minute travel became a reality.
This mobility of Americans caused a decay of the inner city residential area and central business district. The exodus of the well-off from the city heightened the tensions between racial or ethnic groups. Fear became a common concern in cities of all sizes.
In the late 1950’s, the smaller LaPorte County towns lost their center of social activities with the consolidation of the local high schools. Students from the small towns were bused to LaPorte or South Central High Schools. This, coupled with the increased mobility of the residents, transformed the once-bustling small towns into quiet commuter residential areas. Often only a church and a few stores remain to mark the town’s business center.
The county’s farmers today utilize a great deal of scientific research, machinery and capital in the production of corn, soybeans and wheat. With the dependency of the farm on technology, a huge agribusiness industry has developed to supply the farmer with equipment, chemicals and research information. The boundaries between farm and industry became harder to discern. Industry itself has become increasingly dependent on technological advances and computer-aided management.
In 1970, LaPorte County’s population was 66% urban and 34% rural. Although many ethnic groups remain to diversify county life, the difference between cultures has rapidly been eroded away by the pervasive and homogenizing influence of television. The concerns of an entire nation have become those of the county: preservation of natural resources; pollution; evaluation of morals and beliefs; political upheavals; and social unrest. Identification with the local area has often been lost; an understanding of the forces which shaped the past and continue to influence the present is missing.
The study of local history provides this identification. An examination of documents, images and memories concerning the immediate area graphically details the development of the area. Instances of national importance are also more easily understood and appreciated if viewed in terms of the immigration patterns, economic trends, customs and traditions, etc., of a city; often their beginnings can be traced to small-town happenings.
We are rooted in our past. We inherit the rules, practices, and beliefs of our fathers as well as their tools and structures; what we do with them creates our own history. If we better understand the events and personalities which molded our values and beliefs, we can more successfully discard, change, or utilize them. We can grow as individuals and as members of society. The study of local history, of the past of the surrounding area, allows us to plan our future with more care.
Historic Sites of La Porte County
The enclosed maps of LaPorte County, Michigan City and LaPorte are simplified road maps which include all the necessary roads and streets to get you to the sites listed below. More complete maps, helpful but not necessary, are widely available. Most of the county road names are a combination of a number and a direction, which greatly simplifies knowing where you are. Roads running east and west across the county north of LaPorte are designated 100N, 200N, 300N, etc., increasing by a hundred for every mile north of Division Road. East-west roads south of Division Road are designated 100S, 200S, etc. The same system is used for roads running north-south across the county. North-south roads west of LaPorte are named 100W, 200W, etc., while those east of LaPorte are called 100E, 200E, etc. Because most county roads follow this system, it is hard to get really lost anywhere in the county.
Although there are hundreds of historic places throughout the county, we have tried to select only those where an actual physical structure or historical marker still exists. There are countless places where absolutely nothing remains of former activity, including whole towns that were once teeming settlements but were later abandoned and disappeared. Many significant historical places no longer in existence are often mentioned within the description of related sites. Exceptions to this include places such as Bootjack and Plum Grove, which were judged too important not to be given separate site numbers. The county site descriptions that follow are numbered to correspond to the numbers in red on the county map; separate blowup maps of Michigan City and LaPorte have capital letters in red which correspond to the subsite descriptions of these two cities. All structures, monuments, and markers mentioned were present in July, 1978, but with time some of these can be expected to disappear. All residences mentioned are PRIVATE, unless stated otherwise. Please do not trespass on private property or disturb the people living in these residences.
Since the county is so large that it would be impossible to cover all the sites in a day or two, we have broken the county down into five sections: Northwest, Northeast, West Central, Southwest, and Southeast, in addition to separate sections for Michigan City and LaPorte. Each section can probably be covered in one day. Following the numbers or letters consecutively in each section will give a reasonably logical tour of that section, although sites can be visited in any order desired.
LaPorte has a long distinguished history, The first settlers in the area began to arrive in March, 1830, attracted by the beautiful appearance of the area with its lakes, oak trees and prairie, as well as the cheap government land. In 1831, Warfer Wilson, Hiram Todd, John Walker, James Andrew and Abram P. Andrew Jr. bought 400 acres of land at the Michigan Road land sales in Logansport. These five men were determined to found and settle a town on their new property. In May, 1832, LaPorte County was incorporated and because of its central position, population and the efforts of its founders, the infant town of LaPorte was chosen as the county seat. This decision is probably the primary reason for making LaPorte the service-based community it is today. People throughout the county had to conduct all of their legal and much of their commercial business in LaPorte. Soon, doctors, lawyers, skilled craftsmen and other professional men of some education and stature began to settle in LaPorte. In 1862, the location of the Michigan Southern machine shops in the town seemed to insure its industrial future but in 1870, this major industry moved. Other industries soon followed and LaPorte’s population dropped 5.9%. The community’s commercial growth slowed considerably and by 1880, Michigan City had far surpassed LaPorte in population and industrial strength. But the interests of the original settlers, education, culture, and self-improvement, prevailed and LaPorteans enjoyed an active social and cultural life. Churches, the Library Association and independent clubs and organizations led the way in bringing guest speakers, musicians and others to LaPorte. Many church groups held summer meetings here, making the lakes a popular vacation spot. Civic pride embellished the town with fine buildings and lined the streets with maple trees. A few large industries, the Fox Woolen Mills and the Rumely Company, sustained the town commercially; population growth was slow and steady. During the Depression of the 1930’s, WPA projects built city parks and water works. The years of WW II found many LaPorteans working at the nearby Kingsbury Ordnance Plant, one of the world’s largest ammunition-loading plants. Many who had migrated north to work at KOP remained in LaPorte after the war’s end, adding significantly to the racial and ethnic mixture of the population. During the war, Allis-Chalmers LaPorte’s largest peacetime employer, manufactured anti-aircraft guns as well as harvesters. Other agribusiness industries developed following the tradition of feed and grain stores and blacksmith shops present since the community’s beginnings. Today, in 1978, LaPorte is almost an archetypical small Midwestern town, one that is working to preserve and improve its physical and financial environment.
A. LAPORTE COUNTY COURTHOUSE
Since 1835, there has always been a courthouse on this City block in LaPorte. Abram Andrew, one of LaPorte’s founders, deeded the land to the city, without charge, for as long as a courthouse stood on the site. Court was first held in a log cabin at Clear Lake, but in June 1835, a brick courthouse with a very elaborate cupola was built. Unfortunately, the brick walls began to crack. In an effort to halt the deterioration, two inch rods were run through the building along the courtroom floor, causing many falls for those using the court. In 1847, the Board of Commissioners authorized the construction of a second brick courthouse at a cost of $9,681.00. The building had a portico with columns and was in the Greek Revival style. But by 1892, this courthouse also proved to be too small for the volume of county business and the cornerstone was laid for the present courthouse. This Richardsonian Romanesque structure was designed by B. S. Tolan of Fort Wayne and was built with Portage Entry red sandstone from Lake Superior. The carving of the stones was done right on the site. The county courtroom is especially beautiful with its oak paneling and stained glass windows. The bell from the second courthouse, used to alert the citizens of LaPorte to news of momentous events, has been preserved and is hanging next to the old fire station across from the courthouse on Indiana Ave. An important part of the courthouse is the LaPorte County Museum run by the LaPorte County Historical Society. Located in the courthouse basement since 1938, the museum was moved in 1978 to more spacious quarters in the new courthouse annex. The LaPorte County Museum houses a fine collection of antique tools, clothes, and furnishings as well as a variety of objects and materials pertaining to LaPorte history. A highlight of the museum is the W. A. Jones Collection of over 800 antique firearms. The museum is open to the public for tours.
The buildings lining the courthouse square are handsome and well preserved examples of High Victorian Italianate architecture. Buildings in this style-can be found on Main Streets all over the country. These structures are tangible monuments to the rapid growth and expansion of America after the Civil War. LaPorte is fortunate in the number and variety of these buildings left in the downtown area.
B. CENTENNIAL LOG CABIN AND HISTORICAL MARKER
(near corner of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street at the depot)
Near this site was built the first log cabin within the original city limits of LaPorte. It was put up by George Thomas and his neighbors on a Sunday in October, 1832 on the shore of Clear Lake, which at that time was much larger than today. Thomas’ home was constructed of slabs sawn at the first saw mill in LaPorte County, that of A. P. Andrew, located where the present NIPSCO building is on Highway 2 on the west side of LaPorte. The first session of the Board of County Commissioners met in the Thomas home. Erected in 1932 as a part of LaPorte’s Centennial celebration, the present log cabin has been maintained since 1933 by the local Girl Scouts organization as a scout meeting place. The historical marker was a project of the Miriam Benedict Chapter o f the Daughters of the American Revolution in cooperation with the Centennial Committee.
(Michigan Avenue at the Penn Central Tracks)
The present LaPorte passenger depot was built in 1909-1910, facing the New York Central (formerly the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern, now the Penn Central) tracks. It replaced an older wooden structure which contained a hotel, restaurant, waiting rooms, ticket office, baggage room, and telegraph office. The railroad reached LaPorte County in 1852 from the East. The first train was to arrive in LaPorte on March 15, 1852, and a great celebration had been planned for the event, but four miles of track had yet to be laid. A large group of LaPorteans helped the railroad crew lay this last bit of track, and by late afternoon the line was completed: LaPorte was able to have its celebration. A division end of the railroad until 1870, LaPorte grew as an important maintenance and servicing center for the trains. A machine shop and repair shop was located north of the tracks with a roundhouse and turntable for turning the engines around at Washington and Madison Sts. There was also a long shed for drying and storing wood for firing the engines. The car shops were across from the present depot. At the north end of Monroe St. stood a locomotive shop where, in 1859, a complete engine was constructed. Christened the “Charles Minot,” it was the pride of the railroad for a time. The locomotive shop was moved to New York and the remaining railroad shops burned down in 1870. Instead of rebuilding, the railroad moved their shops to Elkhart, Indiana. The scene of 16 passenger trains arriving and departing daily, the depot was always a busy, interesting place with a constant stream of people coming and going. Those days are long gone, but freight trains still pass through town, creating the need for the overpass above the Penn Central tracks on Pine Lake Ave., completed in 1978.
D. M. RUMELY COMPANY
(flagpole marker in front of the LaPorte Hospital, Madison Street and Lincolnway)
In 1853, two brothers, Meinrad and John Rumely, started a small shop in LaPorte for the manufacture of corn shelters and horse-powered machines and the casting of irons for the railroad shops. In 1857, the Rumelys built their first threshing outfit. The thresher was powered by horses driven in a circle around a drum which set the machinery in motion. Farmers came from hundreds of miles around and waited for weeks for their orders of these revolutionary machines to be filled. In 1869, the company represented a capital of $50,000 and was LaPorte’s largest employer, with many of the newly arriving immigrants finding work in the Rumely shops. In the 1870’s the Rumely Company developed a portable steam engine which could be horse-drawn from one farmyard to another and linked to a thresher with a driving belt. A traction engine employing its own steam power to propel itself and draw the threshing machine and water wagon was marketed a decade later. In 1908, four years after Meinrad’s death, Edward Rumely assumed control of the business and increased profits by the millions with the development of the kerosene driven Oil-Pull Tractor. In 1916, the firm was incorporated under the name of Advance Rumely Company. The Allis-Chalmers Company acquired the business in 1931. Although A-C produced anti-aircraft guns during the years of WW II, the company today is one of the country’s largest producer of plows, discs, harrows, planters, self-propelled cotton strippers and cultivators. The 112 acre plant, which includes some of the original Rumely buildings, is located on Pine Lake Ave.
E. DR. SAMUEL B. COLLINS BLDG.
(712 Michigan Avenue)
This elegant “marble front” building in ltalianate style was one of the two offices of Dr. Samuel B. Collins. In 1868, Dr. Collins, a former bricklayer, discovered a “painless” cure for opium addiction. The fame of Dr. Collins’ cure spread and he became quite successful. In 1871, he was able to build his three story office on Michigan Ave. To make it easily identifiable, he had his name carved into the stone on the front of the building as well as having an advertisement for his cure painted on the side of the building. For six months in 1872, Dr. Collins let the LaPorte Library use the third floor of his office building. By July, 1872, his business had expanded to the point where he needed this extra office space and Dr. Collins offered to pay rental of $100 a year for the library to aid them in moving. During the 1880’s, Dr. Collins built an Italianate home with a mansard roof near Clear Lake as his private residence and sanitarium. There he treated opium addicts. He also developed a picnic park on the shores of Clear Lake, about where Fox Park is now, with a concession stand and carriage race track. Dr. Collins even published a magazine, “Theriaki”, to print testimonials written by people cured of opium addiction by him, to describe and, of course, advertise the cure. Dr. Collins’ painless opium cure has never been discovered; it may well have been the giving of opium to addicts under the guise of medicine. Dr. Collins stands out as a successful entrepreneur and one of LaPorte’s more colorful characters.
F. LAPORTE CITY HALL
(southeast corner Michigan and Jefferson Avenues)
The site of the LaPorte Post Office since at least 1871, and possibly as early as 1855, the City Hall was constructed as the U.S. Post Office in 1912 in a design reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance. The building is interesting in the variety of materials used and the wealth of decoration.
G. FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH
(southwest corner Indiana and Jefferson Avenues)
The first Baptists in LaPorte County were those who ran the mission and school at Hudson Lake in the late 1820’s. In 1834 the LaPorte Baptist Church was formed. The congregation continued to grow through the exuberant revivals staged by the Baptist leaders during the 1800’s. The Great Revival of 1876 converted so many to the faith that a new church was needed. This Gothic-Style church has had a copper roof added and various other remodeling work done since its construction in 1878.
H. NEW CHURCH SOCIETY (SWEDENBORGIAN)
(northwest corner Indiana Avenue and Maple Avenue)
The doctrines of Emanuel Swedenborg were first spread among the isolated early settlers of Ohio, southern Michigan and Indiana by Johnny Appleseed. A trapper and trader, Appleseed would leave his packages of apple seeds and pages of the writings of Swedenborg at the cabins of pioneers. Later, lawyers and businessmen were influential in spreading the Swedenborgian beliefs which stressed a rational as well as spiritual interpretation of the Bible. The first meeting of the LaPorte Society of the New Church was held in 1851 at the Young Men’s Hall. In 1859 the church was built on a lot deeded by James Andrew on the corner of Indiana and Maple Aves. This church was later stuccoed and stained glass windows were installed. From 1887 until 1906, the congregation sponsored a New Church assembly at Weller’s Grove on Stone Lake, used by Swedenborgians from all across the Midwest for religious and social meetings.
I. LAPORTE PUBLIC LIBRARY
(southwest corner Maple and Indiana Avenues)
LaPorte has had a library since the very beginning of the town. In 1834, the first residents generously donated some of their own books to form a little library of some 300 volumes. They also contributed money to a common fund to purchase additional books. Since there was no library building, the books were housed in the office of John Niles, LaPorte’s first lawyer. During the Civil War a group of citizens, determined to improve the library, began to raise funds for additional books and space to house and use them. Their organization was called the LaPorte Reading Room and Library Association. This group took over the private library of the Working Men’s Institutes collection of books made available to the laborers of the town, thereby increasing the Association’s number of volumes to 700. In 1864, the Library Association was renamed the LaPorte Library and Natural History Association with the purpose of establishing a collection of natural history specimens and Indian artifacts, as well as obtaining more books and periodicals. The library and museum were housed in the old Post Office for a time and until 1896, continued to be supported solely by membership fees and contributions of private citizens. During this period, the Library Association sponsored a series of lectures featuring some of the leading intellectuals of the day, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, and Charles Sumner. In 1876, the library and museum were transferred to a new two story brick structure. It was the first time the library had a home of its own. This building, later enlarged as the library grew, still stands on Maple Ave. between Michigan and Indiana Aves., and is now the I.O.O.F. building. Near the top of the building, the word “Library” can still be seen. In 1896, the library became a public library when it was turned over to the City of LaPorte and supported by city property taxes. The present library, made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Foundation, was completed in 1920. The building was later doubled in size to accommodate continual growth and its museum specimens were transferred to the LaPorte County Museum in the courthouse basement. Plans are now (1978) afoot for a new larger building.
J. ST. PAUL’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
(southwest corner Michigan Avenue and Harrison Street)
Before the Episcopal congregation organized in LaPorte in 1839, members had to travel the thirteen miles to the church in Michigan City. In 1849 St. Paul’s opened a school in the room opposite the public square where common and high English, Latin and Greek were taught for a short time. The present Episcopalian Church, built in 1897, is of English-Gothic style of architecture with rusticated stone.
K. MEETING PLACE OF THE AGAPE CHRISTIANS
(southwest corner Harrison and Clay Streets)
This 1884 church is a quaint blend of the Italianate and Gothic Styles. Though mainly Gothic in design, the ltalianate use of ornamental brackets under the eaves is visible on the bell tower and under the main roof. The wooden ornaments in the gable ends of the roof and the entryway, inspired by medieval stone carving, are characteristic of the American Gothic movement. The pointed arch windows are also typically Gothic and include some very attractive brickwork in their keystones. The church also has some lovely stained glass windows and is altogether a delightful structure.
L. ST. PETER’S CATHOLIC CHURCH
(southeast corner Michigan Avenue and Noble Street)
The railroads which crossed the country in the 1850’s were built largely by German and Irish immigrants working their ways west. Many settled in LaPorte County. These early Catholics celebrated masses in their homes when one of the priests who traveled the territory by horseback arrived for a visit. In 1853 the first Catholic church of LaPorte was formed, the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, soon known as St. Peter’s. The church was split in 1859 when the German members left the strongly Irish congregation to form a church of their own, St. Joseph’s (located at C and Second Sts.). St. Peter’s has also run a day school since its formation. The present church and school were built in 1930.
M. INDIANA AND MICHIGAN AVENUES
These two streets are located in the heart of the original town of LaPorte. When the town was first laid out, it ran from Chicago St. east to Linwood St. and north from Maple St. to Washington St. One city block was set aside for the county courthouse to insure LaPorte’s being chosen as the county seat. Professional men such as doctors and lawyers began to settle in LaPorte with their families, building homes which expressed their social position in the community. The architecture of the houses along these two streets reflect the passing of styles from the 1850’s to the turn of the century. Fine attention to detail, style and feeling as well as careful craftsmanship can be seen in these great old homes. One particularly interesting structure is located at 1200 Michigan Ave. This house was used as an underground railroad stop in the years preceding the Civil War. Many homes retain their combination barn and carriage houses, reminders of a slower time before the advent of the auto. The maple tree lined streets invite one to stroll about LaPorte. Most of these trees were planted by Sebastian Lay. The son of a German forester, Lay was paid 50 cents a tree by the city of LaPorte. The beauty of these trees in the fall and summer has earned LaPorte the name “City of Maples.” To enhance a walking tour of these streets, a glossary of architectural styles has been included in this volume.
N. FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
(northeast corner Michigan Avenue and Alexander Street)
In 1832, LaPorte County was included in the district served by Circuit-rider James Armstrong. Traveling by horseback, Armstrong covered an area from Ohio to Illinois and Lafayette to Kalamazoo. In 1836, the Methodists built the first church in LaPorte at Monroe and Jefferson Sts. The congregation grew through the evangelism of camp meetings, two or three day religious festivals held in tents or outdoors. LaPorte became the first city outside of Chicago to have a church for the non-hearing and non-speaking when the Methodist congregation sponsored the LaPorte Mute Mission in 1895. Served by a pastor from Chicago, the mission moved with the Methodist congregation when the present church was built in 1928.
O. ST. JOHN’S EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
(northwest corner A and Third Streets.)
St. John’s Church and school was organized in 1857 to serve the increasing number of German Lutherans arriving in the county. The school classes were in session 10 months of the year and included the first through seventh grades. During WW I the official church language switched from German to English as anti-German sentiment grew. The church building, constructed in 1864, is presently in use as a little theater playhouse. The Lutheran congregation now worships in their church at 2100 Monroe St.
P. CIVIL WAR HOSPITAL
(southeast corner 1st and C Streets)
This low Colonial Style building was built in 1861-62 as a hospital for wounded soldiers returning to LaPorte from the Civil War battlefields and for those training at Camp Colfax. Primitive medical and surgical procedures earned the hospital the title of the “Butcher Shop.” The hospital was one of the many voluntary efforts made by the people of LaPorte during the Civil War. To aid in the recruitment of volunteers for the Union Army, the residents of the county subscribed money to a fund which provided for the families of soldiers fighting in the war. Ladies Aid Societies were also organized to make bandages, knit clothes, raise money and write letters to soldiers. Regiments were quickly formed and sent to Indianapolis for training. All in all, the years 1861 to 1865 were years of outstanding community effort and sacrifice in LaPorte County. After the war, the hospital closed and eventually became a private residence.
Q. HOLY FAMILY HOSPITAL
(southeast corner E and 2nd Streets)
Holy Family Hospital was LaPorte’s first permanent hospital. It was begun in March 1900 by five sisters of the Order of the Poor Handmaidens of Jesus Christ in this small frame building, a former private home. Previously, the sisters had done home care nursing. The original hospital could handle only a few patients but it was as modern as any of its day. Additions were made in 1914 and 1924 as the hospital expanded. In 1966, Holy Family and Fairview Hospitals joined to form LaPorte Hospital, Inc. In 1972, the new LaPorte Hospital was opened and Holy Family Hospital ceased to exist.
R. BETHANY LUTHERAN CHURCH
(southwest corner First and G Streets)
The first Swede to come to this city worked as a housemaid for a family who moved from Chicago to LaPorte in 1853. In 1854, 3 Swedes arrived from Marshall County. They had been working without pay for 7 months on the railroad and decided to settle Door Prairie. Religious services were held in the homes until the Swedish Lutheran Church was built in 1857 on D St. The congregation built the present church in 1883. English was adopted as the official language in the early 1900’s and the church became known as the Bethany Lutheran. Carmel Chapel on Forrester Road was an extension of the church and served the Swedish immigrants who had settled in the hills of that area.
S. THE RUTH C. SABIN HOME
(1603 Michigan Avenue – corner of Michigan and South Avenues)
Mrs. Ruth Sabin was a Quaker, originally from Massachusetts, who moved to LaPorte in 1870. After the death of her husband in 1886, Mrs. Sabin originated her project of constructing a home where elderly women might live comfortably and tenderly cared for in their declining years. To carry out this plan, she contributed $25,000 towards the purchase of ground and erection of a building. She also set aside a fund to provide an income for the support of the Home. The Ruth C. Sabin Home opened on Nov. 20, 1889, with Mrs. Sabin at age 88 the first occupant. The handsome red brick building set back from Michigan Ave. amid tall maple trees originally held 35 rooms. In 1926, it was enlarged by the addition of 6 rooms plus two large sun parlors. Events at the home have included social gatherings, literary and musical happenings, annual concerts by the LaPorte City Band and an annual anniversary reception in November.
T. PATTON CEMETERY
(1401 Rumely Street)
Patton Cemetery contains the graves of several LaPorte pioneers and a Jewish burial ground. The Jewish cemetery, located on the eastern side of Patton Cemetery, was founded in 1854. Several of the tombstones are in Hebrew and many others list the birthplace of the deceased, making them perfect for genealogical research. In the southeastern section of Patton Cemetery is a grave with a most unusual history. This is the grave of A. K. Heigelein, the last victim of the infamous Belle Gunness. Belle’s story in LaPorte begins in 1904 when either a meat cleaver or a sausage grinder fell off a kitchen shelf and killed her second husband. Shortly thereafter, she began advertising in lonely hearts columns for a fairly well-off husband. Interested men were invited to her McClung Road farm after first being asked to convert all their holdings to cash. Helgelein came to the Gunness farm in late 1907 or early 1908 from Dakota. After a long absence and no communication, his brother wrote to Mrs. Gunness and was told that A. K. Heigelein had returned to Norway. On April 27, 1908, Belle Gunness drove into LaPorte and made a will leaving all her possessions to her children should they survive her or to a Norwegian orphan home in Chicago if they did not. Early in the morning of April 28, her farm burned to the ground and Belle Gunness and her adopted children were believed to have died in the fire. Her handy man, Ray Lamphere, was arrested for murder and arson. Heigelein’s brother read about the fire in a Chicago newspaper and hurried to LaPorte where he managed to convince the sheriff to do a little exploratory digging in the Gunness farmyard. His brother’s mutilated body was quickly found, along with the remains of 11 others in various stages of decomposition. As the news spread, thousands flocked to LaPorte to see the farm on “Murder Hill.” Ray Lamphere was convicted of arson but, before his death from tuberculosis in the prison at Michigan City, he revealed that Belle Gunness had not died in the fire and that he had burned the house on her orders. After his death, Lamphere was buried in Rossburg Cemetery on Hwy. 20 and Wilhelm Rd. Many of the bodies discovered on Belle’s farm were found to contain quantities of arsenic in their stomachs. Whether or not Belle Gunness died in the fire in 1908, she remains a fiendish and mysterious figure of LaPorte County’s past.
U. LAPORTE CIVIC AUDITORIUM
(southeast corner Ridge and Plain Streets)
On the grounds where this building now stands there was once an old frame house where William Walker lived with his family. His father, John Walker, had been one of the 5 founders of LaPorte. In 1857, the house was sold to a group of Catholic nuns called the Sisters of the Holy Cross to be used as St. Rose’s Academy, a private school for the girls and young ladies of LaPorte. In 1875, it became the parish school of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, in use until the school was moved to its present location on Monroe St. The old building was torn down in 1929 to make room for the Civic Auditorium. As a memorial to his parents, local philanthropist Maurice Fox, of the Fox Woolen Mills, donated all the funds needed for the lot, building, equipment and furnishings, a total of $450,000. In addition, he provided a trust fund of $50,000 to be used for maintenance and administrative personnel. A popular community center, the auditorium is the site of banquets, basketball games, bowling, concerts, art exhibits, high school proms, and club meetings.
V. COMMUNITY AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH
(110 Washington Streets)
In 1862 the government brought 27 black families to LaPorte to work on the railroad. They were settled on Hagenbuck St. (now Pulaski) and paid $9 per month. A church and school were established for the Blacks at the corner of Hagenbuck and Washington Sts. The neighborhood grew as more Blacks settled in the city to work as laborers in the homes and industries of LaPorte or to begin their own businesses. The present AME church was built in 1924.
W. SACRED HEART CHURCH
(southwest corner Bach and Pulaski Streets)
The first Pole to settle in LaPorte moved to this city from Rolling Prairie in 1890. In 1906 a large number of Polish men arrived from Chicago with the Planett Lumber and Manufacturing Company. This Polish colony increased after the opening of the LaPorte Woolen Mills. Many migrated to LaPorte after the Rumely family donated money to build a church and guaranteed jobs in the Rumely Company foundry. In 1912 members of St. Casimier’s Society met to organize a Polish Roman Catholic Church for the Poles who attended the German Catholic Church of St. Joseph’s. The Sacred Heart Church and school, built in 1913-14, is still in use today for church meetings, gymnastics, and religious classes. The new Sacred Heart church diagonally opposite the two story brick structure was built in 1970.
X. FOX MEMORIAL PARK
(Truesdell Avenue along the north shore of Clear Lake)
This was the site of Collin’s Park, the private park owned by Dr. S. S. Collins of opium cure fame. In the 1880’s Dr. Collins operated a driving club here. For a fee, members could drive their horse drawn rigs along the shores of Clear Lake. Given to the city in 1912 by the sons of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Fox as a memorial to their parents, Fox Memorial Park was LaPorte’s first improved park. A beautiful pillared pavilion stood at the water’s edge, offering shelter for picnickers caught in the rain. There was once a bandstand here where concerts were given on summer evenings by the LaPorte City Band. In 1928, 1200 rose bushes were planted by W. A. Cummings. The garden was later flooded out by rising water levels of Clear Lake. Today, Fox Park’s 48 acres are used as a family recreation area.
Y. CIVIL WAR CAMPS – CAMP COLFAX (Hwy 2 at corner of 2 and Colfax Avenue where NIPSCO building is now) & CAMP JACKSON (site of City Park on Park Street)
Camps Colfax and Jackson were drilling and recruiting camps during the Civil War. Here new recruits were trained in preparation for combat in the South. Indiana’s 9th Regiment drilled at Camp Colfax, leaving LaPorte in September 1861. Hosting the 28th Regiment, Camp Jackson was a cavalry training site: the soldiers could easily water their horses at Lower Lake. Places of great community interest and pride, the camps were sites of huge picnics during which patriotic speeches were given by prominent men of the time. Crowds attended the dress parades of the regiments and often viewed their drilling exercises. Occasionally, the commanders at the camps marched their troops through town. These were great civic occasions. Bands played and people cheered, waving handkerchiefs and tossing their hats high into the air. LaPorte County was one of the most patriotic counties in the nation. It has been said that three-fourths of all the able-bodied men in LaPorte volunteered for the army.
Camp Colfax was also the site of the first saw mill in LaPorte County, put up in 1832 by James and Abram Andrew, two of the founding fathers of LaPorte. It was a steam saw mill built on the shore of a small lake. The mill ran day and night to supply sawn timber needed by the growing settlement of LaPorte.
Z. QUAKER CEMETERY
(North Park Street)
Among the first pioneers of LaPorte County were members of the Hicksite branch of the Quaker faith. A Quaker neighborhood soon developed north of the city as more families of Friends migrated from Ohio, New Jersey, North Carolina and Indiana to the county. Meetings were begun in 1831 and continued until 1856 when, due to deaths and removals, the Clear Lake meeting was “laid down.” In 1869, meetings were reestablished after members of the Hicksite and Orthodox branches joined together and built a meeting house. A private residence for many years, this red brick structure at A and Alexander Sts. is still noticeable for its two front doors. According to the beliefs of the Society of Friends, men and women entered the meeting house through separate doors and sat apart from each other, divided by an aisle or low wall. The Quaker burial site on Park Street is very simple in the tradition of that faith. Here, fieldstones in neat rows mark the 54 known graves of Friends. Following the belief of the Society that individual recognition or adornment is sinful, some of the markers are not inscribed with names or dates. One veteran of the War of 1812, Joseph Johnson, is also buried here.
AA. PINE LAKE CEMETERY
(Pine Lake Avenue and Severs Road)
This beautiful cemetery overlooking Pine Lake was begun in 1856 when the original LaPorte graveyard became too small for the needs of the growing population. When the remains of those buried in the old cemetery were removed to Pine Lake Cemetery, 499 bodies and many tombstones could not be identified. These were formed into an anonymous square and mass grave in the southeastern section of the new graveyard. Some of the most interesting and touching tombstones in Pine Lake Cemetery can be found here. LaPorte’s most prominent citizens and families are buried in this tree shaded cemetery. Eason Chapel, the Gothic style building located to the right of the main entrance, was built in 1916 as a memorial to Seth Eason by his family.
BB. PINE LAKE INN
(Holton Road and Boardman Drive, north end of Pine Lake)
This old hotel, now converted into apartments, is one of the few remaining structures which harks back to the glory days during the 1880’s and 1890’s when LaPorte had many outstanding resorts on the lakes. People from all over the Midwest came to LaPorte to enjoy many activities at the lakes, such as camping in tents and cottages, fishing, sailboating, rowing and dancing. Special excursion trains ran out of Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis and other cities, their passengers waiting excitedly for their first glimpse of the lakes as the train conductors shouted out the stop of “Lay-port.” At the north shore of Pine Lake, Capt. J. T. Harding operated two steamboats, the “Lynda” and the “Emerald.” Vacationers could take a ride on one of these boats all around the shores of North and South Pine Lake. High on the north shore bluff stood the hotel built by J. S. Huffman. A porch running the full length of the hotel gave visitors a fine view of Pine Lake. Capt. Harding would take people to South Pine Lake with a stop at the Fargher’s Island resort, opened in 1886. Another stop was made at the nearby Holmes Island resort, opened in 1890 by Mrs. J. F. Holmes. Then the steamer would pass along the west bank of Pine Lake where cottages could be rented and finally along the sand bar which blocked passage into Stone Lake. Later, in 1895, a channel was dredged through this bar, connecting Pine and Stone Lakes. Fargher’s and Holmes Island were not really islands then except when the water level was very high. Both of these islands are now residential areas on the large peninsula that almost divides Pine Lake in two.
Also located on the heavily wooded bluffs overlooking the north shore of Pine Lake were the Baptist Assembly Grounds. Indiana Baptists had obtained the land near the Pine Lake Inn and held assemblies every summer with programs of various kinds. Special outdoor meals such as clam bakes, fish fries and corn roasts as well as other weekly entertainments were held at the many resorts. There was dancing in the evenings, both on the steamboats and at a pavilion on the Pine Lake Chautauqua Grounds. The other LaPorte lakes had their resorts too, including Weller’s Grove on Stone Lake. After a channel was dug from Pine Lake to Stone Lake, Capt. Harding bought a large boat, and christened it the “LaPorte”. Earlier, a channel connecting Clear Lake with Stone Lake via Lily Lake had been dug. So, by 1895, Capt. Harding and others could sail from Clear Lake all the way to North Pine Lake. Soon after this, in the early 1900’s, the water levels of the lakes fell and the channels became too shallow for navigation. Steamboat travel on the LaPorte lakes ended about 1904.
CC. SOLDIER’S MEMORIAL PARK
(off Pine Lake Avenue along the north side of Stone Lake)
Soldier’s Memorial Park came into being in 1938 through the planning and hard work of three LaPorte men: Judge Alfred J. Link who was city attorney at that time, Mayor John Line, and City Engineer Burtis Thomas. As early as 1858, the City of LaPorte had gained possession of “City Island”, a high ridge of land once an island in back of the present Stone Lake swimming beach. Later, when people began to realize what a fine spot this would be for a park, City Island was no longer an island. There was another high ridge of land east of this across the channel between Lily and Stone Lakes known as Porter Hill. When Fred Porter and his wife gave this land to the city, they requested the proposed park be named Soldier’s Memorial Park in honor of all the LaPorte men who died in wars. To reach the swimming beach, a bridge had to be built across the channel at the end of Wirdner Ave. The American Legion donated the efforts of 30 of its members to build a 60 foot bridge in just two days. By this time, the Consumers Ice Co. had sold to the city the land it owned along the shores of Stone Lake. Today, through combined gifts and purchases, the park totals 356 acres. Although much of the park has been allowed to remain in a natural state, some developments have been made: moving sand in from Michigan City to add to the swimming beach in 1932 and 1933; planting a rose garden in 1965; building Cummings Lodge in 1967 to replace the old Rumely Foreman’s Club building; construction of a baseball diamond at Lion’s Field; and installation of picnic, playground and boat launching facilities.
DD. WELLER’S GROVE
(Pennsylvania Avenue near Stone Lake)
The shores of the LaPorte lakes have always been popular as outdoor recreation and camping areas. The first of these was Weller’s Grove on Stone Lake. In 1855, the Rev. Henry Weller, the first minister of the Swedenborgian Church of LaPorte, built his house in a lovely grove of trees which sloped down to Stone Lake. This house is still in use as a private residence at 909 Pennsylvania Ave. Small cottages were built nearby and the grove became a summer convention center for people of the Swedenborgian Church throughout the Midwest. A pavilion was built in the center of the grove and here dances and amateur theatricals were held. Today Weller’s Grove is a charming residential area of LaPorte.
People of all ages enjoyed camping at Weller’s Grove, a private campsite for members of the Swedenborgian faith.
EE. LAPORTE COUNTY FAIR
Hwy 2, west of LaPorte
In 1836, only 4 years after the formation of the county, the LaPorte County Agricultural Association held its first profit-making venture: The county fair. Nine years later the days of crop and livestock exhibits and horse races were established as annual events. At first held wherever land was available, the home of the county fair for 80 years was the little hill called Mount Zion, now the site of the LaPorte High School. The LaPorte County Fair began operating from its present location in 1960. The years of fair time since 1845 have included WLS radio barn dances, Wild West shows, the Streets of Cairo, highwire and human cannonball acts and other carnival attractions. The modern LaPorte County Fair is a showcase for 4-H Club members with thousands of dollars in premiums being won by fair exhibitors of all ages.
FF. LAPORTE COUNTY HOME
(Hwy. 2, across from Fairgrounds)
The County Asylum for the Poor, or the Poor Farm, was begun in the 1830’s to relieve the suffering of the poor and improvident by providing them with work and a place to live. The original farm was located on Pine Lake almost where the Pine Lake Cemetery is now. In 1886, the present site was bought and the building erected. Now largely self-supporting, the County Home still provides a place to live for homeless or poor county residents.
Michigan City probably got its name from the Michigan Road, the great thoroughfare which had its northern terminus at the mouth of Trail Creek. Farsighted people envisioned a great lake port and city arising there which would serve the whole Midwest.
One of these visionaries was Major Isaac C. Elston of Crawfordsville, who bought the land containing the creek mouth in 1831. Laid out one year later, the town site was low and swampy. Two huge sand dunes (Yankee Slide and Hoosier Slide) dominated the lakefront and the creek mouth was almost silted shut with sand.
Undeterred by these gloomy prospects, the first settlers began to arrive from the East in 1833. Sailing vessels soon began to stop at the “Michigan City” to unload goods needed by settlers in northern Indiana and to take on the cargoes of grain, pork, and beef raised by them. The early citizens were characterized as “pushing, enterprising, intelligent, and active” people. Because of their efforts, Michigan City was a major grain port for farmers as far south as Indianapolis during the 1840’s. But soon Chicago would overshadow it, due in part to the efforts of Chicago landowner, Stephan A. Douglas.
In 1852, the Michigan Central Railroad reached here, putting Michigan City on a direct rail line with Eastern markets. Industries began to locate in Michigan City, drawn by the easy access to markets and raw materials. The Germans, Irish and the Poles were coming to the area, working in the many factories and contributing to a boom which increased the population 85% between 1870 and 1880. Services such as hospitals, police and fire protection, public schools, street lights and streetcars were introduced as the community expanded. Lumber boats and excursion ships made up the majority of harbor traffic.
Culturally, the city was dominated by the “Inner Circle” of wealthy people associated with the Haskell-Barker Car Co. Some of the nation’s finest drama companies, speakers, musicians, and vaudeville acts stopped in Michigan City on their way to Chicago. The physical environment was improved by the development of Washington Park in 1891.
By the early 1900’s, though, Michigan City was in the midst of an industrial slump. In 1917 the Michigan Central repair shops were moved to Niles, Michigan, and by 1918, six hundred families had followed.
To combat this problem, a Chamber of Commerce was formed. During the next six years they succeeded in bringing 22 new factories to the area as well as building a new sewer system and the Spaulding Hotel. Michigan City was then advertised by the Chamber as a tourist resort and convention center. Tourists and summer vacationers flocked to city beaches, coming by car and electric interurban. Soon, Sheridan Beach and Long Beach were filled with the summer cottages of wealthy Chicagoans. Partly as a result of the Chamber’s efforts, population rose 37% by 1930. The Depression put many of the new factories out of business, but no banks closed in Michigan City and WPA projects kept many men employed.
The years of World War II brought a boom in farming and manufacturing all across the country as the nation’s industries switched from peacetime to wartime production. In Michigan City, Pullman-Standard built troop carriers and other railroad stock needed by the Allies, while Reliance Manufacturing made military uniforms rather than children’s clothing.
The years following World War II have seen the problems plaguing most American urban areas come to Michigan City: inner-city decay, increasing disparity and tension between Black and White residents, loss of industries, etc. The city responded to these problems with some success and in 1966 Michigan City was chosen as one of Look magazine’s 13 All-American cities.
1966 was also the year M.C. Elston won the coveted Indiana State Basketball Championship. Since the 1960’s, the city government has continued their efforts to rejuvenate both the industrial base and physical environment of Michigan City.
A. MICHIGAN CITY HARBOR
Michigan City owes its existence to the presence of Trail Creek flowing into Lake Michigan.
As early as 1828, a group of surveyors determined that the mouth of the creek provided the best location along the Indiana shoreline for the development of a commercial harbor and city. A signal day for the new town was July 4, 1836, when the first commercial vessel ever entered Trail Creek. The small vessel, called the “Sea Serpent”, was pulled and dragged by a group of enthusiastic citizens across the sand bar that blocked the mouth of the creek. That day also marked the first federal appropriation of $20,000 for the development of the harbor.
Even though the harbor remained unfinished and inaccessible to most vessels for the next 35 years, Michigan City rapidly developed into a leading forwarding port on Lake Michigan, shipping out great quantities of grain and other farm produce which were hauled to the harbor by wagon from as far south as Indianapolis. Temporarily stored in huge warehouses which lined the harbor, the grain was loaded into lighters, small boats which took the grain to larger ships anchored offshore in the lake.
Incoming vessels brought quantities of salt, stone, shingles and other commodities. By 1875 the harbor had seen much improvement and large sailing ships were able to enter the mouth of the creek for the first time. But by then the grain and produce business had disappeared because the railroads were shipping these products directly from the hinterlands to city markets. In place of the grain warehouses, huge lumber yards sprawled across the area that is now Washington Park, lining both sides of Trail Creek with lumber piles as high as men could stack them.
The late 1800s was the time of the great timber harvests in northern Michigan and Minnesota. Huge quantities of lumber were shipped south along the Great Lakes to ports such as Michigan City, where the lumber was then shipped by rail south and west or used locally in the county by the many wood-consuming industries such as the planning mills, cooperages, chair factories and car shops. This period marked the peak of lumber shipping to the harbor, when millions of board feet passed through the hands of the dock wallopers, or lumber shovers.
Coupled with this was the booming excursionist business which brought tens of thousands of visitors to the local waterfront by steam-powered excursion ships. Visitors came to town to tour the State Prison, climb Hoosier Slide and to enjoy the recreational facilities at Washington Park. Excursion ships gradually faded out during the Depression, while the lumber ships and other commercial vessels had ceased to be important in the 1920’s, ending for all practical purposes almost 100 years of busy commercial activity at the harbor. Today’s emphasis is on summertime recreational boating and fishing.
B. HOOSIER SLIDE
(NIPSCO Generating Plant Site)
Once Indiana’s most famous landmark, Hoosier Slide was a huge sand dune bordering the west side of Trail Creek where it entered Lake Michigan. At one time it was nearly 200 feet tall, mantled with trees. Cow paths marked its slopes and people picnicked upon its crest. With the development of Michigan City, the timber was cut for building construction and the sand began to blow, sometimes blanketing the main business district of the town on Front St., which nestled near its base.
Climbing Hoosier Slide was very popular in the late 1800’s with the excursionist crowds who arrived in town by boat and train from Chicago and other cities. The summit, where weddings were sometimes held, afforded an excellent view of the vast lumberyards which then covered the Washington Park area.
When it was discovered that the clean sands of Hoosier Slide were useful for glassmaking, the huge dune began to be mined away. Dock workers loaded the sand into railroad cars with shovel and wheelbarrow to be shipped to glassmakers in the U. S. and Mexico. Much of the sand also went to Chicago in the 1890’s as fill for Jackson Park and for the Illinois Central RR right-of-way. Over a period of 30 years, from about 1890 to 1920, 13 1/2 million tons of sand were shipped from Hoosier Slide until the great dune was leveled. NIPSCO acquired the site for use as a generating plant in the late 1920’s.
C. OLD LIGHTHOUSE MUSEUM
(west of the Washington Park entrance of Trail Creek)
The Old Lighthouse Museum is probably the most historic structure left in Michigan City. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the museum preserves Michigan City’s past.
The building was constructed in 1858 by the U.S. government to provide navigation aid to ships on Lake Michigan. Over the years Michigan City’s beacon became known as “Old Faithful” because of the conscientious services of its lighthouse keepers. The most famous of these lighthouse keepers was Harriet Colfax, who worked for 43 years until her retirement in 1904. Extensively remodeled in 1904, the lighthouse served exclusively as quarters for the keeper and his assistant; the beacon light had been moved to the pier lighthouse in the late 1880’s.
The Coast Guard took over the lighthouse service after the death of the last lighthouse keeper in 1940. In 1965, the Michigan City Historical Society leased the building from the city, restoring and establishing a museum in the lighthouse. The Old Lighthouse Museum is open to the public for tours.
D. WASHINGTON PARK ZOO (lakefront)
Until 1891, when Mayor Martin T. Krueger managed to secure the land between Lake Michigan and Trail Creek for $7,500 through political finagling and the building of a bridge, the people of Michigan City had no access to the lake front.
As soon as the park became a reality, people began to donate trees and plants to the city for park beautification. The Civil War Memorial at the entrance to Washington Park was placed there by John H. Winterbotham and dedicated on Decoration Day, 1893. John H. Barker paid for a bandshell and a picnic peristyle.
The beach, grassy picnic areas, band concerts and an amusement area soon made the lake front popular with Michigan City residents and excursionists during the 1900’s.
During the Roaring 20’s, many improvements were made in Washington Park. The Oasis Ballroom was built (probably in front of the present concession stand) in 1922 for dance-mad Chicagoans and Michigan Cityites. All the big name bands played there as well as the local groups.
The Zoo was begun in 1928, financed and built by area residents. During the 1930’s the park and zoo expanded into what we see today. Such government relief programs as the WPA sent almost 2,000 unemployed workers into the park to build the stone benches, zoo buildings and the Observation Tower, and to landscape Yankee Slide, a tree-covered sand dune. On April 9, 1934, 10,000 pine trees were planted by 5,000 school children around the Observation Tower. Some of these trees can still be seen.
By the 1960’s much of the WPA work was showing its age and a funding drive, utilizing private and public monies, was begun to renovate and expand the park and zoo.
Both Washington Park and the zoo are open to the public. Parking, a beach and picnic sites are available.
E. MICHIGAN CENTRAL DEPOT AND VICINITY
(Washington Street and the harbor)
This now abandoned structure was the third depot of the Michigan Central (Penn Central) RR. The original depot, built in the 1850’s, was located on the opposite side of the tracks.
It was in front of that depot that the funeral train bearing the body of Abraham Lincoln stopped at 8:25 A.M. on May 1, 1865. The train halted under a 35 foot memorial arch which had been constructed over the tracks. The arch bore sayings in honor of the president and was decorated with flap, evergreen boughs, and choice flowers.
The people of Michigan City were able to enter the funeral car to pay their last respects to the great man before the train continued on to Chicago and eventually Springfield, Illinois.
The second Michigan Central depot, located approximately at the site of the present depot, burned in 1914. A large freighthouse and handsome passenger depot built in 1856 by the Monon RR were a block further west across Franklin St. To the north, at the harbor on the east side of Franklin St., stood a large complex of engine repair shops, turntable, and roundhouse of the Michigan Central. Once a familiar landmark at the harbor, the engine repair shop building, built in 1851-52, was on the National Register of Historic Places until it was demolished in June, 1978.
The railroads, along with the harbor, once played a major part in the economic activity of the town. Now only the tracks and the small depot remain as evidence of their prominence in our past.
The grain elevator at the harbor was built by Cargill, Inc., in 1956. For a time the company shipped out tens of thousands of tons of soybeans by large commercial ships. Grain ships, along with those transporting salt to be used on highways during the winter, were the last large commercial vessels to use the Michigan City harbor.
F. MICHIGAN ROAD MARKER AND TOWN SQUARE
(Michigan Boulevard and Washington Street)
The historical marker on the southeast corner near the courthouse commemorates the passage of the Michigan Road, which ran from Madison, Indiana, on the Ohio River, to Lake Michigan at Michigan City. It terminated at the corner of Michigan Blvd. and Wabash St., giving all the communities along the road access to the harbor. Completed in the mid 1830’s, the road was the main route north-south across the state.
The present LaPorte County Circuit Court Building stands on the north end of what once was the original Town Square. Set aside by Isaac C. Elston, the founding father of Michigan City, this square block was used as a park and as an open air market for various goods and farm produce. The square was later divided into lots and sold to help finance the purchase of part of Washington Park.
G. MICHIGAN CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY
(The old library is on East 8th Street, the new building is on 4th St.)
The former Michigan City Public Library on 8th St. was the result of a $5,000 bequest in the will of George Ames. Quickly, prominent citizens organized a committee to establish a library. The building was finished in 1897, one-third of the cost being paid for by John H. Barker.
The old library is constructed of Indiana blue Bedford stone with a magnificent marble interior graced by 3 large stained glass windows. The library provided good service to Michigan City until it became obvious in the 1970’s that the space was inadequate.
In1977 the new Michigan City Public Library opened at 100 E. 4th St. Designed by Helmut Jahn of C.F. Murphy Assoc., a Chicago firm, this unique structure features translucent walls and a central courtyard, and has won a design award from the American Institute of Architects.
The new Michigan City Public Library building provides more space and services to the residents of the area, while the old building has been converted into a community arts center.
H. ST. JOHN’S HALL AND 400 BLOCK
The 400 block of Franklin St. contains almost all that remains of early Michigan City. These are the last High Victorian Italianate commercial buildings left in the old business district. Many of these buildings were built in the 1870’s and used new construction techniques such as cast iron for the bracketed pediments at the tops of the buildings and around the windows. Other structures used the more traditional stone sills.
The finest example of this Italianate style in Michigan City is St. John’s Hall or St. Johannes Verein, the 3 story brick building in the middle of the block. Built in 1877 by German immigrants, the building housed stores and a meeting hall for the Germans. An interesting detail is the cast iron pediment showing two clasping hands and the name St. Johannes Verein at the very top of St. John’s Hall.
I. SITE OF THE FIRST LOG CABIN IN MICHIGAN CITY
(Southeast corner 5th and Franklin Streets, near Citizens Bank)
An historical plaque marks the reputed site of the first log cabin built in Michigan City. It was constructed in 1832 by Jacob Furman, assisted by B.F. Bryant.
J. CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
(Northwest Corner 6th and Washington Streets)
Many of the area’s first settlers were from New England, one of the homes of Congregationalism. In 1825 a congregation was formed. The first church stood about where the new Michigan City Public Library is now. In 1881, the present church was constructed. In 1907 the structure burned and was rebuilt in 1908, a part of the money coming from a legacy of Mr. Fred Haskell of the Haskell-Barker Car Co.
The bell in the steeple is believed to be from the 1843 or 1844 church. The colors of the bricks and the stained glass in the windows blend well together and make for a very handsome Gothic-style building.
K. TRINITY CHURCH AND BARKER HALL
(Southeast Corner 6th and Franklin Square)
The first Episcopal church to stand on this site was a wooden Gothic-style structure built in 1858. In 1886, John H. Barker erected Barker Hall next to the church in memory of his children from his first marriage. Barker contributed a large part of the cost toward the construction of the present Romanesque-style church in 1889.
Michigan City became a cathedral city when Trinity Episcopal Church was named the cathedral church for Bishop White of northern Indiana. Barker Hall was rebuilt in 1929 by Catherine Barker Hickox.
L. HENRY HOUSE
(Southeast Corner 7th and Pine Streets)
A beautiful example of the Neo-Jacobean style, the Henry House was built in 1904. The date of construction is rather late for this style but the builder A.J. Henry of the Henry Lumber Co., probably used the men and materials of his own company to build his home in a style he had admired. The stained glass window on the north side of the house is particularly beautiful.
The Henry House is classic Neo-Jacobean design and may have been built directly from an architect’s pattern block. This is a private residence, not open for tours.
M. THE BREWERY
(Michigan Boulevard between 8th and 9th Streets)
From 1871 until 1934, the Zorn Brewery was located in this building. The Zorn Brewery produced 15,000 barrels of beer annually, supplying the saloons on Franklin St and in the surrounding area with liquid refreshment. During Prohibition, soda pop was made. The brewery has since been converted into office space.
The spring-fed well which supplied water for the brewing process is still in the building. Weidner’s Tavern, on W. 9th St., was once the Zorn Brewery stables.
N. BARKER CIVIC CENTER
(Northwest corner 7th and Washington Streets)
This Jacobethean style mansion was the home of Michigan City industrialist, John H. Barker. Extensively remodeled and refinished in 1905 by Chicago architect Frederick Perkins, the house is a monument to the style of living of the great American industrial barons of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The interior of the house, with its wealth of wood and marble, is an imitation of an English manor home. Given to Michigan City in 1968 by Catherine Barker Hickox, the house is a memorial to her father. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public for tours.
The YMCA building, diagonally opposite the center, was one example of John Barker’s generosity to Michigan City: The industrialist contributed 1/2 of the $100,000 cost of the building. The YMCA has since relocated to the south of Michigan City and the Old YMCA building has been now demolished
O. PULLMAN STANDARD FACTORY SITE
(Wabash Street from 4th to 8th Streets)
The importance of this factory to Michigan City’s economy can be seen from the size of the site. Makers of railroad cars, the firm was begun in 1852 by three men from New York. In 1855, John Barker, an established Michigan City grain dealer, joined the firm which then became the Haskell-Barker Car Co.
In 1869, John H. Barker took his father’s place in the firm where his use of ruthless business techniques and the importation of labor from Turkey, Syria and Poland caused the company to expand rapidly. Haskell-Barker was employing 500 men and producing 1,000 freight cars a year by 1879.
In the early 1900’s the industry was the most complete factory for the construction of freight cars in the United States, manufacturing 10,000 cars annually.
The M.C. plant also employed the largest number of workers of any Indiana manufacturing firm. More than 3,500 men worked in the car shops, earning $12 for 72-hour work week. Many west side homes were painted boxcar red or refrigerator car yellow. Haskell-Barker was purchased by Pullman-Standard in 1922.
During WW II Pullman-Standard manufactured sleeper cars for Allied troops. Labor troubles and other problems forced the factory to close in the 1970’s. In 1973 most of the 100 acre plant burned.
P. GERMAN METHODIST CHURCH
(8th and Buffalo Streets)
This small brick church was built in 1889 by German Methodists living on Michigan City’s west side. Undoubtedly, many of the men worshipping at this church worked in the nearby Haskell-Barker Car Factory. There is a stone marker bearing the name of the church written in German under the main window.
Q. SACRED HEART CHURCH
(1001 West 8th Streets)
Located on Michigan City’s west side, Sacred Heart Church was built in 1916.
The parish is mainly Catholic Syrians who came to Michigan City in the early 1900’s to work in the foundry of the Haskell-Barker Car Factory. At one time, Michigan City had the largest Middle-Eastern population in the United States.
The first mosque built in the United States, the Asser El Jadeed Temple, was constructed by members of the Syrian and Lebanese Moslem community opposite the present police station. In the early 1920’s, the Asser El Jadeed (“The New Generation”) became a social and religious center for Middle Eastern descendants throughout the Midwest.
R. NORTHERN INDIANA STATE PRISON
(Chicago Road opposite Hitchcock Road)
The second state prison was located in Michigan City in 1857 to help relieve an economic slump which was affecting many of the city’s industrial firms. Convict labor could be contracted for as little as 30c a day, making it very attractive to businessmen seeking to cut their production costs.
The convicts constructed the prison and, when it was finished in 1868, several of Michigan City’s cooperage and wagon making firms were within the walls. Since Michigan City was a major lumber port during this period, many of the firms using convict labor worked with wood, such as the Ford & Johnson Chair Factory. The use of prison labor was finally made illegal in 1904.
Today the inmates are employed in various prison shops. 50c tours of the prison were popular with excursionists coming to Michigan City by boat and train during the 1800’s and early 1900’s.
The streetcar tracks which once brought carloads of these visitors to tour the prison at the turn of the century still cross Willard Ave. before its intersection with Chicago Road.
S. ST MARY’S OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CHURCH
(West 10th and Buffalo Streets)
In 1867 the two Catholic parishes in Michigan City combined, building this church on the site of the old Catholic cemetery. In 1886 a school and convent were constructed.
The church, while one of the oldest church structures in continuous use in Michigan City, has been extensively remodeled over the years. The parish has been mainly German and Irish. St. Mary’s is the mother church of all other Catholic parishes in Michigan City.
T. HUTCHINSON HOUSE
(220 west 10th Street, now the Spiritualist Church)
This large house was built for William B. Hutchinson. Mr. Hutchinson came to Michigan City in 1867 and became a pillar of the community: mayor from 1876-1878, state senator from 1880-1888, and founder and president of Citizens Bank. The house, Neo-Jacobean in style, has been extensively remodeled since its construction in the 1870’s or 1880’s. The carriage house and servant’s quarters are still in the back of the house on 11th St.
U. PORTER-KERRIGAN HOUSE
(Northwest corner 10th Street and Washington Boulevard)
Built in 1895, this house is a combination of the Romanesque and Neo-Jacobean styles. The original owner, Charles Porter, became the manager of the Haskell Barker Car Co. in 1879. In 1877, he had married Jennie Chamberlain, niece of Mr. Haskell. The couple became well-known for their hospitality. This private residence is not open for tours.
V. ST. JOHN’S EVANGELICAL CHURCH
(Southwest corner 9th Street and Franklin Square, now the Canterbury Theater)
On May 14, 1856, the congregation of this former church was established under the name of the German United Evangelical Lutheran St. John’s Congregation.
This structure, the second housing the congregation, was dedicated in 1867. During 1875 a schism developed in the congregation and St. Paul’s Church was formed. In 1882 the schoolhouse to the west of the church and the parsonage on the north side of the building were built. German was spoken in the school and until 1919, was used for all church services.
During the 1960’s, the congregation, which has remained strongly German over the years, moved quarters to the south side of Michigan City. The church building was converted into a summer stock theatre.
W. ST. PAUL’S LUTHERAN CHURCH
(Northeast corner 9th Street and Franklin Square)
Constructed in 1876, St. Paul’s had been organized one year earlier after the minister and part of the congregation of St. John’s Church split off from the rest of the congregation because of religious differences.
Some animosity lingered on between the two churches and they were known to interrupt each other’s services by pouring water in the basement windows. One of the oldest houses of worship in Michigan City, the building is still in use as a church by the St. Paul congregation.
X. SOUTH SHORE STATION
(11th Street between Franklin and Pine Streets)
Constructed in 1908, the South Shore Line ran between South Bend and Chicago by way of Michigan City. It was one of several electrically-powered interurban trains connecting cities all over the Midwest. The company was totally reorganized and rehabilitated in 1925 when railroad tycoon Samuel Insull purchased it and built the present station in Michigan City. New cars were acquired and older ones were enlarged and remodeled. These are the same cars used into the late 1970’s.
The 11th St. tracks are similar to those which once marked streets in cities all over the country. The Depression and the automobile drove most of the electric trains out of business, but the South Shore survived. It is presently the only remaining electric interurban train running in the U. S.
Y. ST. STANISLAUS KOSTKA CHURCH
(Northeast corner Washington and Ann Streets)
St. Stanislaus Kostka Church is one of the many ethnic churches in Michigan City. Until 1890, the 90 Polish families attended church at St. Mary’s of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. In 1891, Father Emmanuel Wrobel was authorized to form a Polish Catholic Congregation. The church was built in 1892 in imitation of the huge churches of Europe.
Z. GREENWOOD CEMETERY
The original Greenwood Cemetery lay on the hill now occupied by Elston School. The land had been deeded to Michigan City by Major Elston as a public burying ground. At that time considered to be out in the country, the cemetery was a popular site for Sunday afternoon walks and kite-flying.
In 1865, the cemetery was moved to its present location and named for Jane Greenwood, the first person to be buried there. One of the most historic graves is that of Abijah Bigelow, a Revolutionary War veteran thought to be one of the original Minutemen. He died on Oct. 23, 1842, at the age of 92 and was buried in the original Greenwood Cemetery. Most of the prominent families of Michigan City are buried here and it is interesting to see how the competition for social position and recognition is carried on even to the choice of tombstones.
Greenwood Cemetery is actually four cemeteries in one: the public Greenwood cemetery, a Moslem cemetery, the Catholic Calvary cemetery in the southern section, and the Jewish cemetery in the northeast section.
AA. BATTLE OF TRAIL CREEK
(A historical marker in Memorial Park on Liberty Trail)
After the British burned an American-occupied fort at Cahokia, Illinois, a small group of about 16 Frenchmen and Americans living at Cahokia plotted a surprise attack on Fort St. Joseph at Niles, Michigan. This group, led by Capt. Hamelin and Lt. John Brady, easily captured the British garrison at Fort St. Joseph.
While they were returning, a group of British soldiers and Pottawattomie Indians pursued and overtook the raiding party somewhere near Trail Creek, on December 5, 1780. The Americans were badly defeated in the battle.
The Memorial Park marker honors those who died in this skirmish. The park itself came into being after World War I, when Mayor Martin T. Krueger donated a tract of woods to be known as Memorial Park in honor of the 19 Michigan City men who died in the war.
Memorial Park is also the site where Father Marquette, the great French Jesuit missionary, preached to a group of Pottawattomie Indians in 1675 upon his return from Chicago to St. Ignace in upper Michigan, just before his death. Marquette Spring, near Friendship Gardens, is named for him.
BB. INTERNATIONAL FRIENDSHIP GARDENS
(off Liberty Trail, just south of Memorial Park. Sign on Liberty Trail–follow the one-way gravel road to the Garden entrance)
A collection of gardens representing several nations of the world, the International Friendship Gardens was established just after the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. Here, on over 100 acres in the valley of Trail Creek, are growing typical plantings from all over the world.
Dedicated to world peace, love and understanding, Friendship Gardens is a lovely spot to amble around in for an afternoon and browse among the flowers.
Other County Historical Sites
3. MT. BALDY
(off U. S. 12 at the Porter-LaPorte County Line; National Park Service sign on U. S. 12 will direct you there)
One of the largest open blowing dunes in Indiana, Mt. Baldy is constantly changing and moving inland with the wind. Almost all of the dune country in LaPorte County has been converted to residential use, but at Mt. Baldy nature has been allowed to continue its work. From its summit there is a good view of the harbor, the NIPSCO plant, downtown Michigan City, and the State Prison. All of the area between Mt. Baldy and the harbor was once huge dunes, including Hoosier Slide at the mouth of the harbor. These sand hills were mined away in the early 1900’s.
4. LAKE SHORE DRIVE
(northeast of Michigan City)
This beachfront drive is perfect for gawkers. It begins in Washington Park, bordering the grassy walks and picnic area that was once a collection of wooden shanties. After passing the zoo complex, Lake Shore Drive enters the residential community of Sheridan Beach (Bus stops 1-14). The first beach cottage was not constructed in this area until the early 1900’s; even then the owner was considered eccentric for wishing to live among the windswept sand hills. Opinion of the beach did not improve until Mayor Krueger’s development of Washington Park in the early 1900’s. Cottages then slowly began to be constructed, many by wealthy Chicagoans who wished to summer in this area. Out-of-town visitors began crowding the beaches and by 1920 the Sheridan Beach Hotel was thriving. The development of Long Beach (Stops 14-31) boomed as the popularity of the automobile and electric interurbans increased. With the car and train, the employee no longer had to live near his job: he could commute to work. The sand hills were soon crowned with cottages built by wealthy Chicago and area residents. Many of these summer homes were designed by architects such as John Lloyd Wright. Although lot contracts included stringent business and residential restrictions, Long Beach residents enjoyed a lakefront dance hall and a country club golf course and swimming pool. Long Beach also had its share of notoriety as the Chicago gangsters and mob figures built lavish and well-guarded summer retreats here in the 1920’s. Planned as a permanent residential area, it was not until the 1930’s that Long Beach cottage owners began converting their summer homes into year-round residences. The cost of maintaining two separate establishments had become too great even for the wealthy. Construction increased after the Great Depression, extending along the beach into previously untouched sand dunes and Duneland Beach and Michiana Shores were developed. Like Sheridan Beach and Long Beach, these year-round communities reflect the continuing trend in lakefront living.
5. ROESKE MILL
(southwest corner of Johnson Rd. and Michigan Boulevard along Trail Creek)
One of the first requirements of the Pioneer farmers settling in LaPorte County was the construction of a mill where they could have their grain ground into flour for baking or have lumber sawn for building construction. Because of its position in LaPorte County and its reliable water supply, Trail Creek had many mills located along its length. Perhaps the most famous of these was the Roeske Mill. The mill had a long, complicated history. Begun by Christopher Roeske in 1880, the name actually was used for a complex containing the Roeske flouring mill and brickyard. Christopher Roeske had been born in Germany, coming to the United States in 1864. For a time, he worked on his father’s farm and the Michigan Central RR. Eventually he learned the brickmaking trade in the Charles Kellogg brickyard and in 1868 he started his own brickyard. In 1875, he bought a brickyard and John Walker’s sawmill on the banks of Trail Creek. He and his brother August built a flouring mill on the sawmill site in 1880. Known as the Eureka Flouring Mill the building was five stories high including the basement, with a capacity of grinding barrels of flour a day. While the Roeske Brothers’ mill ground buckwheat flour, cornmeal and feed grain, their best known product was the “Bumble Bee” brand of flour. The millpond stretched all the why from the mill dam near Michigan Blvd. to Waterford. On the north side of Michigan Blvd. across from the mill dam were the Roeske Brickyards. The yards were able to produce 30,000 bricks a day and many streets and buildings in the county were built of Roeske bricks. Due to a combination of unknown factors, both the Roeske brickyard and flouring mill vanished. During the 1920’s the buildings were destroyed, though one can still see remnants of the dam and mill pond along the banks of Trail Creek.
(Highways 20 and 39)
The town got its name from a large spring of pure, cold water which flowed in great abundance. Springville, settled in the early 1830’s, was once an important, busy community on the well-traveled Michigan Road. Like many other towns in the county’s history, Springville in its early days had great expectations for future prosperity. In its heyday the people talked freely about the prospect of the town becoming the county seat. But in 1852, when the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana RR laid its tracks to LaPorte and bypassed Springville, the townspeople became discouraged and made no more effort to promote the growth of the town. The Springville Free Methodist Church on the corner of Springville Rd and Hwy. 39 was built in 1891. The cemetery here is very old, with several German tombstones.
7. WATERFORD INN
(Wozniak and old Johnson Roads in Waterford, just to the south of I-94)
Until the 1960’s there was actually two Waterford Inns. The first inn was a two-story structure built about 1838 as an inn and stagecoach stop on the LaPorte-Michigan City run along the Union Plank Road (now Johnson Rd.). From 1838 until 1865, the Waterford Post Office was located in the old inn. The two story, red brick building with the double bay windows, which was once known as the Waterford Inn, was probably built after the Civil War and used as a saloon. The advertisement for cigars can still be seen on the sides of the building. During the 1960’s the original Waterford Inn was destroyed by fire with all its furnishings. The second inn is now an apartment building.
8. COOLSPRING TOWNSHIP INSTITUTE HALL
(2 miles south of 1-94 on Johnson Road)
By the beginning of the 20th century in America, rural folks no longer outnumbered those living and working in cities. Although over 95% of the county lands were in farms, the number of farmers had dropped during the years following the Civil War. Many were displaced by the switch to machinery; a trend which continued as farmers mortgaged land to buy the reapers and combines necessary to produce enough food to feed the ever-growing urban population. To help county farmers produce enough for both subsistence and market sales, land-grant colleges such as Purdue University developed Farmer’s Institutes. Providing instructors from the agricultural or home-economics department staff, the Institute brought a diverse array of topics for study by farmers. For a nominal fee, each farmer could attend a program at the local schoolhouse where he would learn the latest treatments for corn blight and cow T.B., machine care and market analysis, as well as enjoy musical entertainment and pot-luck dinners. These Farmer’s Institutes, begun in LaPorte County in 1918, continued to provide research data to area farmers for many years until replaced by county agricultural offices and private farm services. Built in 1928 with $7,000 raised during 12 years of food sales, membership fees, and cash contributions, the Coolspring Township Institute Hall is used today for social and political gatherings, Farm Bureau meetings, and theatrical performances.
9. LOW CEMETERY
(Johnson Road and 625 W)
Daniel Low, one of the pioneers of LaPorte County, deeded a portion of his land for a “public burying ground” in 1837. A land speculator and fruit grower, Low became involved in helping slaves escape from the south into Canada. The runaways were smuggled onto grain boats at Michigan City’s harbor where they were transported to Canada. If Low or other members of the underground railroad felt they were being watched, the slaves were taken by wagon to New Buffalo, Michigan, where they were picked up by boats enroute to Canada. Candles were lighted atop the widow’s walk of Low’s home as a signal for safe transport. Sometimes the wait for clearance was a long one and the slaves were used to weed and dig potatoes at Low’s farm. Buried in unmarked graves in this “burying ground” are two slaves who became ill on their journey northward and died while hidden in Low’s care. Possibly 150 slaves were helped to freedom by Daniel Low and other county members of the Underground Railroad. Also buried in this cemetery are many Civil War veterans, members of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). It was never necessary to draft any men for this war from Coolspring Township as all the quotas were filled by volunteers. Some of the markers of the war dead are on upright boards indicating unknown soldiers.
10. PINHOOK BOG
(Wozniak Road, 1/2 mile north of the Indiana Tollway and 1/2 mile south of 125N)
Considered by many to be the finest example of a bog in the state, Pinhook Bog is one of the most outstanding natural areas in northern Indiana. The bog was originally a lake which had filled a depression in the Valparaiso Moraine about 16,000 years ago. Since then it has almost completely filled in with bog vegetation, including tamarack trees, highbush blueberry, and leatherleaf. Several rare and unusual plants flourish here, many restricted only to bog habitats. The bog is now owned by the U. S. Government and is part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. This is no place for the timid or the lame. You will sink up to your knees in muck and have to walk through a foot or more of water on slippery boards to get in, as well as battling mosquitoes and deer flies. However, for those interested in nature and willing to put up with a few minor hardships, it is well worth visiting. Mr. Jack Jackman, who formerly owned part of the bog, is the unofficial caretaker and keeps a register of all the visitors who come to the bog. The board trail through the bog begins behind his house on the east side of Wozniak Rd., the only house on that side of the road adjacent to the bog. Please park on the road shoulder.
11. WOZNIAK ROAD – FORRESTER ROAD – GOLDRING ROAD
These winding county roads provide enjoyable drives through some of LaPorte County’s many farms and orchards. The drive is especially beautiful when the roadside woods are ablaze with color. Wozniak Road, built as the Southern Plank Road from Michigan City to the Kankakee River, now runs from Waterford south to Pinhook on Hwy. 2. Once used extensively by farmers bringing wagonloads of grain to the market at Michigan City’s harbor, Wozniak Road is now a major thoroughfare for homeowners who have built modern ranch houses where barns once stood. Much of the suburbia which lines this road has claimed acres of rich farmlands and thriving fruit orchards but there are still several family-owned orchards in the area with fruit to sell in season. It is because of moderating lake breezes that LaPorte County is one of the major producers of fruit in the state. The warm breezes lengthen the growing season, allowing farmers to cultivate the apples, peaches, pears and cherries for which the county is noted.
By turning east on 275N, Forrester Road and, further east on the same road, Goldring Road can be reached. Both are tree-lined and wonderfully winding roads. Swedish immigrants settled in this area in the years following the Civil War, attracted by the hills and forests reminiscent of their homeland. The Swedes first logged the area, clearing the hills of rich stands of timber and milling the wood for lumber. Later these hills were planted with oats, corn and other crops. Cucumbers were raised to be sold to the pickle factory in LaPorte. Machinery was almost useless for working sloping fields and man and horse labored to pull reapers, discers and wagonloads of crops up the hills. Most visiting between the scattered families was done in the winter when sleighs could glide smoothly over the snow and ice-packed roads and fields.
12. CARMEL CHAPEL
(east of Garwood Orchards on 50S)
As did other communities of peoples isolated by language and beliefs as well as location, the Swedish settlers built a church where they could meet and worship and show the young the ways of the old country. Built in 1872, the church still serves the people of this community as a religious center. A Swedish cemetery adjoins the Lutheran chapel.
13. BEATTY’S CORNERS CEMETERY
(opposite the intersection of Highway 421 and 50 N on Highway 421)
The cemetery is named for John Beatty, who settled in 1833 at Beatty’s Corners, located 1/2 mile north of here near the junction of Hwy. 421 and 100 N. Beatty was with a company of soldiers going from Detroit to Ft. Dearborn to take part in the Black Hawk War. When he got out of the army he returned to LaPorte County and, with the help of another man, built a saw mill at Beatty’s Corners to exploit the tremendous stands of timber that once covered all of Coolspring Township. The town of Beatty’s Corners (first known as Beattyville) never amounted to much. Laid off in lots in 1842, the town once had a blacksmith shop, wagon shop and hotel, but these soon went out of business and Beattyville became a ghost town. John Beatty, his wife Sarah, and two children are buried in the cemetery.
(1/2 mile west of Highway 421 on Snyder Road)
Settled in 1851, this town was christened Salem Crossing by the Michigan Southern RR along whose tracks the community grew. By the time the village was platted in 1870, it was called LaCroix, courtesy of the Monon RR. The town served as an important station during the Civil War since all soldiers from northern Indiana were required to travel by Monon troop trains south from LaCroix. The community bustled with the arrivals and departures of troops and the hotels and merchants thrived on the needs of soldiers for rooms, food and store goods. It was also along the Monon that the funeral train of the assassinated President Abraham Lincoln traveled to Illinois. Although the funeral cortege was not scheduled to stop at LaCroix, the crowd which had gathered around the refueling train was so large that the officials allowed the waiting people to view the body of the fallen president. After the war, LaCroix was still called Salem Crossing by some; to eliminate the confusion, the town was given the name of the district congressman, General Packard. In 1872, Packard himself suggested the name of Otis. The town today is a small community of farmers and commuters.
(a) Post Office
A post office brought recognition to a town by attracting merchants with the idea of capitalizing on the fact that the area farmers would come to that town for mail service. Built in the 1870’s, the Otis Post Office is one of the oldest buildings in town.
(b) St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Cemetery
As a railroad junction, Otis had been the home of a number of railroad workers. In the 1860’s, a group of Polish immigrants settled in Otis and began to clear or acquire farmland. Perhaps these immigrants had raised money to buy this land by working in the Haskell-Barker Car Co. of Michigan City or the Studebaker Corp. of South Bend. Hundreds of Polish immigrants earned their first American paychecks working as cheap labor for these and other factories. As soon as they could financially afford to escape the factory and city, many would pursue their first dreams of becoming landowners. The group of Poles who arrived in Otis after the Civil War were attracted by the region’s similarity to their hometown of Posen. Soon Otis was known as a Polish community, one of the many ethnic-based neighborhoods and towns which characterized LaPorte County. The community was made complete by the construction of St. Mary’s Church in 1873, the first Polish church in Indiana north of the Wabash River. The present church was built in 1918. On the hill behind St. Mary’s is the church cemetery, a silent record of the people who traveled so many miles to a place of their own.
15. REED-EAHART CEMETERY
(350S, west of Holmesville, Road)
Deeded to the inhabitants of New Durham Township by Joseph Reed and William Eahart in 1837, this pioneer cemetery has close ties with Miriam Benedict Memorial Cemetery. William Eahart’s wife, Sarah, was Henly Clyburn’s (Miriam Benedict’s son-in-law) half sister. J. B. Howard and Samuel Johnson,who came from Michigan to help build the Benedict cabins and subsequently settled here, are also buried in this cemetery. An unusual double-faced tombstone, on one side the inscription and on the other a portrait of a woman and child, can be found here.
(Highway 2 and Wozniak Road)
Originally known as New Durham, Pinhook is the oldest town in New Durham Township. The town sprang up around a mill constructed here in 1834. As early as 1837, New Durham had grown into a thriving little village. By 1854, the town included several stores, a hotel, blacksmith shop, tailor shop, cobbler, doctor, harness shop, and wagon factory. New Durham had a jealous rival only 1/2 mile away at a settlement called Flood’s Grove. The two communities resorted to name-calling to disparage each other – New Durham began calling Flood’s Grove “Squatham” while Flood’s Grove called New Durham “Pinhook”, a name that stuck. When the Monon RR reached nearby Westville in 1854, Pinhook went into decline as Westville began to grow. Many of its buildings were moved to Westville and the pioneer town of New Durham ceased to be a place of importance. In 1847 the Methodists built the Pinhook Community Church. Located on Hwy. 2, it is the oldest standing church in the county. In 1966 the Northwest Methodist Conference deeded the property to the Pinhook Cemetery Association which is now (1978) raising money for its restoration. A very old cemetery is adjacent to the church.
17. DOOR VILLAGE
(Joliet Road, southwest of LaPorte)
Door Village is one of the most historic places in LaPorte County. Situated on the Sauk Trail (now Joliet Rd.), the great east-west Indian trail, Door Village saw Indians and pioneer wagons pass by in the early days. In 1831, Arba Heald built the first cabin on the village site. There were only two cabins in Door Village in 1832, one of them vacant, but there were many settlers living on the adjacent Door Prairie. In May, 1832, the Indian agent at Ft. Dearborn in Chicago sent word to Arba Heald that the Sac and Fox Indians led by Chief Blackhawk were on the warpath in Illinois. Since these Indians often passed through Door Village on the Sauk Trail it was feared that they might invade northern Indiana. Heald alerted the settlers living around Door Village and most of them gathered there to decide on a course of action; fear of the Indians caused some settlers to flee eastward to Ohio. The 42 men who remained erected a fort about 1/2 mile east of Door Village for the protection of their families. Completed in 3 days, the fort was 125 feet square, consisting of a ditch, earthworks and a palisade of sharpened logs with two blockhouses. Fortunately for the Door Prairie settlers, the Indians retreated beyond the Mississippi River rather than toward Canada along the Sauk Trail. After the Black Hawk War scare, the area around Door Village began to fill up as settlers came to farm the prairie. A Baptist church was built in 1840 and several businesses were started in the village. As time went by, Door Village was overshadowed by LaPorte as a commercial center.
(a) Methodist Church and Cemetery
While the present church is new, the original church was erected in 1832 and was the first Protestant chapel north of the Wabash River. There are two Revolutionary War soldiers, three War of 1812 veterans and many of the early settlers buried in this cemetery. An unusual feature is the number of white bronze markers.
(b) Door Village Fort Historical Marker
(1/2 mile east of Door Village on the north side of Joliet Road)
This marker commemorates the location of the fort and includes a brief history of the structure as well as the names of the fort’s builders.
(c) I.M. Evans Home
(between 35OW and Long Lane on the south side of Joliet Road just east of Door Village)
This 1877 farm house is a fine example of the ltalianate Style. The handsome brackets under the eaves, the well-preserved porch, and the segmented arch windows are all typical of the style. The tablet over the door with the owner’s name is somewhat unusual. This private home is not open to the public for tours.
18. JOLIET ROAD
(from Westville to Door Village)
The Joliet Rd. was once a segment of one of the Ernst important Indian Trails in the Midwest, the Great Sauk Trail. This trail began in Canada east of Detroit, crossing southern Michigan and northern Indiana and then continuing west across Illinois, Iowa, and Kansas. It was a main route for long-distance Indian travel. In LaPorte County the Sauk Trail passed just south of Hudson Lake and then went through the present-day towns of LaPorte, Door Village, and Westville. Later, in the early 1830’s, the segment from Detroit to Westville was upgraded into the famous Chicago Rd. or the Chicago-Detroit Rd. Presently, the Joliet Rd. passes through beautiful rolling farmland. Before this land was converted to farmland, much of it was virgin tallgrass prairie, with its flowing ripples of tall grasses and colorful wild flowers tossed by the wind. Large areas of the central or southern parts of LaPorte County were originally prairie, but today it is almost totally gone; the prairie soils now support fertile fields of corn, wheat, and soybeans. But in Indian times the prairie wildflowers flourished in wild profusions of color, topped by 6 foot stands of big bluestem and Indian grass, over which roamed bison, elk, coyotes, and wolves.
Settled in the late 1830’s, the town of Westville was not platted until 1851 with the completion of the Louisville, New Albany and Chicago RR. Once in competition with New Durham and Beaver Dam, the railroad established Westville as a grain shipping center and the community grew as the area’s agriculture intensified. By 1876, the town was a leading commercial center of the county, offering residents their choice of attorneys, bakeries, gunsmiths, livery stables, well-drivers, express agents, wagon manufacturers, plasterers, harness makers, insurance agents, carpenters, and hotels. The school system was one of the county’s finest. From 1860 to 1872, the Laird School, a private high school famous throughout the Midwest, enrolled 100 students annually. The city’s location on one of the county’s major thoroughfares allowed the community to prosper after rail shipping was replaced by overland truck routes. Westville thrives today as a commuter center, part of the labor base of Valparaiso, LaPorte and Michigan City.
(a) Eva Smith House
(Jefferson Street and Clybern Avenue)
This two story brick home built in 1879 is a fine example of the ltalianate style of architecture, characterized by the use of brackets, segmented window arches and an unobtrusive roof. A private residence, this home is not open for tours.
(b) IOOF Lodge
Organized in 1853, Westville’s Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge is one of the county’s oldest lodges. This lodge hall was built in 1868 with a $5,000 legacy from Daniel West, a prominent citizen of the town. The lodge, constructed in the ltalianate style popular for city buildings after the Civil War, is one of Westville’s oldest buildings.
(c) United Methodist Church
When Reverend James Armstrong, the county circuit rider arrived in 1832, there was already a congregation of Methodists worshipping in private homes of the area. The first Methodist Church was built in 1843 and replaced by the present structure in 1868. The construction of the brick building was made possible by Daniel West’s $5,000 bequest to the church.
(d) Lincoln Marker
(along the Monon tracks on the north side of town)
In 1865, the funeral train of the martyred president Abraham Lincoln stopped for refueling at the Westville station on its way to Springfield, Illinois.
(e) Westville Depot
(northeast corner of tracks)
Built in 1853, the Louisville, New Albany and Chicago RR boosted Westville’s economy by attracting settlers with the promises of rail delivery and shipment of produce and goods. The Westville depot is one of LaPorte County’s oldest and best preserved railroad buildings.
(f) Westville Cemetery
(Highway 6, just west of town)
Some of the first settlers of LaPorte County are buried in this sprawling cemetery, including Henly Clyburn and his second wife Elizabeth Concannon Sherry. Clyburn entered the county in 1829 leading a party consisting of his first wife Sarah and her family, headed by Sarah’s mother, Miriam Benedict. Clyburn was the first to build on the future site of Westville.
(g) Norman Beatty Memorial Hospital
(Highway 421, just south of town)
Built in 1951, the state mental hospital was the largest employer of Westville residents. Beatty Memorial, consisting of 50 main buildings and 16 residence units for staff members’ families, has since been acquired by the state prison and is in the process of conversion to high security facilities for prisoners needing psychiatric help.
20. MIRIAM BENEDICT MEMORIAL CEMETERY
(U.S. 6 between 800 W and 900 W, east of Westville)
Originally named Union Chapel Cemetery, it was rededicated in 1971 as Miriam Benedict Memorial Cemetery in honor of one of LaPorte County’s first white settlers. The Benedict family, Stephan, Miriam and their six children, originally settled in Illinois after traveling from New York State along the Erie Canal. They located near Ottawa where Sarah Benedict married Henly Clyburn and Stephan Benedict died in 1828. According to Illinois law of the time, the Benedict children would have had to have been placed for adoption. Henly Clyburn suggested that the family move to Indiana where the soil was good and there were no such adoption laws. The family arrived near the site of Westville on March 15, 1829, with 15 inches of snow on the ground. Two young men came from Berrien, Michigan, the nearest settlement, to help build their cabins. Descendants of the Benedict family still live in the county. This cemetery is rather pleasant. There is an unusual tombstone in the eastern end of the graveyard portraying a weeping woman leaning on an anchor. Miriam Benedict and several of her descendants are buried here, as are two veterans of the War of 1812, eight Civil War soldiers, and one Spanish American War veteran.
21. UNION MILLS AND WELLSBORO
(800S and 400W)
In 1832, Joseph Wheaton built the first house on the site of Union Mills. But not until Dr. Sylvanus Everts built his grist mill on Mill Creek in 1838 did Union Mills begin to grow. Soon there was a blacksmith, a cooper, a wagoner and other professionals living in Union Mills. Local commerce received a boost when the Grand Trunk Western RR came through Union Mills in 1872. Three years later the Baltimore and Ohio RR was built north of town, followed by the Pere Marquette. The town of Wellsboro soon grew at the crossing of these railroads. For a time Wellsboro expanded rapidly and it was thought that it would become a large industrial town with its excellent rail connections and open land. But probably due to land owners who wouldn’t sell, Wellsboro ceased to grow. Eventually Union Mills extended northeast to meet Wellsboro. Union Mills and Wellsboro have had several farm related industries as well as several booms and busts. In 1910 the officials of the Chicago stockyards were considering locating the yards in Union Mills; the railroads and the open fields made it an ideal location. But the owners of the land wouldn’t sell and the stockyards remained in Chicago. The most successful business in Union Mills/Wellsboro was the Hunding Dairy Co. Located on Long Lane and the Baltimore and Ohio RR tracks in Wellsboro, the dairy was the largest industry in the area. About 50,000 gallons of milk (or $2,000) a day were shipped to Chicago by area farmers. It went out of business in the early 1950’s. Union Mills remains a pleasant town with several fine houses on its maple tree shaded streets. One mellow red brick house is across from Weaver Funeral Home (a former Methodist Church) on Union Street. There are several houses in Union Mills and Wellsboro with these same round-cornered windows, probably the work of Union Mills’ two brick masons during the 1870’s and 1880’s.
(a) Mill Pond Park
This 20 acre park was created by the Union Mills Conservation Club and landscaped by the WPA in the 1930’s. The pond and dam are the remains of the 1838 grist mill which virtually created Union Mills and gave the town its name.
(b) Bethel Presbyterian Church
(Union and Hamilton Streets)
This 1892 Neo-Jacobean church was for many years the only church in Union Mills. The congregation was begun in 1851.
(c) Wesley College
(Union and Hamilton Streets)
At one time this 1896 Richardsonian Romanesque building was the high school for Union Mills. With school consolidation in the late 1950’s, the school was closed and the students bused to South Central High School. The building is now occupied by Wesley College, a small 4 year liberal arts school.
(Highways 421 and 30)
Wanatah received its impetus for growth with the coming of the Monon and Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne and Chicago RRs in the late 1850’s. The promise of railroad jobs and the prospect of a thriving market center caused many of the early settlers to relocate to the site. The trains brought many newly-arrived German immigrants both as workmen and passengers and soon German was the language of the streets and schools. Platted in 1865, Wanatah quickly overshadowed the earlier towns of Bigelow Mills, Haskell Station, Roxelle and Morgan. Farmers shipped their corn, cattle, wheat and wild marsh hay from the warehouses and traded in the general stores. Lumber was cut and sent by rail to larger markets. Frogging, hunting, trapping and fishing were all available on the surrounding prairies and marshes. With the construction of major roads through the area, Wanatah continued to prosper as a commercial center. Today, its growing population supports an economy based on agricultural operations and business services.
(a) Monon Depot
(south of Cross Street along Monon tracks)
The New Albany and Salem R.R, later known as the Monon, was completed in 1853 and a station and freight house were later built along the tracks. Watertanks and coal docks near the town served as fueling stations for the locomotive and as job opportunities for Wanatah residents. Many traveled to Michigan City’s lakefront attractions by way of the Monon excursion trains, boarding the train at the Wanatah depot.
(b) Old Town
(2nd and Main Streets)
With the arrival of the railroads, Wanatah’s potential as a marketing center was quickly capitalized on by craftsmen merchants and speculators and the streets were soon lined with shops boasting the latest dress-stuffs, tobacco and farm implements from Chicago. The antique store on the southwest corner of 2nd and Mains Sts. is a remnant of these shops which once provided the isolated farm family with many of the necessities and luxuries of the day. The false front building, over 100 years old, would probably not have been painted by its original owner either. The buildings on the corner diagonally opposite the shop have been remodeled but still retain atmosphere of a town where sidewalks were a few feet off the ground so descent from a high wagon was easily made and hitching posts accented the streets.
(c) Wm. F. Hunt Memorial Park
This picnic area was named after the editor and publisher of the Wanatah Mirror, Wanatah’s weekly newspaper from 1899 until 1963. Hog Creek, which winds through the park, flooded the town in 1908 after a mill dam which the creek flowed through failed, causing Hog Creek to back up and flood its banks. Boats floated down Main St. that week.
(d) Wanatah Christian Church
(Illinois and High Streets)
This Gothic-style church, built in 1889, was originally one block east of the present site. It was moved and extensively remodeled in 1914. It was once very common to move buildings. They had been carefully constructed and were expected to stand for many years.
(e) Wanatah Junior High
(High and Main Streets)
Constructed in 1914 as the Wanatah High School, the building is now in use as the junior high school for Cass and Clinton Townships. Wanatah students were bused to the larger consolidated South Central High School in the late 1960’s. With the removal of their own high school, Wanatah and other similar county towns lost a community center which had once helped to bind the population together.
(f) Sacred Heart Church
(E. Cross and Ohio Streets)
As all the county churches, the Sacred Heart Church is a monument to the builders as well as the beliefs. Built in 1887 by German Catholics, the beautiful Gothic-style structure represented their successful transplantation into the new world. The building on the right was constructed in 1888 as the priest’s rectory. The building on the left was built in 1888 as a schoolhouse in which German was the spoken language. The Sacred Heart Church has changed little structurally in the years since it was proudly erected.
23. NICKEL PLATE CEMETERY
(2.4 miles south of Highway 30 on 900W)
This burial ground attests to the German heritage of Wanatah and the surrounding farm community. The Nickel Plate Cemetery, so named because the Nickel Plate tracks (New York, Chicago and St. Louis) adjoin the lot, is about two well-kept acres. Many of the pre-1920’s tombstones are inscribed in German, a practice dropped along with the use of that language in religious services because of anti-German sentiment during the first World War.
24. MORGAN CEMETERY
(1400S between 750W and 700N, near Hanna)
This cemetery is all that remains of the towns of Morgan and Callao. Settlement of the area was hampered by the marshy ground. Though the first settler of Morgan moved there in 1844, the town got started when the Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne and Chicago RR (now the Pennsylvania RR) came through in 1857. Wm. A Taylor, who surveyed and plotted the town, ran the local grain warehouse for the area farmers, many of them Germans. By 1861, Morgan had absorbed the nearby town of Callao, begun in 1857 in anticipation of the railroad which finally built a depot 1/2 mile east at Morgan. The cemetery is located about one mile south of the ghost town of Morgan on the nearest high ground. Morgan was very successful for a short time, but the nearness of Wanatah finally killed it as a commercial center.
25. ST. JOHN LUTHERNA CHURCH
(3 1/2 miles south of Hwy. 30 on 900w)
The history of this church dates back to 1858 when German settlers in this area met at various schoolhouses and private homes to celebrate their religion. In 1869 the congregation constructed a modest frame church south of Wanatah. This church is now a storage building behind the present St. John Lutheran Church built in 1915. The church cemetery, located across 90OW, is well-preserved with many German markers.
(Highways 421 and 8)
One of the most recently formed towns in the county, settlement in the LaCrosse area was inhibited by the presence of the very wet, marshy conditions. Almost all of the region was Kankakee marshland, supplying marsh hay in abundance. The dried stalks of the wild marsh grasses were the area’s major crop until reclamation. LaCrosse first started to develop in the early 1860’s with the completion of two railroads, which helped to bring in settlers, chiefly German immigrants. Many of the first buildings were situated on the highest ground available: the railroad rights-of-way. Houses were built on stilts because the town was flooded with every rise of the river; old-timers recall walking on Hwy. 8 in hip boots. These conditions changed after the marsh was drained. The wild marsh hay lands were transformed into extremely fertile corn fields, yielding today as much as 160 bushels per acre. LaCrosse has remained primarily a small farming community, in spite of the presence of 4 railroads (formerly 5) passing through it.
(a) LaCrosse Depot
(just south of Highway 8 on 421 at the Pennsylvania tracks)
A second depot on the C & 0 tracks burned in 1977.
(b) LaCrosse High School
(Michigan Street, one block east of Hwy 421)
Built in 1915, it is one of the oldest high school buildings in the county still being used as a high school. An elementary department is also included in the school.
(c) St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church
(Lowell and Dominic Streets, at the northwest corner of town)
The church began very early in the history of the township, before 1860. The present building was erected in 1931, after an older building, built in 1914, burned.
(d) LaCrosse Grain Elevator
(east of the depot along the Pennsylvania tracks)
Once corn and wheat began to be raised in quantity in the area, a grain elevator was needed to store the crops. The Bailey Elevator, the first of four, was built in 1903 and later burned. The present LaCrosse Grain Elevator was built in 1956.
27. PITNER DITCH
(from Highway 421, turn east on 2300S and go 1/4 mile to a small bridge crossing the ditch)
The Pitner Ditch is a good example of the numerous drainage ditches that lace the southern third of the county. Before settlement by white men, this whole area was part of a great marsh called the Grand Marsh of the Kankakee. The Grand Marsh formed a swath of rich wetland which bordered both sides of the Kankakee River for most of its length through northwestern Indiana, covering scores of square miles in southern LaPorte County. The Kankakee, about a mile south of here, flooded this land much of the year and provided a vast, watery habitat for incredible numbers of fish, waterfowl, fur-bearing animals, and other wildlife. In the late 1890’s and early 1900’s, a systematic effort was undertaken to drain the entire marsh for agricultural use. Large drainage ditches were cut through the marsh and the Kankakee River was deepened and straightened to increase runoff. The ditching converted one of the most famous and productive wildlife paradises in the world to some of the richest farmland in the state. As you drive around the southern part of the county, you will see many other ditches.
28. OLD CHANNEL OF THE KANKAKEE RIVER
(one mile east of Hwy. 421 along 2300S)
As you drive along on 2300S you will be next to one of the old channels of the historic Kankakee River. Originally, the Kankakee slowly wound its way in countless bends and turns. The straightening of the river in the early 1900’s cut off these bends and left them as isolated quiet backwaters. A few still contain water, such as this one.
29. ISLAND IN THE GRAND MARSH
(take Bigler Road southeast from 2200S along 2 sets of railroad tracks)
On your left you will see a partially wooded hill rising above the general level of the land. This is a fairly good-sized example of what was once a wooded island surrounded by Kankakee Marsh. Such islands dotted the marsh before draining, providing convenient camp sites for Indians who once roamed the area and later for hunters, fishermen and trappers who, like the Indians, were attracted by the abundant wildlife.
30. ALPINE SPORT CLUB
(west side of Bigler Rd. Between 2200S and 2300S, north of English Lake)
Built by wealthy sportsmen in 1869 or 1870, the Alpine Sport Club is the only hunting lodge left along the Kankakee River. During the late 1800’s, the Grand Kankakee Marsh was a world famous hunting ground, teeming with waterfowl, fish, opossum, raccoon and other animals. Dozens of hunting lodges stood in the marsh for the use of rich American businessmen, such as Marshall Field of Chicago, and European nobility. The Alpine Sport Club was located in the heart of the marsh along a channel of the Kankakee, since dried up, and was unusual in having a direct rail connection with Chicago. Trains used to stop in front of the lodge in its heyday. At one time there were perhaps a dozen boathouses in a ring near the main building; only one of these remains today. Only part of the entire hunting lodge complex is left: the main lodge, the dining hall, one boathouse, and the winecellar. Although no longer in use, the main lodge is in excellent shape. Three stories in height, this lodge was used as sleeping quarters for the club members and still contains many of the original furnishings. The small building across from the main lodge was the club’s dining hall. The wine cellar is behind this building. The Alpine Sport Club finally closed in the 1930’s, partly because of the Depression and partly because ditching and the subsequent draining of the Kankakee Marsh had destroyed the area as a wildlife habitat. The present owner lives with his wife in the old dining hall. Tours of the hunting lodge may be given upon request.
31. ENGLISH LAKE
(from 2300S take 650W south toward the town of English Lake in Starke County)
You will immediately come to four closely spaced bridges that cross four channels with wooded banks. These are respectively, from north to south: the Tuesburg Ditch, the Kankakee River, the Yellow River, and the Kline Ditch. These all merge a few hundred yards to the west. To the east, the Kankakee once broadened out into a large shallow lake, called English Lake, which drained away during reclamation. This was a favorite hunting and fishing area for sportsmen from all over the United States and Europe.
32. KANKAKEE STATE FISH AND GAME AREA
(access where Hwy 8 intersects the Kankakee River, 7 1/2miles east of LaCrosse)
This state game area preserves some of the Kankakee bottomlands. To the south of Hwy. 8 you can walk along the dikes of the straightened Kankakee through wooded bottomlands. Although not completely natural, these probably look quite similar to those originally found along much of the old Kankakee. Bird-watchers will especially enjoy this area, where large numbers of ducks and song birds may be seen, especially in spring and fall.
Settlement of Hanna Township was slow. Arriving in 1839, the earliest settlers formed small isolated neighborhoods and survived by tilling tiny patches of high ground. The abundant game of the marsh was hunted, fished and trapped using home-crafted boats, traps, spears and gun stocks. Muskrat, mink and otter pelts were sold to the fur buyers who arrived every spring. The town of Hanna itself was not formed until the completion of the Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne and Chicago RR in 1858. Its location on one of the main trunk lines to the east caused Hanna to flourish as a grain market for the southern part of the county. In 1870 the Chicago and Western Michigan R R laid tracks through the town and Hanna grew as a hay shipping center, sending tons of harvested marsh hay to Chicago and Cincinnati to be used as packing material and livestock feed. With the draining of the marsh, the hay shipping business ended for Hanna as well as for the other hay centers of Wanatah, LaCrosse and Hayville. While the marsh thrived, Hanna was also the frog-shipping capital of the county. In early spring, youngsters would pull the hibernating frogs from the icy marshes. Later the frogs were captured with nets or were clubbed as they leapt out of the path of the hay-mowers cutting the wild marsh grass. Only the frog legs were shipped to the old South Water St. Market in Chicago, kept fresh in hay-packed ice cars for the city’s cooks.
(a) Denison Home
(southeast corner of Thompson and Hooper Streets, private residence)
This Gothic-style home was built by Dr. George Denison at the turn of the century. A leading merchant and druggist, Dr. Denison operated a local creamery and owned farms in Indiana, Georgia and Canada. The doctor also harvested hay from 1000 acres of marsh land. The tall bluejoint grass was cut and stacked during summer dryness, baled and stored in Denison’s large barn adjoining the railroad in the center of town. From here, Denison bought and sold marsh hay, shipping it by the carloads to the large city markets.
(b) Converted Hotel
(S. Thompson Street, private residence)
Salesmen, or drummers as they were called because they drummed up business, arrived daily in the bustling market of Hanna selling farm equipment, seeds, dry goods, tools and everything else the merchant needed to stock his shelves. Most of the drummers and others who traveled the railroads spent the night in a Hanna hotel much like this one. Here, for 50c or $1.00 and the news of the outside world, visitors were treated to warm beds and simple meals.
(c) Private Residence
(southwest corner Thompson and Hooper Streets, private residence)
This large home is a beautiful example of the Queen Anne or Neo-Jacobean style of architecture. Popular at the turn of the century, the style is characterized by projecting bays, an irregular roof line with many gables and the general feeling of spaciousness.
(d) Methodist Episcopal Church
Built in 1888, the Methodist Church has since been extensively remodeled. Until funds for a church could be raised, the congregation met in schoolhouses and private homes. The lot was donated in 1865 but it wasn’t until 23 years later that the church was erected at a cost of $1,160.81.
(e) Hanna Farm Bureau Cooperative
In 1975, the Hanna-Union Mills Twp. Farm Bureau Elevator sold $9,564,476 worth of grain for farmers and farmers bought $1,896,265 worth of supplies. The Co-op represents the agricultural base of Hanna’s economy; continuing as a commercial center as long as Hwy. 30 passed through town, reconstruction of the road outside of town and the earlier loss of railroad shipping has shaped Hanna into a community of farmers and industrial commuters.
34. DOOR PRAIRIE BARN
(1.7 miles south of county courthouse on Highway 35, private property)
It is uncertain why Marion Ridgeway built this octagonal horse barn in 1888. Perhaps he approved of the fashion of eight-sided buildings which spread across the country after being praised in the 1840’s and ’50’s as efficient and healthful uses of space. This barn features 8 stalls, each with its outside entrance, surrounding a central area into which hay was dumped from the second floor loft. The only remaining county example of the octagonal style of architecture, the Door Prairie Barn ranks as one of the more unique structures in the state.
(just off U.S. 35, south of LaPorte)
Kingsbury is typical of many small towns across LaPorte County and the Midwest. The town began as a cluster of buildings, including a general store, blacksmith shop and cabins, around the Kingsbury sawmill in 1835. Soon it was a bustling little center of several stores and a post office established in 1839 with biweekly mail service to LaPorte. Competition with LaPorte caused Kingsbury to develop slowly, but hopes for the town’s growth were raised when the Chicago and the Lake Huron RR (now the Grand Trunk Western RR) passed through in the 1870’s. Kingsbury then became a grain shipping point for the surrounding farms. But the nearness of LaPorte kept Kingsbury from developing into a larger center. The town gained some prominence during World War II when the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant was erected nearby. U.S. 35 was rerouted for plant traffic so that it was no longer Kingsbury’s main street.
(a) First Baptist Church and Cemetery
(junction old U.S. 35 and 500S)
The Baptist Church was built in 1851 in the Greek Revival style. The building is very handsome with the pilastered corners (recessed columns) typical of the style. The cemetery is made up of the church’s own graveyard and Winchell Cemetery, which was moved from the ordnance plant site.
Moved from its original site on the north side of the Grand Trunk Western tracks on the south side of Kingsbury, the depot has been converted into an art gallery on the south side of the tracks.
(c) Mill Pond
(500S or West Street)
The meadow to your left as you cross Kingsbury Creek was once the mill pond for the 1835 mill. The red brick building on the west bank was the electrical generating station for Kingsbury.
36. KINGSFORD HEIGHTS
Constructed in 1942 to provide housing for workers at the nearby Kingsbury Ordnance Plant, Kingsford Heights remains today the commuter town the government developed it to be. The labor needs of the ordnance plant were attracting thousands of workers to the area in the early ’40’s. Housing was found in nearby cities or in government-constructed dormitories and trailer camps. When more homes were required, over 2,600 single and duplex houses were built on the site of leveled cornfields near Kingsbury. The first residents moved into the Heights in 1943 and the town was soon filled to capacity, but within a few years, Kingsford Heights was practically a ghost town. KOP had closed and its workers began drifting away. The government sold the Heights to a corporation of townspeople who, in turn, sold each individual home to its occupants or other interested buyers. Many of the homes were removed by former KOP workers returning to their native western and southern states and soon the town was marked by sidewalks and electric lines pointing to empty lots. Many of these abandoned sites are still visible although the Heights has enjoyed a recent surge in modern home construction. Some of the original duplex homes stand as they did when first occupied by ordnance workers and the barrack-like center built by the government still serves as the town’s commercial center. An interesting contrast to the Kingsford Heights housing is that of the development on OAK WOOD DRIVE (1.9 miles north of the Heights off Hwy. 6; dangerous intersection). These spacious homes, now private residences, were built by government agencies as quarters for the high-ranking military and civilian personnel who operated the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant.
A station on the Baltimore and Ohio RR, Tracy was settled by German immigrants in search of rich farmlands upon which to build their lives in their new homeland. Dozens of similar towns sprang up across the county as the immigrants worked their ways west on their railroads. The villages they established served primarily, as did Tracy, as a market and social center for the isolated farm community, providing a school, general store and possibly a grain elevator. The pride of the young community was usually its church. The Tracy Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, built in 1875, still stands on Cass Road off Hwy 6. Its adjoining cemetery is lined with tombstones inscribed in German, proof of the heritage of the area.
38. KINGSBURY INDUSTRIAL PARK
In 1941, one of 73 ordnance plants operating throughout the entire country during the years of the Second World War was constructed at Kingsbury. Chosen for its central location with regard to land, labor, raw materials and railroads, 13,454 acres of rich Kingsbury farmland was transformed into testing sites, barracks, bunkers and dormitories. Over 80 miles of railroad tracks and 134 miles of highway system wound through what had been fields of corn and wheat. The area was soon flooded with job applicants, many of them women supporting husband or fatherless families. Employees were carefully screened before being hired at 70c per hour for women and 90c per hour for men. Buses and trains from cities throughout northwestern Indiana transported the commuters daily. Others boarded in nearby cities or in KOP-constructed housing. By mid-1943, the immediate area labor supply was exhausted and recruiting drives were begun into midwestern, western, and southern states. Blacks and Jamaicans were hired for warehouse duty and the dangerous detonator line. An average production day at KOP saw 180,000 point-detonating fuses assembled, 46,671 40mm high explosive shells loaded and 500,000 complete rounds of 20mm ammunition packed. KOP was one of the world’s largest plants for loading ammunition and at its peak production employed over 20,000 workers. Only 4 deaths from explosives were recorded but over a thousand known cases of poisoning from exposure to TNT were treated at the plant hospital. At the war’s end, KOP was shut down. The overall costs of the 4 year period had been over 800 million dollars. Its construction and operation had radically influenced the development of the area. This once scattered community of farmers had received the largest number of immigrants to enter LaPorte County since the 1910’s. Tensions were heightened by the unfamiliarity of races and creeds. Industry began to locate in the area, attracted by improved roads and railroad systems and a ready labor market; ranch home suburbias housing workers who commuted to city jobs along these roads began to fill the countryside.
Although the KOP facilities were utilized to produce ammunition during the Korean War, the plant complex today is used as an industrial park for concerns ranging from greenhouses to golf-cart manufacturers. The Kingsbury Industrial Park also includes a U.S. Military Reservation used by the Indiana National Guard. The park is closed to visitors but an excellent view of the barracks can be obtained by driving east on 500S off Hwy. 35. By later turning right onto Stillwell Road, many of the grass-covered bunkers used by KOP officials to test and store explosives can be seen behind the barbed wire fences. These areas are off limits due to contamination from the tests. Some of the railroad tracks you cross while driving on Stillwell Rd. are a part of the system of plant railroads used to transport explosives and ammunition throughout the KOP complex. Stillwell Rd. will also lead to the KINGSBURY STATE FISH AND WILDLIFE AREA. Some of the 20 square miles of the ordnance plant was acquired by the department of Natural Resources and is now used as a state-owned hunting, fishing and camping area. Inquiries about license regulations and area facilities should be directed to the Kingsbury State Fish and Wildlife Area, LaPorte, Indiana, 46350.
39. NORTON CEMETERY
(turn north at intersection of 500S and 300E – turn west on 450S and go 1/2 mile)
The earliest burials in Norton Cemetery date to 1838, the year known as the “sickly season”. An epidemic, probably of influenza, was sweeping northern Indiana. Entire towns were suffering and the shortage of trained doctors in the young county was painfully felt. Hundreds of residents died in this and subsequent epidemics. Buried among the pioneers in this secluded well-preserved cemetery is the Indian wife of Thomas Stillwell, an eccentric hunter and trapper. Stillwell, like many of the very first whites to enter virgin territory, did so partly because of a strong desire to be freed of white society. Married to an Indian woman, this pioneer would stay in one place only until he saw the smoke from 3 cabins. He then moved on further into the western frontier.
The present town of Stillwell dates to 1870, when a post office was established here. The town is named after Thomas Stillwell, who settled near here in 1832, one of the pioneer settlers of Pleasant Township. He later moved to Oregon when things became too crowded for him in LaPorte County. Before the present Stillwell started, there was a place called Old Stillwell, located about a mile northwest of here along the Nickel Plate RR (now the Norfolk and Western). Here were a store, schoolhouse and dance hall. Old Stillwell became a ghost town when the Grand Trunk RR was put through in 1870, since people began settling at the junction of the two, railroads where the trains stopped. The railroads contributed greatly to the economic life of the new town. The Grand Trunk maintained large coal docks here for fueling the trains from 1874 to 1911. During the height of dock activity, Stillwell’s business section was much larger than today. At one time 80 men were employed at the docks, feeding coal and water to the locomotives.
(a) Slack’s Grocery Store and Post Office
Although no longer a grocery, the Post Office is still housed in this 100 year old building. It was originally located on the south side of town across from the Grand Trunk tracks and was used as a pool hall, ice house, general store, and barber shop. In 1939 it was sawed in two and moved to its present location.
(b) Gene’s Grocery Store
The building is over 100 years old.
(c) Friends’ Church
This simple basic structure in the Quaker tradition was built in 1893. Presently without a minister, the church does offer Sunday School.
41. SALEM CHAPEL AND CEMETERY
(Highway 4 and 350E, just north of Salem Heights)
The first Salem Chapel was built in 1853 by Methodists on land donated by J. G. McCasky. The present chapel, built in 1885, remained in use until 1976, when a new Salem Methodist Church was built. It has since been converted into apartments. Over 50 veterans from various wars are buried in the cemetery.
42. MIXSAWBAH STATE FISH HATCHERY
(2 1/2 miles southeast of Stillwell; located in the Kingsbury State Fish and Game Area, about a mile south off Highway 104 on 675E. There is a sign on 104 pointing out the road)
Unique in the state of Indiana, the newly-built hatchery is presently the only facility in the state which raises coho salmon, steelhead and brown trout, primarily for stocking in Lake Michigan. Here you can see, in outdoor tanks, thousands of these fish of fingerling size.
43. LEMON’S BRIDGE
(Highway 104 and the Kankakee River, 4 miles southeast of Stillwell)
The history of the site dates to Indian times. Before the first white settlers arrived in LaPorte County, the Indians had a ford across the Kankakee River between Mud Lake and Goose Lake (both now gone) where the present bridge is located. Wilderness paths led to the ford from the Upper Wabash River Valley on the south and the St. Joseph River Valley on the north. The Indians would meet at a place in Lincoln Township called Cold Springs where they would pow-wow and hold wild dances. When the first white settlers came up from the south they were told about this Kankakee River fording place and crossed the river here, building rafts to ferry their oxen-pulled covered wagons across. The first bridge at this site was a crude affair, consisting of two flat-bottomed scows which floated end-to-end between two abutments. In 1834 this bridge no longer proved adequate to handle the wagons and the county commissioners gave Mathias Redding a permit to build a large ferry to carry wagons across. This operated until 1840. The commissioners also decided to build a road from the county line to a point on the Michigan Rd. about 5 miles east of Michigan City, where Hwy. 35 now runs into Hwy. 20. This was called the Plymouth Rd. at first, then the Plank Rd., and then the Yellow River Rd. One of the first roads in the county, it followed the route now covered by Hwys. 104, 4, and 35 to Stillwell, LaPorte, and Michigan City. By 1840 traffic on the Yellow River Rd. was too heavy for the ferry since farmers to the south were using the road and ferry to bring large quantities of grain, cattle and hogs to the harbor at Michigan City for shipment to other ports on the Great Lakes. The commissioners made a deal with Major John Lemon to build and operate a good toll bridge, with the county getting a share of the revenue. The new bridge facilitated the passage of ever-increasing numbers of wagons hauling produce along the road, which, because of heavy traffic, was almost impassable at times. The road brought so much business and so many settlers to the county that the commissioners had the road planked so that it could be traveled more easily in all seasons. Tolls were charged to use both the bridge and the road until after the Civil War, when the plank road gave out. The present bridge was constructed in 1935 and is still called Lemon’s Bridge.
44. FISH LAKE
(Highway 4 southeast of LaPorte)
Now a residential and summer home area, Upper and Lower Fish Lake were once the site of a bustling ice business. Before modern refrigeration, large blocks of ice were used in refrigerators to keep food cold. Obviously this ice had to be cut in winter from bodies of fresh water, stored in insulated warehouses, and shipped to where it was needed in the summer. Upper and Lower Fish Lakes were perfect for this industry. In 1888 and 1889, Swift and Co., Chicago meat packers, bought the land around both of the lakes. Construction of 3 huge ice houses with elevators on the outside for the ice was begun in 1889. Two of these buildings were 50 feet high, 250 feet long, and 280 feet wide. A boarding house and horse barn were also built. During the winter work season, 300 to 400 men would be sent to Fish Lake from Chicago to harvest ice for Swift and Co. refrigerators. Horses were used to haul the ice plows which cut the lakes into ice blocks. These blocks were then conveyed up into the ice house and covered with a layer of marsh hay for insulation. In the early 1900’s, two of the ice houses were struck by lightning and burned. Until 1930, when ice cutting ceased on Fish Lake, many Swift and Co. employees took their summer vacations here. In 1935, Swift and Co. sold all their Fish Lake holdings. The buildings were torn down and the land staked out in lot sizes. In 1937,the South Town Beach Club bought the land and Fish Lake began to grow into the residential area it is today.
45. MILL CREEK
(875E and 200S)
First settled in 1835 by a caravan of relatives traveling together from Ohio, the town of Mill Creek was originally called Fish Lake. In 1879, the Grand Trunk RR bought the track running through town and, because there was already one Fish Lake on the Trunk Line, the town was christened Mill Creek after the creek which flows west of town. An important shipping point for wood, hay and grain, Mill Creek thrived as a trade center for the surrounding farmers, boasting general stores, a blacksmith, grain warehouse, dance hall and several saloons. Later a grain elevator and creamery continued to attract the trade of the farm community. The Mill Creek Post Office was established in 1875, later moving to its present location on the town’s main street. The Mill Creek office, one of the oldest and smallest in the county, is still outfitted with its original brass mailboxes.
46. SAUKTOWN CHURCH
(150N and 875W)
The congregation of the Sauktown Church held services in an old schoolhouse until the present church was built in 1900. Long before this, there was a community here known as Independence. It got off to a booming start in 1837, when the town was platted. The reason for laying out the town was based on pure speculation: Independence was to be at the junction of a proposed railroad crossing Indiana and a proposed canal running from the Wabash River at Logansport to the St. Joseph River. Early inhabitants had visions of great wealth pouring into the town because of these two developments and real estate speculation ran high. But nothing became of either the railroad or canal and by 1856 Independence was a ghost town. It was then that the “town” started to be called Sac Town in disparagement, which later changed to Sauktown. The Sauktown Cemetery is located 1/8th mile further west and then 1/8th mile north on a small gravel road that leads to it. It began in 1840 and most of the earliest settlers of the area are buried there.
47. OAK GROVE CHAPEL AND CEMETERY
(600E and 50N)
Oak Grove Cemetery is one of the few county cemeteries which still has a chapel in active use. Henry Vandalsen, a Revolutionary War soldier, and William M. Maple, a War of 1812 veteran, are buried in this pioneer cemetery. Interesting grave stones to speculate about are those on the very fringes of the graveyard almost hidden under the trees. Are they suicides, have the grave stones connecting them with the main body of burials vanished, or are they just ordinary grave stones? The plain chapel was built in 1881, although there may have been an earlier structure.
48. ROLLING PRAIRIE
Settled in 1831, the town of Nauvoo grew slowly, hampered both by rumors of the Black Hawk War and the nearness of the rival town of Byron. Located just 1 1/2 mi. to the south on the Chicago-Detroit Rd. (Hwy. 2 and 350N), Byron was the grain storage and shipment center of the area from 1835 until 1852. In that year, railroad tracks were laid north of Byron, signaling the end of that town but the prosperity of Nauvoo. In 1853, Nauvoo was platted under the name Portland. This was changed to Rolling Prairie with the arrival of the post office in 1857. Steam saw mills, a steam flour mill, a wagon shop, blacksmith, stores, churches, and saloons enticed farmers to travel the Michigan Rd. into town. The modernization of this road into Hwy. 20 brought a new influx of restaurants, garages and other traveler-service businesses to Rolling Prairie in the 1920’s. With the subsequent construction of the Hwy. 20 bypass, the town settled into having an agriculturally based economy with small light industries and commuting industrial workers.
(a) Community Building
(Depot and Michigan Streets)
Organized as part of the Rolling Prairie circuit of traveling ministers, area Methodists built a church on this site in 1865. It was replaced by the present structure in 1895 after being destroyed by fire. In 1966, the congregation sold the structure to the Lions Club as a community building. Plans are now (1978) being made for the use of the building as the Rolling Prairie Library.
(b) Depot Street
Farm families arrived in town on Market Day, usually a Wednesday or Saturday, to haggle with the merchants about the fairness of prices and to purchase bolts of yard goods and packages of seeds in stores similar to the ones which remain on Depot St. Open baskets of produce lined the raised sidewalks as city customers had their pick of fresh vegetables.
(c) IOOF Building
(Bozek Market, Depot Street)
Churches and lodges were the focal point of organized social life until the automobile era of the 1920’s. Lodges were popular in part because they emphasized mutual help and fund-raising events. Meetings were held in second floor halls above a store. Often the building was built by the lodge, such as this 1907 Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall, and rented by the lodge members to the merchant.
(d) First Christian Church
(Oak and Michigan Streets)
Built in 1854, this church is a fine example of the Greek Revival style of architecture, characterized by low roofs, wide entablatures under the eaves and rectangular windows. The predominance of this very early style of architecture in this area supports the theory that many of the first county settlers were migrants from the more populated southern Michigan Territory.
(e) Rolling Prairie Cemetery
(Highway 20 and Michigan Street)
Established in 1835, this cemetery is one of the oldest in the county and contains many well-preserved and interesting tombstones. Four veterans of the War of 1812 are buried here.
49. LEMANS ACADEMY
(500E, 1 mile north of Rolling Prairie)
LeMans Academy is the latest in a series of schools and camps which have stood on this hill: a progressive boys school, a World War I training camp, a summer camp for children, a novitiate and finally LeMans Academy have all occupied the site. Interlaken School, founded in 1907 by Dr. Edward Rumely was the, first. Developer of one of the first liquid fuel-powered tractors in the country, the Rumely Oil-Pull, Edward Rumely became interested in German educational principles while attending Freiburg University. Rumely believed that education should emphasize practical training and self-sufficiency; when the school was moved to Rolling Prairie from LaPorte, the boys lived in tents while they constructed their own school buildings. Interlaken included an ice house and a farm where the boys had to work in the afternoon at general community work. 125 to 150 boys between the ages of 9 and 18 enrolled yearly at the school, attending classes all morning with free time from 4 to 6 P. M. Guest lecturers at Rumely School included Henry Ford and others prominent in business or the arts. By World War 1, Interlaken School was world famous even though some of its principles and its founder were criticized as being pro-German. After the school closed, the U. S. government took over the grounds for an army training camp, Camp Roosevelt. Often the residents of Rolling Prairie would drive out to the camp to watch the soldiers drill. During the winter of 1917, flu struck; the U. S. Army camps were especially hit and Camp Roosevelt was no exception. The government kept the number of deaths a secret and wagon loads of bodies went through Rolling Prairie at night. Camp Roosevelt closed after the war and the buildings of Interlaken School were used for a summer camp for children from Chicago. Many of the old school buildings were torn down or moved to Rolling Prairie in the ensuing years. In 1932-33, the building which now occupies the site was built by the Brothers of the Holy Cross. Patterned after a monastery near Rome, St Joseph’s Novitiate was built as a quiet place of study for those planning to become Brothers of the Holy Cross. After further training these Brothers would be assigned to Catholic schools, delinquent homes, etc., to teach and train youth. The Brothers of the Holy Cross also run LeMans Academy, the school which is now housed in the former novitiate. LeMans Academy began as Sacred Heart Military Academy for boys in Waterton, Wisconsin, in 1955. As enrollment increased, the school was moved to Rolling Prairie in 1968. The purpose of the school is to help boys from grades 5 to 9 of above average ability who are having trouble realizing their potential.
50. PLUM GROVE
(in the area where U. S. 20 and Hwy. 2 intersect, about 8 miles east of LaPorte)
At the junction of these two highways was a place known as Plum Grove, because of the many wild plum trees which grew here. The Pottawattomie Indians once gathered and dried the fruit for winter use. In 1832 the U. S. Government bought the Indian lands of LaPorte County and northern Indiana from the Pottawattomies, giving them 6 years to leave. In the next few years many county settlers were buying these lands, called “Indian float lands.” In order to give these settlers free and clear title to their purchases, the U. S. Government decided to remove the Pottawattomie under armed escort. In November, 1838, all the Indians remaining in the county were ordered to gather in Plum Grove to be marched to Starke County and then to Kansas. The Indians assembled here and sat huddled in their blankets, sorrowful and dejected, for they did not want to leave. When the march started there was a string of Indians several miles long reaching from Plum Grove to LaPorte. The forced removal of the Pottawattomie was very hard on them, both physically and emotionally. Many died along the way and the journey became known as the Trail of Death.
(Bootjack Road and U. S. 20, 2 1/2 miles east of Rolling Prairie)
In the 1830’s there were two extremely important roads that crossed the northern part of the county. One was the Chicago Road that led from Detroit to Chicago, essentially following an important Indian trail known as the Great Sauk Trail. The Chicago Road entered the county at Hudson Lake and passed southwest to LaPorte. The other road was the Michigan Road, which led all the way from the Ohio River to South Bend and then west to Michigan City. Entering the county near New Carlisle, the Michigan Road ran through Rolling Prairie and Springville and then to Michigan City. Bootjack sprang up at the strategic spot where these two great thoroughfares crossed each other. Both roads carried a great deal of traffic, including many stage coaches that ran between Chicago and Detroit and between South Bend and Michigan City. Bootjack was an important transfer point for the stage coach passengers, mail, and freight. In the early days it had 3 inns to accommodate passengers, a blacksmith shop, a store, a school and several houses. The first railroads put through LaPorte County in the 1850’s ended stage coach travel along these roads and Bootjack faded. Hwy 20, from Rolling Prairie to Michigan City, now follows the route of the old Michigan Road; Hwy. 2, from Rolling Prairie to LaPorte, follows the route of the Chicago Road. An historical marker just east of Rolling Prairie on Hwy. 20 at the Sauktown Rest Park commemorates the passage of the Great Sauk Trail through LaPorte County.
52. HUDSON LAKE
(east end of Hudson Lake)
The earliest settlement in LaPorte County was on the east shore of Lac du Chemin or Hudson Lake. Here a group of cabins had sprung up by 1829 surrounding a Baptist mission and school. Established in the late 1820’s as a branch of the Carey Mission in Niles, Michigan, the Hudson mission tried to Christianize the native Pottawattomie population while teaching them American methods of farming. The mission remained at Hudson Lake only until the Indians began leaving in large numbers in the 1830’s but the surrounding town of Hudson, or Lakeport, continued to prosper. A thriving market center with flourishing businesses, the town was considered a powerful rival of LaPorte for the trade of the northeast part of the county. But after the railroad located its depot at the nearby community of New Carlisle, the townspeople began to drift away. It was not until the turn of the century that Hudson enjoyed prosperity again. A popular summer resort business had built up around the Smith Hotel by the 1890’s and the hotel owner constructed the Hudson Lake Casino to attract additional visitors to the town. By the 1920’s, the casino was the summertime hangout of wealthy Chicago residents. The South Shore RR brought hundreds of dancers every weekend anxious to sway to the sounds of such big bands as Guy Lombardo’s “Royal Canadians” or the South Bend “Indianians”. The lake resort also advertised excellent bathing and picnicking facilities and large Chicago and South Bend firms often rented the entire resort for the company outings. The Hudson Lake resort began to decline in the 1930’s as the influence of the Depression and competing dance halls was felt. Today the Hudson Lake Casino is used as a private boat storage on Chicago Road. The Hudson Cemetery on 700N is one of the oldest in the county and includes several interesting family plots.
53. MAPLE GROVE METHODIST CHURCH AND CEMETERY
(1000N just west of 650E)
This 1869 church and cemetery have a pleasant, though slightly spooky, atmosphere. The church is a cross between the New England style meeting house, especially the steeple, and the ltalianate style, characterized by the ornamental brackets under the eaves. The graveyard is on hilly, uneven ground and is shaded by maple and cedar trees, making it dim and cool in hot weather. There are three War of 1812 veterans buried there.
54. POSEY CHAPEL CEMETERY
(1000N just west of 400E on a High Hill)
This is surely one of the most beautiful spots in the county with a fine panoramic view of the countryside on all sides. Posey Chapel, built in 1841, stood here until a few years ago, when it burned. The top of the hill is one of the best places to see the rolling glacial hills that cover much of the northern part of the county. These hills that you see on all sides are part of a great belt of glacial ridges which border the entire southern rim of Lake Michigan from Wisconsin, through Illinois and Indiana, and well up into Michigan. The hills make up what is known as the Valparaiso Moraine, created about 16,000 years ago when the Wisconsin Glacier dropped huge quantities of rock rubble here as it retreated northward from southern Indiana. This moraine area is about 10 miles broad in LaPorte County and in places reaches over 300 feet above Lake Michigan. From the crest of the moraine the land slopes down to the sand dunes along Lake Michigan on the north and to the Kankakee River Valley to the south. The northern hills contrast strikingly with the nearly flat land near the Kankakee River which at one time was a vast, broad marsh.
The faces of children remain a constant throughout our lives. Students at a county one-room school, these well-behaved first and second graders appeared scrubbed and curled for their class portrait in the early 1910’s.
(1. Hesston Steam Society Grounds, 1000N)
(2. 1000N and 300E)
(3. 700N and 500E)
Among the earliest structures built by the settlers was a schoolhouse. Constructed with community funds, the one-room log cabin or frame style was heated by a wood-burning stove. Benches were of rough-hewn logs; light filtered through small windows or the open door. The education received by the children was as practical as their schoolhouse. Taught often by an itinerant preacher or scholar, children attended school only when weather and farm work permitted. The lessons in reading, writing, spelling and ciphering were pulled from the few books available, usually Bibles. Teachers were often hired more for their skill with a whip than a book; parents wanted their children to be disciplined farmers and farmwives, not well-read scholars.
The frame or log one-room school was replaced by two or four-room brick buildings as the county’s population increased. Pauper schools, as the district schools were commonly called, provided the free public education guaranteed by law. Education became a more uniform experience for students across the country as laws were passed standardizing teaching requirements, methods, courses and books. But schoolhouses such as these or the earlier one-room structures were more than just a place to educate the young. As the center of an often isolated community of farmers, they were the site of political rallies, religious services, box socials and auctions. The neighborhood schoolhouses cited on this tour were abandoned when the availability of better roads and autos allowed the construction of larger central county schools in the 1920’s and ’30’s. The school at the Hesston Steam Society Grounds, built in 1892 as Galena District No. 2, is owned by,the Steam Society. The two-story school on 1000N at 300E has been remodeled into a private residence since its construction in the late 1880’s. The Mt. Pleasant School at 700N and 500E, now in partial ruins on private property was probably a two-room school. The small separate rooms at the front of the buildings were cloakrooms for the boys and girls attending the school.
56. FOSTER CEMETERY
(1/8 mile east of 300E on 900N)
The Foster Cemetery was deeded by Scipha Foster and his wife Maria Williams to the county “Trustees of Buring Ground” in 1840. Two years later Maria was one of the first to be buried here. Her death at 26, middle-age at that time, was a common occurrence. Pioneer women frequently died young in childbirth, of overwork, or as a victim of one of the frequent smallpox or cholera epidemics. Men often remarried several times in order to be assured of constant help and support in the difficult work of clearing a frontier. Foster’s second wife, “Isabella, wife of Scipha, his second consort”, is buried here next to Scipha who died in 1885. There are several other pioneer families buried in this beautiful old cemetery with some of the tombstones inscribed in German, the native language of many of the area’s first families.
57. HESSTON GARDENS AND ST. PAUL’S MONASTERY
(215E, about 1/8 mile north of 1000N)
Owned, originated, and maintained. by Rev. Joseph G. Sokolowski, O.S.B., the Hesston Gardens is a quiet, lovely spot to walk around in and admire a remarkable assemblage of outdoor flowering plants, shrubs, and trees from spring to fall. The Gardens have a close, intimate, deceptively overgrown appearance as you wander along the narrow winding paths, yet it is tidy and well-kept Rev. Sokolowski himself planted the gardens, as well as many of the trees in the adjacent woods, beginning about 35 years ago. In his residence-museum is a truly remarkable collection of paintings, icons, and other religious artifacts which he personally gathered in Europe. There is also an antique shop. In the nearby pine woods is St. Mary’s Chapel where each Sunday Rev. Sokolowski holds masses. The chapel is also filled with ancient icons and paintings that give it an Old World atmosphere. Rev. Sokolowski will be happy to show you all of these things when you call at his home.
58. THE LAPORTE COUNTY HISTORICAL STEAM SOCIETY
(1000N, west of 125N)
Begun in 1955 by local area steam buffs, the LaPorte County Historical Steam Society is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of our steam powered past. All of the society’s steam powered equipment are seen in operation, doing the work they were built for, be it sawing logs, pumping water or hauling railroad cars. The society owns an Advance-Rumely Oil-Pull tractor, one of the many manufactured in this county. The Steam Society is open to the public.
Sources for Historical Research
It is impossible to recapture the past. Too much of the environment and the individual has changed to allow an easy understanding of the dreams and values which guided those who lived before us. Often only a few structures, laws, tools and stories remain to provide occasional vivid glimpses into the lives of the county’s earlier citizens.
The following section provides suggestions for historical research. This study of our past need not be limited to libraries or museums, although both provide vast amounts of information about our history. Our past continues to influence and shame the present daily through the codes, perceptions and prejudices inherited from our forefathers. The study of these forces can be as meaningful as life today.
A. ARCHIVE RESEARCH
These histories may be found in the Michigan City Public Library; the LaPorte Public and County Library; The Old Lighthouse Museum; and The LaPorte County Historical Museum.
An annotated bibliography of research sources in LaPorte County:
1874 LaPorte County Historical Atlas
Compiled by a Chicago firm in 1873, this atlas contains a brief history of the county and its townships, a list of the first settlers, a history of the churches in LaPorte Co., and a breakdown of the county population by race and whether foreign or native born. Probably the most valuable item for research are the plats of each township, and town showing land ownership in 1874. The most interesting item in this atlas are the lithographs of the houses and farms of county residents as well as the biographies of some county residents. People paid for the privilege of having their home pictured or their biography printed in these atlases, so those found in this volume are of people with enough money and self-importance to have it done. Biographies were written by the people themselves and it is interesting to note what they considered important in their lives.
History of LaPorte County, IN
Jasper Packard, 1876. This historical volume was probably written to commemorate the National Centennial. Because it was written only 42 years after the founding of the county it is necessarily sparse in some respects. Packard has organized his history of the county by townships. For the most part these histories consist of the names and dates of arrival of the county’s first settlers. All towns which existed prior to 1876 are listed along with the principal businesses and inhabitants. The section on politics contains a detailed history of the early political parties in LaPorte Co. The names, titles and dates of county officials are also given. Packard, himself, was from LaPorte. The town of LaPorte is dealt with by a discussion of its political history. Michigan City is covered by a brief history of its founding and early growth. This is a very good source for names and dates of the county’s earliest settlers. Often histories like these were also used as a kind of advertisement for settlement for the county which they covered. Thus this history is very complimentary of the people and natural advantages of LaPorte County and should be read with some caution. 467 pages. Index.
History of LaPorte County, IN
Author is unknown. Published by Chas. Chapman and Co., Chicago 1880. This book contains a very general history of the county from 1829 to 1840, year by year. Basically this volume is a compilation of statistics on LaPorte Co., such as marriages and divorces, election returns from 1833 to 1878, etc. It also contains a history of the Old Settler’s Association with a list of members, their place and date of birth and their year of settlement. Unfortunately this list is not alphabetized. There is also a history of the various townships with biographies of their prominent residents. For the most part, this history is a rehash of Packard without any organization or interpretation of facts. Perhaps it is only useful for the biographies of certain persons. No index or bibliography. 914 pages.
Twentieth Century History and Biographical Record of LaPorte County, IN
Rev. E. D. Daniels, Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago and New York, 1904. This is a massive, rather unwieldy volume. The early history of the county is practically a reiteration of Packard and Chapman. This is the most recent county history and is useful for information after 1880. This book does contain the only section in any of the county histories on the Kankakee River region and the dredging done there. This volume contains biographies of many county residents, written by them or their friends, as well as some portraits. An index of names is provided and the table of contents does give chapter contents, but there is no other index or bibliography. 813 pages.
History of Michigan City, IN
Rollo B. Oglesbee and Albert Hale, 1908. John H. Barker supplied money for this history to be written and it has a large chapter on the history of the Haskell-Barker Co. Consequently the objectivity of the authors is somewhat suspect. There is a good account of Major Elston’s first trip to Trail Creek written by Wm. Keating, the geologist and historiographer of Major Elston’s party. This is on pages 62-64. A nice description of Michigan City on October, 1842, is given on page 216. This is a fairly good history of Michigan City although it is rather sketchy and chauvinistic. It is organized by topics such as Industry, Schools, etc. Index. 220 pages.
LaPorte Centennial History in Four Volumes 1932
This four volume set on the history of LaPorte was written by members of the LaPorte County Historical Society and other residents of LaPorte in honor of the centennial of the town. It is an exhaustive, factual compilation of the history of almost all aspects of that town’s past. Unfortunately, it assumes that the reader already knows some history of LaPorte and LaPorte County and is familiar with the physical layout of the city. The volumes are divided into sections such as LaPorte Doctors, Agriculture, Culture, Churches, etc. It is useful for those wishing to do secondary research. Sadly, only a very few copies are available and these are to be found only in the LaPorte Public Library. Indexed by subject and page number. No bibliography.
Michigan City’s First 100 Years
Elizabeth Munger, Xerox copies. This is a very fine, cogent history of Michigan City from its beginnings until the late 1940’s. Mrs. Munger first started this work in 1947 and revised it in 1961 for use by junior high students. Using her own research and descriptions of Michigan City by ordinary people, Mrs. Munger successfully conveys to the reader the feel of life in Michigan City. Events and the reasons behind the events are presented to the reader. This book contains all or most of Harriet Martineau’s account of her trip from LaPorte through Michigan City to Chicago in 1836. There are three appendices on Michigan City history by G.C. Calvert at the end of the book. Bibliography. No index. 97 pages.
Reminiscences of a Small Town Curmudgeon or My Home Town
Carter Hugh Manny, Xerox copy, written before 1969. Mr. Manny relates his memories of life in Michigan City from the turn of the century until about World War I. Often these stories are embellished with details from Mr. Manny’s imagination. A great deal of the wit and liveliness of this book is obscured by the general unintelligentibility of the writing style. Still, writing mainly about the “Inner Circle” of Michigan City residents, Mr. Manny breathes some life into what can often be a stuffy, dry subject. There is quite an extensive section on John H. Barker, his family and friends. No index. 75 pages.
Let’s Talk About LaPorte
Bob and Ruth Coffeen, 1972. This title is available in bound and cassette form. There are 50 of these short vignettes on the history of LaPorte and LaPorte County written by LaPorte historians, Bob and Ruth Coffeen. They were originally meant for use in the LaPorte Community Schools and are written for children. The Coffeens used the previous county histories and their own memories for this book. It is a good introduction to the history of LaPorte County but not really suitable for research use. Table of contents only.
History of the Trail Creek Region
Elizabeth Munger, 1972, Xerox copies. A fine readable account of the history of the Trail Creek/northern Indiana area from the time of the Mound Builder culture to about 1838. The book also covers the French and British occupations of this region. No index or bibliography. 24 pages.
History of Pioneer LaPorte County
Compiled by Gene McDonald, Xerox copies. This is a history of the very earliest years of LaPorte County: some of the important historical events, the earliest settlers and businessmen. The book is organized by townships. The author is very meticulous and factual and consequently very dry. Still, this is an excellent source for early history of the county. No index. 43 pages.
Old Mills of LaPorte County, Grain and Sawmills
Gene McDonald, 1968, Xerox. This work is also arranged according to township. An exhaustive survey of mills, owners, type (grist, saw, etc.), dates of construction and operation, etc., this book also contains an explanation of how mills were run and mill construction. It is a little less dry than “Pioneer LaPorte County”, although still very factual. It is another excellent research source. No index. 35 pages.
Inventory of the County Archives, No. 46, LaPorte, IN
Historical Bureau, 1939. This book has a brief, but accurate and concise historical section on LaPorte County, its government and organization. The book is basically an inventory of the county records according to county departments: Sheriff, County Assessor, Tax Collector, etc. It also gives the location, in 1939, of these records. It is an excellent guide for anyone wishing to do research using primary sources. Index and bibliography. 189 pages.
Our Heritage, Michigan City, IN
Printed by the News-Dispatch, 1976. This 5 section history of Michigan City was put together in 1976 by Michigan City’s newspaper for the Bicentennial. It was taken almost exclusively from previous county and city histories. It is frequently superficial in discussing Michigan City’s past and is rather chauvinistic. It is adequate for anyone wishing to gain some understanding of this town’s history. No index.
Centennial Histories are also available for the following towns and townships in LaPorte County: Lincoln Township – 1966; LaCrosse – 1963; Stillwell – 1970; Wanatah -1965; Hanna – 1958; Westville – 1951. These centennial volumes are rather sketchy about the histories of their subjects. They were written by local committees. Frequently the general history was taken from Packard or Daniels, but these volumes contain stories and pictures not found anywhere else.
Indiana Magazine of History
This magazine is useful for articles on Indiana history in general and occasionally has articles specifically dealing with events in LaPorte County, such as the Trail of Death, or persons, such as the Andrew brothers of LaPorte.
The archives of the LaPorte County Historical Society and the Michigan City Historical Society.
Although these archives are organized in a rather haphazard manner, they are invaluable for anyone wishing to do original research. Both societies also have collections of historic photographs. The Michigan City Public Library has both of these photographic collections as well as some private collections on 35 mm slides.
B. ORAL HISTORIES
The Michigan City Public Library has an archive of oral histories, recorded interviews with county residents on topics ranging from children’s games to ice harvesting to general reminiscences of county life. These cassette tapes have been indexed and sometimes transcribed; the tapes, recorders, and transcriptions may all be checked out from the library. There are also published monographs of interviews with county residents available for circulation.
Oral history is a valuable addition to historical research. Too often history has been concerned with dates and “significant” events. But our past is one of people: their dreams, failures and beliefs. Talk with your grandparents and older friends; learn of our past from those who lived and created it. All that is needed to preserve a bit of our history is a recording machine, tapes, a willing subject and an hour or two of time. It can be a rewarding procedure for all involved.
The 56 cemeteries in LaPorte County are more than burial sites. They are fascinating places to learn of the development of the area. The dates on the tombstones reveal the change in life spans, the settlement of a community and the occurrence of epidemics. Names indicate ethnic backgrounds as well as the intermarriages between a few families common in small isolated communities. Information about birthplaces and military duty may also be included in the inscriptions. (Note: GAR is the Grand Army of the Republic, the army of the North during the Civil War.) A cemetery may also be all that remains of a town which was abandoned because of changes in commerce or transportation. It is also interesting to wander through the county’s cemeteries, many of them located on the hilly sites favored for burial use because of the view and farming difficulties, just to note the changing style of tombstone inscriptions and designs.
Some of the county’s cemeteries were included as sites in the tour. All are worth visiting. For a complete listing of county cemeteries, please contact either the Michigan City Public Library or the Pioneer Cemetery Association. The Association, formed in 1969, has been responsible for the restoration and upkeep of many of the county cemeteries. PCA members may be contacted through the curator of the LaPorte County Historical Museum.
D. ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY
Structures are more than frames of wood or brick. They are monuments to the beliefs and opinions of their builders. The homes, churches, schools and businesses reflect the social standing, the values, and the hopes of the people; they represent the transformation of prairie, forests, and sand dunes into farm sites and commercial centers.
The following glossary of architectural style will help you to enjoy walking and driving tours of LaPorte County. Please respect the privacy of those who now own homes in these styles.
Architectural styles found in LaPorte County:
Greek Revival (1830-1860)
Buildings should be very plain with classical details. They should also be symmetrical with good proportions in the placing and scale of windows and doors. The area immediately below the eaves, called the entablature, should be flat, making a visual connection between the walls and the roof. Columns are also used, either as the supports of a projecting porch called a portico, or as flat columns on the corners of the building. Such columns are called pilasters. Many houses in the area around Rolling Prairie are of this style.
Houses in this style are very common across the Midwest, built during a period of rapid growth. The most easily recognizable feature is the use of decorative brackets under the projecting eaves. Roofs are low and were not meant to be seen. The buildings are usually two story and were meant to give a vertical feeling to the viewer. Windows are usually round arched but can also be flat or segmentally arched. Most of the ltalianate buildings found here are of reddish brick with the porch, eaves and brackets painted white.
Buildings in this style should be very vertical in feeling with steep roofs, tall, narrow or pointed windows and vertical siding. The eaves and porches were decorated with elaborate woodwork cut by jigsaw and commonly called “gingerbread”. Apparently the Gothic style was not very popular in LaPorte County because few buildings in this style can be found, though often various Gothic elements are included in houses of other styles.
A catchall name for buildings which show elements of many styles, or have no particular style.
High Victorian Italianate (1850-1900)
This style is used exclusively for commercial buildings. It is related to the earlier ltalianate style because the eaves are decorated by brackets. Often, because of innovations in building construction, these brackets and pediments are made of cast iron or tin. Other details, windows, etc., are the same as the earlier Italianate style.
Queen Anne or Neo-Jacobean (1870-1900)
A very popular style, usually called Victorian. Houses are large, with two or more stories. The idea was to create a lively, restless feeling through the use of projecting rooms and bays, different wall treatments (brick, stone, and decorative wooden shingles all used in the same design) and a complex roof outline with many gables, dormers and chimneys. This type of architecture was made possible by the use of “balloon frame” construction, cheap wire nails and lumber of standardized sizes. Balloon frame construction meant that the ceilings of a building were no longer supported by the walls, but with two-by-four frames. This freed architects to design imaginative buildings. Neo-Jacobean houses are usually found in towns rather than in the country.
The inspiration for this style came from French buildings (abbeys, castles, etc.) of the Middle Ages. The style is often called the Richardsonian Romanesque for the architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who made the style popular. Buildings are usually of stone, roughly hewn and called rusticated. Bold, simple shapes and round arches are the main architectural elements. Decorative details are usually small, hidden and floral in inspiration. In LaPorte County, Trinity Episcopal Church in Michigan City and the LaPorte County Courthouse are the best examples of this handsome style. Family mausoleums and tombstones were often done in Romanesque style during this period.
Frank Lloyd Wright (1900-1960)
Characterized by the complementing of a building design to the site, buildings in this style are also noted for their absence of classical or historical details. Most buildings are low and horizontal in feeling with groups of windows at the corners. There are several homes designed by John Lloyd Wright in Long Beach, including the Long Beach Grade School.
Maps of Historic Sites
The many facets of the LaPorte County History Project would not have been possible without the support and cooperation of the people of the county. The project staff thanks all who allowed their historic photographs to be copied onto 35mm slides to be used in various project publications, movies and slide shows. Only a few of the over 6000 photographs copied appear in this book.
The photographs illustrating The Portable LaPorte County were obtained from the following sources: LaPorte County Historical Society; Michigan City Historical Society; Armand Rosenbaum, Wanatah; Lela Hill, Michigan City; LaCrosse Centennial, 1863-1963; Viola Hurst, Michigan City; Charlotte Taylor, Michigan City; Mrs. Al Brickman, Michigan City; G.W. Calvert, Michigan City; Mrs. Paul Nekvasil, Jr., Michigan City; Florence Pierce, Michigan City; Arthur and Mary Radke, Michigan City; Edward Layman, Michigan City; Joyce Keane, Michigan City; Mrs. Vail, Michigan City; Ron Johnson, Michigan City; Mrs. Agnes Kessler, Union Mills; The Bookworm, Wanatah; Cyrus Lloyd, Union Mills; Florence Pierce, Michigan City.