|The Making of a Community|
Christopher Columbus' dream of a feasible westward passage from Europe to the Orient did not die with him. Instead, it continued to intrigue other European adventurers as late as the 1600s and, with this insatiable curiosity, it might be said, lay the seeds that eventually brought Michigan City into being. When Vasco da Gama, in 1499, showed the impracticability of rounding Africa's Cape of Good Hope, for instance, and Ferdinand Magellan, in 1520, demonstrated the hardships of the route around the tip of South America, there remained but one real possibility -- a northwest passage through the vast new continent that came to be known in time as North America. Two of the European powers of that day accepted the challenge of finding this route --France and England. The French centered their efforts on the lower St. Lawrence River while the English aimed at the Mississippi Valley, and it was this happenstance that left the familiar French names rather than the lesser known English names in the historical legacy of Michigan City.
History credits Etienne Brule, a protégé of Champlain, with discovering Lakes Huron and Superior in 1623, and Jean Nicolet with first setting eyes on Lake Michigan in 1634. The Jesuit fathers Jogues and Raymbault named Sault Saint Marie and established a temporary mission there in 1641. Father Medard, the first of the Jesuits to penetrate the region to the west of the Sault, came in 1660 and Father Allouez followed him in 1665, establishing a mission near the western extremity, of Lake Superior, which he called La Point du Saint Esprit, or La Pointe for short.
But while these Frenchmen busied themselves with the upper Great Lakes area, it remained for others - Louis Joliet, Father Jacques Marquette and Sieur de La Salle - to explore the long finger of water reaching southward to Hoosier Slide and to open up this country to the white man. Joliet and Marquette, thrown together somewhat by circumstances, combined in the 1670s to make the first meaningful thrust into present day Illinois and Indiana, a journey which some historians have chosen to call one of the most famous in the annals of American history. The roots of this memorable journey had their beginnings about 1670 when friendly Indians of the Illinois nation spread through the frontier reports of a great river to the west which they called "The Great Running Water."
As might be expected, the reports did not fall on deaf ears. Jean Talon, the Intendant of Canada, hearing them, wondered whether this river might offer the long sought passage by water to the South Seas. And Father Marquette stationed first at LaPointe and later at Saint Ignace on the upper peninsula of Michigan when he and his followers were forced from La Pointe by hostile Sioux, also wrote of them: "It is hard to believe that this great river discharges its waters in Virginia and we rather think that it has its mouth in California. If the savages who promise to make us a canoe do not break their word to me, we shall explore the river as far as we can ... We shall visit the natives dwelling there, in order to open the passage to such of our Fathers as have been waiting this good fortune for so long a time." Father Marquette did not have long to wait for his hopes to be realized. When Talon was given leave of his post in 1672 to return to France, he conferred with his successor, Count Frontenac, and the decision was made.
Joliet, a brave and resourceful young native of Quebec, was named head of an expedition which would take off for the West without delay. At the same time, Father Dablon, superior general of the Jesuits in the New World, chose Father Marquette to accompany Joliet on the journey: Under normal circumstances, matching these men could be called a stroke of genius. They worked together extremely well. But civil authorities now were challenging the edge the Jesuits had in exploration, and they wanted no part of the clergy in their plans. Father Dablon, on the other hand, recognizing the growing rivalry, used the simple expedient of keeping his decision to himself until Joliet and Father Marquette met face to face The strategy worked for a while, but eventually it led to Joliet's downfall. Joliet arrived at St. Ignace on Dec. 8, 1672, and wintered there. Finally, on May 17, 1673, preparations were completed and the two explorers started out in bark canoes, with five men and provisions of Indian corn and smoked meat. Their trip took them along the shore of Lake Michigan to Green Bay, and thence by water and portage across Wisconsin to the Mississippi River. A month after they had left, they were at the mouth of the Arkansas River. Here they turned back, deciding at that point that the Mississippi discharged its waters into the Gulf of Mexico. Instead of retracing their steps, however, they returned via the Illinois and Des Plaines Rivers to the present site of Chicago and, fighting lake storms, made their way to the mission of Saint Francois at De Pere, Wis., late in September. History is vague on the ensuing months, but it is thought that Joliet spent several weeks in October and November of that year exploring the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan. It is not beyond probability, therefore, that he set foot on the future soil of Indiana at that time. After spending the winter with Father Marquette on Green Bay, he set out for Quebec and came close to losing his life when his canoe capsized in the rapids near Montreal. Trouble multiplied when Count Frontenac learned Father Marquette had been his companion on the exploratory trip and Joliet spent the last years of his life on the small island of Anticosti in the mouth of the St. Lawrence. He died in 1700.
When Joliet left for Canada in the spring of 1674, Father Marquette, now in a weakened condition, remained at the mission of St. Francis Xavier. A promise he had made a year earlier to return to the Illinois Indians kept gnawing at his mind, however, and in October of that year, he set out to keep it. In the company of two Frenchmen, he made his way to the Chicago River, wintered there, and then followed the river to the next spring to a point seven miles below Ottawa, Ill. There he preached the gospel to the Indians and then, stricken anew with illness, headed back toward St. Ignace. The route he and his companions took back to Lake Michigan is not known for sure, but it is known that he followed the southern shore of Lake Michigan to the eastern shore and then north. It was on this leg of the journey that he stopped in Memorial Park and preached briefly on the eastern edge of Michigan City. The priest's two companions tried in vain to reach their goal, but Father Marquette died half-way there, at the present site of Ludington, Mich., and was buried there. The following year, Indians from LaPointe, whom he had instructed, happened along and reverently carried his bones to St. Ignace where they were interred in the mission church.
One other important attempt to extend the influence of France into this area during the 17th century was made by Robert Cavalier de La Salle, a native of Rouen. Educated for a career as a Jesuit, he found the order not to his liking and came to Canada in 1666 at the age of 23. He acquired considerable holdings through a land grant, then gave them up to finance an expedition which took him from Montreal to Louisville, Ky., according to some historians. Dissident historians, however, on the basis of descriptions found in a record of several talks which LaSalle made in Paris in 1678, contend that the French explorer did not discover the Ohio River but was on the Wabash River and at the present site of Logansport instead. These accounts would have made him the first white man to set foot on what now is the State of Indiana. Whatever his exploits on this journey were, the four year's from 1678 through 1682 we judged to be the most important of La Salle's life. It was during this period that he and 30 other men made the first pilgrimage of definite record across Northern Indiana along the St. Joseph River to the present site of South Bend in search of a portage route to the Kankakee River. The portage was discovered, finally, with the help of a Mohegan hunter and the trip took the party eventually to a point south of the present site of Peoria, Ill. There La Salle wintered and then set out on the long trip back to Fort Frontenac. History for the next few years also is somewhat vague, but it is known that La Salle returned to the Illinois Indians in 1681 and made a trip down the Mississippi the following year during which he took possession of the vast interior of what now is the United States. He called this new heartland Louisiana. After falling into disfavor with Governor La Barre, who succeeded Count Frontenac, and experiencing financial difficulties, LaSalle traveled to France and recouped his losses somewhat. He later made a trip south to the Gulf of Mexico, landing in Texas instead of Louisiana and, when dissension broke out in his party, started back for Canada with 16 loyal followers. This was La Salle's last journey He was assassinated in March,1687, by one of the party while still on Texas soil. Thus ended the story of the three famous French explorers who had left such a mark on what has come to be known as Michiana.
The first half of the 18th century in the Old Northwest was marked by French-English wars as the two powers jockeyed for position, and by resistance from Indian tribes. But the English persisted and in 1759 captured the French jewel of Quebec. Finally, French power in America was broken. The Treaty of Paris, ratified in 1763, gave to England all of the territory between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi except New Orleans. More resistance under the leadership of Pontiac, the Ottawa chieftain, and by pockets of French in the Ohio Valley followed, but the English pushed on and in 1765 arrived in Vincennes. The next dozen years were devoted to consolidating gains, but by then the seeds of the American Revolution had sprouted and a new era was dawning for the country. History tells of one Revolutionary War engagement in this area, known as the Battle of the Dunes or the Battle of Trail Creek. It occurred following a foray against the British-held Fort St. Joseph near Niles, Mich., by Illinois patriots. Thomas Brady of Cahokia was leading his group of Americans and Creoles back home on Dec. 5, 1780, after the attack when a party of Pottawattomie Indians under the command of an English officer ambushed them on the lakefront here. The battle raged from Trail Creek westward to the present site of Tremont, where Brady was defeated. A sand dune in the Indiana Dunes State Park has been named Mount Tom in his memory. Two other forays were made against the fort. One, in 1778, was by a larger band of French, Indians and half-breeds led by a French trader, Paulette Maillot of Peoria. The other, in 1781, was spearheaded by Spanish forces from St. Louis, seeking to profit from the war and represented the only time a Spanish army marched through Illinois, Indiana or Michigan territory. In each instance, Fort St. Joseph was plundered and burned. Twice the British reoccupied it. The third time, Spanish forces rested there a few days and then marched back to St. Louis, leaving only their flag flying above the site. Spain continued to assert its rights to this territory, albeit somewhat feebly, until the treaty of Oct. 27, 1795, negotiated by Thomas Pinckney effectively, ended its case. Meanwhile, the future site of Michigan City became American soil legally on Sept. 3, 1783, when the treaty of Paris terminated the Revolutionary War.
An ordinance creating the Northwest Territory gave this north central region its first formal government in 1787. When Ohio was cut out as a state in 1802, the remainder became known as the Territory of Indiana This was reduced in size three years later when the Territory of Michigan came into being. Because Michigan's southern boundary was set at the southernmost extremity of Lake Michigan, the future site of Michigan City was incorporated in that territory. The Trail Creek Valley remained entirely within the Territory of Michigan until 1816 when Indiana, seeking statehood and taking advantage of a boundary war between Ohio and Michigan, claimed a 10-mile strip of land to the north. Congress approved the move, and the Trail Creek area once more was back in Indiana for all intents and purposes. But not until years after Michigan City had been granted its municipal charter, and not until the boundary dispute had involved all of the states bordering on Lake Michigan was the question finally settled. To compensate for land lost to Ohio and to Indiana, Michigan was given the northern peninsula. Du ring this period of time, Indiana residents often referred to the blossoming town on the shore of Lake Michigan as "that Michigan city," but whether this was the deciding factor in giving it the name it bears today is not known for sure.
Northern Indiana might have been settled by the white man sooner than it was had it not been for the Shawnee Indian chief, Tecumseh, and his brother, who called himself the Prophet. Together, with the help of British arms, they organized the lake tribes, including the Pottawattomies, in one great final effort to repel the white invasion. The confrontation, known as the Battle of Tippecanoe, took place Nov. 7, 1811, near Lafayette. Territorial Gov. Henry William Harrison and his men routed the Indians and sent them in disorder to their homes. Tecumseh, who had been absent in the south when the battle occurred, died the following year in the Battle of the Thames. The Prophet, meanwhile, sank into obscurity, dying in 1834. The Battle of Tippecanoe broke the back of Indian resistance in this area except for the massacre at Fort Dearborn in 1812 and some isolated instances. The Battle of the Thames, some 80 miles from Detroit, on Oct. 5, 1813, ended the War of 1812 in the Northwest.
While the federal government claimed and exercised sovereignty over the territory of the northwest, it admitted that the Indians possessed the right to the soil and legal title to the land, their only restriction being that the government claimed the sole right to purchase it from them. This purchase procedure was accomplished through treaties made with the tribes. Government title to Michigan City's site was acquired through a treaty made Oct. 16, 1826, near Peru, Ind., with almost all of the Pottawattomie chiefs of this region. Following this and subsequent treaties, the Indians were induced to leave their homes near the lake for new residences in the far west. Most were gone by 1837. The next step in opening up Northern Indiana to people and commerce was construction of a road, and the Michigan Road, designed as a north-south artery running the length of the state, was the result. Work started in Madison Ind., in 1830. In this area, the road followed Michigan Boulevard and U.S. 20 to Rolling Prairie, thence east to South Bend and south to Logansport, skirting the Kankakee marshes.
One of the interested observers of that day was Major Isaac C. Elston of Crawfordsville, Ind., who had made some money in real estate and in developing town sites. Quick to see that the Michigan Road would need a town at its northern terminus, he learned from friends in the legislature where that terminus would be and bought a quarter of a mile of land at the mouth of Trail Creek, sight unseen, for $1.25 an acre when the land was offered for sale in October, 1830. The next year, he added most of what remained of the square mile. Early interest in his project was not great, primarily because the Indian chief, Black Hawk, was attempting to organize an uprising among the lake tribes. One of his meetings took place with Pottawattomie chieftains in Memorial Park in 1832, but they and other Indian tribes refused to help his effort. Black Hawk later was defeated in Illinois. Armed with a map of his new town which he had drawn in Crawfordsville, Major Elston arrived in 1831 with a neighbor, Gen. Joseph Orr, to inspect his purchase. As they approached the mouth of Trail Creek, Elston became quite disturbed. He had assumed in drawing his map that the lake shore would run due east and west and that the creek would parallel it. He therefore had platted his streets and lots on this basis. But now he discovered the shore angled in a northeasterly direction and that if he changed the direction of his streets to meet the lake shore at a right angle, the new Michigan Road would cut through them at a bad angle, thereby giving an odd shape to the lots. While they pondered the problem, General Orr came up with a solution. Bring the new road to Spring Street, then turn it so that it would cut across the planned streets at a right angle, he suggested. Elston adopted the idea and this is the reason for the configuration of Michigan Boulevard as it stands today.
Elston's original map covered the area from Wabash to Spring Street, and from Trail Creek to Fifth Street. When he actually laid out the town in 1832, he added streets as far south as Ninth Street. Plans called for a right-of-way 100 feet wide on the Michigan Road and he matched that width on Wabash Street, perhaps because he visualized a railroad on it some day. He named Wabash Street for the river and Michigan Street for the road. First Street was called Front Street and Fifth Street at first was known as Market Street, but other east-west streets were numbered. Major Elston never lived in the town he created, but he was one of its staunchest supporters through the years. He fought alone against overwhelming odds when it came time to name the county seat of LaPorte County and almost turned the tide. LaPorte finally won, largely on the basis of its central location. Elston's name has lived after him in several ways. The city 's first school at the corner of Fourth and Pine streets was named for him. There also are the Elston Senior and Elston Junior High Schools. And Elston Street, on the city's near West Side, likewise bears his name. Elston died suddenly one morning in 1867 in Crawfordsville, where he had continued to make his home.
Early accounts of how the future site of Michigan City looked tell of undulating sand hills, ranging from 20 to upwards of 100 feet and crowned with a scrubby growth of white pine and furze. At the mouth of Trail Creek stood the imposing Hoosier Slide, about 175 feet high. Back of the sand hills was a mixture of swamp and level ground supporting a scattered growth of white pine, oak and beech. All this wasn't much to draw settlers, but the new community did. Historians say there were 50 permanent residents in 1833, 715 in 1834 and more than 1,500 in 1836, the year Michigan City was incorporated. At that time, anyone who bought a lot, went into business or got a job was considered a permanent inhabitant. What this growth meant to Major Elston in terms of return on his investment may be seen in the cost of the lots. He originally put out about $200 for the land. His price for the first lots sold ranged from $20 to $100 and, during the first year, 53 were purchased by 43 different people for $5,974. Two years later 206 lots brought $21,689.
History credits Samuel Miller of Chicago with being Michigan City's first permanent resident. A former trader, hotel keeper and member of the first board of commissioners when Cook County, Ill., was formed, he came here shortly after the war against Black Hawk and became Major Elston's agent. He also is known as the first merchant, first postmaster and first warehouseman in Michigan City. Miller first occupied a cabin where the Northern Indiana Public Service Co.'s generating station guard house now stands. He then built a handsome house in 1834 on Jernegan Hill, overlooking Eighth Street between Michigan Boulevard and Walker Street, for his bride, Emily Kimberly of this city. She was his second wife, his first having died in Chicago before he came here. Jacob Furman and Joseph Bryant built Michigan City's first log cabin in 1832 - either at Fifth and Franklin streets or at Second and Pine streets. There is some question about the location. The third permanent resident was Thompson W. Francis, a carpenter and father of the founder of The Evening Dispatch in later years. Other early names included Elijah Casteel, a grocer; George Seffens, a plasterer; Gallatin Ashton, a teacher, Willis Hughes, James Laughlin, George and Sam Olinger, Joseph C. Orr (not General Orr), James Knaggs, William Conant, J. Bartholomew, Amos Dyer, Squire Clark, Eliakim Ashton, Samuel Masterson, Peter Ritter, Silas Gregory, B. Sims, James Waddell, Gilbert Baldwin, Caleb Nichols and James Scott.
The Michigan Road, although not completed, was in use by December 1832, and several workmen at its northern end settled here, thus becoming some of Michigan City's earliest citizens. Edward A. Hannegan, a member of the legislature, bought a lot in 1832. He became the first Congressman for whom Michigan City people voted when he was elected to Congress the next year. He later lived here, the only member of Congress ever to have done so.
Historians Rollo B. Oglesbee and Albert Hale call 1834 Michigan City's "busy year." "The town grew rapidly, farm products came in beyond all expectations, lake traffic was heavy and the harbor and lighthouse questions were being pressed at Indianapolis and Washington..." they wrote. Although a sand bar at its mouth prevented full use of Trail Creek by larger vessels, both lumber and grist mills were built on its banks. Samuel Miller erected a warehouse and imported salt and other supplies while exporting grain and farm produce. Joseph C. Orr established a tannery, Charles Tryon opened a blacksmith shop, Ralph Couden became a tinner and a man named Kellogg had a brick kiln near the second bend of Trail Creek. Orr later moved his tannery to about where St. Stanislaus Church is today thereby giving the name Tannery Hill to that section of the community. Stagecoaches from Chicago and Detroit stopped with mail and Miller established a mail route to LaPorte by horseback. Before the year was over the business section could point to four groceries, three taverns and five shops for other merchandise as well as two hotels and bank. The Episcopalians also built the town's first church that year on the east side of Pine Street between Fourth and Fifth streets.
The year 1835 saw additional growth. The Ames and Holliday store, said to have been the first brick building west of Detroit and one of the first and largest drug firms in Northern Indiana, opened on the northwest corner of Franklin and Michigan streets. James Castle started the first newspaper, the Gazette; Dr. Leo T. Maxson arrived to be the community's first physician and Jabez Wells became the first lawyer. Two more warehouses also were built by William Teall and James Forester. The flow of families from the little town of Boxford Mass., whose members and descendants eventually contributed greatly to Michigan City's growth, also began in earnest during this period. Among these families were the Lowes, Barkers, Hitchcocks, Blairs, Higginbothams and the Mannys. Other early comers were the Pecks, who gave Michigan City its first mayor; the Higginses, the Burrs and the Bigelows. Abijah Bigelow Sr. is the only soldier of the American Revolution to be buried here.
Major Elston had not ignored the needs of the community when he laid it out. He set aside ground for a cemetery at Detroit and Spring streets, where Elston Junior High School now stands; for a school at Fourth and Pine streets, for boat landings along Trail Creek and for a park. Newly incorporated in 1836, Michigan City began to take steps to improve itself. A frame school was built and Gallatin Ashton was hired to teach it. Stumps were removed from the streets and a volunteer fire department was created in 1837. Measures also were taken to drain water from the streets and marshes south of the city. Health and safety laws were passed, as were livestock restraining measures. Two other pieces of good news were received, that year, both on July 4. The President signed a bill appropriating $20,000 for harbor development and the first vessel, the schooner Sea Serpent from New Buffalo, Mich., was pulled over the sand bar at the mouth of Trail Creek into the creek. Added to the enthusiasm of the day was talk of the construction of canals and railroads. Four canals had charters to come here. One of these, designed principally to connect Lake Erie with the Ohio River, was to have a branch which would run to Lake Michigan at Michigan City. No fewer than 10 railroads also had charters which named Michigan City in their plans. Most were north-and-south roads, but one, the Buffalo and Mississippi, was planned from Maumee Bay, off Lake Erie, to the rapids of the Illinois River. Word also had been received from the East that two railroads - the Baltimore and Ohio and the New York Central - were pushing their way westward. But then hard times, spearheaded by a change in government monetary policy and a drought that blighted crops, hit the country and either killed or delayed plans for many of the canals and railroads. This Panic of 1837 - as it was called - took its toll economically, but still another body blow was in the making. Government officials gave the nod to Chicago as the major port on southern Lake Michigan, instead of Michigan City, and before long the growing Illinois city was recognized generally as the future center for commerce on the lakes and in the Mississippi Valley. Michigan City's bid to become "the metropolis of the West" thus had ended.
Not until 1840 did Michigan City begin to throw off the effects of economic depression. By then, the population had dropped from 3,000 to 1000 and several merchants had failed. The Gazette, likewise, a casualty, suspended publication in 1839. Until now, Michigan City had been an "outfitting" community - that is, depending to a great extent in its economy on outfitting settlers and travelers. But starting in 1840, the pattern became one of production and, through this change, as one historian notes, "the genuine Michigan City arose." The principal industries leading this recovery manufactured barrels for the Chicago market and shoes and heavy boots for the trade. Meanwhile, lake shipping exports of grain and meat reached half a million dollars annually. Incoming lumber and other supplies from the north at the same time, helped to swell the tonnage. Other factors helping in the recovery as the years passed were the coming of the railroads-- although these proved to be something of a two- edged sword -- and the arrival of immigrants from Europe.
As the economy of the 1840s grew stronger, so did the interest in the railroads. But where Michigan City once had been the toast of national planners, it now was reduced to hoping for a lesser prize, with LaPorte nipping at its heels. This prize was the prestige which would go with being the principal Indiana station for the east and westbound commerce. The Michigan Central inaugurated this chapter of the county rivalry when it started construction west from Detroit and, in May, 1849, reached New Buffalo, from whence its passengers were conveyed across Lake Michigan to Chicago. About the same time, a competitive road, the Michigan Southern, headed west from Toledo toward South Bend and LaPorte. This road reached LaPorte on Jan. 8, 1852. To understand what happened then, it is necessary to trace the history of the Buffalo and Mississippi charter, which had been granted originally in 1835. At that time, it had provided for a railroad "from the head of Maumee Bay (off Lake Erie) to the rapids of the Illinois River in a straight line but with authority to deflect for proper reasons." It was renamed the Northern Indiana Railroad in 1837, but the big change came in 1846 when the charter was amended to take a route from LaPorte through Michigan City to Chicago because nearly half of the stock was owned by Michigan City investors. But, at the same time, to aid in the reorganization of the company, these local investors had donated their stock and had leased the line to the Michigan Southern. By all natural rights and logic, this should have meant that the Michigan Southern would respect the route to Michigan City. However, aided and abetted by envious LaPorte interests, the railroad ignored that provision and struck off through the Otis area, reaching Chicago on Feb. 20, 1852. Piqued but not defeated, the people of Michigan City then cleared the way for the Michigan Central to lay tracks through the city. Thus the first train entered the community early in 1852 and on May 21 of the same year, the railroad reached Chicago. If Major Elston, in truth, had created a wide Wabash Street for railroad purposes some day, his plans reached partial fruition in this era. It is known that the tracks of the Michigan Southern (and Northern Indiana) ran along Wabash Street for a while, but after that road headed west from LaPorte instead of coming to Michigan City, they were abandoned. The Michigan Southern later became the Lake Shore, then the New York Central and finally the Penn Central before the recent major reorganization to ConRail. The Michigan Central became the New York Central and then the Penn Central. Other railroads followed - the Louisville, New Chicago (the Monon, now the Louisville and Nashville) in 1853; the Cincinnati, Louisville and Chicago (now the Norfolk and Western) in 1871, and the Pere Marquette (now the Chessie System) in 1903. One electrically powered interurban line, the Northern Indiana, ran from here to LaPorte and South Bend starting in 1903 and lasting until the early 1930s. The South Shore, another electrically powered interurban line, began operations in 1908 and still is functioning.
The coming of the railroads led directly to the establishment of Michigan City's first major and longtime - industry, known familiarly as the "car factory" or the "car shops." The importance of this industry to the community during most of the more than 100 years it operated here cannot be overestimated. So dominant did it become eventually that for decades the city's economic well being literally rose and fell with its production schedule. The company was the brainchild of three young men from Ogdensburg N.Y., who wondered why it should be necessary to bring freight cars all the way from the East when the natural resources to build them were plentiful here. The three were Dr. Mason C. Sherman, Frederick Haskell and Hiram Aldridge, Haskell's brother- in-law. Together, they formed the first car shop corporation in 1852 in the area bounded by Sixth Street on the north, Seventh Street on the south, Elston Street on the east and the Monon right-of-way on the west. Dr. Sherman remained with the firm until 1855, when he retired to the practice of medicine. The sale of his interest opened the way for a name in the company which also has become indelible in Michigan City's history. John Barker took a business partner in the general merchandise store he was operating, C. E. DeWolfe, and joined the company, which then became known is Haskell, Barker and Aldridge. Barker's drive gave new impetus to the company and before long it had expanded to passenger cars, threshing machines of the Woodbury hand corn shellers and reapers of the J. J. Mann patent. Michigan City at that time had a population of about 1,500, having survived the Panic of 1837 and the exodus to California in 1849. The Panic of 1857 then prostrated the country and almost put an end to the infant industry, but Barker wouldn't give up. With a force of 60 men, he struggled through the hard times and by 1869 was back to a schedule of two cars a day. Meanwhile, Aldridge had retired in 1858 and the company took the name of Haskell & Barker. Now, in 1869, Barker also retired and his son, John H. Barker, became general manager. The elder Barker then moved to Chicago, where he made his home until he died on March 21, 1878. A marked growth in the company can be dated from the year the younger Barker joined it. In 1871, the firm was incorporated as the Haskell & Barker Co., a name it kept until 1916, when it was sold to a group of eastern financiers and became Haskell & Barker, Inc. At the time of its incorporation Haskell was made president, Barker treasurer and Nathaniel P. Rogers secretary. Rogers had joined the firm in 1864 as an accountant. By 1879, the company had a payroll of 500 men and an output of 1,000 cars a year. Only freight cars now were produced. Haskell then retired in 1883, selling his interests, and Barker became president with Rogers as secretary and treasurer. They worked together as a brilliant management team until Rogers died on Dec. 1, 1906. In 1903, Haskell & Barker had a payroll of 2,200 workers and a yearly capacity of 10,667 cars and was given credit for establishing the assembly line production method in America. By 1907, the plant was the most complete factory for the construction of freight cars in the United States and employed more men than any other manufacturing establishment in Indiana. At that time, it sprawled over 100 acres and had 3,500 employees who turned out 15,000 cars a year.
It was during this era, in 1905, that Barker expanded his home into the 38-room mansion standing at Seventh and Washington Streets. Copied after an English manor house, it had a number of remarkable features for its day, including a central vacuum cleaning system and a third-floor ballroom. After Barker's death on Dec. 3, 1910, his only surviving daughter, Catherine, used the mansion off and on for a period of years. Then, in 1948, after it had been unused for several decades, Mrs. Hickox (Catherine) turned it over to Purdue University for its North Central Campus. When Purdue moved to its present campus, she presented the mansion to the City of Michigan City through the Barker Welfare Foundation. An average of 1,200 people a month now visit it. John H. Barker, during his lifetime, was a generous benefactor to Michigan City. Bearing the imprint of his contributions were the public library, Marquette Hall, the former YMCA building, the Ames Band, the former peristyle in Washington Park, Trinity Episcopal Church and the first Barker Hall, which was built as a memorial to his deceased first wife and children. Mrs. Barker (the second Mrs. Barker), meanwhile, gave much of the $80,000 it cost to build the original St. Anthony Hospital structure in 1904. Later, in the 1920s, their daughter contributed to the rebuilding of Barker Hall. When Barker died in 1910, management of the plant passed to a board of trustees, which ran it until its sale in 1916 to the group of eastern financiers headed by E. F. Carry. This group then merged with the Pullman Company in January, 1922, and the local plant took the name of Pullman-Standard, a name it kept until it was closed for good in December, 1970. Carry, in 1922, went on to head the Pullman Company as its president. While the local plant never again could point to a payroll of 3,500 men or an annual output of 15,000 freight cars, there are a number of notable achievements during its last half century. One of these was the PS-1 in 1947, the first standardized freight car in the nation. This car was particularly important because it permitted the plant to move from one order to the next without an appreciable loss of time. The company also turned out its first welded lightweight metal hopper cars in 1931, its first lightweight metal freight and refrigerator cars in 1935, and its first high tensile, low alloy steel boxcars in 1937. All of these were landmark developments in railroading, because they permitted locomotives to haul more cars than before. Another important contribution to freight car building occurred in the 1940s, when the Michigan City plant introduced new welding techniques. During World War II, the plant also contributed to the war effort by making troop-carrying cars, the first time since the 1850s that passenger carriers had been made here. Rumors that Pullman-Standard planned to close the plant circulated on several occasions during the 1960s. But in 1970, the final word came. Production ended in December, 1970, and by the spring of 1971, Pullman-Standard had gone. Reasons given for closing the plant were that it was an old facility and too costly to refurbish. There was a split operation between the Wabash Street and South Yards installations, and the Wabash Street plant was hemmed in on three sides by residences, the company explained. On the other hand, the company's Butler, Pa., and Bessemer, Ala., plants were modern facilities. One hundred and eighteen years of car building in Michigan City ended in the rubble of demolished buildings, their demise hastened by a spectacular fire on the night of July 18, 1973.
Michigan City, from the start, had had a basic population of easterners. But as the effects of the Panic of 1837 wore off, an influx of European immigrants began, and these cultures have left their mark on the community. The Irish and the Germans were first to come in the 1840s and 1850s. Then came the Poles in the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s, and the Lebanese in the early 1900s. Swedes, Norwegians, English and a smattering of other nationalities added to this melting pot, but the Irish, Germans, Poles and Lebanese represented the largest groups. History suggests that those Irish who got beyond the eastern seaboard were attracted by the railroads pushing west. Families settling here did so in an area which came to be known as Kilgovern - from the Michigan Central tracks to Willard Avenue, and from Fourth to 10th Streets. The Germans, it is said, migrated for two basic reasons - to escape religious intolerance and conscription practices. Early immigrants first settled in the Waterford area, then made their way with other arriving countrymen to Michigan City. Most Germans who came here were from the Brandenburg and Mecklenburg areas in the north of Germany. Many of the Poles who settled here came by way of the Otis area, where they first tried farming. Peasant farmers in the Bydgoszcz region, they migrated with the aim of bettering themselves, of getting a piece of land of their own. But once here, the prospect of work in Michigan City's industries or on its docks proved attractive and they moved into the community, settling for the most part on the south and southwest sides. The Germans and the Poles had not come here with the express purpose of working in the "car shops," although many of them did end up doing that. Many of the Lebanese came with this uppermost in their thinking. They had heard there were jobs to be had and they wanted them. These men were invariably placed in the foundry, on the premise that people from a warm climate would be better suited there. These families came mostly from three towns in Lebanon - Bint-Jabel, Tibinan and Makhorouh. Many of these Lebanese families moved on in later years to Dearborn, Michigan, but it is estimated that a thousand or more of this heritage still live here. The estimate of people with the Polish heritage currently is about one-fourth of Michigan City's population, while the estimate of residents with German roots is higher than that, perhaps as high as 35 per cent. Another segment of Michigan City's population of significant size today-about 16 per cent of the total - is that of the blacks. There were very few blacks here until the end of World War 1, when a number came from Georgia and Alabama to work in the City's foundries and, a few years later, at the Sullivan Machinery Co., now Joy Manufacturing Co. This influx pushed the black population from about 100 to about 600 in 1935. The 1940s saw another migration- mostly from Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee- when defense plants beckoned, and at the end of World War II the black population stood at about 4,000. This figure has risen since to about 6,400.
The construction of Michigan City's harbor during the late 1860s and 1870s also helped to add to the city's population. Until then, Trail Creek had symbolized a series of great expectations and greater disappointments, of countless pleas to Congress for developmental money and of imbecilic responses in return. First there had been the fond hopes of Major Elston and others for a port which would be a gateway to t had come the bitter news that Chicago had been selected for the role. The original appropriation from Congress in 1836, also had conjured up visions of federal interest, subsequent dribbles and drabbles of money, costly delays, waste of material and inattention to the public's interests did little but create anger, frustration and despondency. By 1866, after a 14-year period which had brought a paltry $470 in federal aid, the elemental channel averaged 12 feet in depth and Was little more than a useless wreck. Federal appropriations to that date amounted to $156,203. Meanwhile, a number of flounderings occurred and getting into the harbor became such a dangerous operation that most vessels preferred to take their chances with the lake. It was at this point that a group of local citizens became aroused. They met on July 4, 1864, and formed the Michigan City Harbor Co. During the next two years they secured permission from Congress to complete the work once started on the harbor and then spent $200,000 of their own and solicited money to extend the piers into the lake and to keep the harbor open so that vessels would not avoid it entirely. A renewed plea to the government was successful when the extent of their work as recognized and aid money began to flow again. Work on the outer as well as the inner harbor was begun then in 1870 and continued for 15 years. Out of this effort came the basin, the outer breakwater, dredging and an extension of the inner channel. The Lighthouse had been built in 1858 and it was during this period that Harriet Colfax, a cousin of Vice-President Schuyler Colfax, tended the light. The first kerosene Light was used in 1880. The present Coast Guard station was built in 1888.
Interest in the harbor by the federal government has varied at times since then, but it may be said that continuing interest started in the late 1860s, when that group of citizens showed the determination of people power. Once improvements were begun, lake commerce came back and the harbor enjoyed a real heyday at the turn of the century. Tonnage for 1901 records show, reached 111,949 tons; for 1902 it was 130,115. Also, in 1902, records show that 826 steam vessels and 51 sailing craft entered the harbor, exclusive of traffic between Michigan City and Chicago. This tonnage declined as the railroads and, later, trucks bit into the transportation pie, and as the traditional natural resources dwindled. By the 1920s tonnage varied from 147 tons to 24,970 tons annually and only once, in 1931, did tonnage top the 100,000 figure. That year it was 102,552. The 1920s and early 1930s proved to be a popular era for passenger vessels and records show that as high as 100,653 passengers came into the local harbor in 1925. Today the emphasis is on recreational fishing and pleasure craft.
Christianity was introduced to this area, of course, by the French priests, such as Father Marquette, who preached to the Indians as early as the second half of the 1600s. It must be assumed, also, that itinerant pastors and circuit riders preached at the foot of Hoosier Slide during the years 1833, 1834 and 1835. Major Elston, who was a Methodist, donated a lot for a Methodist church at the very beginning of Michigan City, but no church of that denomination was built until 1836. Instead, a society was formed which met at members homes and ministers in the area were invited to stop and preach. The first actual church, as has been written, was constructed in 1834 by the Episcopalians on the east side of Pine Street just north of the alley between Fourth and Fifth Streets. This first edifice stayed until 1957, when it was demolished to make way for an automobile dealer's parking lot. The Episcopalians, however, used the building only until 1858, when a wooden structure was erected on the site of the present Trinity church. Methodists built the second church structure in 1838 on their donated lot on Pine Street north of Second Street. Congregationalists from New England formed a society and had a permanent minister in 1835, but did not construct their church - the city's third - until 1943 in the 100 block on the south side of Michigan Boulevard. The present church at Sixth and Washington Streets was built in 1981. The Baptists, meanwhile, organized in 1836, but the congregation soon ceased to exist. A second effort in 1853 met the same fate. It was 1889 before a permanent congregation was effected. The first Catholic mission was established in 1839 on the southeast corner of Second and Washington Streets and later, in 1859, a German Catholic church was built on the southwest corner of Fourth and Washington Streets to meet the needs of arriving immigrants. It was from this mission and this church that the present St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church evolved. The newly arrived German Lutheran immigrants also built churches. St. John's United Evangelical Lutheran Church was constructed first in 1856 on the southeast corner of Spring and Ninth Streets and 11 years later on the southwest corner of Ninth and Franklin Streets. St. Paul Lutheran Church rose in 1876 - just 100 years ago - on the northeast corner of ninth and Franklin Streets. St. John's now is known as St. John's United Church of Christ, and is located on the south side. Originally organized as a German Methodist Church, Wesley Methodist's first structure was built at 319 W. Eighth Street in 1856. The first Protestant religious services in LaPorte County were conducted by the Presbyterians in 1832, but this denomination did not gain a foothold in Michigan City until 1871, when the present congregation was organized. St. Stanislaus Catholic Church was established in 1891 for the arriving Poles. Other churches with organization or construction dates before 1900 include the Zion Lutheran Church, in 1887; Immanuel Congregational Church, in 1890, and Bethel AME Church, about 1895. The Lebanese, who came in the early 1900s, were a mixture of three different religions - Greek Orthodox, Catholic and Moslem - and they ended up in as many religious groups - St. George Orthodox Church, Sacred Heart Catholic Church and Asser El Jadeed Temple. Today, Michigan City's churches cover virtually all religious denominations. Some congregations worship in new structures, some in the original buildings. St. Mary's present church structure, begun in 1867; St. Paul, constructed in 1876, and the First Congregational Church, erected in 1881, are three of the oldest buildings still in use.
As Oglesbee and Hale wrote in their history of Michigan City "No other migration in history, unless it be the Jewish exodus under Moses, showed such devotion to the intellectual - the educational - side of life, as did that which spread across the Alleghenies." Major Elston reflected this devotion when he donated a lot for a public school at Fourth and Pine Streets. The first building went up on it in 1836 and, as has been written, Galatin Ashton was the first teacher. Hubert Williams, assisted by his daughter, Amelia, followed as a teacher in 1839 and they taught until 1841. A young ladies' school then was conducted in the building and the school moved later to the old Washington House nearby. The first private school of importance, the Michigan City Institute, opened in 1838 on the southwest corner of Franklin and 10th streets and lasted three years, when money to operate it ran out. The first Catholic school was organized in 1851 with 90 students who studied their lessons in a two-room house. There also was a select school for many years on E. Michigan Boulevard and Miss Mary Brown also operated a school for young ladies from 1848 to 1850. History records that a uniform educational system became operative in 1853, and the first reorganization of city schools took place in 1867, when broader plans were adopted. A high school was established as a separate department in 1869 and the first class of three students graduated from the original Elston School building at Fourth and Pine Streets in 1871, having completed the full course in two years. When Central School was erected on Eighth street in 1876, the high school was moved there. The Canada (Harrison replaced it later) Park schools followed in 1885, Garfield in 1889, Eastport in 1890 and Marsh in 1894. Central School, meanwhile, was destroyed by fire in l896,and was replaced by the predecessor to the present building. Competitive high school athletics began in 1891. The present Elston Junior High School building was constructed in 1912 and the high school was transferred to it from Central upon its completion. Then, in 1925, when the high school building became too crowded, the present Elston Senior High School was built and it became the high school. The former high school building then became a junior high school. An athletic field named for long-time Coach Andy Gill, an auditorium-type gymnasium which replaced the old frame barn in the mid-30s, and an occupations building constructed in 1968 round out the Elston Senior-Junior High School complex. A second junior high school, Barker Junior High School, named for John H. Barker, opened in 1961 and a third, the Krueger Junior High School, named for Martin T. Krueger, opened in 1964. A second public high school - Rogers High School, named for Dr. J.B. Rogers, who had practiced medicine here for many years- was opened in 1971. Michigan City's public schools counted 2,000 pupils in 1880 and 3,000 in 1907. Today's enrollment is just under 12,000. The first parochial school on record was that of St. Mary's Catholic Church, in 1867. St. Paul opened its school in 1876, St. John's in 1882 and St. Stanislaus in 1891. St. John's school was closed in 1919.
Today, Michigan City has two public high schools--Elston and Rogers; three junior high schools - Elston, Barker and Krueger, and 11 elementary schools - Central, Eastport, Edgewood, Jefferson, Joy, Knapp, Marsh, Mullen, Niemann, Park and Riley. There also is one parochial high school, Marquette and five parochial schools with lower grades - St. Mary's, St. Stanislaus; Queen of All Saints- Notre Dame and St. Paul. All are Catholic schools except St. Paul, which is Lutheran. The second reorganization of city public schools took place on Jan. 1, 1965, following school district consolidation legislation passed by the General Assembly in 1959. Long Beach, Coolspring Twp., Pine Twp., Beverly Shores and Springfield Twp. joined with the local public schools to form the Michigan City Area Schools Corp. at that time. Until then, local school board members were appointed. When the consolidation became effective the school board members representing the district were elected on a non-partisan basis.
The Michigan City Public Library had its origin in the last will and testament of George Ames, a public benefactor for whom the Ames Band and Ames Field were named. In his will, Ames provided a legacy of $5,000 to used for the purchase of books provided a library was built within a stated amount of time. A literary club, known as the Fortnightly Club, took up the challenge and a committee composed of 15 people organized the library in 1896. Once the library organization was formed, John H. Barker offered to underwrite one-third of the cost of the building if citizens would pledge the remainder. The new library, made of Bedford limestone and finished with marble and quarter-sawed oak, was opened in 1897. There were 10,000 volumes and circulation of 37,936. A branch library was opened in Marquette Mall in April, 1971 and in 1975 the library board voted to construct a new main building just east of the Superior Courthouse at a cost of $2,300,000. Work started on this structure early in 1976. Today, the library and its branch a t Marquette Mall have 88,491 books. There is an annual circulation of about 204,000. Besides Michigan City, the library serves the remainder of Michigan Twp. and a portion of Coolspring Twp.
After the Gazette foundered in 1841, there were a number of short-lived journalistic ventures but it wasn't until 1846 that a newspaper appeared with any lasting qualities. This was the Michigan City News, established by Thomas Jernegan. He published it until 1853, when the office was burned. Because he then was postmaster, he decided not to resume publication of the News. Richard W. Colfax filled the void with the Michigan City Transcript in the summer of 1854. Two men named Wright and Heacock bought the newspaper from Colfax in 1855 and, when Heacock left for California, Wright changed the name to The Enterprise and continued as its editor until 1859. Jernegan then re-entered the publishing field, taking The Enterprise from Wright. Except for a period of 2 ½ years during the Civil War, The Enterprise continued in business until 1884, when financial difficulties brought about a suspension in publication. A later attempt to revive it was none too successful, but in 1888 Charles J. Robb and Ira S. Carpenter purchased it and changed its name to the Michigan City News. H.R. Misener bought Carpenter's interest in 1902. Meanwhile, Harry C. Francis started The Evening Dispatch in 1881 and operated it until 1891, when he died. The newspaper then went to his widow and John B. Faulknor. Don M. Nixon Sr. purchased The Evening Dispatch in 1932 from Pleas Greenlee and Wray Fleming, who had acquired it to give the Democratic political party a voice in Northern Indiana in the election of 1932. When Nixon was killed in an auto accident in October, 1934, his widow took over the newspaper's operation along with Nixon's two sons, Joseph H. Nixon and Don M. Nixon, Jr. A consolidation in June, 1938, between The Michigan City News and The Evening Dispatch resulted in The News-Dispatch, which has been a Nixon Newspapers publication since. The corporation now is headed by John R. Nixon, son of Don M. Nixon, Sr. and Mrs. Nixon, who later became Mrs. Mark Honeywell. One other daily and three other weeklies have made their mark in Michigan City journalism circles. The Michigan City Press began operation as a weekly in 1938, then changed to a daily later the same year. It lasted until Oct. 18, 1939. The Michigan City Review, the LaPorte County Independent and the Michigan City Clarion also published as weeklies in the 1940s but none lasted more than two years.
In the early days of Michigan City, banking had been done at a branch of the State Bank of Indiana. The community has known six banks since then and three are in operation today. In 1873, Walter Vail of LaPorte opened the First National Bank here. The Citizens Bank followed in 1888.
The Michigan City Trust and Savings Bank came into being in 1903 and the Merchants National Bank in 1909. The Peoples State Bank opened in 1925 and the Lake Shore Bank & Trust Co. in 1974. Two of the banks failed to survive the bleak Depression days of the 1930s. The Peoples State Bank closed in 1935 because of dwindling deposits and the Michigan City Trust and Savings Bank was consolidated with the First National Bank in 1937. The First National Bank then merged with the Merchants National Bank in 1962 and the name First-Merchants National Bank was adopted. Three savings and loan associations also are in business today in Michigan City. They are the Michigan City Savings and Loan Association, which opened as the Michigan City Loan and Building Association in 1885; the First Federal Savings and Loan Association of LaPorte County, which dates back to 1926, and the First Federal Savings of East Chicago which opened a branch here in 1975.
Most governmental services also had their roots in the 1800s. When Michigan City was incorporated as a town in 1836, its charter provided for its first years of municipal government. From 1836 until 1842, the new town was to be considered as one ward. In 1842, the common council would set up no fewer than three wards and no more than five. Officers were to be mayor, recorder, five aldermen, treasurer, three assessors and one or more collectors. The council was to have the power to appoint the treasurer, city attorney, street commissioner, high constable, one or two police constables, clerk of the market, collectors, pound masters, porters, carriers, cartmen, packers, bell-men, sexton, common criers, scavengers, measurers, inspectors of grain and wood, scaler of weights and measures, gaugers, health physician, harbor master, chief engineer and a night watch. A number of these offices have disappeared though the years, but many still are in existence. One office that remained on the scene for quite a while - in fact, until Michigan City was the only city in Indiana to have it - was that of city treasurer. The office went out of existence here in 1959 and the county treasurer took over its functions. To be eligible to vote under the original charter, a person must have lived in the town for at least six months. One of the tasks left to the town's officers was that of designating a time and place for bathing in the creek. Willis Peck was the first mayor of Michigan City, having been elected on April 12, 1836. Samuel Miller was the second mayor. Mayors served one-year terms until 1859, when two-year terms were instituted. Four-year terms came into being in 1894. John Francis was elected mayor 10 times and served 9 ½ years between the years 1844 and 1852. Charles Palmer served four one-year terms in the 1850s and H. H. Walker was elected to four consecutive two-year terms from 1865 to 1873. Martin T. Krueger was a six-term mayor, although not for consecutive terms. He served 17 years and seven months in all. John H. Barker served a two-year term as mayor in 1897 and 1880. The mayor-council form of government continued uninterrupted until 1921, when the electorate adopted the commission-manager form of government in the belief that it would help to prevent undue political influence and to reduce graft. Michigan City fared well under this form of government but in 1927 the Indiana Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional and required a return to the mayor-council arrangement. The mayor-council form of government remains today. Justice courts came into being in 1859. When legal matters of a more important nature arose, they had to be taken to Circuit Court in LaPorte until 1895, when a Superior Court was established jointly between LaPorte, Porter and Lake Counties. Lake County then was given its own Superior Court in 1907 and a joint court between LaPorte and Porter Counties continued until 1931, when the local bar association succeeded in having the LaPorte County branch made a separate court. Early Superior Court sessions were conducted on the second floor of a building at Franklin and Michigan Streets. The present Superior Courthouse was completed in 1909 after the city donated land for it at Washington and Michigan Streets. A second Superior Court was opened here on July 1, 1965, because of the growing case load. Prior to construction of the Superior Courthouse, the mayor's and other administrative offices were located in a building on Fourth Street across the alley from the Central fire station. The offices, city court and the police station then were moved into the courthouse. The police department and city court went into a new police-court facility on Second Street in 1964. Because the county needed the space, the mayor's and other administrative offices were moved from Superior Courthouse to the Warren Building in 1974. City court lasted until Dec. 31, 1975, when a new county court was created by the legislature.
Meanwhile, activity in other areas of municipal government was moving forward. A sewer was laid under Franklin Street in 1873 and similar lines were laid under Washington, Pine and Spring Streets in the 1880s. History records that Jonathon and Horace Burr built the first waterworks, utilizing a windmill, but the effort failed when the water leaked through porous cement pipes. Wells and cisterns provided water for homes until 1875, when a contract with the Michigan Central permitted water to be pumped from a deep well on railroad property and to be stored in wooden tanks. Citizens voted 843 to 85 in 1887 to build a municipal waterworks. In 1889 the Lake Michigan Water Co. assumed control of this plant, which now drew water from Lake Michigan, and operated it until 1923, when the municipal government took it over again. A legislative act in 1931 created a separate water city which permitted a self-sustaining operation. The present filtration plant was constructed in 1935. Michigan City had had a health laboratory since 1904 on a part-time basis, but a typhoid epidemic in 1912 led to the creation of the board of health when it was discovered that the city's water supply was polluted. Three doctors, at that time, helped to work out a program of milk, water and food inspections, and of quarantines for contagious diseases. A sewage disposal plant first was proposed in 1932 but the proposal was defeated by 600 votes in an election. The State of Indiana then ordered Michigan City to stop dumping sewage into the lake and the municipal sanitation board came into being. The present sewage disposal plant followed, opening in 1936.
Prior to 1879, town marshals upheld the law in Michigan City. In that year, however, an ordinance was passed creating a police department and it consisted, at first, of a chief of police and one patrolman. Later the same year, eight more men were added. There was no jail and it was not uncommon to see drunks lined up in a vacant lot so that they could "sleep it off." Today the department has 90 police officers and nine persons in secretarial or custodial jobs. Over the years, three Michigan City officers have died in the line of duty. On April 3, 1921, an intoxicated man shot to death Capt. Joseph 0. Simmerman and Patrolman George Spencer on Franklin Street while they were taking two women to the police station for questioning. Not long afterward the slayer shot himself fatally after fleeing the scene. On Dec. 14, 1930, Patrolman Charles L. Glafeke was shot to death by a vagrant on the south side while waiting for a patrol wagon to arrive. His murderer, a Chicagoan, was captured after a three-hour chase through the snow.
A volunteer fire department was provided for by an ordinance passed in 1837 and it was strictly that until 1881, when the department was reorganized on a semi-professional basis. At that time, the chief was appointed by the city council, and he, in turn, appointed two assistants. The first steam engine was purchased in 18M, and 15 fire alarm boxes were installed in 1887. There were five hose units and one ladder company in 1893. Each had 17 volunteer members. Then on May 1, 1905, a paid, organized fire department came into being with 10 men. The first fire protection ordinance was passed in 1908 and the first motorized piece of equipment - a combined chemical and hose truck - made its debut in 1916. Horses pulled the last fire equipment on July 15, 1922. At that time, the principal fire station was at 10th and Franklin Streets. Following the switch to motorized equipment, the department moved in 1922 to the site of the present Central fire station and the 10th Street location was sold. Stations on the east and west sides -were opened in 1925 and the South Side station which opened in 1955 - was used as headquarters while a new Central station was built. This new headquarters station went into use on Jan. 8, 1957. Meanwhile, a new North Side station became operative in 1956 and the Lakeland station was taken over when Lakeland and Michigan City merged in 1960. The community's firemen have fought a number of major fires. The biggest occurred on July 12, 1913, in Haskell & Barker's south yards. Starting at 4 p.m. in a boxcar, it soon was beyond control. Dynamite and dynamite experts were summoned from Aetna, DuPont's powder plant located just east of Gary, and huge piles of lumber were blown up in an effort to contain the blaze. Before it could be extinguished 12 hours later, the fire drew firemen and equipment from Gary, LaPorte, South Bend, Hammond and Chicago. Damage estimates varied from $700,000 to $1,000,000. Other major fires were those at the First Congregational Church in 1907; at the First Presbyterian Church July 21, 1908; at the prison's Ford and Johnson factory Jan. 13, 1911; at the Michigan Central depot Dec. 16, 1916; at the Garden Theater Feb. 4, 1921; at the Northern Indiana carbarns Aug. 6, 1921; at Washington Park July 6, 1922; at the prison's binder twine factory Jan. 2, 1924; at the Henry Lumber Co. June 5, 1934; at the Moose Hall Dec, 19, 1938; at the Hirsch Department Store April 25, 1939; at the Liberty Theater Jan. 22, 1959; at the Franklin Hotel (formerly the Milner and the Vreeland) Nov. 20, 1964; at the Citizens Bank March 8, 1972, and at the former Pullman-Standard north yards complex July 18, 1973. Four Michigan City firemen have died in the line of duty through the years. They were Charles Neulieb (1949), Alfred Zoch (1952), George Dabagia (1958) and Lee Brady (1959).
Formal postal service in Michigan City can be traced to August 1833, when the first post office opened with Samuel Miller as postmaster. Before that, mail had been carried in this area by Indians and soldiers on foot and on horseback. Miller secured a horseback service to LaPorte and a direct stage line to South Bend was started early in his term. In 1837, a regular weekly service between Michigan City and Indianapolis was originated by way of LaPorte, Plymouth and Logansport. This became a daily service eventually, but the trip took three days in summer and four days in winter. The coming of the railroads in 1852 speeded service and the invention of the airplane meant still faster service on long distances. A post office at the corner of Fifth and Pine Streets served the community for 64 years, giving way to a new building which opened on the corner of Washington Street and Michigan Boulevard in 1973. Today the Michigan City postal district is a part of the Gary sectional center, where mail is sent for sorting by mechanical means and for forwarding to other destinations.
Several other chapters of Michigan City's history during the last half of the 19th Century are worthy of mention. One prison already existed at Jeffersonville, on the Ohio River, when a movement arose in 1858 to build a new prison north of the National Road (U.S. 40). Michigan City was selected on March 1, 1860, for the reasons that it had railroads which ran in three directions as well as lake traffic; because stone, lumber and clay for bricks could be found here, and because prison labor could be profitably employed. The state purchased 100 acres of land from Chauncy B. Blair at $45 an acre, and prisoners were put to work building the institution. Contractors paid the state 70 cents a day for their labor and the convict labor done in 1860 on the prison amounted to $22,602.29. Stone for the walls, which rose to a height of 25 feet then, came from Joliet, Ill. Inmate population reached 253 the first year the prison was used, in 1861. During the early years of the prison, Michigan City factories contracted with the state for inmate labor. This practice lasted until 1904, when a state law was passed forbidding it. The first execution, a hanging, took place on May 7, 1897, when a confessed murderer of four men paid with his life. The first electrocutions were carried out on Feb. 20, 1914. Both men executed then had killed their wives. In all, 72 men have been put to death at the prison, 13 by hanging and 59 by electrocution. The last execution took place on June 15, 1961, when a Fort Wayne man paid the supreme penalty for killing his wife. John Dillinger, who served a term for assault during an attempted robbery in 1924, probably was the most famous prisoner housed in the prison. Transferred here on July 15, 1929, from the Pendleton Reformatory, he stayed until May 22, 1933, when he was paroled. Later the same year, on Sept. 26, 1933, Harry Pierpont and nine other inmates escaped from the prison and joined Dillinger in the infamous crime wave of 1933 and 1934. The inmate population of the prison on March 29, 1938, was 2,707, the highest it ever has been. Today's population is about 1,550.
Of the 208,367 men from Indiana who served in the Union Army during the Civil War, Michigan City furnished 191 officers and 2,560 enlisted men. The first company to leave here was the Michigan City Rifles, Co. B, with Capt. William H. Blake in command. They joined Indiana's Ninth Regiment at Camp Morton and participated in the first campaign of West Virginia. An army training facility, Camp Anderson, was located in Michigan City in the area north of Michigan Boulevard and east of School Street during the war, and a part of the city there is known as the Camp Anderson Addition. Soldiers who died in the Civil War were honored with a special plot in Greenwood Cemetery, which was established in 1864. Another sad chapter in the post-war years occurred when President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in Washington in 1865. His funeral train passed through Michigan City on its way to Springfield, Ill., and paused here so that the train crew and passengers could be served lunch. A huge canopy was erected over the tracks where they crossed Franklin Street.
Washington Park came about through the vision of Martin T. Krueger, and a dream he had cherished for years. During the first of his four terms as mayor, he argued in 1890 until he got the original Franklin Street Bridge built, talked friends in the legislature into passing an enabling act in 1891, and cajoled city council members into buying the land for a park later the same year. The 107 different lots and parcels within the park's boundaries cost the city less than $10,000.
Street cars, electric lights, telephones, improved streets, new stores.... These made the big news of the 1880s and 1890s. Rails were laid along Franklin Street and in both directions from it on Ninth Street - westward to the state prison and eastward to Carroll Avenue. Horses and mules pulled the street cars at first, beginning on April 18, 1881. Electric lights were adopted in 1886, after a committee had visited Terre Haute and returned with a report that electricity was better and cheaper than gas, which had been in use since 1881. A steam engine, two dynamos, eight miles of wire and materials for 45 lights represented the initial municipal purchase. The lights were used on nights when the moon was not bright enough to light the streets and they stayed on until 1 a.m. A cable was run under Trail Creek to supply light for the Canada area, that portion of the city just northeast of Trail Creek. Later, when a vessel cut the cable in half, another line was installed across the Sixth Street bridge. But because the bridge was opened six to 20 times each night, a switch had to be thrown which left Canada in darkness while the bridge was up. How the Canada section of Michigan City received its name is an interesting story in itself. While the Michigan Central Railroad was being built, most of its construction workers were from Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, in Canada. These men had a tendency to be clannish. So, when the line reached Michigan City, the Canadian workers located their camp at the foot of Yankee Slide, in the Center Street area, and the American workers located their camp closer to Franklin Street. With Trail Creek creating the same condition that existed between Detroit and Windsor - two cities separated by a river - it didn't take long for the area northeast of the harbor to be known as Canada. The first telephone was installed in Michigan City in 1879, just three years following its invention by Alexander Graham Bell. Some businessmen had the "new fangled" instruments in their stores, but it was not until 1894 that the Merchants Mutual Telephone Co. came into existence. At that time, the 58 subscribers paid $1 for service to homes and $2 for service to businesses. Franklin Street had been graded and planked in 1850, and in 1887 cedar blocks were laid on that surface. A system of numbering the houses followed in 1892. Many retail establishments which were operating into the mid-20th century had their beginnings in this era. Aicher's Furniture Store was founded in 1867 and Beck's Jewelry Store in 1876. Carstens' Dry Goods Store opened in 1879 and Bartholomew Hardware Co. in 1880 Feallock's Shoe Store was founded in 1885 and the Henry Lumber Co. in 1894. Grieger's Clothing Store, according to a newspaper centennial edition, was in business in 1890. The Spanish-American War and a visit by President William McKinley closed out the 19th century with a flourish. Historians report that Michigan City men were among the first to volunteer in the war against Spain. In 1899, at the close of the war, President McKinley passed through Michigan City on his special train. He made a three-minute speech from the station platform to the assembled crowd, and a 21-gun salute was fired in his honor from the crest of Hoosier Slide.
Michigan City started the 20th century with a population of 14,850. Historians call these first years of the new century an era of transition, with many changes in store for the community on the shores of Lake Michigan. Large industries on the local scene in 1900 included the Haskell and Barker Car Co., Ford and Johnson Chair Factory, Lakeside Knitting Mills, Reliance Manufacturing Co., Tecumseh Facing Mills, Western Cane Seating Co., Western Launch and Engine Works, and Winterbotham & Sons, coopers. Root, Henry and Greer-Wilkinson operated planing mills. Veal Brothers, Hitchcock, Schroeder and Pike Cooperative were chair factories. In slightly different categories, there also were the Fethke & Son Cigar Factory, Zorn's Brewery, Booth Packing Co., the Roeske brick plant and flour Mill, and the Hoosier Slide Sands Co. This last named company was engaged in selling and hauling sand from Hoosier Slide. Much of the sand had gone to Chicago in the 1890s to fill in land for Jackson Park and for the Illinois Central right-of-way. One interesting attraction was a lumber market which operated on the present site of Superior Courthouse. Lumbermen from Corymbo, a town five miles east of Michigan City at that time, would bring wagon loads of lumber, from which purchasers could select material for houses, furniture or fireplaces. New modes of transportation and the implementation of inventions helped to speed the transition from old to new. Roman Eichstaedt had built the first automobile in Michigan City in 1898 - a one-cylinder model that could reach 20 miles per hour in speed. Now a man named Kerskey, O.W. Leeds and Norton Barker drove factory-built vehicles. An electric interurban line connected Michigan City with LaPorte in 1903, electric street cars appeared in 1907, and the first South Shore train arrived in 1908. In the early years of the 20th century there was a golf course located west of Greenwood Cemetery between Tilden, Greenwood and York Streets and the Rommel Ditch. The first airplane built in Michigan City - by Donald Gregory in a carpentry shop at 803 Spring St. - took off from it and reached a height of several feet before hitting a cow and crashing. Gregory was uninjured then, but lost his life in another attempted flight. When this golf course property was platted into lots, land for Pottawattoimie Country Club was acquired by a number of citizens and Walter W. Vail Sr. became the first president of that club in 1909. The first airplane from the outside landed here about 1910, using a farmer's field when the original landing site was overrun with sightseers.
About 750 customers were on the books of the Michigan City Power and Light Co. at the turn of the century, receiving electricity from a 500-kilowatt generator powered by a steam turbine. St. Anthony Hospital was built in 1904, the YMCA in 1909-12, and Superior Courthouse in 1909. The town's two telephone companies merged in 1908, offering better service to their 900 subscribers. A merger of the gas and electric companies in 1910 also meant better and cheaper service for users. Construction of a lift bridge in 1906 to replace the Franklin Street swing bridge aided in the development of Sheridan Beach. First beach lots there sold for $250 to $300. The first theater in Michigan City came into being in 1906 when the Grand Opera House opened on the site of the former Tivoli Theater. The theater had 1,500 seats and shows or musical comedies scheduled for Chicago appearances often presented dress rehearsals in it. Prior to construction of the Tivoli, the Grand became the Orpheum Vaudeville Theater and the Garden, in turn. A fire destroyed the Garden in 1921. The Tivoli then was built on the site later that year. As outlined on other pages, a number of improvements in governmental services also came about during this period. The First Church of Christ, Scientist, Church of God, Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, First Christian Church and the Adath Israel Synagogue likewise had their beginnings in the first decade of the century.
The second decade of the 1900s was principally one of war and industrial decline for the community. Organized on July 20, 1915, Michigan City's National Guard Co. "G" was just a few months old when Pancho Villa, the Mexican revolutionist, provoked an international crisis by killing 17 persons in a raid on Columbus, N.M., on March 9, 1916 in the furor that followed, President Woodrow Wilson sent federal troops after Villa and ordered National Guard units into the southwest to back them up. Co. "G" was among these back-up units and its members spent eight months in Texas. They arrived home on March 14, 1917. Meanwhile, World War I had begun in Europe and within 3 ½ weeks, on April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany. Co. "G," by reason of its service on the Mexican border, was one of the early National Guard units called. Its men were mobilized again on Aug. 5, 1917, and left for France on Sept. 17 of that year. More than 2,000 Michigan City men registered for World War I service before the fighting ended. Twenty-six young men of Polish descent, meanwhile, joined the Polish Army with the Allies in France. People back home subscribed more than $3 million in five Liberty Loan Drives and war stamp drives in addition to donating $48,000 for united war work for servicemen and their families. When the war ended, Martin T. Krueger donated a tract of woods on the east side to be known as Memorial Park in honor of the 19 Michigan City men who gave their lives during the conflict. Churches and religious groups which had their beginnings here during the period 1911-1920 included St. Luke's, St. George Orthodox, Sinai Temple, Sacred Heart and Mt. Zion Baptist. Asser El Jadeed was chartered officially in 1924, but was the outgrowth of a social group formed in 1914 to serve the Arabs of Islamic faith. The decline in industry that hit the community so hard in that decade wasn't an overnight occurrence. Actually it had started prior to 1910, when factories making wood products began to go out of business. Only one of these factories continued under new management. Midland Chair and Seating Co. succeeded Ford and Johnson, and S.S. Karpen Bros. then replaced Midland in 1916. The other part of the problem lay in a scarcity of new industry. Besides Midland and Karpen, only three other plants had come here since the century began - Burnham Glove in 1901, Michigan City Paper Box Co. in 1905, Portis Hats in 1914. An Industrial Association was midway through the decade to get new industry. But of the four plants secured, three failed. Excelsior, which came in 1916, was the only one to succeed. Then, in 1917, with 300 homes vacant and 50 store buildings without tenants, officials of the Michigan Central Railroad added the final touch: They moved the railroad shops to Niles. By the end of 1918, 600 families had left Michigan City and 700 homes were vacant. Faced with this grim picture, seven citizens headed by Joseph Hays, whose own firm, the Hays Corporation, had located here in 1918, formed a Chamber of Commerce. What happened during the next six years often has been called Michigan City's finest hour.
By 1922, Michigan City's payroll had jumped from $4 million to $10 million, bank resources had doubled and assessed valuation of property had climbed from $7 million to $19 million. By 1924, 22 new factories had been secured, 500 new homes had been built and 30 new store buildings erected. A million dollar sewer was constructed to replace the Rommel Ditch, and another $300,000 was raised through public subscription to build the Spaulding Hotel. Among the larger industries locating here during this period of time were Josam (plumbing drains), Blocksom (curled hair and Paratex products), Bromwell (kitchen goods and wire products), Michiana Products (oil filters, tanks and farm goods), Peters and Marske (machine parts), Smith Brothers (cough drops), Perfection Cooler (water coolers), Weil-McLain (boilers and heating equipment), Angsten-Cox (metal stampings), Stefco Steel (pre-fab buildings and sheet metal products), Hoosier (trousers), Michigan City Pattern Works (industrial tool patterns), Sullivan Machinery Co. (compressors), and C.A. Dunham (heating and ventilating equipment). The Orme Co., Royal Metal, Society Lingerie and Arno followed in the years 1925 to 1929. Of these, Josam, Blocksom, Peters and Marske, Weil-McLain, Hoosier (now Jaymar-Ruby), Sullivan (now Joy Manufacturing Co.), Royal Metal (now InterRoyal), Society Lingerie and Arno still are in business here. The "Golden Twenties" were productive in other ways, too. With civic leaders and Chamber of Commerce Executive Secretary Walter K. Greenebaum in the forefront, the harbor was dredged, the Warren Building, the Spaulding Hotel and the Sheridan Beach Hotel were constructed, the Dunes Highway to Gary was built, U.S. 12 east was rerouted, excursion boat service to Chicago was re-established, a "Welcome" arch was constructed over Franklin Street near Seventh Street, the Washington Park amusement area was expanded, the Oasis ballroom was built, and dozens of conventions were secured. The Michigan City-LaPorte rivalry surfaced again during construction of the Spaulding Hotel. Work on the structure already had started when someone happened to think that if the new hotel had only six floors, as the plans called for, it wouldn't be as tall as the Rumely Hotel in LaPorte. So two more floors were added to make the Spaulding the county's tallest building at that time. Michigan City also began to develop as a resort center during this period, and Long Beach began to blossom as an area for summer and permanent residences. Trail Creek came into being as a town on Feb. 26, 1924, by vote of its residents. The 1920s also saw the Sky Blue Arena constructed on E. Second Street. Because the State of Indiana would not permit prize fighting, it never reached its full potential, but before it was torn down, such boxers as Jack Dempsey, Tommy Gibbons, Georges Carpentier, Benny Leonard and Rocky Kansas made exhibition appearances here. Then came Black Friday, Oct. 29, 1929, the day of the stock market crash, and the glorious decade was ended.
As they were elsewhere, the 1930s for Michigan City were years of deep depression economically, of slow recovery and, finally, of watching the holocaust of World War II develop. The NRA (National Recovery Act), the CWA (Civil Works Administration), the FERA (Federal Emergency Relief Administration) and the WPA (Works Progress Administration) became household names. Long welfare lines became a way of life. When Pullman-Standard finally was able to announce an order for 100 freight cars, it became banner line news in the local press and cause for widespread rejoicing. WPA projects gave the city the High School Auditorium, a refurbished Ames Field and Washington Park and zoo improvements. The 1930s were noteworthy for several other reasons. The United Welfare and Relief Organization, predecessor to today's United Way, came into being in 1931. A new Franklin Street Bridge was constructed in 1931-32, street cars ceased to run locally in 1932, and Franklin Street was paved in 1933-34. Interurban service to LaPorte was discontinued in 1934. The Chicago World's Fair of 1933-34 and the city's centennial pageant, conducted in Washington Park and on the lakefront July 1, 2 and 3, 1933, helped to ease the pain of the hard times. Then, on Sept. 1, 1939, after more than three years of aggressive moves, Adolf Hitler's armies invaded Poland. Britain and France retaliated with declarations of war, and the stage was set for World War II in the 1940s.
Drafts calls late in 1940 sent men to service training camps as the United States prepared for possible involvement, and when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7,1941, many already were trained for combat. World War II was different from previous wars in that women were permitted to enlist as WACS, WAVES and SPARS in addition to the nurses' ranks. During the war the local naval armory was used as a training facility. The civilian populace, meanwhile, became familiar with ration books covering many items, including meat, sugar, canned goods, gasoline, tires and most home appliances. Michigan City also contributed about $18 million in war bond drives. When Germany and Japan surrendered in 1945, the war had taken the lives of 99 Michigan City men. Also in the 1940s, two persons were killed and 19 injured when an American Airlines DC-3 crashed in Friendship Gardens Dec. 28, 1946. The formation of the Boosters Club by civic minded citizens in 1948 led to creation of the Municipal Airport and Boy Scout camp.
The 1950s were a decade of rising population, annexation of vast chunks of land, new schools, transplanted industry, flexing steel mills - and war. Michigan City's population had jumped from 19,457 in 1920 to 26,735 in 1930, but the next 20 years saw it rise only to 28,305. Now, in the 1950s, it took a sizeable jump to 36,653. Some of this increase came through the annexation of Edgewood in 1952. Approximately 3,000 of it came through a merger with Lakeland voted in 1958 and made effective early in 1960. Some of the growth also came about through the start of construction of a $100 million mill by Midwest Steel at Burns Harbor in 1959. Ten Michigan City and area men died in the three-year-long Korean War, which began in 1950 and ended with a truce on July 26, 1953. Arno Adhesive Tapes moved to a new building on U.S. 20 in 1955 and Brown Trailer Division of Clark Equipment opened its new plant in 1958. This industrial news was tempered somewhat by the closing of Smith Brothers Cough Drop Factory in 1959. Two new elementary schools opened - Central in 1950 and Eastport in 1954 - and St. Mary's unveiled its new high school and remodeled Marquette Hall in 1956. Sunday bus service ended in 1952 and the Sheridan Beach Hotel burned in 1956. The Liberty Theater fire in 1959, which took the life of Fire Capt. Lee Brady, was voted the top story that year. The Lyons baby kidnapping, still unsolved, was a major story in 1951 and the Big Snow of Feb. 15, 1958, put the city in national news headlines. Forty-eight inches of snow fell within a 24-hour period starting on that date, with the result that much of the city and immediate area was snowbound for the better part of a week.
The first state high school basketball title in history... community growth and honors ... urban renewal... Marquette Mall ... Franklin Square... a giant Bethlehem Steel Mill ... and more war These were the major local developments of the 1960s for Michigan City. Doors burst open, automobile engines roared, horns blared and people poured into the streets when the clock ran out on March 19, 1966, in Hinkle Field house in Indianapolis and the scoreboard read: Michigan City 63 Indianapolis Tech 52 It was the climax of a basketball season that had seen Elston High School's Red Devils win 26 of 29 games, the last 20 in a row. It also was the first Indiana State High School championship for a local team and more than 12,000 fans crowded Ames Field the next day to welcome the Red Devils and Coach Doug Adams home. The merger of Michigan City and Lakeland, effective Jan. 4, 1960, increased the area of Michigan City from 11 ½ to 19 square miles. This and later annexations nearly doubled the city's size. The census of 1960, meanwhile, put the population at 36,653, which made Michigan City a second class city. In 1966, Look magazine and the National Municipal League selected Michigan City as one of 13 All-American Cities, lauding the community for its "excellent example of citizen effort and interest in municipal affairs." Urban renewal was proposed for two areas of the city in 1960 - the West and North Sides. Work on the West Side, or Park School, project began in 1962. After lengthy court action by a citizen, work on the North Side, or Beachway, project, got underway in 1968. Marquette Mall plans were announced on May 19, 1965, and they spelled trouble for downtown Michigan City. Sears, Roebuck and Co. and J.C. Penney Co. led a parade of business district merchants to the South Side shopping center. In an attempt to stop - or, at least, slow - the deterioration of the central business district, plans for Franklin Square were unveiled in 1968. There were great hopes for the four-block-long development when it opened in 1969, but as of today the verdict still is not definite. After several years of parrying answers, Bethlehem Steel Corp. admitted that it would build the biggest steel mill in the world on the lakefront adjacent to the Midwest Steel facility in Porter County. Grading of land was started in 1963 and structures began to rise shortly thereafter. For the third time in as many decades, U.S. troops - and Michigan City young men - became involved, in foreign fighting when the conflict in Vietnam escalated. Starting with the commitment of 23,000 military advisers to combat in June, 1965,the U.S. at one time in 1968 had 536,100 men and women in the Far East war theater. Other developments of the 1960s worth noting: A fire at the Edgewood Motor Co. on Nov. 1 1960, consumed the building and 21 automobiles inside at a loss of $300,000. Chicagoan Ted Erickson, 33, swam across Lake Michigan to Michigan City on Aug. 23,1961, in 36 1/2 hours, the first person to do so. The new Barker Junior High School and two new elementary schools - Joy, and Knapp were opened in 1961. The Oasis Ballroom in Washington Park was demolished in 1962, ending more than 40 years of music and dancing in the structure. The first bank robbery in Michigan City's history took place when a gunman got $43,295 in a holdup of the First-Merchants National Bank branch at Eastgate Plaza. Michigan Boulevard was paved in 1963 at a cost of $2 ½ million. The Franklin Hotel was destroyed by fire on Nov. 20, 1964. Ground was broken on June 28, 1965, for the new Purdue North Central campus eight miles south of Michigan City. The Chesapeake and Ohio Railway won control of the South Shore Railroad through purchase of stock in 1965. Hospitals United Fulfillment Fund, a citizen-sponsored fund campaign, raised $1.4 million in 1965 to support building programs at St. Anthony and Memorial Hospitals. The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore won approval from Congress in 1966. The Naval Armory was closed as a military installation, the Smith Brothers factory was razed and the Spaulding Hotel quit business after more than 40 years of operation, all in 1966. A major snowstorm struck on Jan. 26, 1967, dropping 26 inches of snow in a 40-hour period. City councilmen and the administration in late 1967 enacted the city's air pollution control ordinance. The ordinance was instrumental in abating many of the community's air quality problems and preventing others from arising as new business and industry developments subsequently took shape. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy stopped here to campaign for the presidency on April 15, 1968, six weeks before he was slain by an assassin's bullet in Los Angeles. Michigan City was moved into the Second Congressional District in 1968. Cohomania became a new word for fishermen in 1968 as coho salmon became plentiful and big enough to catch in Lake Michigan.
Michigan City started the 1970s with a population of 39,369 - not quite a 3,000 gain for the previous decade. But whatever else might be said, it was a gain "on its own" - and in the face of a fluctuating industrial payroll that presented more of a civic challenge than a help. The 1970s, for instance, saw such employers as Pullman-Standard, Brown Trailer Division, Visual Educom, Poloron (formerly Gardex) and Elco Electronics follow Dunham-Bush in leaving the city. W.R. Grace and the Westway-Northway manufacturing operation also came in and went out rather quickly. On the credit side, however, were Gateway industries, Boone Box, Infonics, Filter Specialists, Performance Packaging, Celadyne, Michigan City Fabricators, Party Cookies and Yeater, Laughlin and Mueller Metal Products. In addition, seven industries launched major expansion efforts - Jaymar-Ruby, Sullair, Milton Roy (previously Hays), Joy Manufacturing Co., Cyanamid, USS Chemicals and Sprague Devices. The decade started almost ominously with a weekend of civil disturbances that began shortly after completion of the annual Summer Festival parade on July 11, 1970. An early evening curfew was lifted on July 15, but in the meantime, the National Guard had been called and the North End, at times, looked, like an armed camp. The Indiana State Prison also had its share of violence with a series of kidnaps and killings. Three guard officers were held hostage for 34 hours over the Labor Day holiday in 1973 before an uprising was ended. Two inmates also held eight hostages for five hours before surrendering in September, 1975, and six weeks later the warden, his wife and his daughter, plus two guards, were abducted in an attempt by six inmates to escape. A 56-year-old woman and her 19-year-old daughter were slain in their rural home on Dec. 27, 1974, by an inmate fleeing from a prison farm nearby. The Vietnam War added one last gruesome touch to the 1970s. Thirty-one Michigan City GIs had given their lives in combat when the 13-year-old conflict ended officially for the United States on Jan. 27, 1973. One of the dead was Marine Pfc. Daniel D. Bruce, who posthumously was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was the second LaPorte County man in history to be so honored. As the decade reached its mid-point, the South Shore Railroad - the only electric interurban line left in the nation - was reeling financially. While still operating on a reduced schedule, its executives sounded dire warnings that the commuter service soon would end unless public or governmental subsidies were forthcoming. The Beachway Urban Renewal project also was faltering to some extent, with more than half of the available land unoccupied and municipal officials arguing over whether to locate a new city hall in the area. Meanwhile, a new home for The News-Dispatch at 121 W. Michigan Blvd. joined the new post office on Beachway land in 1974, and the new public library was rising across the street from the newspaper to the south. Other occurrences during the 1970s worth noting: A 22-year-old Pottawattomie Park man was sentenced to a 25-year term in prison in 1970 after hijacking an Eastern Airlines plane to Cuba on Jan. 9, 1969. The $25 million Port of Indiana at Burns Harbor was dedicated on July 17, 1970. Catherine Barker Hickox, only surviving daughter of John H. Barker, died in Old Westbury, N.Y., on Nov. 18,1970. Michigan City was returned to the Third Congressional District on April 16, 1971. Elston Red Devils' basketball coach Doug Adams was named the national high school coach of the year on May 27, 1971, by the National High School Athletic Association. Rogers High School was opened on Sept. 13, 1971. An afternoon fire caused major damage at the Citizens Bank March 8, 1972. Construction of a shopping center across U.S. 20 from Marquette Mall was announced on March 31, 1972. Interior Secretary Rogers C. B. Morton and Julie Nixon Eisenhower took part in dedication ceremonies of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on Sept. 8, 1972. The "missing link" of Interstate 94 was opened westward from Michigan City on Nov. 2, 1972. The Tivoli Theater closed on Nov. 30, 1972, following purchase of the structure by the Citizens Bank for a building program. Workmen in a vacated building of the former Pullman-Standard complex on W. Eighth Street accidentally started a fire which destroyed all but three of the structures in a four-square-block area on July 18, 1973. Chicago drug company executive Melvyn Zahn escaped here on June 29, 1973, from two men who had kidnaped him two days earlier in Illinois. The Citizens Bank occupied a new building at Fifth Street and Franklin Square in 1974. The First-Merchants National Bank announced plans for a new building, also at Fifth Street and Franklin Square, and work got underway in 1975. Unpaid premiums on hospitalization insurance for municipal employees in 1975 led to an investigation which resulted in grand jury indictments in 1976 of insurance man Michael Daher and former Mayor Randall C. Miller on charges of bribery. Both pleaded not guilty to the charges. A monument in Washington Park to honor the Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, - Pfc. Daniel D. Bruce and other soldiers who lost their lives in the Vietnam War and a proposed amphitheater highlighted Michigan City's observance of the Bicentennial year in 1976.
The Making of a Community was written by Elwin G. Greening, editor of The News Dispatch. Information for the manuscript came basically from four historical volumes - The History of Michigan City, by Rollo B. Oglesbee and Albert Hale; The History of LaPorte County, Indiana, by Jasper Packard; Michigan City's First Hundred Years, by Elizabeth M. Munger, and Indiana, Vol. I, by Charles Roll and from the files of The News Dispatch.