Local History
and Such

DeMotte, Indiana History 1997

30 Years of Growth
100 Years of Tradition


Foreword & Acknowledgement

Before the White Man/Coming of the First Settlers

DeMotte Grows into a Town

Early Transportation & Farming

The First Schools

Dredging of the Grand Kankakee Marsh

Leonard Swart (Interview)

Casper Belstra (Interview)

Northern Indiana Land Company

The Halleck Telephone Company

DeMotte Mercantile Company

DeMotte Library Grows

Cheever's Garage

Eighty Years of Community Banking

Fairchild & Tanner History

Earl Schwanke Article

Keener Township Fire Department

(Art) Lageveen Looks Back

Fire Almost Destroys DeMotte in 1936

Kankakee Valley Post-News

Asparagus & Truck Farming

Businessmen's Association

Lageveen Remembers Incorporation

Belstra Remembers When...

Kankakee Valley Schools

DeMotte Elementary School

(DeMotte) Christian School

Mark L. DeMotte

Charlie Halleck

Walter Roorda, State Representative


Van Keppel Construction Company

Fire Destroys Main Building at Kaper's

The Hamstra Group

DeMotte Historical Society

Tysen's Family Food Center

Belstra Milling

The Fire of 1992

United Methodist Church

DeMotte Christian Church

Community Bible Church

Calvary Assembly of God

Bethel Christian Reformed Church

First Christian Reformed Church

Faith Lutheran Church

St. Cecilia Catholic Church

United Pentecostal

First Reformed Church

American Reformed Church

DeMotte Town Court

Incorporation of DeMotte

August 10 Incorporation Hearing

September 1965 Incorporation

First Town Board Election

The First Town Board

DeMotte Town Council 1969-1997

DeMotte Town Hall

DeMotte Park Board

Wastewater Treatment Begins

DeMotte Chamber of Commerce

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Early transportation and farming


The Indians had found the best routes through the swamps and marshland of the Kankakee River and certain passages were known as two-notch or three-notch routes. The early hunters and settlers used these routes and cut numerals into trees a mile apart so travelers could tell how far they had come and how far they had yet to go.

In the early 1800's, some of the routes were called wagon roads and were cleared of trees to a width of about 10 ft. to accommodate the covered wagons that passed through the area. Other routes were no more than foot paths or trails.

Travel and transportation was slow going during those early years. It took two days to travel to Rensselaer which was also the county seat at that time. Most of the roads were just wide paths which followed the early Indian trails. In 1899, a dirt highway was built through DeMotte which later become the concrete road across the Kankakee in the late 1920's. Wagons were used prior to the two-wheeled cart. George Nannenga was said to have owned the first two-wheeled cart with a buggy top in the area.

Work crew getting ready for highway 53 in 1927Travel was not only difficult, but often dangerous. The swamps and -prairies had no easy landmarks for guiding the traveler and few would venture across them at night except in the case of extreme necessity. The swamps and woods provided a convenient hiding place for criminals who were referred to as 'Bandits of the Prairie'. They engaged in horse stealing, counterfeiting and other crimes, often waylaying and robbing farmers who traveled the known trails and footpaths. Shortly before 1860, the Jasper Rangers were organized to help protect the settlers against such offenses. The area was so large and sparsely populated that ridding the territory of these criminals was not an easy task.


Several books have been written detailing the criminal activity which once was prevalent in the area.

John Evers on tractor in approximately 1940As the years passed before the turn of the century, drainage of the marshland became more widespread. This in effect lent itself to more extensive, productive farming in the area. In the early 1900's the whole of Jasper County was largely devoted to small acreages involved in general farming and raising livestock. Two exceptions were Otis Brothers Farms and the Northern Indiana Land Co. The land comprising the Otis enterprise laid south and southwest of DeMotte. The Land Company owned north of DeMotte to the east and west.

It was a never-ending task just to survive.

Farmers were almost self-sufficient in that they raised their own meat, eggs, grains and vegetables. Cows gave them milk and butter and bees provided them honey to use as a replacement for sugar. It was the job of the younger girls (usually) to churn the cream into butter.

Preparing 700 West for blacktopping in 1958A drainage company, the Kankakee Valley Draining Company, was organized as early as 1869 but it did not succeed in gaining the support of the landowners, probably due to the cost involved.

After the river was straightened and the marshlands drained farming became much more extensive. Some of the most productive farm ground in the Midwest is found near DeMotte in the Kankakee River valley. Today farming has become a science and is so fine -tuned the small farmer can no longer make a living off his land. He usually rents the ground he owns to the larger farmer who plants several hundred acres.

This century has probably seen more changes than any before in history. The changes in transportation alone seem to have shrunk planet Earth making mankind more aware of our surroundings than ever before.


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Historical and Community Content

NEW!! DeMotte, Indiana History (1997)

New project: American Life Histories, Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940
      (This will be an ongoing project with entries added frequently.)

Churches in DeMotte, Indiana

City Methodist - Gary's Sacred Ruin
     Selections from 1967 City Methodist Church Directory (January 2004)
     Historic Gary Church Set for Wrecking Ball (June, 2005)
     Aerial Photos of City Methodist (August, 2005)

Photographs of Historic Places in Jasper County, Indiana
     Jasper County Courthouse  (February, 2002)
     Rensselaer Carnegie Library (February, 2002)
     St. Joseph Indian Normal School (Drexel Hall) (February, 2002)
     Independence Methodist Church (October, 2002)
     Fountain Park Chautauqua (October, 2002)
     Remington Water Tower (February, 2005)

Memorial to Victims of Flight 4184 (February, 2002)

Lake Michigan Vistas (May, 2002)

Door Prairie Auto Museum (LaPorte, Indiana) (September, 2002)

Northwest Indiana District Church of the Nazarene former Campground (San Pierre, Lomax Station)
     Aerial Photos of former Campground (August, 2005)

Who's Who In the District (Northern Indiana Church of the Nazarene, 1939-40)

Nazarene Album (Northern Indiana District Church of the Nazarene, 1934)

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