Local History
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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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The first schools


Until 1890 Keener Township and DeMotte children were educated in one-room schools which dotted the countryside. The first two schools were Corn School, district 1 of Keener Township, erected in 1853, and located three miles due west of DeMotte. Tyler School, district II, was built in 1867 and was located one mile north and one mile east of DeMotte. There is a record of $52 being paid to Emma Downey for her services as a school teacher at Tyler School that year.

In 1876 Center School was built one mile west of DeMotte and the District I Corn School was abandoned and replaced with the Gleason School, also known as 'The Morning Star'. These one-room school buildings were used not only as schools, but by churches and as community centers to hold meetings in by the general populace. The teachers who taught in the schools were boarded by area families.

1923 DeMotte Basketball TeamIn 1867-68 school term, there were 22 pupils enrolled in Keener Township schools between the ages of six and 21. The schools were under the jurisdiction of school examiners until 1873 when the Office of School Examiners was discontinued and all records were turned over to the Jasper County Superintendent of Schools. This office continued jurisdiction of the educational needs of the students in the whole of Jasper County until the consolidation of the northern Jasper County schools into the Kankakee Valley School system.

By 1890, DeMotte had grown to the extent that a two-room, two-story frame building was erected in town on the corner of what is now 9th and Halleck Street where J & H Tire is located. The lower grades (1-3) were taught by Essie (Fairchild) Erwin and the upper grades (4-8) were taught by Edward O. Warren who hailed from Lawton, Oklahoma. They received salaries of $1.50 and $1.90 per day respectively.

After the river was dredged around 1910 and the swamp land confined within the banks of the Kankakee, the population in DeMotte and Keener Township began to explode. The small schools no longer served the purpose they were so aptly designed for in the simpler times of the early settlers.


In 1914 a new brick structure was constructed where the elementary school sits today. John White owned the property where the new school was to be built. Part of the deal included White getting the old two-room school and the property where it sat across the street in exchange for the land for the school. He remodeled the building into a home for himself and his family.

A principal and three teachers comprised the staff at the new school and a freshman class was begun. In 1918, DeMotte High School graduated its first senior class of three girls. There was no graduating class in 1919. The junior class the previous year had one student who had moved away. In 1920, one student was graduated.

In 1919, the district schools (one-room schools) in Keener Township were consolidated into the Keener Township Consolidated School (DeMotte School). There were about 300 students at this time in all of Keener Township including DeMotte. Because of consolidation, more room was needed and an addition to the building was made. In 1920 the high school was commissioned.

In 1933, it was again necessary to build more classrooms. A two-room frame building was constructed and used by the first and second grade. In the spring of 1936 another addition was made to the building consisting of a gymnasium, study hall and high school classrooms. The DeMotte School enrollment that year, grades 1-12, was 335.

By 1954, it was apparent that the DeMotte School was seriously overcrowded to the point that half-day classes were being considered. In the fall of 1954, Kenneth Zeck, president of the PTA, took the bull by the horns and had a survey conducted as to the enrollment, future enrollment and the capacity of each school room in comparison to minimum state requirements. The results of this survey were presented at a meeting of the PTA in January 1955 by the faculty members. At this meeting a committee was appointed to choose a School Study Committee representative of the entire township. They were: Ralph DeKock, chairman; Howard Evans - vice chairman; Doris Zeck - secretary; Albert K. Belstra; Peter J. Walstra; Mrs. Louis Ramp; Thomas Abbring; John H. Boezeman and Paul Stangle - ex officer.

The committee recommended both remodeling of the old building and construction of new elementary rooms plus a gymnasium/auditorium. This project would also require buying additional ground to comply with state regulations.

Much to the consternation of former DeMotte High School students, this building was totally demolished in 1984 to make way for the building that is now DeMotte Elementary.


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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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