Foreword & Acknowledgement
Before the White Man/Coming of the
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
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
Lageveen Remembers Incorporation
Belstra Remembers When...
Kankakee Valley Schools
DeMotte Elementary School
(DeMotte) Christian School
Mark L. DeMotte
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
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
St. Cecilia Catholic Church
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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Dredging of the Grand
(The following article was
written by Purdue students in 1993 and furnished to the Kankakee Valley
Post-News for reprinting.)
Some have compared it to the Florida Everglades, others the Louisiana
bayou, if in fact this is true, what has mankind done to the Grand
Fifteen thousand years ago the Wisconsin glacier receded to the north and
as a result the Grand Kankakee Marsh was formed. The Kankakee River in
northern Indiana was not large, but its meandering covered a course of
two-hundred and forty miles in length and a flood plain spanning anywhere
from two to ten miles in width.
Because of the vast area that the river flowed, five hundred thousand
acres of wetland bordered it banks. The Kankakee housed an environment
rich in waterfowl, fur-bearing animals, large game and aquatic life.
Formed by the watershed of this grandiose acreage, the river ran from
South Bend westward across the Illinois border where it widened, joined
the Illinois River and then the Mississippi.
the Indiana/Illinois line existed a large limestone slab spanning greater
than three hundred feet in width. This barrier was a major factor in the
damming of the marsh, holding back the water that created the wetlands.
The land remained very flat, falling only five inches in a mile.
Uninhabitable to humans, the wetlands initially were fished, hunted, and
trapped by the local Potowatomi Indians; creating a natural way of life
and a respect of nature. Unfortunately this life would soon cease to
exist. In 1838 approximately 700 to 850 Indians were marched on the 'Trail
of Tears' from what is now near Plymouth, Indiana to Kansas. A few Indians
were granted amnesty if they were 'Americanized'. As Ira Fry, (who lives
at LaCrosse) stated during an interview, "This was a black day in the
history of our country."
With the westward movement of the French traders came the incredible
exploitation of such a fruitful land. From the time of their arrival, the
French heavily trapped beaver, muskrat, mink and other animals.
Ira Fry (who is nearing the century mark in age) remembers muskrat houses
so dense in part of the Kankakee that one could practically cross it
without getting their feet wet.
With news of such a rich land ahead, pioneers came and settled the land
clear-cutting the timber to make way for agriculture with the hope of
prolific yields. Shortly after the construction of Baum's Bridge another
resource was greatly exploited.
Saw mills popped up along the Kankakee when settlers realized the value of
the timber on and around their land. The bridge allowed wagons and horses
to cross where ferries once were the only link.
Another occurrence that exploited the swamp's timber resource was the
Chicago fire of 1871. Large Red and White Oaks, Beeches and Maples were
cut and sent to Chicago to rebuild the city. Today all the timber has been
cleared, except for the Kankakee Fish and Wildlife area.
Over time this world renowned fishing and hunting area where famous people
such as Theodore Roosevelt and Benjamin Harrison hunted, and where General
Lew Wallace wrote 'Ben Hur', became nothing of its former self. Because
farmers saw the water as a liability rather than an asset, they took it
upon themselves to start the channelization of the Grand Kankakee.
In order for the land to be drained, the demolition of
the limestone slab took place. A channel was cut through the rock two and
a half feet deep and three hundred feet wide, breaking free a site that
for so long had been slow and peaceful. Further measures were taken by
locals to channel the river upstream.
Channelization upstream increased the velocity of the water and evidence
of erosion and siltation quickly took place causing added flooding
eventually drawing the federal, state and local governments to finance the
extensive channeling that was to take place.
1884, channelization was underway, forcing out those who held this land by
the river as a scenic getaway. Two hundred and forty miles of river that
once wound itself through the landscape was reduced to ninety miles of
straight channel by the year 1917; five hundred thousand acres of wetland
had been reduced to a mere thirty thousand, leaving black soil high in
organic matter available to the hungry pioneer.
In 1931 efforts to restore the wetlands began. Although proposals for the
restoration of one hundred thousand acres were sought after, only a few
small areas were mitigated. We now know these lands as the LaSalle and
Kankakee Fish and Wildlife areas.
In 1976 and again in 1989 extensive studies were produced by the Kankakee
River Basin Commission. These studies gave guidelines on what might be
done with the land in relation to the present flooding of cropland, the
deterioration of wetland habitats, and future recreational use.
Many proposals were offered, of which one would be of substantial
consequence. The wide levee project would expand the existing wetland up
to two miles wide in some places.
The first phase has been completed, however the construction of future
phases are unknown at this time.