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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Northern Indiana Land
Information for this
article was gleaned from an article which appeared in the Kankakee Valley
Post-News on September 14, 1978 as the result of an interview with Dick
and Irene Evans and information from Leonard (Buzz) Swart, Sr.)
If you drive north on 700W and look to
the right just before you approach the intersection with 1350N, you will
see a very large farmhouse that has a most unusual historical background
dating back to the late 1800's.
Howard and Emily Evans purchased the 480 acres of land near DeMotte in
1941 shortly after the country was pulling out of the "Great Depression'.
Because the existing buildings are some of the oldest in Jasper County and
have historical significance, the Evans family tries to preserve and
The farm is a corporation owned by the Evans family and operated by Dick
and Irene Evans.
According to Dick, interesting facts of history are recorded in the Title
Abstracts of Jasper County at the courthouse in Rensselaer. After the war
of 1812 Congress approved an act granting 'Bounty Land' to certain
officers and soldiers who were engaged in the military service of the
United States. Eighty acres of this land was granted to Private James. H.
Bowles of Captain Boughton's Company, New York Militia-1812.
The property passed through several owners until September 10, 1890. At
that time the property was sold to Nelson Morris of Chicago and it is
believed he built the original buildings.
On May 2, 1904 the property was sold to the Northern Indiana Land Company
which was a corporation of the following people: Simon J. Strauss, Ike
Strauss, Abe Goldsmith, Odell Oldfather, all of Ligonier, Ind.; Abe
Ackerman, Fort Wayne; Albert Goslee, Chalmers; and Charles Van Voorst and
William S. Potter, both of Lafayette.
The Land Company bought approximately 36,000 acres of land north of the
DeMotte and Wheatfield. It ranged from Route 49 on the east (which was
called East End) to three miles west of DeMotte one mile short of County
Line. This was dubbed West End.
There was a North and South End, also. North End was three miles north of
Wheatfield. All boundaries were south of the Kankakee. A ranch house was
built in all four quadrants within the boundary. The houses were known as
According to the 1978 interview with Leonard (Buzz) Swart, Sr., he was
born and raised on the adjacent farm north of the Evans property. Swart
said the Indiana Land Company had a lot of horses, along with raising
cattle, hogs and grain farming. They also cut down trees and shipped the
timber to other parts. Charles Enz was the overseer for the corporation.
The Evan's house was the main headquarters for the
corporation because it was more centrally located. It's believed that the
house was built in the 1890's. It was three stories high. The first floor
contained a big kitchen, pantry, two dining rooms, two bedrooms, and an
office. The second floor had six bedrooms, and an extra room on the east
end for washing and hanging up work clothes to dry.
The third floor was one long room with bunks for sleeping. The end of this
room had a horse tank that held water for drinking and washing purposes.
The plumbing was different than it is today. Water was forced up three
floors by a pump, called a gravity-fed water system. The tank was so large
and heavy it was placed on the third floor before the roof was put on.
The heating system consisted of a wood stove in every room. When the
Evans' purchased the house in 1941 it had five chimneys. There were three
porches on the house, on the front, the side and the back. Under the
kitchen was a cellar for storing fruits and vegetables. In all, there was
over 5000 square feet of living space. Today the home has been completely
remodeled into a two-family dwelling.
The ranch hands kept their boats at the headquarters and at night liked to
congregate there to banter back and forth a little bit and have a little
fun. It was their recreational spot. Jay Paxton, his wife and family lived
in and cooked for the crew. They also cleaned and took care of the upkeep
on the house and barns.
Swart said when he was a boy a farmer named George Marr lived in the house
before the Paxtons. He said Marr liked to fish and he bought frogs from
him (Swart) for 10 cents a dozen to use as fish bait for trot lines.
The two original buildings still standing on the Evans farm are the house,
and barn just north of it. Today the barn is a corn crib. Years ago it was
a horse barn which was built around 1920. There are four other barns in
Jasper County of this particular design. They were primarily used to feed
cattle but because they had big haylofts they were an excellent place to
have barn dances.
Barn dances were a popular form of entertainment up until World War II.
Times were hard and there was little money for frivolous use. The barn
dance served as a lighter outlet for the hard times people were going
through and was a way for neighbors to gather and keep in touch with one
another. Word would pass as to whom would be having the next dance and all
the neighbors, both young and old, for miles around were invited. There
was always someone who could play a fiddle and possibly another musical
instrument and someone to call the sets for the square dancing. Round
dancing and jigging was also popular at the dances in those days. After
the war transportation was greatly improved plus more affordable, and the
barn dances were replaced by other forms of entertainment.
Most farmers at that time used horses to bale hay. Since the Land Company
had tractors, due to the magnitude of their enterprise, the manufacturers
of the tractors used their ground as a testing site.
McCormick Harvester merged with the Deering Company and then changed their
name to International Harvester. They tested their equipment at the farm
to see if the machinery would hold up under tough working conditions. The
wild hay which grew everywhere on flat ground had such a massive root
system it was hard to plow. Tom (William) Cheever was a local blacksmith
who worked for the Harvester Company.
The Land Company rented land to local farmers and they baled hay all
summer on shares. In the winter the farmers hunted and trapped and sold
their furs to large furriers in Chicago. The land at Evans' farm was
marshy, but the land about a mile north was so swampy that, as Swart put
it, "A cow or horse would sink so that all you see was its head. They were
known to completely disappear. The farmers tugged and pulled them out, but
they only lived for a few days." Swart called the ground 'muck' and the
area was called 'Devil's Hole'. He said there was about 100 acres of it.
Swart said there were a lot of snakes and frogs around then but none of
them were poisonous, just bullsnakes, spreading vipers, blue racers, and
The Northern Indiana Land Company was a big instigator in promoting the
dredging and straightening of the Kankakee River. Previously the river was
a slow, winding river that meandered through the countryside without much
current. There were no banks or levees and in places it was a mile wide
spilling into the low places. When the river was dredged it enabled the
marshland to be controlled and the river's banks kept the water confined
except during a time of flooding, usually in the early spring.
In those early days the main road to Hebron was 700W. After the dredging
was completed it was referred to as the 'old grade' and the road going
over the bridge on US 231 became the 'new grade'.
Swart said the Land Company sold all their farm equipment and stock at an
auction in 1924. He said they had so much it took two days to auction it
all off, which was unheard of in those days.
The Land Company had a big mortgage on the ranch and finally lost it to
Kenneth Knowles and Company who foreclosed on it in the early 30's. The
new owners rented out the land and eventually sold it to their tenants.
Many of the present day owners bought their land from Knowles and Company.