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DeMotte, Indiana History 1997

30 Years of Growth
100 Years of Tradition


Contents

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

C-SELM

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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Northern Indiana Land Company

 

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 maintain them.

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 "headquarters".

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 garter snakes.

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.

   

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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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