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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Fairchild and Tanner history


The proper name of what was once the winding, sprawling Kankakee River is actually the Marble-Powers Ditch. After the river was channeled its governmental classification was changed from a river to a ditch.

The river did not have banks or levees before it was dredged. In an account written by Effie (Garis) Fairchild on October 14, 1922 on her 76th birthday she said, "This part of the country was so flat and the Kankakee so crooked it would not carry the water off."

Mrs. Fairchild recounted that when she moved with her parents from Porter County to Jasper County they crossed the Kankakee on a ferry boat as there were no bridges. She said the area was plentiful with deer and other wild life and at night the howl and chatter of wolves were often heard.

According to Mrs. Fairchild the town of DeMotte now sits on what was once, "the thickest and best growth of timber on these uplands."

Effie Garis and her parents were among the first settlers, coming to Keener Township in 1856. In 1866, Acton Fairchild, his wife and two sons, Daniel and Elam arrived. Effie became the bride of Elam Fairchild.

Looking at the west of downtown DeMotte around 1906Mrs. Fairchild recounted that when she first came to these parts there were very few permanent settlers, "There were 'squatters' or 'floaters' as they were called. They would build a shack on any land, stay awhile and then move on." She said there were no roads as we know them today, "There was water in most of the marshes or low ground. We wound around (the low spots) to the groves and sandhills following someone else's wagon track by blazed (notched) trees. That is what is meant by blazing the trail."

She said most of the land was owned by men living in cities and held for speculation. Many of them failed or avoided paying taxes which were used to build roads and schools. Mrs. Fairchild said finally the Jasper County officials made the landholders pay their assessments and as others bought land and fenced it, roads and schools were slowly improved.


The early settlers longed to hear from the families they left behind, and were hungry for news of the outside world. "Finally," Mrs. Fairchild said, "The railroad came. A longed for link to the outside world, especially the mail."

She said before the train brought the mail it came "just any old way." She said it wasn't unusual to get it only once a month. The telephone was unheard of and telegrams were received only on railroad routes. If an important urgent message needed to be delivered to someone in the outland, it was sent to the nearest railroad depot and then brought by a rider on horseback to the person it was addressed to.

Kankakee River Bridge north of DeMotte, 1976In an interview given by Dan Tanner to Laverne Terpstra on December 28, 1994 he recalled his father telling him about the 'Corduroy Road' between DeMotte and Hebron. Tanner said, "The Old Grade was started as one of the first crossroads that went from Rensselaer to DeMotte and Hebron across the Kankakee River." He said, "This was the old Kankakee River, not the ditch they've got dug there now.'

Tanner said his father told him the road began about where 700W and 1700N intersect today and went north. He said the 'Corduroy Road' got its name from the fact that it was built out of logs. "They would cut the logs," Tanner said, "I don't know how long, but long enough so they could pass two wagons going and coming." The logs were laid side by side on top of the mud in such a way that those traveling the road wouldn't sink. A crude wooden bridge was made spanning the river allowing them to cross to the other side and onto another 'Corduroy Road' until they were on higher land.

Tanner's father told him that every spring the high water would wash the bridge away and some of the logs would pull out. When it got dry enough for the early settlers to go back in, they would rebuild it all over again.

After the Marble-Powers Ditch was dug, life changed in the Kankakee River Valley. Most would say that the change has been for the good, but not all are in total agreement.


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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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