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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Lageveen looks back


(The following article was written by Art Lageveen remembering DeMotte before incorporation. Lageveen was elected to sit on the first town board that served after incorporation.)

Thinking back on the things that transpired before the incorporation goes back many years.

One of the first memories I have is of the main business district burning a huge cloud of black smoke billowing up into the sky. I was in the first grade and I was standing by the fence watching, knowing that my dad and his store were over there somewhere in that black smoke. That was in 1936 the year that the town burned.

It was never determined how the fire started, but it was believed that burning trash was the cause.

Many people rushed to help move merchandise from the buildings. Some people loaded their cars and drove away, others carried clothing across the street where the heat caught it on fire. Some clothing, shoes and groceries were saved by taking them to a garage that was located across from what is now the DeMotte Fire House. That building today houses ConvaCare.

Within a couple of days Art Lageveen, Sr., plus Sam and Henry DeKock had opened up shop again selling what had been salvaged from their stores. The owners of the burned buildings soon started rebuilding making the stores better than they were before.

Ralph DeKock, Sam DeKockm and Art Lageveen, Sr.On the east side of the street was the DeMotte State Bank and next to it was a barber shop. Next to them, the other buildings were burned and not replaced until in later years.

I remember on the west side of the street was Bill Swart's Grocery & Hardware, Lageveen's Dry Goods, Mary's Restaurant (run by Henry and Ruth Starkey), Pop Rowen's Bakery, DeKock's Grocery and Hardware (owned by Sam and Henry DeKock), Herman and Marie Osting Shoes and Clothing, Otto DeYoung's John Deere Implements, U.S. Post Office, Al Ewart Insurance, Jerry's Barber Shop, with Jerry Knip as the barber. The DeMotte Cafe was next and had many owners over time.

Cheever's Garage was on the corner. Maurie and Elb fixed many an automobile. They also pulled them out of the ditches and gave stranded motorists free gas to get them on their way. Ed DeBuin had a grocery store next to Cheever's.


Across the road to the south was a gas station and across from the station was a large building with a rounded roof once used as a gym, meeting hall and many other uses.

Wiers Chevrolet and Fieldhouse Ford were the auto dealers in town. The former Orsburn Texaco and Shell gas stations changed hands several times Paul Bush, Corky Barker and Rudy Zylstra, to name a few. Blanche Henrichs worked for the newspaper collecting advertising.

Art Lageveen as the BurgermeisterThe stores remained open on Wednesday and Saturday nights. People would come to town, stand on the street corners, visit and shop until late in the evening.

For a time during the summer months, the merchants hired a man to come to town and show free movies. The movies were quite old, and in black and white, but the children and adults loved them. I remember the old man that ran the projector would say, "Don't step and make a short in the wire!" This happened quite often and everything would go black.

These are memories of when I was growing up during the 40's, 50's and 60's. It was quite different then, there were no TV's, every one listened to the radio. Telephones were on party lines and operators worked at the switchboard connecting the callers. Highways were two lanes, and it took much longer to travel from city to city. Families spent more time together as did communities.

Times have changed since then but I like to think that DeMotte is still the same small town where businesses and businessmen still care for their customers. And the number of churches still out number the saloons. I believe the town my set a record for the number of churches per capita and that makes DeMotte a great place to live.


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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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