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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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Kankakee Valley Post-News

 

For several years until the middle of the 1920's, the Kankakee Valley Review had been the weekly newspaper which served the area. The Review would be published for a while from Roselawn, then it would move to DeMotte, then to Wheatfield, back to Roselawn, etc.

On July 28, 1932 the first edition of the Post was published at DeMotte. The paper has had various publishers and editors over the years and has undergone two or three name changes, but it has served the DeMotte community as its own weekly newspaper since 1932.

The Runyon Printing Company was the first to publish the Post. The first edition stated in part, "The success of the newspaper is measured by its service to the communities it represents and is supported by, and it will be our endeavor at all times to promote the welfare of this region and its inhabitants. Schools, church and civic welfare will ever find a ready and willing champion in the columns of the Post."

The news in the Post encompassed all of northern Jasper County and part of Newton County as it does today.

The October 6, 1932 issue reported DeMotte held its first community meeting and decided to meet monthly on the last Tuesday of the month. The following officers were elected: Cecil Thurner - president; Richard Tysen - vice-president; Charles Curtin - secretary and Mrs. Henry Swart - treasurer.

Kankakee Valley Post-News building which also housed the first libraryThe first publishers didn't last long. On December 1, 1932 the Post combined with the Griffith Herald and was then published by R.L. Joiner. The paper's office was located in the DeMotte Bank building.

Joiner sold the paper on February 2, 1933 to J. Barton Cox and his wife. Cox and his family moved to DeMotte from Owensville, Indiana where he had been editor of the Owensville Star. Cox also began a print shop for flyers and auction bills.

Since the depression was taking its toll on the country, Cox ran a promotion for subscriptions saying, "Swap Produce For Your Subscription." He indicated he would take chickens, eggs, honey, apples, potatoes, popcorn, nuts, canned fruit and vegetables, turkeys, lard, geese, beans, or 'what have you'. If you were a subscriber, you also got free classifieds.

The Post duly noted that on June 1, 1933, Mrs. Roy True became postmistress at DeMotte. She replaced Sadie Fairchild.

That same month, John Terborg announced plans to a start a coffee roasting plant. Nick Zylstra started the building in November. Terborg called it the Colonial Coffee Company and it was located between Curtin Bros. Restaurant and the Post Office on the west side of Lilly Street (Halleck St.). Since 1921, Terborg had been working out of his home selling coffee, teas and other supplies to retail and wholesale merchants.

In an editorial Cox wrote in December 1933, he said, "an inventory of the Town of DeMotte gives the following information: There are 35 business firms which includes one of the largest department stores in northwest Indiana, groceries, gasoline stations and garages, a good bank, three of the best restaurants found anywhere, a feed mill, lumber and coal yards, machinery and building material firms, cheese and pickle factories, beauty parlor and barber shops, general stores, hardware, newspaper and job printing shop, hotel, sheet metal shops, drug store..."

According to Cox, it had once been considered to change the name of DeMotte to Swartville. During the time Cox published the Post he editorialized almost weekly on the need for DeMotte to incorporate. The subject was very controversial, and the ones against incorporation accused him of 'harping'. Cox identified the early advocates of incorporation (besides himself) as 'Stub' Fairchild, Al Konovsky, and Frank Hart.

On May 23, 1940, Cox sold the Post to Mary Peterson from Tampico, Illinois and her nephew, Richard Ruck. Cox bought another newspaper and moved to Syracuse, Indiana.

Peterson owned the paper until May 25, 1946 when she sold the plant and newspaper to Alvin Johnson from Michigan City. Under Johnson, Dorothy Van Dam became the advertising representative making weekly calls on the merchants.

Johnson soon sold the Post. On October 1, 1946, Keith Robinson purchased the paper. Robinson's father owned the Rensselaer Republican. Robinson changed the banner of the paper to the Kankakee Valley Post.

That same month, Evelyn Kelly (she later became Evelyn Roorda) began collecting news and advertising for the KV Post. In November, the paper moved to a small building located north of the railroad in DeMotte and Blanche Henrich became the office manager. Henrich later became editor of the KV Post, a position she remained in until 1968.

 

The first Lions Club was organized May 27, 1947. In 1948 the club, in cooperation with the Northern Indiana Power and Light Company, diagrammed the streets of DeMotte for a network of street lights. The system called for an outlay of $1800 per year for five years by the townspeople and involved installing 43 street lights. Al Ewart, Neil Kaper, Louis Hoekstra, Sam DeKock and Otto DeYoung, Jr., were in charge of the drive to contact the merchants and townspeople about providing funds for the lights.

It took two years, but in June, 1950 the Civic Improvement committee (consisting of Bruce Todd, Otto DeYoung, Jr., Sam DeKock and Paul Bauman) of the DeMotte Lions Club, signed a contract with Northern Indiana Public Service Company to install street lights the length of highway 53 within the town limits. Although representing the Lions Club, those four men guaranteed the cost of installation and electric service for a period of five years. On October 11, 1950 the lights were turned on at a dedication ceremony at which Congressman Charles Halleck was the guest speaker.

In 1954, George Konovsky drew up the plans for a new fire house to be built in DeMotte. American Legion Post #440 donated tent space at their annual 'Homecoming' festival which was being held for four days in July that year. The drawings of the proposed building were displayed and donations were solicited at the 'Homecoming'.

In June, 1955 the new building was dedicated. The following men were the officers and members of the fire department in 1955: Maurice Cheever, fire chief; Gus Bormann - assistant fire chief; Jack Stellingwerf - secretary/treasurer; firemen - Bob Walstra, Neil Kaper, LaVern Blankenbaker, Einar Anderson, Bob Kelly, Otto DeYoung, Jr., and Paul Bauman.

It was noted at the dedication service that the new fire station, the fire fighting equipment and the E & J resuscitator were the evidence of more than 20 years of labor and planning, on the part of many people, to make it all a reality.

Although the talk of incorporation was always looming in the background of the minds of the businessmen, it wasn't until October 2, 1959 that the subject came to the forefront again. A public incorporation meeting was held at that time. Although it would take eight more years after that meeting to accomplish, incorporation was without doubt the most momentous event in DeMotte history.

Gerald Kenning became editor of the KV Post in November of 1969 after Blanche Henrich retired. In 1971 the newspaper underwent another name change when Robinson purchased the Jasper County News, a paper affiliated with the Democrat party. He consolidated the two papers into the Kankakee Valley Post-News.

On April 1, 1973, Robinson purchased the Profile/Herald, a weekly newspaper published at Wheatfield which was owned and operated by Joan Whitaker. Whitaker then came to the Kankakee Valley Post-News where she served as editor and general manager for 23 years until her retirement in 1996.

Under the management of Whitaker, the newspaper grew steadily from a small eight-page weekly to a large weekly supporting over 32 pages in each issue. In 1975 the four-page DeMotte Shopper was renamed the Action Plus, a shopping guide with an average of 16-pages published weekly in addition to the newspaper.

In ill health, Robinson sold the group of newspapers he owned in 1978 to the Dear Corporation of Henderson, Kentucky. Robinson owned the Kankakee Valley Post-News along with the Rensselaer Republican, Morocco Courier and Remington Press. Since that time the Kankakee Valley Post-News has been-owned by the Thomson newspaper group, American Publishing newspaper group and in February 1996 was purchased by the Community Media Group out of West Frankfort, Illinois.

After Whitaker's retirement February 1, 1996, Sally Snow became editor and general manager of the Kankakee Valley Post-News. The paper has 11 employees in 1997.

   

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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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