Local History
and Such

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 remembers incorporation


(The article below was contributed by Art Lageveen as he remembers the reasoning and activities that were happening concerning the incorporation of DeMotte. Lageveen was elected to serve on the first DeMotte Town Board.)

In early 1965 the DeMotte Businessmen's organization had been holding meetings and the feelings were strong that something should be done regarding incorporating the town. Committees were formed to study the issue, both pro and con.

A rumor was going around that Gerrit Van Keppel, developer of Prospect Hills subdivision and shopping center, was going to incorporate the north end of town where the new developments were cropping up.

I was in the habit of going to the DeMotte Cafe every afternoon for coffee. I worked in the family department store and this was a welcome break. I happened to meet Boyd Schwanke, the local Post Master, there one afternoon as he was taking his break.

We discussed the incorporation situation and mentioned it to Gerrit. He was very enthusiastic about the idea of incorporation and became very active in the cause. He hired his own lawyer, Leo Clifford from Valparaiso to help the town.

That seemed to be the deciding moment, someone to back the incorporation financially, with the drive to get it done. It was not long after that, that the petition to incorporate the town was presented to the Jasper County Commissioners and the rest is history.

I cannot fully express my gratitude to the people that helped and supported us, nor forget completely the disappointment in those that opposed us. The opposition tried to make it look like we, the proponents, were doing something wrong, illegal or self-serving. In fact, I believe that time has shown that none of the first town board members seem to have benefited personally. If anything, we lost friends and customers. One lesson I learned was that whenever you try to make a change while in office, there will be opposition.


I believe those on the first town board were very dedicated, as were the people who supported them. They were dedicated to the idea of DeMotte becoming an incorporated town, let the chips fall where they may.

Thinking back to before incorporation - on Halloween nights there was a lot of damage done. Outhouses were placed in front of stores, tires and junk on top of that. The windows of the stores were soaped and waxed until you could not see through them. Groups of youths roamed the streets looking for something they could carry off or tip over.

One Halloween a large bonfire was lit in the middle of the highway near the railroad crossing. Cars could not cross, and it was quite a while until the county sheriff arrived to over see the removal.

Break-ins were quite common with the nearest police about twenty miles away. It was hard for them to patrol such a large area.

Downtown DeMotte, 1958Another problem was street lights, and getting someone to pay for them. The businessmen on main street contracted with NIPSCO to put some lights along the main street. They were paid for with donations by persons in town and there were probably less than 10 lights.

These and many other problems faced the town and could be corrected by incorporating. A public meeting was held by the DeMotte Businessmen's Association at the DeMotte School Cafeteria to discuss the proposed incorporation of DeMotte.

Reports were given on some of the services an advantages of being an incorporated town. This was followed by a general discussion period. Persons with objections were heard with most of the complaints from those worrying about higher taxes and farm animals in town.

Profile /Herald excerpts from Thursday, August 10, 1965 A large group of interested citizens were on hand earlier this week at the Jasper County Courthouse, when the county commissioners considered the petition to incorporate the town of DeMotte.

Kankakee Valley Post excerpts from September 23, 1965 The Jasper County Commissioners Tuesday a.m. formally approved an ordinance declaring the Town of DeMotte to be incorporated as of September 21, 1965. The DeMotte voters will go to the polls Monday October 11, to elect five trustees and a clerk treasurer of the newly incorporated town.

Gary Post Tribune excerpts from October 12, 1965 A ban, on the election ordered a week ago by Jasper County Circuit Court Judge Moses Leopold in response to a petition challenging the legality of the incorporation, was lifted Saturday by Judge Leopold. Within eight hours after the temporary restraining order against the DeMotte election had been lifted Friday afternoon, both major parties had selected candidates for balloting Monday. Republicans won the clerk treasurers seat as well as all seats on the town board. Elected to the town board seats were: Ernest Eenigenburg, James Coffer, Donald Fieldhouse, Charles Abbring and Arthur Lageveen, Jr.

Gary Post Tribune excerpts from February 9, 1967 Bill 1766 was introduced in the House of the Indiana General Assembly last week that would validate the Incorporation of DeMotte as a town, and would establish by statute the legality of the elections of the town officials and their subsequent actions.

Gary Post Tribune excerpts from February 28, 1967 Senator Earl Landgrebe said today he is prepared to push through a bill approved by the House which would legalize the Town of DeMotte before the deadline Monday at midnight.

Gary Post Tribune excerpts from March 16, 1967 With the stroke of his pen last Saturday, Governor Roger D. Branigan signed into law a bill which gave the town of DeMotte full status as an incorporated town. The bill, introduced by Representatives Quentin Blachly and King Telle, both of Valparaiso, passed the House by the vote of 80-0. The bill was then sent to the Senate where Senators Earl Landgrebe and Marvin Stewart were co-sponsors. The bill passed 37-0. Under the provisions of the bill, the previously elected office holders will remain in office.

Kankakee Valley Post excerpts from February 8, 1968 In a meeting of the Town Board of DeMotte last week, the board members agreed to disannex from the incorporated Town of DeMotte the following petitioned property owned by: Ben Hoffman, Julius Holm-Hansen, John Zoeteman, Cornelious Abbring, Don Radtke, Clarence Walstra, Charles Streveler, Ben Swart, Wes Mosier and Wesley Van Drunen.

There had been discussion about disannexing when the town board and other citizens met in Indianapolis during the Senate hearings. A court suit was brought against the town but the lawyers agreed with the town board to disannex those who had filed the suit. This allowed the DeMotte Town Board to proceed as a town and receive state and federal monies. This would also avoid further litigation. It seems to me looking back that this was the best choice, otherwise we would have had to start all over again with the incorporation.

Today we can be proud of our town with its new town hall, modern police force, street lights, planning and zoning, and many other benefits. I believe it has led to the fast and orderly growth that we see today.

If I had the choice as to whether or not to try and incorporate the town, I would try it again with all the other good people who worked to make it happen. But this time, we would make sure the petition was filed correctly.


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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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