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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Belstra remembers when . . .


(The following article was written by Albert K. (Bud) Belstra as he remembers DeMotte before incorporation.)

Unincorporated DeMotte was home of the Keener Township School, DeMotte Indians, and Charlie Curtin, the New York Central railroad agent whose watch was the source of the correct railroad time. Many a clock was set weekly by Charlie's time, so that church bells could be rung on time on Sunday morns, farmers could then set their watches by church bell time.

DeMotte was home to "Cale" Cheever and Cheever's Garage and to the Konovsky Elevator. It was home to stores owned by the Swarts, DeKocks, Lageveens, home to Mary's Restaurant, DeYoung's John Deere, DeKock IHC, and the list goes on. Change, both good and not so good.

So, too, livestock and poultry production are not the same. I became a feed mill hand in 1940, employed by C.H. (Neil) Kaper. After nearly four years in the US Army, my old job was waiting for me. Neil sent me to several short course poultry and livestock schools. I went to school under the G.I. Bill and with on-the-job training I became a feed salesman.

Street Scene in the late 1950sThere were a number of feed salesmen in the area, none of whom were especially welcome to a busy farmer. I tried to make my calls constructive. Most farmers had a dairy herd (small by today's standards), a few sows, and the farm wife kept a flock of chickens.

In pre-REMC days, many owned a kerosene heated incubator for hatching their own baby chicks. Along in the 40's, local commercial hatcheries became the source of chicks, eliminating those kerosene fumes from the house. Ours, here at DeMotte, was Melchert Farm Hatchery, owned and operated by Al Melchert. He became rather famous in the area for his New Hampshire Reds, a brown egg dual purpose bird. Farm wives bought them straight-run (unsexed), usually in late winter or early spring. For Sunday dinner, weeks on end, finger-licking crisp fried chicken was the fare until all the roosters were used up.


Feed for the laying hens came from the crib and granary except for some 'mixins' from DeMotte Feed Sales & Service. Eggs were often traded for groceries on Wednesday and Saturday nights. It was sort of understood that the hens were "mother's" so long as they paid for groceries. If some money was left, there just might be an order placed with Sears or "Monkey Wards" for a new dress. Can you imagine taking a case of eggs to Tysen's today?

In the 1950s in Cheevers GaragePigs were called the "mortgage lifters", making the annual farm payment. The monthly milk check was usually the major income, keeping the farm and home afloat.

Most crops were consumed by the farm's animals. A lot of farmers came to the feed mill with their weekly grists (bags of grain) loaded on their autos.

In 1954 the name of the feed mill was changed to Belstra when Neil directed his attention to the lumber business. Since then farm-flock size has grown from a few hundred chickens to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, such as Rose Acres with their many millions of hens. So, too with pigs. Sow herds number from several hundred to several thousand. Beef cattle and dairy, too, are far from the same as they were in the 1940's. Feed needs have grown from scoop shovels to large bulk deliveries of rations especially formulated for high efficiency.

Sam E. Kingma and Caleb Cheever in the late 1950sNeil has passed on. Kaper's has for a long time been a major player in the building materials and supply game. The feed business has been good to the Belstras, thanks to the farm community.

Gone are businessmen Peter J. Walstra, "Cale" Cheever and his sons, Ivan, Elbert and Maurice. And Case DeKock and sons, Ralph, Sam, and Hank. And Neil Sekema, Bill Swart, Art Lageveen, Sr., Ed DeBruin, Otto DeYoung (senior and junior), Charlie Curtin, Al Konovsky, and others, all of whom contributed to the growth and success of DeMotte. May the same be said some day of us.


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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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