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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DeMotte Elementary School


(This article is a series of interviews with Principal Fred Rossmanith and teachers documenting the changes that have taken place at DeMotte Elementary School since the incorporation of the Kankakee Valley School system.)

DeMotte Elementary has undergone a remarkable transformation since its inception in 1970 after the Kankakee Valley School Corporation became an entity.

At the helm of the transformation since that time has been principal Fred Rossmanith. Rossmanith attended local schools and graduated from the University of Indianapolis with a degree in education. He was awarded his Master's Degree from Valparaiso University and received his principal's license shortly thereafter.

Rossmanith was trained as a reading specialist and was teaching in the Lowell School system when he was recruited by then Superintendent James Moore to head up the DeMotte Elementary School, grades 1-6 and the Kniman school.

The Kniman school was a small elementary school which housed grades 1-8. It was located in Kniman, in Walker Township south of DeMotte, and was brought into the incorporation of the Kankakee Valley system.

Until this time there had been one principal for grades 1-12 that were all housed at the DeMotte School.

DeMotte Public School, approximately 1920Unfortunately, when Rossmanith arrived in the fall of 1970, the Kankakee Valley School Corporation was in the throes of merging DeMotte, Wheatfield and Kniman schools. The high school building between DeMotte and Wheatfield was not yet completed although the students from Wheatfield and DeMotte were integrated. This created chaos in finding classroom space throughout the corporation.

After the 7th through 12th grade students were moved to the newly completed high school facility in January, 1971, DeMotte Elementary had three sections of each grade, 1-6.

Jody (Belstra) Huhn was a sixth grade student in the 1970-71 school year. She said that classes were held in portable buildings which had been set up on the school grounds. Huhn said the school had a cafeteria serving hot meals and those wishing to buy milk could do so from a small crate outside the cafeteria. The price for a carton of milk in those days was four cents.

After the Kniman school was closed and those students were moved to the DeMotte School, the school expanded to four sections of each grade in the elementary.

Rossmanith said when they moved the school equipment from Kniman to DeMotte Elementary he borrowed a truck from a local farmer. They loaded up the desks and items they were going to use and transported them to DeMotte via the farmer's truck.

Mrs. Inez Walther was the Headstart teacher at the Kniman school and she came to DeMotte Elementary in 1972 to teach a first grade class. She recently reminisced about her last years teaching and said she occasionally sees some of the students of the 1972 class. She had her yearbook out and read some of the names, recalling fondly the time she spent with the students.


Rossmanith said that the old school held approximately 700 students and that was a huge responsibility that he took very seriously. During one fall, a tornado swept through DeMotte hitting the gasoline station just north of the school. He said he and the faculty shepherded all 700 students to the basement to safety.

Rossmanith said they had only about 5-7 minutes notice before the storm hit. The students responded to the emergency so responsibly he was very proud of them.
In 1972, John Shank came to the DeMotte school as assistant principal and sixth grade teacher. He continues to shape the students of DeMotte Elementary with a caring attitude and an understanding of what it takes to provide a quality environment for children to learn.

Kindergarten was started in the fall of 1974. It was held in the two-room wooden structure which was built in 1933 to house the first and second grades. This structure was torn down during the 1984-85 renovation of the school.

The Kankakee Valley Middle School was opened in 1979 and the seventh and eighth grade students from both DeMotte and Wheatfield were moved to the new middle school location at the high school complex. This gave both schools much needed space.

A growth in the population of the Keener Township/DeMotte area in the 1970's created a need for a larger facility. During the remodeling of the DeMotte Elementary building in 1984-85, students had classes in some strange locations. Mrs. Joselyn Lucas, kindergarten teacher, taught a class of 24 in a girl's locker room. She frequently had to stop her lessons due to the noise of a jackhammer at work breaking up a concrete sidewalk next to her room.

When the remodeling was completed, the library was moved from its' old location to the new in a rather ingenious way. Adeline Jolink, librarian at the time, organized the students in a chain from the second story library of the old building to the new library. The books were handed down, in order, from child to child and placed where they belonged on the shelves in the new room. Rossmanith said, "It worked."

When the old school building was torn down many DeMotte residents were not happy. Shirley Zeck, former DeMotte student and an active member in the DeMotte Historical Society, said that many people felt that the building should be saved. Architects for the building project felt it was impractical to utilize the old building.

Many former students took bricks home in remembrance of the old building and of the many fond memories of their school days at DeMotte High School. That piece of history now exists only in picture form.


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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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