Foreword & Acknowledgement
Before the White Man/Coming of the
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
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
Lageveen Remembers Incorporation
Belstra Remembers When...
Kankakee Valley Schools
DeMotte Elementary School
(DeMotte) Christian School
Mark L. DeMotte
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
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
St. Cecilia Catholic Church
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.