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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Van Keppel Construction Company


(Excerpts in the following article appeared in a September 27, 1993 special issue of the Kankakee Valley-Post News and the History of DeMotte 1876-1976. It has been rewritten and edited by Joan Whitaker.)

Some say the growth of DeMotte into the small modern day mini-city that it now is, can be attributed to one man, Gerrit Van Keppel.

In 1955, Van Keppel purchased a tract of land one mile north of the downtown business district. On this land, he built the offices and warehouse for his Van Keppel Construction Company. He also started developing Hillside Shopping Center-East and the Prospect Hills subdivision, which has expanded over the years.

Van Keppel's company was involved in many other building projects around the area. He built around 85 schools in northwest Indiana (including Kankakee Valley High School), six to seven hospitals (including Broadway Methodist and Little Company of Mary at San Pierre), and NIPSCO's first two power plants, plus many other projects.

Van Keppel Construction CompanyDevelopment of the shopping center continued and eventually included Hillside Shopping Center-West. The first two stores were Beckmann's IGA (located in the spot now occupied by Bargains Galore), and Ace Hardware, which was located next to Beckmann's.

Gilbert 'Tim' Schultz started his business in a 25-foot by 60-foot building beside Beckmann's 25-foot by 60-foot building. When Schultz moved the hardware store down the street into bigger quarters, Beckmann knocked out the wall that had been between the grocery store and hardware store to make a larger facility. Other stores were added to the shopping center until it became what it is today. Ace Hardware now occupies 12,000 square feet on the upper level and 12,000 square feet on the lower level that is used as a warehouse.

Van Keppel served as the Second District commander of the American Legion. His company built the Legion hall in DeMotte.


He was also one of the driving forces behind the fight for the incorporation of DeMotte in 1965. Van Keppel said, "My secretary, Myrna Nordstrom helped quite a bit. My attorney, Leo Clifford flew in from Los Angeles in a snow storm for the hearing to help get the town incorporated."

Van Keppel said he was a bricklayer in the late 1940's and worked for other contractors until 1954, "Then I got a 1946 International pickup and a wheelbarrow a new Sears and Roebuck model and started my own business. I guess I've built around 300-400 homes. I had a crew of good men and a lot of ambition. I also farmed a couple thousand acres."

At the high point of his business, Van Keppel employed about a 1000 people in his contracting business. "People seem to like this area." Van Keppel said in a 1993 interview, "'s not too far from the workplace."

Van Keppel said his son, Dave, now runs the heavy equipment and building supply business. His son-in-law, Jeff Dewes, is also getting started in the business.


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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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