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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Fire destroys main building at Kaper's


In 1934, in the middle of the depression, Cornelius H. (Neil) Kaper and his wife, Johanna moved from Roseland, Illinois to DeMotte in search of better times.

In 1936, after limited success hauling livestock to Chicago, Kaper bought a small used lumber and feed business from Richard Grevenstuk. The business was located three miles west of DeMotte in the area commonly known as "Dutch Corners".

Kaper relocated his new business to a building he leased in downtown DeMotte and rented the house adjacent to it to live in. The house once sat where Fagen Pharmacy parking lot is today. The building which once housed the feed mill is now home to ConvaCare and is located next to J & H Tire on Halleck Street.

The feed business began to prosper as Kaper branched out to supply the needs of the farmer, but the used lumber end of the business started to fizzle. Just before the start of WW II, Kaper sold the lumber end of the business back to Grevenstuk.

After the war, Kaper purchased the lumber business back from the Grevenstuks determined to make both the feed and lumber businesses prosper and grow.

He separated the two businesses and moved the used lumber to the present day location of the lumber yard on 15th Street.

In 1954 he sold the feed business to Albert K. (Bud) Belstra. Belstra Milling is now located just a couple doors east of the lumber yard.

Local fire departments fighting to control the fire at KapersKaper expanded his business by bringing in other building materials plus a limited supply of new material.

In 1963 there was a change in ownership. Bob and Bill Kaper bought the business from their father and instituted many changes through the years. The last load of used lumber came into the lumber yard at Kaper's in 1964.

The next 30 years brought many changes in faces, equipment, buildings and property. The direction of the company's trade was geared to the contractor trade which was booming due to the increased growth in the area.

On Sunday night, January 13, 1984 at 11:50 p.m. a call went in to the Keener Township Volunteer Fire Department that the main building at Kaper's was on fire. The fire destroyed the offices, store and display rooms although the firemen managed to save all company records and important papers. Several fire departments from around the area were called to help.

The lack of an ample water supply was cited as a hindrance to the firemen in fighting the blaze. A nearby ditch became the main source of water used by the firemen.


Bob Kaper said he believed that the fire may have been started by an electric heater which had been placed in a well enclosure to keep a pump from freezing.

The main building was rebuilt and looks as is does today.

Kapers as it once lookedIn July 1994, Kaper's Building Material entered a new phase when they merged with Erlanger Lumber Company of Erlanger, Kentucky. Erlanger Lumber has been in the building material business in northern Kentucky for more than 100 years.

"Like Kaper's, Erlanger specializes in meeting the building material needs of professional contractors," spokesman Mike Hinde said, "The enhanced buying power of the combined companies has positioned both operations to better meet the competitive challenges of the next decade."

Other than the position of general manager, no other staffing changes were made after the merger. Selected inventory items were added, and a 4,000 sq. ft. addition was completed in 1995. The company's name was left unchanged, and Kaper's continues to be one of the largest employers in the DeMotte community.


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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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