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DeMotte, Indiana History 1997

30 Years of Growth
100 Years of Tradition


Contents

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

C-SELM

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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Incorporation of DeMotte

 

Incorporation had been on the minds of many DeMotte residents since the middle 1930's. It was the topic of editorials written by J. D. Cox in the Kankakee Valley Post-News and was a popular subject at the coffee shop. The issue was so fraught with mixed feelings among the inhabitants of the community it was always relegated to the back burner only to be brought up again later. That is it was pushed back until early 1965, when the DeMotte Businessmen's Association was resurrected and the momentous decision to incorporate changed the face of DeMotte forever. The businessmen knew that the incorporation of DeMotte was vital, and could no longer be ignored if DeMotte was ever to become the enterprising community that the business leaders foresaw that it could be.

Before incorporation the Jasper County commissioners and Keener Township trustee governed DeMotte. At a previous meeting Commissioner Harry Bahler from Remington told of the advantages of self-government.

At a meeting in March, 1965 Gerrit Van Keppel was chosen to head up a committee composed of Walter Roorda, Ralph Myers, Harry Stockman, John Eakin, William Ooms, Art Lageveen, Jr., Don Beckmann and Larry Thomas. The first meeting of the committee was held on April 22, 1965 in the offices of Van Keppel Construction Company. A map and petition were drawn up for those in favor of the move to be circulated and signed by property owners within the proposed incorporation boundaries.

Two newspaper articles appeared in the Rensselaer Republican and Kankakee Valley Post detailing the pro and con viewpoint of the incorporation.

(The following article appeared in the Rensselaer Republican June 8, 1965. It was written by Schuyler L. Robinson whose father published the Kankakee Valley Post-News at the time.)

A petition with 124 signatures asking the incorporation of DeMotte as a town was filed this morning with the Jasper county commissioners.

First precincts in DeMotteThe area proposed for incorporation, 2,458 acres, is nearly four square miles and has a present population of 1,392, according to an enumeration taken (in 1965).

DeMotte would be the county's largest town, both in population and area. Rensselaer is incorporated as a city.

Ten of the community's businessmen spoke in favor of the incorporation at the meeting. Among them, Gerrit Van Keppel foresaw the community's growth with the "influx of people from the north" due to Interstate I-65, as a reason for incorporation of the town. "There are so many things we can do for our little community," he said.

Sam DeKock said that the seeking of "self-government" for DeMotte was "no reflection on the county commissioners", who have been, along with the township trustee, the community's only local government.

Bruce Todd warned of the danger to health if a systematic approach is not made to the community's problems such as treatment of waste and securing of a water supply.

John Eakin stated that a building code for DeMotte is "needed badly" and that proper building would increase the value of the town. The assessed valuation of the area sought to be incorporated is currently $1,211,230 (1964 figures).

Others, who included Walter Roorda, Fern Traster, Art Lageveen Jr., William Ooms, and Paul Bauman, mentioned that fire and burglary insurance premiums could be expected to decrease with the incorporation.

The law specifies that the commissioners hold a public hearing 60-90 days from today; the commissioners refrained from setting the date until the papers presented by Dale Schwanke, attorney for DeMotte's venture, could be reviewed with the county attorney.

The present drive for incorporation is about three months old and has been done through the DeMotte Businessmen's organization, re-activated some three months ago. An effort at incorporation, about five years ago, "fell flat", according to one of the spokesmen this morning, but confidence was expressed to the commissioners that the current move is enthusiastically backed by the DeMotte people.

Copies of the papers seeking incorporation will be studied by the Jasper County Plan Commission and the Indiana Development of Commerce and Public Relations. The two groups are to recommend to the commissioners prior to the public hearing either approval or disapproval.

The incorporation would actually become effective on the date the county commissioners pass the ordinance declaring DeMotte a town, and this would follow the hearing.

Set forth in one of the accompanying papers was a list of the improvements seen possible in the future through the incorporation. Among them are police and health protection immediately, and work on streets, sanitary and storm sewers, parks, and zoning in the next years. A budget for 1966 will be prepared in the coming months for the Town of DeMotte, contingent on the incorporation, and first year improvements have been estimated at $10,000, or a tax rate of $.85 for each $100 of assessed valuation.

Should the incorporation succeed, a special election for the town board would be held. The board may have 3, 5 or 7 members, and while this is not certain, a five-member board is considered the most likely.

 

(The following article detailing the view of the opposing side of the incorporation appeared in the Kankakee Valley Post August 5, 1965.)

Some two dozen residents of the DeMotte area appeared at Monday morning's session of the Jasper county commissioners meeting to object to the boundaries of DeMotte as they have been proposed for incorporation.

Also, a petition carrying forty-six signatures was presented to the commissioners, requesting them to "fix the east boundary of such proposed incorporation west from the proposed east line in order that the lands of the undersigned will not be within any corporate limits of the town of DeMotte should it be incorporated." (The newspaper article did not name the undersigned petitioners.)

County Attorney John Hopkins explained that while the commissioners could not act directly on the petition, "indirect" action could come if the commissioners were to decide to refuse the incorporation until the incorporation proposal were amended to contain different boundaries.

In response to those appearing this morning, one of the commissioners, Harry Bahler, said, "We're going to stay neutral until we hear both sides of it."

Bahler was referring to the public hearing the commissioners will hold on the incorporation proposal Tuesday, August 10, beginning at 9 a.m.

Those appearing at this morning's meeting said they have not yet been officially notified of the hearing by mail by those seeking the incorporation, as required by statute.

Representing some of the residents who oppose inclusion of their land in the proposed town is Thomas Dumas, who told the commissioners that there is "no great issue" as to the value of incorporation, but that the question is "how much land can they justifiably take in....?"

One of those speaking stated that the incorporation proposal had not shown to him that the services to be offered by the town could be provided with the tax figures and assessments shown.

Main Street DeMotte, 1908The petition for incorporation presented in June stated that police protection, health protection, work on streets, sanitary sewers, storm sewers, parks and zoning would be the benefits through incorporation.

The assessed valuation of the area sought to be incorporated is $1,211,230 (1964 figures). First-year improvements were estimated at $10,000, or a tax rate of $.85 for each $100 of assessed valuation.

In order to approve an incorporation, the commissioners must find that the land of the proposed town is urban in character and is reasonably compact and contiguous and includes enough undeveloped territory to allow for the growth of the town.

The commissioners must also find that a substantial majority of the property owners in the proposed town have agreed that at least six of the following municipal services shall be provided on an adequate basis: police protection; fire protection; street construction; maintenance and lighting; sanitary sewers; storm sewers, health protection, parks and recreation; schools and education; planning; zoning and subdivision control; one or more utility services; stream pollution control or water conservation.

There must also be finding that "services proposed to be undertaken are capable of being financed by the proposed town with a reasonable local tax rate, using the current assessed valuation of properties as a basis of calculation," and that "incorporation is found to serve the best interests of the territory involved."

The state of Indiana's department of commerce in a recent letter to the county commissioners found that with respect to the DeMotte proposal the "land area is urban in character and is reasonably compact and contiguous.

"However, considerable undeveloped land has been included in the proposed boundaries to allow for future growth" the letter continued. "It appears this amount is fully justified by the forecasts for population increases in this section of the state. As the services proposed can be undertaken with a reasonable tax rate, incorporation is found to serve the best interests of the territory"

The Jasper County Plan Commission, which was notified of the incorporation proposal, has not communicated its findings to the commissioners.

Since so many citizens have expressed interest in the incorporation proceedings, the place of the public hearing August 10 may be moved to one of the courtrooms, it was discussed this morning.

   

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