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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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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.