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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The first town board


The DeMotte Town Board got off to a rocky start. The election was held under the cloud of a lawsuit filed by disgruntled property owners charging defects in the incorporation proceedings and asked for the incorporation to be invalidated. It also asked for a restraining order against holding the election on October 11, 1965.

The restraining order was lifted two days before the election by Jasper County Circuit Judge Moses Leopold. Judge Leopold so ruled, on the condition that if the incorporation was found to be invalidated when the lawsuit came to trial, the election would also be null and void. The lawsuit was brought by Mr. and Mrs. Ben Hoffman, Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Walstra, Mr. and Mrs. Lester Crawford, Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Yeagley, Mr. and Mrs. Ben Swart, John Konovsky, Eva Mosier and Cornelius Abbring.

Justice of the Peace Jasper (Jack) Stellingwerf swore in those elected to the five member board on October 21, 1965. They were: Charles Abbring, James Coffer, Ernest Eenigenburg, Don Fieldhouse, and Art Lageveen, Jr. Harry Stockman was elected Clerk-Treasurer.

With the election just two weeks behind them, the first official meeting of the board, which turned out later to be an unofficial one, was held on Tuesday afternoon during the last week of October, 1965. The first action of the board was to elect Art Lageveen, Jr., as chairman. Other business at that first meeting involved securing deputies to perform a 'vigilance patrol' over the Halloween weekend that was coming up.

Voting place for the first town election on October 11, 1965Halloween was notorious for smashed pumpkins scattered through town, overturned privies and the windows of all the downtown merchants soaped so badly they couldn't see through them the next morning.

In November 1965, the lawsuit concerning the incorporation was to be heard. On the day of the trial, several DeMotte citizens went to Rensselaer to hear the proceedings. In the meantime, the lawyers for the two sides (Attys. Dale Schwanke and Thomas Dumas) had worked out an agreement with Judge Leopold to declare the incorporation invalid due to defects, therefore the election held the month before was also invalidated.

According to Don Fieldhouse, the board continued to meet on a monthly basis in an unofficial capacity. Fieldhouse said, "We just were meeting to try and determine if there was anything anyone could do. We didn't have the power to make a decision and we had no money."

A group of local citizens contacted state politicians to enlist their help in getting a bill passed that would validate the incorporation.

State Representatives Quentin Blachly and King Telle along with State Senators Earl Landgrebe and Marvin Stewart managed to get a bill passed through the state legislature which would 'cure all defects' in the previous incorporation of the town and DeMotte would again be incorporated. An excerpt from the Gary Post-Tribune on March 16, 1967 reported that the bill was signed into law by Governor Edgar Whitcomb on March 14, 1967. This gave the town of DeMotte full status as an incorporated town. Under the provisions of the bill, the previously elected office holders would remain in office.

Fieldhouse said the town board met at the old Legion Hall (where Yesteryear is now located) and invited all opponents of the incorporation to a meeting. Excerpts from the February 8, 1968 issue of the Kankakee Valley Post reports: In a meeting of the Town Board of DeMotte last week, the board members agreed to disannex from the incorporated Town of DeMotte the following petitioned property owned by: Ben Hoffman, Julius Holm-Hansen. John Zoeteman, Cornelius Abbring, Don Radtke, Clarence Walstra, Charles Streveler, Ben Swart, Wes Mosier and Wesley Van Drunen.

Fieldhouse said although the town board was now legal, "We had no money" All governing bodies in the State of Indiana set their budgets in July or August. This budget determines the amount of the tax draw (money) that is received on December 31 and June 30 each year.


Fieldhouse said, "Personally, the police department was so important to me." He said he pushed to get that department set up the first thing. Even though the town had no money, they were able to start a police department with the help of local merchants and others who voluntarily gave money to the town. Albert Clark was hired as the first Town Marshal in DeMotte. He said Clark organized 'volunteer deputies' to help in emergencies and other times of need (such as traffic control, etc.)

The first town boardFieldhouse said he donated the first car to be used by the police a 1961 Ford 4-door sedan. He said the car was dark blue and had a white top which just so happened to be the colors of vehicles in 1967."

"The goal of the first town board was to make DeMotte a safer place to live," Fieldhouse said, "And to help the community grow in an orderly fashion," He said a short-term goal was getting street lights and a long-term goal was sewage disposal.

Before incorporation DeMotte's streets had been maintained by the county, now they became the responsibility of the town.

Tom Fisher served as DeMotte's first attorney. Ordinances had to be written by which to govern the town. Fieldhouse said the board spent a lot of time that first year looking at the ordinances of other towns of similar size.


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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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