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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DeMotte Town Council 1969-1997


Even though DeMotte's incorporation was declared valid by the Indiana State Legislature in 1967, it wasn't until 1970 that the matter was brought to a close.

The complainants in the original lawsuit against the Jasper County Commissioners in 1965 were refusing to sign off on the dismissal of complaints against the original formation of the town. Those complaints (or errors) were declared corrected by the Indiana Legislature in March, 1967.

On May 25, 1970, the town board passed a resolution to set aside the November, 1965 judgment of the legal action taken against the county commissioners that nullified the incorporation of DeMotte. In June, Attorney Jack Nesbitt proceeded with the necessary court action to absolutely clear the incorporation problems for the Town of DeMotte.

In 1971, DeMotte Town Board members were: Art Lageveen - president; John Marsh, William Hoffman, Don Fieldhouse, Charles Abbring and Harry Stockman - clerk-treasurer.

On May 13, 1971 DeMotte held a 'Town and Farm' day festival. Congressman Charles Halleck was honored by being presented with the first street sign declaring that Lilly street be renamed Charles Halleck Street.

Prospect Hills Subdivision

Since the town was growing, parking space was at a premium. In July, 1971 the town board voted to purchase the Caleb Cheever property on the east side of Halleck Street in the downtown area for a parking lot.

In 1971 it was also voted on to rescind the four precincts that had originally been established when the first town election was set-up. The board decided two precincts with five wards would be a better solution for the town elections.

January 1, 1972 a few new faces were seen on the board. Elected were: John Marsh - president; Jasper (Jack) Stellingwerf, Dr. Roy Kingma, Robert Schultz, Don Fieldhouse and Doris Zeck - clerk treasurer. This board remained the same until 1976 when a few faces changed again. Serving in 1976 were: Dr. Roy Kingma - president; John Marsh, Jack Stellingwerf, John Fase, Melvin Toppen and Jeanette Roorda - clerk-treasurer. In February, 1976 Carl Koch was appointed town marshal. Evelyn Roorda was appointed DeMotte Historian and remained in this post until her husband, Don, died in 1994.

As DeMotte grew, so did the traffic problems. The problems were discussed as early as 1974 and have been talked about yearly since that time. Numerous studies have been done by the Indiana Department of Transporation (INDOT) over the years. In 1997-1998 the problems will finally be acted on. A stop light was installed in May, 1997 at the intersection of 9th and Halleck Streets. A left turn lane running from 8th Avenue to 5th Street is also in the works. The third lane will hopefully relieve the traffic congestion along the stretch of road by the DeMotte Plaza and Hillside Shopping Center. Funding for the project will be 90 percent federal and 10 percent state money.


A tornado hit the north end of town on March 11, 1976. No injuries were reported but damage and cleanup was extensive.

Until 1978, DeMotte had been under the jurisdiction of the Jasper County Plan Commission. The town board decided control of the growth in the area would be better if they set up their own planning and zoning boards. On March 27, 1978 the first Plan Commission Ordinance was accepted and a board was set up. The first members of the Planning Commission were: John Fase, Jack Stellingwerf, Dr. Roy Kingma, Rev. Edward G. Cooke, Rita Ryska, Robert Swanson and Mike Bracich. Members on the first Board of Zoning were Robert Swanson, Rita Ryska, Ivan Van Essen, Verlin Christopher and Rev. James McCoy. The DeMotte Planning Commission also has jurisdiction over a two mile buffer zone which surrounds the town.

Gerrit Van Keppel looking over the damage to his building

With the area growing so fast and the work of the town board becoming more complicated, it was decided in 1978 to have staggered terms for town board members.

In 1980, Robert Walstra replaced Joe F Roorda as building inspector. In 1996, Jeff DeYoung was hired as assistant building inspector to Walstra.

There were changes in the membership of the town board in 1980. Members were: John Fase - president; Jack Stellingwerf, Rev. James McCoy, Andy Stonecipher, Jeanette Roorda and Lois Eakin - clerk-treasurer.

The only change in the board membership in 1981 was that Jack Stellingwerf became president of the board. In 1983, the board consisted of: Jeanette Roorda - president; Andy Stonecipher, Steve Bauman, Ron Hanners, Mark Roorda and Lois Eakin - clerk-treasurer. In 1984, Andy Stonecipher and Mark Roorda went off the board and Ross Stanton and Mark Boer came on.

In 1984, funding was approved for the sidewalks that are along the east side of Halleck Street. An ordinance was passed requiring all houses to be numbered for emergency reasons. Another new face appeared on the board in 1985. Max Scott replaced Ron Hanners.

In November, 1986 an ordinance was passed creating the position of Town Manager. Jeanette Roorda was hired to fill that position in December and remained there until she retired in June 1993 to work part-time on special projects. Ken Pearman replaced Roorda on the board.

In January, 1987, Jack Stellingwerf was presented with the 'keys to the -city' in recognition of the many years of service he had donated to the community.

In January 1989 the following board members took office: Steve Bauman - president; Mark Boer, Max Scott, John Dyke, Ken Pearman and Lois Eakin - clerk-treasurer. In June, Steve Bauman resigned and Mark Boer became president and is still president of the board in 1997. Rich Groen replaced Bauman.

In July, 1989 a state law was passed stating the name 'town board' is to be changed to read "town council'.

Marshal Truman Overby died in August, 1990. Police Chief William Arnold was hired in December, 1990 and remains in that position in 1997.

In January, 1992, Walt Holley donated land across the street from Holley's Restaurant and Lounge for a Veteran's Memorial to be built. The DeMotte Hotel once sat on that spot. Several organizations were involved in planning the memorial, including DeMotte American Legion Post #440. The memorial was completed and a dedication was held March 16, 1992. The town pays for the electricity used at the memorial.

Alana Bauman was appointed to the council to replace Rich Groen in January, 1992. Groen was elected in November, 1991 by a write-in vote. Since he was elected as neither a Democrat or Republican, the town council made the appointment to the board.

There were two resignations from the board in 1994. John Dyke was replaced by James Staton and Dr. Gerrit DeVries filled the vacancy created by Max Scott.

In July, 1993, Amy Trimble was appointed Administrative Assistant and in May, 1995 she was named DeMotte Town Manager.

On June 4, 1996 the Olympic Torch was carried through DeMotte. The Olympic Torch memorabilia is displayed at the town hall.

Current council members are: Mark Boer - president; Alana Bauman, Ken Pearman, Gerrit DeVries, Jim Staton and Lois Eakin - clerk-treasurer. Ed Pilipow was hired to act as town engineer in January, 1996.

On July 15, 1996, DeMotte Town Attorney Earl Walton presented the council with Ordinance 7-15-96-1. This is an ordinance which annexes properties on 15th Street S.E. The pieces of property are owned by Walstra Trucking and Calvary Assembly of God Church and are the first properties to be annexed to the Town of DeMotte since its incorporation in 1967.


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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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