History of La Porte County, Indiana

Local histories are the basis of general history. They supply all its popular elements. The great mass of people study historical details only by restricted localities. Few read the immense volumes of the history of past ages, and almost forgotten lands, but all desire to know something of the history of their own country, their State or their county. With a view to supplying such local information in a permanent form for preservation, so far as it relates to La Porte county, this history is prepared. The facts concerning the early settlement of the county are fast fading from the memory of men. The pioneers are disappearing from our midst. Death is busy; and with the passage of a few more years, none will be left who were eye witnesses to the time when our prairies and groves existed in their virgin loveliness untouched by the plow or the ax. The material facts for such a history as this must come largely from the men who made it, and unless written now or very soon, it never can be written. Great labor is involved in the work of its preparation, much more than there would be, if its basis was documentary; but it has been undertaken, notwithstanding other duties have pressed very heavily, in order to supply what seems to be a public need. It aims simply to be a repository of facts, most of which would, in a few more years be entirely lost. To obtain these facts of local, historical interest, and put them in a form for permanent preservation, is the object of these pages. No county in the State is more worthy of having its history preserved, both on account of the men who settled it, and the rich and fruitful lands which became theirs to occupy. The county has within it elements of wealth and prosperity which are yet largely undeveloped. There is latent wealth hidden away in every part of it, from the sand ridges on the north, across the prairie belt of the center, to, and including, the Kankakee marshes on the south, which will yet prove the richest and most productive soil of our county. The avenues of an extensive commerce are at our doors. Besides the eight railroads which cross the county in various directions, a good harbor is opened at Michigan City, giving access to the great lakes, and bringing into our midst a large share of the trade which floats on this broad highway. But the harbor is yet in its infancy; and as it is extended and made more commodious, the commerce of the lakes will seek it, and bring the products of the Lake Superior iron mines, and the pine forests of Michigan for shipment southward and eastward by rail, the facilities for which are ample at Michigan City. A heavy business is now done in this line, but it may be increased ten-fold, until the entire county shall feel the spur of enterprise and rise into a new life, for which there is abundant motive and opportunity.

The county, largely agricultural, has by no means developed its full powers in this respect. The soil, naturally productive, might be made to produce far more than it now does, and being so much nearer the eastern markets, with abundant means of transportation, our formers possess ver}^ decided advantages over those of Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. Higher farming would produce larger crops and heavier profits to the acre. The man who cultivates two hundred acres, taking from them respectable crops of wheat and corn, would realize far larger net gains if he took the same amount of products from one hundred acres. And it could readily be done by improved systems of cultivation and the addition of fertilizing material to supply the exhaustion annually occasioned by the growing crops. With a more vigorous growth of crops, stimulated by fertilizers, and better cultivation, there would be less damage occasioned by insects, and the freezing of winter, and a degree of certainty might be given to the farmer's crops which they do not now possess. The farmer should study the best methods of fighting his enemies, and beyond doubt one of them is to secure a stronger and more vigorous growth. It is not extravagant to say that the rich farming lands of this county might readily be made to produce double their present product.

The county does not reach half way up to its real power of production, and the future will teach lessons which men seem slow to learn. Double the productive capacity of this county, and there will be prosperity as yet undreamed of. Population would increase, enterprise would take absolute control, and every interest and industry in the county would flourish. Farmers should not depend solely on wheat and corn, and thus be brought Aery low when the winter's cold and early frost, blast and destroy. Larger production and greater variety of products will leave them always a source of income.

Agriculture and manufactures, in such a region as this, ought to be made to work together; and when people are actuated by a proper local pride, each one will exert himself to stimulate business enterprise, open new channels of industry, and advance the county in all its material interests, by every means within his reach. It is hoped that a history which shall recall many old and tender associations, which shall show the energy and spirit of enterprise which characterized the men who went before us, will stimulate to emulation of their example, and incite us to make a wiser and better improvement of the privileges we enjoy in the noble heritage which we hold in this favored spot of earth.

In the preparation of this history, accuracy has been diligently sought for: yet it can scarcely be expected that it will be wholly free from errors. Men differ in the statement of the same fact. They differ as to dates and men, and it has been found that in some instances no two men could be found to agree; and sometimes the discrepancies in the statements have been very embarrassing. But in most instances documentary evidence has been found to settle the question. Yet an occasional error may remain, and if so, it is believed that the great difficulty of obtaining the facts amidst a mass of conflicting statements will be duly appreciated, and the proper allowances be made accordingly.


Table of Contents

Preface 22

The County in General 34

Kankakee Township 44

Scipio Township 52

New Durham Township 68

Michigan Township 82

Centre Township 98

Pleasant Township 118

Wills Township 121

Township 127

Galena Township 132

Clinton Township 138

Noble Township 146

Coolspring Township 153

Hudson Township 158

Union Township 168

Cass Township 176

CHAPTER XVII. Dewey Township 182

Hanna Township 185

Lincoln and Johnson Townships 189

County Officers 195

Politics 200

Politics, continued 235

First Elections 271

Politics of the City of La Porte 279

Military Record 289

Church Record 400

Inventions and Discoveries 436

Professions and Business 444

Newspapers 459

One Hundred years ago and now 465


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The county of LaPorte, comprises all that region of country which is bounded on the north by Lake Michigan and the State of Michigan; on the east by St. Joseph county; on the south by Stark county, the Kankakee river separating the two counties, except on the east end of the southern boundary, where the river is wholly within LaPorte county; and on the west by Porter county. It possesses a great variety of soil and external characteristics. The whole north side of the county is well timbered, the timber belt extending from St. Joseph county on the east to Porter on the west. The timber consists of oak, ash, sugar and soft maple, elm, walnut and many other species, the whole forming a source of wealth, of which far too little account is taken, and great wastefulness has been the result. Formerly the region bordering the lake was w^ell covered with beautiful white pine; but this valuable tree has almost wholly disappeared, being cut off for lumber. This timber country is from ten to fifteen miles in width, and much of the soil, especially on the eastern end, is deep and rich, rivaling the loam of the prairie infertility. Approaching the lake, sand, predominates, and the country becomes more broken and hilly, consisting of sandy ridges, which on the lake shore are in many places almost wholly destitute of vegetation. The sandy soil of Springfield, Michigan and Coolspring townships, though not so rich as that of the heavier timber land farther to the east, in Galena and Hudson, is yet especially adapted to certain kinds of crops. Potatoes raised on it are of superior quality, and all kinds of fruit, even peaches, do well, the crop being more certain to endure the winter's cold than in the open prairie. The soil is warm, products come forward early and rapidly, and are easily cultivated. Through the centre of the county from east to west, the prairie belt extends.