William Frederick Howat.

A standard history of Lake County, Indiana, and the Calumet region (Volume 1) online

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in ]852 he was appointed its first postmaster, holding the office for
n<'arly forty years. Through an assistant he also served Gi])Son in the


same capacity. In 1853 he opened a general store, which he conducted
until his death in August, 1895, in his seventy-second year. Mr. Hess
held the office of trustee of North Township for twenty-two years, and
in many ways was one of the leading citizens of the earlier times. He
left seven sons and two daughters, among the former being Frank Hess,
a well known banker and former treasurer of the City of Hammond.

Hessville is now within the city limits of Hammond, and Gibson,
also within the corporation, is the site of the great railroad yards of the
Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad and the New York Central, as well as
the immense office building of the latter corporation. An immense leap
from the Gibson and the Hessville of the early '50s.


In the southwestern part of North Township is a street or road four
miles in length along which reside sixty or seventy families, descended
from a colony of Dutch settlers who located in 1855. It passes along
the low, fertile and at times partly-submerged lands of the Little Calu-
met bottom and the Cady marsh. The highway and the houses and
truck gardens on either side of it, with the workers among the growing
potatoes, cabbages, onions, parsnips and flowers, seem to make a picture
lifted bodily out of old Holland itself. At the center of this new-world
Dutch settlement are a schoolhouse, postoffice and a store, all included in
the name Munster. Near that point the Grand Trunk and the Pennsyl-
vania lines come together, and it is the shipping, business and social
center of one of the most industrious, prosperous and unique communities
in Lake County.

Dutch Settlers of 1855

The founders of this section of the Netherlands in Northwestern
Indiana were Dingernon Jabaay, with his family, including three sons ;
Antonie Bonevman and his son-in-law, Eldert Munster, with his two sons,
Jacob and Antonie Munster. The Munster family came from Stryen,
nine miles from Rotterdam, and the entire colony boarded the ship
"Mississippi" in the summer of 1855, reaching Lake County in August.
A little later Cornelius Klootwyk joined the three families mentioned
and together they may be called the pioneers of the ^Munster settlement.
Peter Kooy came in 1857, and other countrymen arrived from year to
•year until by the late '70s there was an almost continuous Dutch settle-
ment stretching for more than five miles along the Little Calumet in
both Lake and Cook counties. In 1876 a church building was erected


By Courtesy (if Frank r Heighwa\ Count\ Supiiintunknt of =;chcK)ls.

]\IuNSTER School

By Courtesy of Frank F. Heighway, County Superintendent of Schools.

Hessville Consolidated School, North Township


near the Illinois state line for the benefit of the Munsterites, virtually all
of whom are members of the Dutch Reformed Church.

As stated by a visitor: "It is a beautiful walk from Lansing, just
over the state line, eastward to the schoolhouse, with the broad sand-
ridge on the south and the rich Calumet Valley on the north. This land
the villagers cultivate, raising large crops of vegetables for the city
markets. The passing stranger might well call it a Happy Valley. ' '


Following the grand sand ridge which extends from Lansing, Illinois,
almost directly east to a point near Hobart, also on the line of the early
stage road which ran from Liverpool to Joliet and Chicago, one discovers
at a distance of about three miles from iMunster a postoffice, a schoolhouse,
two churches and a small cluster of houses which are known collectively
as Highland. There were a few squatters along the ridge and the road
in pioneer times, but nothing like a settlement until the Chicago & At-
lantic (Erie) established a station there. Two miles north is what was
Hessville, and in high water the Little Calumet covers much of the
ground between.

Whiting and the ' ' Standard ' '

The territory between Wolf Lake and Lake George and Lake Michigan,
which is now covered by the City of Whiting and the vast storage plant
of the Standard Oil Company, was known in pioneer times as Calumet.
The place was afterward called Whiting's Crossing. In 1870 the first
store was opened at that locality by Henry Schrage, and when a post-
office was established there in the following year he was appointed post-
master. Although Whiting was made a regular station on the Michigan
Southern in 1874, it did not get beyond the status of a little by-station
until 1889, when the Standard Oil Company founded the immense
refinerj' and storage system at that place. When the company selected
its location, there were only about half a dozen small houses and the
Schrage store at Whiting. It is now a city of about 7,000 people, growing
and well managed.

East Chicago and Indiana Harbor

East Chicago covers substantially nine sections north and east of
Hammond, and includes within its corporate limits the large north-
eastern territory abutting on Lake Michigan and extending nearly to the


Grand Calumet, popularly known as Indiana Harbor. Indiana Harbor
has become the great outlet of the Calumet Region, and East Chicago
as a whole has therefore realized the dreams of the early promoters of
Calumet City. Including the two popular divisions, but which have no
legal justification. East Chicago has a population of about 20,000 ; not
far from that of Hammond, which, how^ever, is a more compact city and
is able to present its good points to better advantage than East Chicago.
In 1888 the site of East Chicago comprised marshes, scrubby pines,
underbrush and sand ridges; there was nothing to distinguish it from
other wild and rather dreary stretches in North Township. Fully
thirty years before, George W, Clarke, a Chicago capitalist and specu-
lator, had purchased several thousand acres of land in that region, cast-
ing himself into the future which we now know' as the present. He did
not live to practically realize from his vision of great industries, great
railroads and great waterways, which should crowd the Calumet Region
of North Township ; but his heirs did, in solid millions of dollars.

On a map prepared by Mr. Clarke in I860, while he w^as still making
these investments and banking confidently on the future, what is now
known as the actual Indiana Harbor on Lake ^lichigan is designated as
Poplar Point. At that time there were no settlers at that point, but some-
what later a sawmill was erected in the locality by Jacob Forsyth, and
the place named Cassella, in honor of the wife of President Cass of the
Pennsylvania Railroad, which had been running through that region
since 1854. The station was known as Cassella until 1901, although the
Clarke map of 1860 showed a proposed "Indiana Harbor of Wolf River."
But since 1901, when the Inland Steel Company located its extensive
plant at old Poplar Point and the system of waterways was inaugurated
which has joined Lake Michigan to the Grand Calumet and those fine
inland basins, Wolf Lake and Lake George, the gateway of the Great
Lake and most of the territory south to the river has continued to be
known as Indiana Harbor.

Within the corporate limits of East Chicago, west of the main canal
or waterway which connects the Grand Calumet with the channel joining
Lake ^Michigan to Lake George, the first permanent settlement was made
by the Penman family in 1888. All the great trunk lines of railroad
had already been completed through the Calumet Region and not long
after the coming of the Penman family a considerable settlement quickly
arose. Hammond had grown to be a city of over 4,000 people and East
Chicago, although organized as a town in 1889, was considered for sev-
eral years as one of its suburbs, to be absorbed if desirable. But as
stated, the coming of the Inland Steel Company, the construction of the
waterways, the solid banking of numerous industrial plants on either side


of these channels, and the establishment of great railway yards and
locomotive works immediately south and west, soon made East Chicago
an independent city of rapid and substantial growth. With the excep-
tion of Gary, there is no city in the Calumet Region which showed a
greater growth than East Chicago for the decade from 1900 to 1910.
In the former year its population was 3,411 ; in the latter, 19,098.

As previously stated, the details of the growth of Hammond, East
Chicago and Whiting as cities, and the development of their many fine
institutions, have been reserved for separate chapters.



Unjust Trick of Fate — Woodvale (Deep River)— The Wood Settle-
ment AND Descendants — Lone Jere Wiggins — Saxton Absorbs the
Wiggins Claim — Merrillville Succeeds Centerville — Ainsworth


Ross Township (•oiu])i'ise8 forty-nine sections of land uortiieast of the
central part of Lake County, well drained and fertilized by the water
courses of Deep River which take a broad circular sweep through its
eastern and southern portions, and Turkey Creek which flows through
its northwestern sections to join the parent stream about a mile above
the line in Hobart Township. The territory within the present bounds
of the township was mainly wooded land, when the whites first saw the
land — to make a record of their observations — in the early '30s. Deep
River was alive with fish and the dense woods harbored all kinds of game,
both birds and beasts ; so that Ross Township, before there was any
dream of civil government or white man's politics, was an ideal home
for the Red JMaii, and its soil was relinquished by him with more than
the usual regret and delay.

Unjust Trick of Fate

But the wooded lands and the strong currents of Deep River had a
practical attraction to pioneer builders and mill-men, who early com-
menced to locate their claims and crowd out Poor Lo. In connection
with the history of Ross Township, it seems to be rather a trick of
fate, and also an unjust one, that neither the location of its first settler,
nor the settlement to which he gave his name, should be left within the
boundaries of the township.

Both Ross and St. John townships were set off from the north part
of the original Center Township, at a meeting held by the county com-
missioners on June 8. 1848. The former took its name from William
Ross, the settler who took up his claim in section 6, on the eastern side
of Deep River. That tract was included in the Ross Township of 1849,



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By Couil(~\ ol I I i,,l 1 llMjiu i\ ( o,,nU ^,,,


Merrillville Schooij

Courtesy of Frank F. Heighway. County Superintendent of Schools.

Ross Township Consolidated School (No. 10)


but when Calumet Township was created in 1883 three northern sections
were taken from the original Ross Township, leaving the village by that
name in Calumet ; at the same time Hobart Township was created and
took away a strip which included the Ross claim, which historically be-
longed to the township by that name.

Wood VALE (Deep River)

Woodvale, the mill village on the eastern edge of Ross Township
near the Porter County line, was founded by John Wood, a Massachu-
setts man, who, in 1835, located a mill claim on the western banks of Deep
River, at that sharp bend in section 21 which deflects that stream
abruptly toward the southwest. At that time he found Jesse Pierce
located on Turkey Creek and, wdth Dr. Ames and several others compos-
ing an exploring party, stopped at his cabin to ' ' get his bearings. ' ' Mr,
Wood returned with his family in the following year and, as we have
already stated in the general pioneer history of the county, found that
an Indian had filed a claim upon his land during his absence. In order
to make his title clear beyond question, Mr. Wood paid the Indian $1,000
for the quarter section which he had selected for his mill-site and home-
stead. The Wood family thus located comprised the parents and five
children. The youngest son was then about a year and a half old, their
three-year old boy dying a few weeks after they had located at Wood-
vale. Two sons and a daughter were bom in Lake County.

A Christian church was dedicated at Deep River in 1904. Rev. C. E.
Hill has been its pastor for some years.

The Wood Settlement and Descendants

From 1837 to 1839 :\Ir. Wood improved his water-power and erected
a saw-mill and a grist mill, the latter developing into a large and com-
plete flour mill widely known among the early settlers of both Lake and
Porter counties. Around the mills arose quite a settlement, which, as
the years passed, received steady accessions from succeeding generations
and off-shoots of the Wood family, many of whom spent their lives in
the old neighborhood. ^Members of the second and third generations
continued to carry on the mill after the death of John Wood in 1883,
who left twenty-four grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. Both
he and his good wife, who was a cousin of the noted missionary, :\Irs.
Boardman (Sarah Hall), were buried in the family cemetery on the
east side of Deep River.

Within recent vears Woodvale became the postoffice of Deep River.


Lone Jere Wiggins

What is now the Village of Merrillville was first the old Indian
town known as JMcGwin's, then AViggins' Point and Centerville, before
the prominence of the Merrill families fixed the present name upon the
postoffice and the settlement. Jeremiah Wiggins appears to have been
one of those mysterious men who are ever wandering into new commu-
nities, who come from out of the shadow of Somewhere and merge into
the shade of Nowhere. The Claim Register does not record him, although
most of the pioneers agree that he appeared at the site of the Indian
village some time in 1836.

As one of those rugged "old-timers" put the Wiggins matter, "he
seems to have been a lone man, Avithout much connection with anyone."
He made some stir in the neighborhood by plowing up the old Indian
cemetery and creating bad feeling among the few Red Men left in the
immediate country. For a time, even after Wiggins melted into nothing-
ness, the locality was called Wiggins' Point. Southwest from it, across
the prairie, was Brown's Point, and about five miles south, on the edge
of the woodland, was Solon Robinson's little place called Crown Point.

Saxton Absorbs the Wiggins Claim

Early in the summer of 1837 Ebenezer Saxton, the Vermonter, came
with his family from Canada and found the strange lone Wiggins in his
little cabin. Before the year was over the energetic Saxton was the
owner of the Wiggins claim, and in the following year Jeremiah dropped
out of sight. Our good friend and historian, Mr. BaU, says in one of
his publications that "this lone man died in the summer of that very
sickly season, the year 1838, and his name has not been perpetuated."
In a sketch of Wiggins written at a later date, he seems not so certain
of his end, as he remarks: "He (Wiggins) was with Mr. Saxton in
1838 and soon disappears from any of the county records; but that he was
living in 1838 is abundantly certain."

JMerrillville Succeeds Centerville

It was the combination of the interests of the Saxton and the Merrill
families that resulted in the founding of Centerville and, when the
latter became the stronger of the two, of Merrillville. In 1837, when,
according to the Claim Register, eighty-one men became settlers in the
newly organized county, Dudley Merrill bought a claim which had
been made by Amsi L. Ball, or by his son, John Ball, settlers of 1836,


and located on Deep River south of Miller's Mill. But he soon obtained
land at Wiggins' Point and made there a permanent home. William
Merrill, his brother, came with him in 1837 as a settler. He also obtained
land at Wiggins' Point and at length erected quite a large frame dwell-
ing house on the north side of the old Indian trail, opposite the Indian
dancing floor where the Saxton family had located, that trail becoming
the mail route to Joliet from Laporte and a great thoroughfare for
western travel.

Soon village life commenced. A hotel was opened and a store, and
then a blacksmith shop, and the name of Wiggins' Point was changed
to Centerville. Both the brothers had sons, and around the Saxton and
Merrill families quite a community arose. Dudley Merrill commenced
to operate a cheese factory, besides being proprietor of the hotel for a
time and always a farmer. One of the sons of William Merrill was a
physician and one of his daughters a well known teacher, and repre-
sentatives of later generations have continued to reside in the county and
become useful men and women.

Merrillville grew slowly, but in time the frame schoolhouse gave
place to a two-story brick, a brick church was also erected, a feed-mill
followed the cheese factory, the houses increased in number and im-
proved in appearance, and it secured an outlet both north and south by
the construction of a substantial macadam road from Crown Point,
through Ainsworth, Hobart and Lake Station to Lake Michigan. That
thoroughfare is still of great benefit to Merrillville, although since 1903
it has enjoyed railroad connection over the Chicago, Cincinnati & Louis-
ville Railroad.


Ainsworth, which became a station on the Grand Trunk Railroad
in 1880, is quite a shipping point for milk. It has a schoolhouse and is
the center of quite a rural settlement.

Lottaville, a station five miles to the west on the same road, is also
a station which may sometime become a village.

^loRE Rural than Urban

But Ross as a township is far more rural than urban, and more agri-
cultural than industrial. It presents many advantages both for the rais-
ing of cattle and milch cows, and these industries will grow with the
acquirement of better transportation facilities.



In the Route of a Great AVesterx Road — John Hack, Pioneer Ger-
man — Other Pioneer Catholics — Death as a Leveler of Creeds —
Church of St. John the Evangelist — Descendants of the Pioneer
German Catholics — St. John, the Village — Francis P. Keilmani^
— Dyer and A. N. Hart — Mr. Hart's Death — George F. Davis,
Raiser of Fine Live Stock — Dyer of-Tod.\y — Hartsdale — Nichols"
-scherer and schererville.

The present St. John Township comprises forty sections in the west-
em and northwest-central portion of Lake County. It was formed at a
meeting of the county commissioners held June 8, 18-18, and was taken,
with Ross Township, from the northern part of old Center, It was orig-
inally seven miles from east to west and six miles from north to south,
but about 1890, when Griffith was platted, two of its northeastern sections
were incorporated into that town, which was attached to Calumet Town-
ship. This reduced the township to forty sections.

In THE Route of a Great AVestern Road

St. John Township, or St. John's Township (the former preferred by
most of the old settlers), was probably named in honor of John Hack,
the first to settle permanently wdthin its limits. The northern sections
of the township were along the route of the old Sac trail, or the curved
ridge of sand that afterw^ard determined the popular wagon road that
passed through Laporte and Valparaiso, crossed the Deep River at Wood-
vale, touched Merrillville, included the locality of the future Scherer-
ville, took its exit from Indiana at the State Line House (now Dyer) , and
continued on to Joliet and Chicago. For many years this route shared
with the more northern road along the shore of Lake ]\Iichigan the bulk
of the great western travel surging toward the prairie states and the
Mississippi Valley.



John Hack, Pioneer German

John Hac-k, a Prussian, was caught in this tide of western travel in
the year 1837. He was fifty years of age at the time, was the father of
eleven children, and brought a large family with him. So far as known,
his was the first German family to settle in Lake County. Mr. Hack

By Courtesy of Frank F. Heighway. County Sup<?rintendent of Schools.

Dyer Consolidated School, St. John Township

established his homestead on the western limit of Western Prairie, or
Prairie West, near the present village or settlement of St. John.

Other Pioneer Catholics

In 1838 the four families of Joseph Schmal, Peter Orte, Michael Adler
and Matthias Reeder came from Germany and settled near the Hack
homestead. They were all earnest Catholics and, within a few years, a
number of other adherents to the faith joined them.


Death as a Leveler of Creeds

During that year also, Henry Sasse, Sr., Henry Von Hollen and
Ijewis Herlitz, good German Lutherans, settled on the western shores of
Red Cedar Lake. Mr. Sasse, who was the pioneer of that colony, lost his
wife by death on the 10th of June, 1840. In those times, even more than
in these, the tears shed over the departed blotted out all distinctions of
church or creed. An illustration of that truth is given by George Gerlach,
a pioneer Catholic of St. John, who writes as follows : ' ' A beautiful
incident occurred, in which he (John Hack) was an actor, in connection
with the burial, on that little mound at the head of Cedar Lake, of the
remains of the first wife of Henry Sasse, Sr. At the time of the death
of Mrs. Sasse, Lutheran, or Catholic priest, or church even, there was
none near, and the pioneer American neighbors assembled, as usual, to
bear the remains from the house to the little neighborhood burial spot.
The grave had been dug, the body was deposited, and there seemed to be
need for some religious service. Then the tall, dignified form of John
Hack, the Catholic, stood by the grave, and he read, in the German
language, for his Lutheran neighbor and friend, a burial service. It
mattered little in that wild and to that gathered group, either to the
living or the dead, whether that service was Catholic or Lutheran in its
form ; it was enough, then and there, that it was Christian — that it
recognized mortality and immortality, human need and a Saviour. So
far as may now be learned this was the first burial of a Lutheran in the
county, and that such religious services as these should have been con-
ducted by a Catholic layman was creditable surely to the religious prin-
ciples of both."

Church of St. John the Evangelist

The Catholic families had formed such a colony in the southern part
of the township by 1843 that John Hack built a chapel on his land and
near his home, after which the prescribed services of his church were
regularly held. The organization is still known as the Church of St. John
the Evangelist, and it is probable that when the township was named and
organized, five years later, the pioneer religious body of a large district
which was strongly Catholic had a bearing on the naming of the township
itself. John Hack's little chapel was used until 1856, when a larger brick
church was erected, a school being conducted in connection with it.

Descendants of the Pioneer German Catholics

The pioneer of the German Catholics of St. John Towaiship left
numerous worthy descendants in tlie county, not a few of whom became


residents of Crowu Point. Of the descendants of Joseph Sehmal, who
settled on Western Prairie in June, 1838, and who had seven children,
five reached advanced years in Lake County — ]Mrs. Rhein, whose home
after her marriage was in Hanover Township, near Cedar Lake ; John
Sehmal, of St. John; Joseph Sehmal, of Brunswick; Mrs. A. Hack, of
Crown Point, and Adam Sehmal, formerly county treasurer and a resi-
dent of that city. ]\Irs. Angeline Hack married Matthias J. Hack, one of
the sons of the pioneer, and after the death of her husband in 1867 con-
ducted the Hack Exchange in Crown Point for a number of years.

The descendants of Peter Orte, the third of the earliest pioneers of

Online LibraryWilliam Frederick HowatA standard history of Lake County, Indiana, and the Calumet region (Volume 1) → online text (page 19 of 44)