William Frederick Howat.

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

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est, Caleb Ives (a banker of Detroit) one-third, Marcus M. Towle one-
sixth and Geo. W. Plumer oue-sixth. The capital invested w^as $6,000
divided in the ratio of the interest of each partner.

■"The next step was the selection of a site to build a slaughter house.
The location must be on some lake or river in order to secure the large
amount of ice necessary to operate the coolers and cars.

"After some looking around in the vicinity of the stock yards at
Chicago, a site was selected on the west l)ank of the Calumet River and
just west of the Michigan Central railroad bridge, al)Out three miles
west of the State Line. Strong opposition arose as the neighboring
property owners found out that a slaughter house was to be Iniilt there,
and the firm of J. I*. Smith & Company, ice men, made such strenuous
objections that the matter was reconsidered. H. E. Sargeant, superin-
tendent of the Michigan Central, from whom a great many favors were
desired, was the owner of a half interest in the iirm of J. P. Smith &

State Line Slaughter Hoitse Founded

"One bright day in the fall of 1868 four men crossed the ^Michigan
Central bridge and going east from the Smith ice houses were seen trying
to approach the water line of the Grand Calumet River. After having
walked about a mile east they held a conference on a slightly raised bit
of land near the river bank. It was afterwards ascertained that Mr.
Hammond thought they had found just the spot and would secure a
piece of land there upon which to build the ice houses and slaughter
houses. The others favored going still further east. At that time the
land close to the river was covered ^nth a dense growth of wild rice and
marsh grass while the ridges back were covered with an almost impene-
trable growth of shrub oak.

"After laboriously wending their way along the meandering line


of the Grand Calumet River for about an hour they came to a place where
the solid earth formed a bank to the stream, while owing to the forma-
tion of a slough along the opposite bank of the river, the stream at this
point seemed much wider, which was a very valuable consideration with
a view of getting a crop of ice. Marcus M. Towle selected this spot
for the site of their plant and was seconded in his choice by the Plum-
ers. Mr. Hammond at first dissented and urged the selection of the
former site farther west. He afterwards endorsed this selection and it
became the site upon which the plant was built, from which fresh beef
was shipped in Davis refrigerator cars and refrigerator boats to almost
all parts of the world. The piece of land selected proved to be bounded
by the State Line of Indiana and Illinois on the west ; the Grand Calu-
met River on the north ; the Michigan Central railroad on the south and
west line of Hohman street on the east. The building material sent
down by the car load from Chicago was carded to State Line, Indiana,
and all billing was done to and from Gibson, then a station of long
standing 'On the Michigan Central three miles further east, which place
was also the nearest telegraph office and postofiSce.

"Before the building material arrived at the State Line for building
the ice house, slaughter house and boarding house a contract had been
entered into by and between Ernest Hohman and Caroline Hohman, his
wife, and Hammond, Plumer & Company, for the purchase of forty
acres of land at one hundred dollars per acre, which was the land in
Indiana lying south of the river north of the Michigan Central R. R.
right-of-way and west of Hohman Street. The Michigan Central at that
time was the only railroad running to the premises.

The Hohman Boarding House

"The men engaged in pitting up the building were crowded into
the small houses of the few resident farmers, the greater number of
them being accommodated by the Hohman family, who Uved in a log
house on the north side of the river near the site of the present Hohman

"The Hohman family consisted of Ernest W. Hohman, Caroline (his
wife) and Ottelia, Charles, Lewis, Agnes, Emma and Lena, children.
Ottelia, the eldest, was at that time thirteen years old, Charles eleven,
Lewis nine, Agnes seven, Emma five and Lena three.

Start of Hammond

"About the middle of September, 1868, three cars loaded with lum-
ber were stopped on the Michigan Central track where Hohman Street


crossing now exists ; the train was held while the lumber was thrown off
alongside the track. (This was the starting of what was destined to
become the City of Hammond.) Teams and men were engaged as fast
as they applied for work, carpenters were brought from Chicago and
Detroit. All houses within miles were pressed into service as boarding
houses, and beside the large family Mrs. Hohman had to care for she
made room for more than a dozen boarders engaged in building the
slaughter house. ' '

Marcus M. Towle

Among the boarders at the Hohman House was Marcus ^M. Towle,
then a vigorous young man of twenty-seven, who had for several years
been a butcher in Detroit, where he had met Mr. Hammond who was in
the same line of business. Mr. Towle Avas born in New Hampshire, but
learned his trade and business in Massachusetts. When he located in
Detroit the Boston market was being supplied \\ith fresh beef on the
hoof, the cattle being sent in stock-cars from tbe Middle AVest. He
quickly saw that on the score both of economy and healthful meat, it
would be an advantage to slaughter the cattle when they were in prime
condition and send the meat on to the eastern markets, if it could be
preserved en route. In his small slaughter house at Detroit he would
kill his cattle brought in from Chicago, dress them and. after sprinkling
the carcasses with cracked ice, would ship a load to Boston.

^Ir. Hanuuond, also proprietor of a small meat market, became inter-
ested in the experiment, suggested an enlargement of the enterprise
by tlie addition of more capital ; lience the partnership with Banker
Ives, and the formation of the firm Hammond. Plumer & Company. The
other steps leading to tlie founding of tlve State Uine Slaughter House
have been described.

First Shipment of Refrigerator Beef

After the slaughter house was ready, ice was purchased from J. P.
Smith & Company to use in the coolers and cars during the fall of 1868,
and in October the first carload of fresh beef shipped in the Davis
refrigerator cars from State Line, or Gibson, was sent to Boston. That
was the commencement in the trade in refrigerated beef and other meats
which is now international and cosmopolitan in its scope and fame. At
the time that the historical event occurred, carpenters were building a
boarding house, which was kept by Mrs. M. M. Towle until their new
residence was completed in 1873. Others (including C. N. Towle) after-


ward became head of the boarding house, which was esteemed a very
honorable position.

A postoftice was established at this point, with Mr. Towle, as resident
member of the firm, postmaster. The active work for Uncle Sam, how-
ever, is said to have been done by INIiss Annie Dow, who had a half inter-
est in the Towle store. As there happened to be a State Line, Illinois,
the business of the two ijostoffices became considerably mixed, and Mr.
Towle induced the Washington authorities to ehangv tbe name of the
Indiana postoffice to Hannnond, in honor of his friend and business
associate. That was in 1873, and the Towle store afterward developed
into one of the most profitable accessories of the meat business.

]Mr. Towle and Mr. IIammoxd Differ

During the first fifteen years of the business there seemed to l)e a
dilference of oi^inion between Mr. Hammond and ^Ir. Towle as to the
permanency of the slaughter house. From the first Mr. Towle planted
himself there with wife and family and insisted that it was both his
business and his domestic home, and that he intended to work for them
both to the best of his abilities. The locality was l)y no means attractive,
and during the earlier years of the enterprise it was difficult to keep the
butchers for slaughtering. As early as 1874 ]Mr. Towle proposed to Mr.
Hammond that the firm buy eighty acres along tln^ I'iver, which liad been
leased for the grass crop used for cattle feed and ice covering, and plat
the tract for building sites, the houses to 1)e erected for the working-
men to be sold to them on monthly payments. Geoi-ge ]M. PIuhum- fav-
ored the plan, but Mr. Hannnond opposed it, as it was his l)elit'f that the
slaughter house would have to be moved further west nearc^r the cattle
center and where transportation was better.

Mr. Plumer died in the fall of 1874, and his interest in the plant
was bought in by the other partners for $50,000, which was a pretty fair
return for six years investment of $1,000. This gave Mr. Hammond
two-fifths of the business, Mr. Ives, two-fifths, and Mr. Towle, one-fifth.
And yet M. M. Towle w^as the real founder of Hannnond. as will develop
with the unfolding of the story.

Mr. Towle Plats and Founds IlAiiMOND

In 1875 Mr. Towle bought from A. Goodrich about sixteen acre*
which he platted as Block 1 and 2, Original Town of Hammond. Thomas
Phillips, Leonard Phillips, H. A. Green and J\L H. Baum bought lots
and built homes on Plumer Avenue. Centennial Hall was built on the


corner of Plumer Avenue and Hohman Street. Five acres more were
purchased by Mr. Towle from Mrs. Hohman and comprised Block 3,
Original Town, and was the land upon which Fritz Miller and Henry
Huehn put up buildings.

When the Original Town was laid out in 1875, Mr. Towle 's sole object
was to enable men working at the packing house to secure homes. The
handicaps under which he at first worked, and how his perseverance,
faith and good sense overcame them, now constitute a chapter of which
the public of Hammond cannot speak too highly.

One graphic account of that period says: "Modern packing house
methods were unknown at that time, and consequently great piles of
bones accumulated from the tank room. Rough sheds were constructed
alongside the track, filled with skulls and horns, and throwing off a
stench that was nauseating to any person not aceustomed to it. This
stench was very strong in the direction of the wind.

''The country round about was a vast wilderness composed of ridges
and sloughs, all covered with an almost impenetrable growth of scrub
oak and tangled underbrush, among which at night the barking of
wolves was frequently heard.

"That a flourishing city would ever spring up. surrounded as the
place was, was not thought of. An examination of some of the early
plats will convince anyone that the promoters were only trying to sup-
ply a demand existing at that time. J\Ir. Towle 's plan was to sell a fifty-
foot lot for $200, furnish the lumber, and oftentimes the money to build
a house, and let the purchasers pay for it by the month, the payments
being in a majority of the cases ten dollars per month. This plan was
so popular that a great many homes were Imilt, the lumber being pur-
chased in Chicago, and shipped out by the car load at eight dollars per
car, which at that time was a special rate, the regular rate being sixteen
doUars per car. The demand for lumber to build houses with grew so
rapidly that Mr. Towle bought a piece of land on the north side of the
river, put in two hundred feet of dock, and opened a lumber yard, buy-
ing his lumber by the cargo, the vessels being towed fourteen miles up
the river from the harbor entrance at South Chicago. A planing mill
was built alongside the dock. It was destroyed by fire. Then when rail-
road competition was established shipping by water (owing to the long
and expensive tow) was abandoned (1888)."

It may be said that Mr. Towle withdrew from the slaughter house
when he commenced the platting and the founding of Hammond ; later,
he took a large part in the founding of East Chicago, and altogether had
more to do with the early establishment of the great industries of the
Calumet region than any other person. Besides founding the enterprises


HoHMAN Street, Hammond, in 1882 and Today

296 lakp: county and the calumet region

already named, Mr. Towle established a lumber yard in 1875, and later
built a planing mill, both being destroyed by fire. Other early indus-
tries which owed their existence, in whole or largely, to him, were two
flour mills and distilleries, both burned; the Tuthill Spring Company's
works, a vinegar works, the Hammond Buggy Company, the East Chi-
cago Steel Works, the Kingsley Foundry, the Chicago Steel Manufactur-
ing Company, the Chicago Carriage Works (now occupied by the Sim-
plex Appliance Company and destroyed by tire in 1889), the Hammond
Corn Syrup Works, three skating rinks (all burned), the Calumet Ter-
minal Railroad and the Western Indiana Line. He also laid out Oak
Hill Cemetery and put in operation the first electric light plant, which
derived its power from the Hammond Mill on the north side of the river.

Mr. Towle was Hammond's first mayor. He organized the First
National Bank of Hammond, with which his son of the same name is
identified, and at his death in September, 1910, was acknowledged to be
one of the country's great men of affairs.

The slaughter house was the only industry in Hammond until 1874,
when J. M. Hirsch erected a small albumen factory near the old Hohman
Street bridge. That was tlie predecessor of the Hirsch, Stein & Com-
pany's glue and fertilizer i)lant. at the locality named, which now em-
ploys 400 men and distributes about .$360,000 annually among them.
It is estimated that the works have an output of tAveuty carloads a day
and that about five per cent of the glue used in the United States is
made there.

That was the only early industrial i)laiit in Hammond which was
not directly promoted by Mr. Towle, who. therefore, was the chief per-
sonal force in that wise plan of city-building which aims to diversify the
industries of its people, so that too much of their support and pros-
perity shall not depend upon a very limited line of manufactures.

Thomas Hammond Enters Business

During the later years of the Hammond slaughter house, the busi-
ness was controlled by George H. and Thomas Hammond, brothers. As
early as 1873 some of the by-products of the trade commenced to be
utilized. A Mr. Loescher first contracted with George H. Hammond &
Company for the entrails and stomach linings of the cattle, from which
to make sausage casings, bladders and tripe. On account of some busi-
ness misunderstandings, which were carried into the courts, their rela-
tions were dissolved in 1875, and this industry was taken over by Thomas
Hammond, who joined his brother at that time and conducted it as a


regular branch of the business. He was then thirty-two years of age.
was a practical butcher and had l)een a resident of Detroit. lik<^ his

A Big, AVarm Man

Thomas Hammond's venture in tiie packing business was j^rotitablc
and his executive and business ability made him assistant superintendent
of the company, but, like Mr. Towle, his ambitions and successes extended
far into other fields. The basis of his large fortune was laid in real
estate investments, made largely in the eastern part of the city, and
in financial operations in connection with the Commercial and First Na-
tional banks. He also served as mayor of Hammond in 1888. 1800 and
1892. and as president of the Hammond Land and Improvement Com-
pany was chiefly instrumental in locating the W. D. Conkey Company's
printing and publishing plant at Hammond, an enterprise which gave
the city its second decisive impetus. Mr. Hammond's career in Congress
during 1893-94 was what was to have been expected of a citizen of his
])road and sound abilities, and his death in 1909 — a year previous to Mr.
Towle 's decease — left many sad hearts in the county to grieve over
the departure of IIoii. Thomas Hammond, otherwise "Honest Tom.''

Burning of Slaughter House

The bni-ning of tlie Hammond slaughti^r house on the 23d of October,
1901, was a staggering blow to the prosperity of Hannnond. Tht^ loss
was at least $500,000 and it soon became a certainty that the business
would not be resumed at "the old stand." An added handicap Avas the
shrinkage of the business of the great Conkey establishment, caused
by a strike of its employees; most of the other industries were either
small or in their experimental stages, so that the outlook was not cheer-
ful. But Hammond weathered its troubles with flying colors, as the
city always has a way of doing, although the once great abattoir
closed its doors May 12, 1903, and all the interests of the Hammond
'Peeking Company were transferred to the Chicago Stock Yards.

James N. Young

At the time that Messrs. Hammond, Towle and their associates founded
the fresh beef plant at Hammond, James N. Young was the station
agent at Gibson; was also the telegraphic operator, and as a side issue
bought ducks from the hunters in the Calumet marshes and sent the wild


game to Boston iu the Davis refrigerator cars. This became quite a side
issue to the regular beef business, and Mr. Young made enough out of it
to put him through a Chicago law school. But Mr. Towle had taken a
liking to the young man, snatched him from the law and gave him an
interest in some of his real estate deals. Mr. Young again gathered a
little capital and commenced to build railway's — the Kansas City and
Southwestern, the Chicago & Calumet Terminal, etc. He was the main-
spring which brought the latter to Hammond, and afterward sold both
his own and Mr. Towle 's interest to General J. T. Torrence and others,
of Chicago.

In 1884 Messrs. Young and Towle induced William and Frank Tut-
hill, brothers, to bring their spring works to Hammond, taking a half
interest in the business. They also joined General Torrence and George
W. Hofman to form the Chicago Steel IManufacturing Company, which
operated both steel works and nail mills. The works were afterward
leased to the East Chicago Steel Company, with Mr. Towle as president,
and the Lakeside Nail Company took over the mills, which were burned
in 1904. The entire business was then placed in the hands of a reor-
ganized corporation which was known by the old title of Chicago Steel
Manufacturing Company.

While never residing in Hammond, Mr. Young had large property
interests in the city and was a warm supporter of all local interests.


Robertsdale, although within the corporate limits of Hammond, was
originally a water station on the Fort Wayne road, and as early as the
late sixties quite a settlement had grown up at that point. It was
named after George M. Roberts, whose family has played an important
part in the development of that section. As a railway station it is
still known under its old name.

One of the prettiest pleasure resorts in Hammond is known as Rob-
ertsdale Park and consists of about four acres of lake beach, shady walks
and grass plats. Among the living attractions of the park are pet
doves and rabbits and a few wild animals, partially domesticated.
Robertsdale Park is a popular place for picnic and bathing parties.

The W. B. Conkey Plant

The large printing and publishing plant of the W. B. Conkey Com-
pany was located at Hammond in 1898. The founder and builder of this
great book manufactory, the buildings of which cover eight acres and


are centered in twenty acres of parks and gardens, thus transferred a
metropolitan business to a point twenty miles from Chicago for the
purpose of avoiding strikes, freight charges incident to operations in a
congested city, high rentals and taxes, and other expenses which will
readily occur to the intelligent reader. He placed his establishment on
the gi'ound, and thus did away with elevator and the other drawbacks
accompanying the conduct of an extensive business, perpendicularly
instead of horizontally. He controlled his own tracks, and everything
and everybody were handled at his very doors, and had the solid ground
beneath them. The lives of the employees, though they reached 1,400
or 1,500 in number, were also shorn of some of the worst wear and tear
of a business existence by the provision of pleasant rooms for reading,
rest and recreation, in addition to an attractive outlook beyond the walls
of the factory. The Conkey Company was a pioneer in this laudable
desire which is happily spreading among the proprietors of Americaii

It would be impossible to fully describe the Conkey plant, or any
other of the great manufactories within the Hammond territory; we
all know that it stands in the first class of the modern printing houses
of the world, and that it has a cosmopolitan fame foT the rapid and
superior printing and binding of large editions of books and catalogues.
More than a million dollars is invested in the property, and fully a third
of a million is annually transferred from the company's treasury to
the pockets of the men and women, boys and girls, who are doing their
good part to make Hammond and the Calumet region known to the

The establishment of the W. B. Conkey Company greatly accelerated
the growth of Hammond, and this industrial achievement was brought
about by the liberal action of George E. Rickcords, of Chicago, in con-
junction with the efforts of Thomas Hammond, president of the Ham-
mond Land & Improvement Company. As a result of this co-operation,
Mr. Rickcords donated ten acres of land, and sold seventy acres more
at a nominal price to that company, as an inducement to have the plant
established at Hammond. This, land was subdivided as the Franklin
Addition to Hammond.

Simplex Railway Appliance Company

The Simplex Railway Appliance Company has also been expanding
its plant on the northern banks of the Grand Calumet since 1898. Its
buildings now cover four acres of ground and its yards and dockage,
which have a river frontage of 2,800 feet, about thirty-six acres more.



The works employ from seven hundred to eight hundred men, disburse
half a million dollars annually and represent an investment of $1,000,000.
The products of the industry include truck and body bolsters, brake
beams, liearings, gears, springs for locomotives and car equipment of all
kinds. Another idea of the magnitude of the business may be obtained
from the authorized statement that the phint receives annually about
tift.y-five thousand tons of steel and tweuty-tive thousand tons of malle-
able iron, besides other material, and ships a like amount, involving the
handling of 10.000 carloads or more. The works lie lietween the Indiana

Ai-i).\(; 1111.: (Jraxi) Calcmet Rtvkr

Harbor and the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Belt lines, through which, and
their own trackage, they have perfect connections with the ^lichigan
Central, ^lonon, Erie and other trunk lines.

Standard Steel Car Works

The Standard Steel Car Company operates an immense plant in the
western part of the city. The yards, mills and factories cover 360 acres,
employ 2,500 men, disburse $2,000,000 in wages and salaries, and repre-
sent an investment of $4,000,000. The steel carshop is 2,112 feet long,
with a capacity of sixty cars a day; tlie wooden carshop, 1,600 feet long,
with a capacity of fifty cars daily. The passenger carshops occupy three
smaller buildings. The power for the great plant is furnished by a
5,000 horsepow(M' engine. All in all, the Standard Steel Car Works stand
for the largest industry witliin tlie corjxii'atc linnts of TTainiiiond.


Illinois Car and Equipment Company

Engaged in a similar line of inanufaetures is the Illinois Car &
Equipment Compan}-, whose plant covers 24 acres , employs 350 men,
pays its employees .$150,000 yearly and represents a capital of $100,000.

FiTz Hugh Luther Company

The Fitz Hugh Luther Company, quite generally known as the Fitz
Hugh Luther Locomotive Works, occupies a site of fourteen acres in the
eastern part of Hammond, just north of the Grand Calumet and on the
Indiana Harbor and Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Belt lines. Its proprietors
are successors to the old tirm of Torbert & Peekham. As now operated,
the plant employs about two hundred men, who are engaged in the

Online LibraryWilliam Frederick HowatA standard history of Lake County, Indiana, and the Calumet region (Volume 1) → online text (page 29 of 44)