Calumet Roots

From fur traders to cyber companies, the Calumet Region thrives

2014-02-23T00:00:00Z From fur traders to cyber companies, the Calumet Region thrivesBy Archibald McKinlay Times Columnist
February 23, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Newspapers are filled with stories about what the Calumet Region will do with its rich land. The next invasion should be the elbowing into the region of lusty information age companies.

The first settlers were the Potawatomi and other Native American tribes. Then the French, the English, and finally United States natives, all scrambled together to create a breed known as Regionites.

At the same time, the sloughs and swamps became the original breeding grounds for every imaginable furry beastie.

The first permanent white settler was Joseph Bailly in 1822, on the north shore of the Little Calumet River in Porter County. I hope you take time to visit the Bailly homestead. Even today, you can imagine a great deal.

One of the main features of the region is the Valparaiso Moraine, shaped like the southern edge of Lake Michigan. About 17 miles wide at some points, the Moraine rises to about 750 feet to Valparaiso; from there, it rises another 200 feet. At various points, the old glacier slowed its retreat and left behind a beach, which explains the physical features of the land.

In this stretch of the Indiana dunes, one can even now observe the way the land was sculpted and changed over time. It is no exaggeration to call this territory the birthplace of ecology.

The sculpting created, among other things, three huge dunes, the “Three Sisters,” who gave their names to the village of Tremont.

In the vicinity, a budding Luther Burbank could identify more than 1,300 different plants. Some of these seem quite unique. For example, the prickly pear cactus grows side-by-side with the bearberry. The wild side of the Calumet Region was home to bears, deer, and timber wolves which roamed the sand ridges.

The Calumet Region, until 1763, was part of the French Empire in America. The first white visitors were probably the colorful coureurs de bois, entrepreneurial French-Canadian woodsman who traveled in New France and the interior of North America.

The Rev. Jacques Marquette and others passed through the region in 1673. During this period, the French erected Fort St. Joseph to command one of the routes into and out of the region.

Fort St. Joseph was an important center of the fur trade, and in 1750, there were between 40 and 50 French families living in the vicinity. The French influence was slight, though colorful. 

The English tried everything to marshal the Native Americans against the Americans. In the Great Lakes Region, the Potawatomi, Ottawa, and Ojibwa succumbed to liberal presents, weapons, rum and promises. In 1778, the British listed 150 dozen scalping knives among their trade goods in Detroit, but not all of the tribes supported the English.

For the future, the land will probably be dominated by cyber companies. A clue to the future is the banks that survived the late 20th century shakeout. Another highly visible clue is the way a newspaper is made. If you’ve never taken a field trip to The Times, you’ve missed a chance to see the future up close and personal.

Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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