Baum's Bridge in south Porter County is a spot steeped in history. The last remaining structure from the Sportsmen Era (1880-1900) at Baum's Bridge is the Collier Lodge.
The Collier family were originally from Brook, Ind. Elwood Collier was born in 1858. Flora Young was born in 1861. Elwood and Flora were married in Newton County in 1887. The Colliers had three children, Myrtle, Glena and James. The Colliers later adopted a girl they named Helen. Glena died in 1889 and Myrtle in 1896.
In 1949, Jim Collier did an interview with The Vidette-Messenger. In the story, Jim tells of the history of the Kankakee River, Baum's Bridge and the Colliers. Jim told that his father "constructed a 35 foot cabin boat, in which to take his family to the St. Louis World's Fair. The boat, propelled by a 20-horse power gasoline engine, was christened 'Iroquois,' since it had been launched on the Iroquois River. Following the fair Collier promoted a new business enterprise by operating the Iroquois up and down the Kankakee River, making regular excursion trips from Baum's Bridge to Momence."
Due to the unpredictable seasonal depth of the Kankakee, the tour boat venture was unsuccessful. Elwood was confidant of the business opportunities at Baum's Bridge and remolded their home, located next to bridge, into the Collier Lodge. They operated a small store on the main floor, stocked with supplies for campers and sportsman. Jim recalled:"Mother Collier served delicious, tempting meals to weary fishermen with ravenous appetites. Often she served chicken and fish dinners to as many as 250 persons. Dad Collier had on hand 25 or 30 boats for hire."
Jim had an artistic gift and was well known for his scenic and wildlife depictions of the old Kankakee Marsh. Although, the breathtaking beauty of the Kankakee Marsh was destroyed when the marsh was drained, Jim was able to recreate it visually through his paintings. The only painting I've seen of Jim's is of his mother. The only other work I've seen of his are some pencil sketchings.
After Jim's death in 1952, the Collier Lodge passed hands until the Kankakee Valley Historical Society took possession in 2002. KVHS has been working to raise funds — through a combination of special events, memberships, donor contributions and grants — to restore the historic Collier Lodge to its former glory.
KVHS has acquired Lake County Bridge No. 2 and the Linden Log Cabin. The Linden Cabin project is an all-volunteer effort. You can find the Linden Cabin story and progress at our KVHS website. The Linden Cabin restoration project will begin this spring.
The Society will build upon the success of the restored Linden Cabin to accomplish the larger projects. Interested in getting involved with the Linden Cabin or other projects? Please contact me at email@example.com or (219) 766-2302.