KOUTS | For many years, the members of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society have been looking underground to find traces of the past to learn more about the history of the Kankakee River.
Now, they're hoping to to piece together the history of the river by reaching out to families to share their photos, documents and family stories.
John Hodson, president of the historical society, said most of the work has concentrated on the archaeological digs at the Collier Lodge, near the river. While that work is ongoing, he is hoping to compile a history of the entire Baum's Bridge area, which lies along the river, south of Kouts.
The area was once a thriving community, he said. Before the river was straightened, the river and surrounding wetlands attracted hunters from miles away. There were many hunting lodges built on small parcels, that were often leased to other people.
"We're trying to get a grip on who owned what and when," Hodson said.
Hodson has done a lot of research from studying deeds and other documents recorded with the county. Those documents give a glimpse of the past, but he is certain local families still have photos and documents about life along the river.
"Those pictures and family stories are great for filling in the gaps," he said.
Hodson would like anyone with information about the life along the river not only from Porter County, but also Lake, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper counties as well. Hodson said there used to be a lot of small settlements along the river, most of which no longer exist. The Baum's Bridge area is a good representation of many of those settlements.