In "Dreams of Duneland: A Pictorial History of the Indiana Dunes Region," author Kenneth Schoon takes us not only into the beauty of the lakeshore landscape and the woods, marshes, bogs and prairies during each season but also this magnificent area’s past.
Luscious photos show us maple sugaring at Chillberg Farm, the Swedish settlement n the National Dunes Lakeshore and now a historic site, where each spring trees are tapped, sap is gathered and boiled to produce a food staple of both early settlers and the Native Americans who lived here as well.
We even go beneath the waters to see the iron structures from the Muskegon, an 1872 steamer originally named the Peerless, destroyed by fire and then settled in deeper waters off the coast of Michigan City.
The second section of the book, Stories of the Duneland, begins with vignettes of Indian Life in the Dunes Before 1833. Schoon has gathered recollections such as Timothy Ball, born in 1826, accounting of visiting the Indiana wigwams on the shore of Lake Michigan in the summer and fall of 1837. Schoon traces how the Native American pathways, like the Potawatomi Trail, gradually morphed into bridle paths, then public highways, stage and mail routes which were the basis of many of our towns and cities main streets.
Then it was the French fur traders and explorers. And, surprisingly on December 5, 1780, the Duneland area became the site of a Revolutionary War skirmish when Jean Baptiste Hammerin, a French Canadian on the side of the U.S. raided, along with 16 mean, the British Fort St. Joseph (now Niles, Michigan) while most of the soldiers were out hunting. Stealing furs they traveled west along the lakeshore, pursued by the Indians. A small battle ensued, with the Bits winning the Battle of the Dunes.
Schoon, a professor of science education at Indiana University Northwest, has authored several other books including Calumet Beginnings: Ancient Shorelines an Settlements at the South End of Lake Michigan and City Trees. His family roots in Northwest Indiana go back to the early 1870s. Indeed, so entwined is he to this area that he realized after moving into his house in Munster that he was three blocks from the family cemetery and the house he and his wife live in was built on land his great aunt farmed.
“Some of the stories I knew but didn’t know that much about,” he says. “Others I didn’t.”
Asked for one of his favorites is the Great Duneland Scam of 1890 when lots were created on Lake Michigan in what today is Porter Beach, north of U.S. 12 and just west of the Dunes State Park.
“They were given Chicago names and sold at the 1893 World’s Fair,” says Schoon. “There were no roads, no infrastructure and people couldn’t find their lots which were only 25-feet wide. The lots had names like Lake Shore Drive, Dearborn and Wabash avenue. People thought they were buying land on the south side of Chicago. There were 1500 lots and it was perfectly legal. In the 1920s, when the roads were in, people who held on to their property suddenly found it was more valuable.”