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Most early Kankakee River settlers trapped, hunted, farmed and logged. All of these activities required a means to get their product to market. The river met most of those needs. The problem was that the Kankakee was a rather slow and cantankerous waterway. Steamboats solved this predicament.
The Baum's Bridge area in south Porter County has had continuous occupation for more than 11,000 years. In early times, it was a Native American encampment; later it was the site of a ferry crossing where today a bridge from Jasper to Porter counties is located.
Tassinong has been identified the "oldest gathering place for humans in Porter County" by Vidette-Messenger reporter A. J. Bowser in a piece he wrote in 1934.
This idyllic photo shows Ahlgrim Park on the Kankakee River near Shelby, circa 1900. The Times is celebrating our region's rich history. Check out this photo and others in our gallery on nwi.com and share an historic photo(s) with us today by emailing Celebrate@nwi.com.
Diaries are a great source for historical information and provide insight into the thinking of those who came before us.
Kouts Picnic Grounds on Kankakee River at Baum's Bridge 1896.
Ahlgrim Park on Kankakee River near Shelby circa 1900.
Baum's Bridge on the Kankakee River circa 1885 on
People waiting for train at Benkie Drug Store circa 1890 in historic Kouts, IN.
Many types of men with various backgrounds and aspirations were drawn to the Kankakee Marsh. Some were honest and upright and some were a bit unsavory.
The Kankakee Marsh was justifiably reputed as a lawless land. Many an unsavory character plied his criminal trade along the Kankakee and justice was scarce. In response to this threat a group of men came together and formed a vigilante group named the Jasper Rangers.
I find the evolution of river towns a fascinating subject. Baum's Bridge in south Porter County is an exceptional example of the birth and life of such a town.
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.
As the last Ice Age receded about 14,000 years ago, people began moving into the Kankakee Marsh. These early people were drawn to this "Everglades of the North" because of its abundance of wildlife and other natural resources.
In previous columns I have told of Major S. L. McFadin's accounts of Kankakee River legends Killbuck, LaBonta and Mingo. In this column I will tell of how McFadin met them.
Surprisingly, I find few accounts of individual Indians of the Kankakee River Valley. Mingo is the exception.
I last left you with Kankakee River legends Killbuck and LaBonta hunting and trapping in the Rocky Mountains. LaBonta is on the run from the Memphis constables after the killing of his rival in a duel over his sweetheart, Mary Brand.
Another early Kankakee River pioneer was LaBonta. Despite all that has been written about him, I have not discovered his first name. Maj. Samuel L. McFadin wrote, "He was a splendid specimen of a man 6 feet tall and straight as an Indian and about 40 years old and of French extraction. His f…
I find very few accounts of early Kankakee River pioneers. That is not the case for Killbuck and LaBonta. Major McFadin wrote: "I will now tell you how Old Killbuck and LaBonta, two old hunters and trappers, left the Rocky Mountains nearly fifty years ago, and came to trap and hunt on the Ka…
Pictured is a hunter.
"Pioneer Hunters of the Kankakee" by J. Lorenzo Werich is considered by many as a must-read book about the Kankakee Marsh.
A very important figure in Kankakee River history was the fur trapper. From earliest times up until today fur trapping of the Kankakee Marsh has been an active pursuit.
Christmas is two weeks away and I decided to do something different for this column instead of Kankakee River stories. The following are Christmas letters written in 1906 to Santa. I left the letters with original spelling.
The Hall family story is one of the more interesting Kankakee River tales. Edward Hall was born in Ireland in 1812. He immigrated to Canada with his wife, Ann Maxwell, where they lived for two years and then on to Indiana in 1836. Major McFadin was a close friend of Edward Hall's and wrote t…
Among the numerous champions of the Kankakee River I would place Major Samuel L McFadin in the top tier.
I consider professor Alfred H. Meyer the most learned and influential Kankakee Marsh Restoration advocate.
In my last column I wrote about the apparent lack of action to avert the draining of the Kankakee Marsh in 1918. Today I will discuss restoration efforts proposed after the Kankakee was ditched.
One question I am frequently asked is: Why weren't there objections made to prevent the channelization of the Kankakee River? I've wondered the same thing.
One of my first columns was about the Rowley and Bertha Morehouse 50th anniversary in 1937. Rowley was arguably one of the most knowledgeable and legendary characters of the old Kankakee River. Rowley was born in 1859 in Michigan. Around 1882 he moved to Jasper County. Eventually, Morehouse …
John G Benkie was a Kankakee River veteran. Benkie was originally spelled Behnke. He was born in Prussia in 1857 and immigrated to the U. S. in 1867. In 1879 John married Rosetta Whitney. They had two daughters, Etta and Mae, and lived in Wanatah.
Ours is a nation of immigrants. Peter Linden was one such immigrant.
The Kankakee River is a much abused and misused tributary. This stretch of water is a mere shadow of its former majesty. The Kankakee Marsh sprang from the Wisconsin glacier meltwater 24,000 years ago. This large freshwater sea broached its banks and the resulting "Kankakee Torrent" formed w…
Documentation is vital for historical research. Some subjects have more records than others. This column represents the later of the two, but it makes a great story.
KVHS board member Bob Riggs brought to my attention that this is the 150th anniversary of Baum's Bridge. Baum's Bridge has been known by many names: Indian Crossing, Potawatomi Ford, Sherwood Ferry, Eaton's Ferry, and Sawyer's Bridge are several.
Soon after the Kankakee River was channelized in 1918, it became obvious the action destroyed most of the Kankakee marsh's ecosystem. The Kankakee marsh was the main stopping point for waterfowl migration that followed the Mississippi Flyway route.
One of my main goals for this column is to spur people to contact me with Kankakee River stories and pictures. Recently, Gene Curtis, of Kouts, contacted me about a story written by E.W. Erwin.
One very important aspect of historical research is taking down the memories of old timers. I am always searching for family stories, general information and pictures of the old Kankakee River.
I give historical/ecological tours at the Collier Lodge site at Baum's Bridge. Most of the tours are for Valparaiso University students. I begin the tour at the Collier Lodge with the historical background of the area and then walk through the bayou to the Kankakee River for the ecology part.
Porter County Parks Department is working on construction of a park in south county. I am overjoyed about this project — it is long overdue! The Dunn's Bridge boat launch is currently the only county facility along the Kankakee River in Porter County.
The Kankakee River along southern Porter County has long been known for its prehistoric and historic human activity. The spot surrounding the Collier Lodge at Baum's Bridge was especially active and has had numerous archaeological investigations.
Pictured is Charles Morse of the Pittsburgh Gun Club at Baum's Bridge.
Like many young people, Joseph Singler planned an adventure after graduation and before the demands of adulthood. He took this adventure to the mysterious Kankakee River and was eager to experience this fabulous land.
A lot of controversy surrounds hunting. Putting the controversy aside, have you ever wondered why, with the reliability of firearms, there is a revival of archery? Many consider J. Maurice Thompson the father of modern archery. Thompson served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Af…
Anniversaries are special celebrations that bind us as a family. While looking over my Kankakee River material for this column, I rediscovered the golden anniversary story of Rowley and Bertha (Lange) Morehouse.
The Kankakee River was formed by the release of waters from the Wisconsin Glacier approximately 17,000 years ago. By 10,000 BC people were present in the Kankakee River Valley and firmly established by 7,000 BC.
I don't claim to understand all of the complexities and views on the proposed Illiana Expressway, but I do know about a public works project implemented in the early 1900s.
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