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Annexation fever has again taken hold in Lake County and the temperature is rising.

Dyer and St. John are dueling over unincorporated acreage between their respective borders. Crown Point is still in court to annex the Liberty Park subdivision, and Winfield, itself only incorporated as a town in 1993, wants to expand to the 109th street businesses adjacent to Lakes of the Four Seasons and The Pointe Property Owners Association's residences.

All told, these maneuvers can't hold a candle to the annexation wars in Lake County beginning in the late 1800s or perhaps even compare to the tussle between Hobart and Merrillville over the Westfield Southlake Mall.

Beginning in 1989 Hobart and Merrillville worked for four years to outdo each other to incorporate the retail giant, a property tax generating prize. Hobart ultimately prevailed after Ross Township residents tried to form the town of Ainsworth and as it appeared Merrillville might have the upper hand, Crown Point jumped into the fray to stake its claim.

The storied Annexation Wars began in 1893 when Hammond, needing to satisfy its growing population with an adequate water supply, annexed a narrow, six-mile long strip of land from its northern border at Gostlin street up to Lake Michigan. That year a notorious crime spree in the little Wolf Lake settlement of Robertsdale convinced the residents they could not depend on the sheriff located miles away in Crown Point. They petitioned Hammond for annexation. Debt ridden Hammond, its eye on the new Standard Oil refinery, also tried to annex all of the Whiting area in 1894.

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East Chicago attempted to throw a wrench in the works by annexing a narrow strip extending west over Wolf Lake to the state line, thereby cutting off Hammond's annexations. After four years of court battles, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hammond in 1897. Robertsdale as well as Roby became part of Hammond whose new northern boundary was now on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Not yet to be denied, East Chicago attempted to swallow up all of Hammond and Whiting in 1910 closely followed by Gary's unsuccessful annexation of East Chicago, Hammond and Whiting. Hammond answered by trying to annex all of North Township north of the Little Calumet River.

In 1923 Hammond annexed Hessville along with little Saxony just east of Hohman along the river. In 1925, after Gary gave up on absorbing Highland and Munster, the annexation wars were over for the time being.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. Contact Janet Moran at janetcopywrite@sbcglobal.net.

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