Dream Cities of The CalumetA survey of towns platted in the infancy of Northwest Indiana . . . .
Dream Cities of the Calumet provides a historical survey of early platted towns that never came fully into existence, most notably City West, all of which were vying to be the next Chicago. No evidence today exists of City West, which was located very near today's beach pavilion at the Indiana Dunes State Park. Platted towns reviewed in this article include: Indiana City, Liverpool, and Sheffield in Lake County, and Bailly, City West, Manchester, New City West, and Waverly in Porter County.
Bowers, John O. 1929. "Dream Cities of The Calumet," in (pp. 174-198) History of Lake County. Volume 10. Gary, Indiana: Lake County Historical Association (Calumet Press). 223 p.
Dream Cities of The Calumet
BY JOHN O. BOWERS
This is just a little story of some dreams that did not come true; of
long-forgotten adventures of far-away by-gone days; of bold frontier enterprises
and wild speculation in "paper cities;" of bright prospects and vanished hopes.
Convention would dictate that we write, if we write at all, or speak, if we speak at all, of achievement, and not of failure; of doing, not dreaming; that we extol success and deprecate defeat.
But, looking back of and beyond the obvious and the tangible for the real source of achievement, we come at last upon the spirit that generates and promotes the act. And thus, after all, what matters most is the spirit that prompts -- the urge that drives -- the passion that seeks mastery over opposition.
As inventions are often the children of necessity, so great deeds are the children of dreams. Although "the stuff that dreams are made of" has taken no high rank as a theme for discussion or edification, yet it has been said upon no little authority, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Stooping to parody upon a well-known stanza containing a very fine sentiment, I, in order to express a less lofty idea, may, with little variance from veracity, say:
I hold it true whate'er befall,
I feel it when I most bewail,
'Tis better far to dream and fail
Than 'tis to never dream at all.
If the only dreams of human life were those which come true, what a sordid, dreary life it would be! If the world would have had no hopes or visions excepting only those which have reached fruition, what a subdued and depressed abode it would have been!
But, on the contrary, as said by the poet Pope,
"Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blest.
Heaven from all creatures hides the book of fate,
All but the page prescribed, their present state."
We are prone to laud the big cities and their so-called founders, but in most cases at the beginning the future was wholly unknown, and one man's guess may have been about as good as another's. Ordinarily, cities grow under certain economic laws, or economic conditions, and many of the controlling factors are usually quite beyond the control of any particular individual. Of course energy, enterprise and capital play important roles. But the dreamer blazes the trail for the doer. Drab indeed would be the world without dreams, dreary the way without an occasional stroll through dreamland.
By what power of reasoning or by what prophetic vision could John Kinzie or Mark Beaubien have foretold the actual future of the little settlement around Fort Dearborn? By none whatsoever. Indeed Monsieur Beaubien, the courteous hotelier of The Sauganash, said he "didn't expect no town." Such metropolis, to serve the great middle west, might have been located almost anywhere at or around the southerly end of the great lake. Was there anything about the site of Hammond which could or would have enabled the prophets to forecast the present city? If so, what was it? What seer saw the signs and laid the plans for it? What became of the plans?
With great foresight, Jonathan Jennings, the Indiana territorial representative in congress, caused the Enabling Act for the admission of the territory as a state to authorize the extension of the area, and the consequent removal of the northern boundary, ten miles north of the old northern boundary, which, under the ordinance of 1787, passed under the Articles of Confederation, was determined by a line drawn east-and-west through the most southerly extreme of lake Michigan. This extension operated to give the new state forty miles of lake frontage. This foresight is more fully appreciated when we reflect that at the time of the passage of the Enabling Act the lands north of the Wabash river were still held by the Indians.
When the white men made their first advent in the Calumet region, doubtless the prophets or seers saw, or fancied that they saw, Destiny pointing her finger toward the land at the southerly end of the great inland sea as the future home of a great aggregation of people, for was not this land foreordained by Nature to be the crossroads of the continent? Was not this the heart from which would radiate the arteries of trade? The Calumet Region having been recognized by the earliest white settlers as an area of great possibilities, it has long been an attractive field for the honest but often overconfident individual as well as the designing scoundrel who hesitated not to call a barren beach a "city" nor a swamp an "Addition" to an existing city, in order that he might obtain gain from the credulous and unwary prospective purchaser.
During the early period covered by this article, Lake county was for a time wild, primitive and unorganized, the administration of its civil affairs having been temporarily under the jurisdiction of Porter county. The settlers could readily see that ultimately there would be trading-centers somewhere, but just where no one knew. The adventurers and exploiting characters sought to establish them, no doubt, for personal gain; but no such founders could have a monopoly of all the gain; besides, there was hazard, as events proved, for public improvements and developments do not always follow rules of reason, and the best laid plans of men "gang aft aglee."
So then, with this little prelude, and without further apology or justification, we now turn to the dreams of a few adventurers of pioneer days that failed, but which, notwithstanding such unfortunate ending, still retain for many an abiding interest.
Living here in a vast metropolitan area through which run great trunk lines of railroads carrying thousands of passengers daily; street cars, automobiles and huge auto-trucks, all passing and re-passing in rapid succession; with cement sidewalks crowded with rapidly-moving men and women of every race and color assembled here from the four corners of the world; with the air filled with the commingled noises of factories, locomotives, moving trains, whizzing motor-cars and engines of aerial craft, it is hard-probably impossible-to transport ourselves in fancy back to the beginnings of civilization in this community; but we can shut our eyes and try. It may do us good to compare and contrast the present with the past, and to notice which way and how far we have gone. In so doing we will not try to be strictly chronological.
Taking a local train eastwardly from Gary on the Pennsylvania railroad, almost before we become seated the brakeman or conductor cries out: "The next station at which this train will stop is Liverpool!" If you have never been there you wonder what you will see when you shall have arrived; if you have been there you wonder why this place was called Liverpool, for the name suggests the busy port and mart of England, where ships from every maritime nation in the world load or unload their cargoes and then depart for the utmost parts of the earth, while here is but a little settlement at the junction of two railroads containing a small station house and one or two small dwellings. Liverpool is the name -- the only name it has ever had.
Some parents seeing extraordinary genius in their infant sons, and wishing to christen them with suitable names, call them Alexander, Horatio, Homer, Napoleon and George Washington; but what great ambition in the minds of the parent-founders could have prompted them to call this little infant, away out here in the wilderness, a thousand miles from a seaport, Liverpool? Hereby hangs the first story of some dreams that never came true.
Away back in the distant past, when what is now Lake County, was a township by the name of Ross, in Porter County; long before the advent of railroads in the central west, and when the total railroad mileage of the United States scarcely exceeded a hundred miles; when Chicago was yet a struggling village in the swamps; when the Indian trail was the only road, and the ox-cart and the stage-coach were the only means for the over-land transportation of passengers in this new domain; when the supper-table was lighted with a lamp made from an iron spoon, containing a strip of cloth for a wick and melted lard for oil; when the surrounding country was composed of primeval forests and trackless marshes covered with wild rice and other tall grasses; when there were yet but a few white settlers within the territory comprising the county of Lake; before bridges were built across the streams, and when rivers were crossed by ferries, one John Chapman, and two associates by the names of Frederickson .and Davis, conceived the idea that this location at the junction of the Deep and the Little Calumet rivers, then about the head of navigation for boats, would be a good site for a great city that might overtake the little village in the marshes surrounding Fort Dearborn. The government engineers had just recently completed the survey of lands in this locality into townships, six miles square, and sections within the same a mile square; but the government had not yet exposed the lands for sale, and therefore the settlers could not yet purchase lands directly from the United States. A few white settlers had arrived and located upon lands as "squatters," who afterwards designated their claims in a book which they prepared and called "Claim Register." But they were simply "squatters." The lands had theretofore belonged to the Indians of the Pottawotamie Nation, in common, but by the treaty of 1832 these lands had been ceded to the United States, and under the treaty, certificates commonly called "floats," were issued to certain of the Indians individually, entitling them to select and enter upon designated quantities of land allotted to them, such as sections or quarter-sections, thus to obtain title to specific parcels in severalty. Chapman was eager for the great adventure -- the founding of a city on the frontier. He did not want to wait for the government sale, the date of which was then neither announced nor known. He evidently wanted to start while the starting was good. He obtained a "float" from an Indian named Quashma, a beneficiary under the second treaty of Tippecanoe for section 24, Township 36 North, in Range 8 West, and proceeded to plat about 160 acres of the land, without waiting for a patent from the United States for the land. This was in January, 1836. Lands in Lake County south of the Indian Boundary line were not open to sale until March 19, 1839.
These promoters were doubtless not only ambitious to be the founders of a city bearing a name already famous, but, like most real estate promoters, had in mind the value of a name as a "selling point!"
We may assume that they were not unmindful of what is known as the unearned increment -- commonly called profits on land. So, keeping in mind the magic of a name, they called their plat "Liverpool." Of the streets thereon they had their Broadway, their Market Street, their Chestnut Street, Michigan, Indiana, and others of like dignity and rank, some of which were 100 feet in width. One block was designated "Public Square;" another "Market Square;" another "Church Square." Then there were 40 blocks subdivided into lots, 435 in number. Through this city to be, flowed the waters of Deep River, then described upon the plat as being 14 feet in depth, there being 18 blocks north of the river and 23 south. This was 16 years before the whinny of the iron horse was heard on the marshes.
Times were good. Historians record that the years 1834, 1835 and 1836 were distinguished by the wildest methods of speculation throughout the west. With rosy tales of rich prospects speculators were able to command fabulous prices for lots in "towns" and "cities" which had no existence, except upon paper. Liverpool was no exception. Lots here found ready sale. It is recorded by Lake County's leading historian that during three days in the month of July of the last-mentioned year the proceeds of the sale of lots aggregated $16,000, a large sum of money in those days when a rail-splitter received fifty cents a hundred for splitting rails, and often walked many miles for the job. Prospects here were bright; the town was booming, houses were being built, and hopes were running high. In this year (1836) the counties of Porter and Lake were created from territory taken from La Porte County; the boundaries of these two new counties were defined; Porter was organized as an independent county, but Lake remained attached to Porter, for civic purposes, until the 16th day of February, 1837, upon and after which date it was authorized to organize as an independent county. This creation and organization of a new county gave rise to new ambitions upon the part of Liverpool, for a county-seat was needed for the county. Why not locate the county-seat at Liverpool?
The new county was eager to be organized. Mails were slow, very slow. A special messenger was sent to Indianapolis for an appointment or commission of some one as sheriff to call and hold an election. The messenger returned with the appointment of one Henry Wells, a citizen of the new county, as sheriff. An election was held in March, 1837, there having been three polling-places in the county. It will be remembered that the settlers, mainly "squatters," were still very few in number, for less than 80 votes were cast in the entire county. The polling-place nearest to Liverpool seems to have been at the settlement subsequently called Crown Point -- then probably known as the Robinson settlement, or Lake Court House.
The county having been fully organized, the location of a county-seat became imperative. Three little settlements aspired to the distinction. They were Liverpool, the Robinson settlement, then sometimes called Lake Court House (now Crown Point), and the settlement at Cedar Lake. Mr. George Earle, an educated and talented gentleman from Philadelphia, formerly from Falmouth, England, had located at Liverpool, acquired large interests in and around the new town, and thereupon became the leader on behalf of Liverpool in the "Court-house fight." Solon Robinson, one of the first settlers of the county, and one of the most active and prominent, the "squatter king," pressed the claims of the above mentioned Lake Court house. Dr. Calvin Lilley, of Cedar Lake, on behalf of the settlement at that point, presented its advantages for the seat of justice. The commissioners appointed by the legislature to determine the site reported on the 11th of May, 1839, in favor of Liverpool. The promoters of Liverpool at once began the erection of a frame house, and the permanence and the distinction of Liverpool seemed assured. It had become the county-seat, though yet without a county-building for county officers; and the hopes and ambitions of the founders appeared to be on their way to realization. But, alas! the spirit of discontent was present. The citizens of the central and of the western parts of the county were dissatisfied with the location as fixed by the commissioners. They made their dissatisfaction known to the legislature of 1830-1840. A new commission was appointed by that legislature, and the same three places again aspired to the coveted honor. The new commission filed its report on the 12th day of June, 1840, locating the county-seat at the place then commonly called Lake Court House, but afterwards changed to Crown Point.
But troubles to the adventure came not singly; the panic of 1837 had arrived; the property of the original proprietors had been sold by the sheriff of the county, Mr. George Earle having been the principal purchaser. With the location of the county-seat at Crown Point, the last fair prospects of Liverpool faded; the exultation of success had given place to the despondency of failure. According to Timothy Ball, the courthouse at Liverpool, which had never been entirely finished, was sold, and moved on a scow down the Deep and Little Calumet rivers to Blue Island, Illinois, for use as a hotel or tavern. Some persons dispute the story of the removal of the court-house. Some say the building stood on the north side of the stream, although the Public Square designated upon the plat was located south of the river. According to the present best available testimony it was located north of the river near or at the present site of Camp 133.
After the lapse of a few years Mr. Earle founded and moved to his new town-building venture, which he named Hobart, in honor of his brother. For many years the deserted buildings withstood the assaults of the elements, but suffered the natural consequences. Sometimes they were used as corrals for the sheep herded in the locality. Finally the arch enemy of wooden structures appeared and demanded its toll, and only ashes remained to mark the site of the once ambitious and hopeful project. Thus ended the dreams of Liverpool.
John B. Chapman was a resident of Indiana, but to state accurately of which county requires some explanation. During the years 1833 and 1834 he had been a prosecuting attorney of or for a judicial circuit comprising the counties of Allen, Carroll, Cass, Elkhart, Jay, LaGrange, St. Joseph and La Porte, which group constituted the entire north end of the state. According the certain deeds executed respectively by or to Chapman in the year 1836, he was described as being a resident of Elkhart county, Kosciusko county and of Lake county. In those dizzy, hectic days of the early 30's, immediately following the Tippecanoe treaties, when paper cities, canals and new highways were the order of the day, developments were so rapid and counties were organized so fast and frequently that a settler might have had his political residence changed with the recurrence of the four seasons without any change in his geographical residence at all. So, in the fall no one could say of what new county he might be a resident in the spring. Liverpool having been in La Porte county in January of 1836, when the plat was prepared, and Porter county having been organized in June, 1836, with the boundaries of Lake defined and its area having been attached to and put under the jurisdiction of Porter county, pending the organization of Lake, which occurred in March, 1837, it became necessary in the swift succession of events to file the plat of the Liverpool town-site in the three counties.
It is probable that Chapman and his wife Margaret lived for a time in the new town of Liverpool. He had purchased other tracts of land from Indians who had obtained reservations, or float certificates. The writer has been informed that his last resting place is at Edwardsburg, Michigan. Another dream City was Indiana City. It was located on the beach of Lake Michigan, at the old eastern mouth of the Grand Calumet. Apparently two plats were filed-one for the land lying between the Old Indian Boundary Line and the lake, and one covering the land just south of the former. The plats bore date May 13, 1837. The promoters, it has been said, were from Columbus, Ohio. Few, if any, lots were sold, and few houses, if any, were built. It had an attractive location, but it was never more than a "paper city." The general financial depression of the succeeding period doubtless cast its shadow here as elsewhere in the region; but even as late as 1846 the state legislature memorialized congress for an appropriation for this project. Another of the dream cities which may fairly be considered within the scope of this story was old City West, whose history by tradition and otherwise has long been handed down. Some activities began as early as 1836, but the plans and location were not fully apparent until the following year. The "city" was laid out along the south-easterly shore of lake Michigan, at, or just south of, the mouth of Fort Creek. The place is now known as Waverly Beach. Fort Creek, named for an old French fort, was only a small stream, but the promoters of the project envisaged a harbor at its mouth, for, it was said, surveys and soundings made at the time, disclosed superiority of this site over the site of its infant sister, Michigan City, a few miles away, for harbor facilities, at which place a small appropriation had theretofore recently been made for a harbor to be established at the mouth of Trail Creek, a stream scarcely larger than Fort Creek. During the fall of 1836 and the spring of 1837, Hervey Ball, who had just arrived from Massachusetts, and who afterwards became a resident of Lake county, surveyed the ground and laid out the town site. The plat or drawing was entitled "City West" and was signed by "J. Bigelow, President of the Michigan City and Kankakee Railroad Company." The first and main plat bore date July 12, 1837, and was filed in the office of the Recorder of Porter· county two days later. A second plat was filed a few days thereafter which was entitled "Addition to the town Plat of City West," the land so platted having been contiguous to the land covered by the former plat. This plat was signed by Leverett Bradley and Joshua Hobart, bearing date August 12, 1837. These plats or drawings, containing about ninety blocks and hundreds of lots, represented Fort Creek as a stream of considerable size. A canal was represented on the plat bearing the name Michigan City and Kankakee Canal, which canal, according to plans, was to connect with the Little Calumet (Calimic) river at the mouth of Salt Creek. The principal promoters were Jacob Bigelow, Leverett Bradley, Joshua Hobart and William Morse. They had a great ambition to found a real city which they hoped would surpass Chicago, then a village, and become the metropolis of this region. They were seeking an appropriation by the United States Government for the construction of a harbor at the mouth of Fort Creek, for the vision of these dreamers comprehended a city with a harbor -- a mart at which vessels sailing the lake might anchor, and at which boats and barges might enter a connecting canal. These promoters having had great faith in their project, had invested heavily in surrounding lands. The prospects seemed bright and hopes were high; settlers were coming; houses were being erected; but the building of harbors, even in that far day, required money -- far more money than the promoters collectively could raise. Congress in its subsequent appropriations favored Michigan City to the exclusion of City West.
The panic of 1837, the worst and most disastrous in the history of the country, was on, and the battle for City West was lost. Prices almost vanished. Fortunes disappeared. Hopes, once bright, were extinguished. Obligations could not be met. The property of some of these promoters was administered for the benefit of creditors in the Bankruptcy courts, under the Act of 1841, and land which at the peak of the boom was rated at hundreds of dollars per acre was sold by an assignee in bankruptcy at a cent per acre. Such dire disaster defies depiction, and my poor pen capitulates.
A few of the houses of the original "city" were moved away -- some to Chesterton (formerly Calumet or Coffee Creek) and it is said, one to Wheeler. One of these moved to Chesterton, and known as Central Hotel was consumed by fire in the spring of 1908, thus suffering the fate common to many of its original associates. In an issue of the Chesterton Tribune immediately following the catastrophe in a story concerning the fire appears also a graphic account of old City West, doubtless written by its able editor of that day; Hon. A. J. Bowser. Omitting those portions pertaining to the origin and the effects of the fire, I quote so much as applies to the projected city, for certainly no narrative of mine could surpass this in diction nor in details. I quote:
"The last vestige of City West, the once hopeful rival of Chicago for the mercantile supremacy of the west, was wiped out early last Tuesday morning when fire laid waste to the Central Hotel in Chesterton.
"The Central Hotel figures conspicuously in the early history of northern Indiana, in fact, so closely identified was it to the early hopes and ambitions of this locality that its passing into oblivion entitles it to at least a brief obituary, which the Tribune herewith chronicles. As a sort of introductory note, it must be chronicled that the pioneer hosterly was at one time a structure of City West, one of the three rivals of Chicago in the pioneer days. In 1850 the building was moved to Chesterton by a man named Hopkins, and as a result, escaped the devastation by fire that swept City West a few years later, and which wiped from existence evidence of the sanguine expectations of those pioneers of over half a century ago."
Three hopeful rivals had Chicago in Indiana when commerce first sought a harbor at the head of lake Michigan, and two are forgotten, while the third, no longer a rival, is a very pleasant and comfortable little city among the sand dunes at the mouth of Trail Creek. In the thirties, when ox-teams mired in the marsh mud of Chicago's main street, and when small schooners anchored outside the bar to discharge their cargoes by lighters, it was not unreasonable for far-sighted men to look upon other and more solid spots as equally promising of municipal greatness, if creeks were present and capable of improvement. So far as men could see, Chicago had no cinch at the outset.
"But City West, dear, romantic old City West -- Ah! there is a tale worth telling, albeit the end is a record of disappointment and oblivion! Barely a year it flourished, the scene of business activity, domestic felicity and social gaiety, just long enough to absorb the energies that might otherwise have centered at Indiana City ten miles to the west, not long enough to prevent its own dissolution through the growth of Michigan City, an equal distance east. Once sufficiently important to attract a visit from Daniel Webster, it now escapes the attention even of cartographers of Porter county, wherein it spread its ephermal wings.
"Hardly a man or woman is now alive who dwelt in the enchanted precincts of old City West in those few glorious days, but there is one who in the royal light of childhood, saw the rise and fall of its ambition, and in the background of old age wrote lovingly of its bright and brief career, this being Timothy H. Ball, already referred to, the historian of northwestern Indiana.
"Old City West and Indiana City were platted and exploited coincidentally in 1836. Morse, Hobart, Bigelow and Bradley were authors of the former and, unlike the Ohio gentlemen responsible for the latter, they made their homes in and gave their personal attention to the city of their hopes. Fort Creek is an inconspicuous rivulet of three forks, the longest less than three miles in length, carrying to the lake the surplus water of half a dozen once marshy sections in the north of Westchester township, and at the mouth of this stream, where it breaks through the coast range of shining, yellow sand mountains, old City West was spread out upon the sandy floor formed by the washings from two sentinel dunes between which the creek debauches. The yellow hills thinly clad with green pines face the blue expanse of open lake and divide it from the neutral tints of the marsh and underbrush behind. To the hopelit eyes of those who sought it out in 1836, the spot was not unlovely, all solitary and desolate as it was and still is. "It was not supposed that Fort Creek in itself would furnish the expected harbor, it being but a modest little brook, but the design included a short canal equal to the Calumet not far southward. Actual surveys and soundings made in 1837 showed the superiority of this location over that of Michigan City for harbor purposes. The beach stage route ran through the place and a few miles south, reached by a newly constructed road, lay the old Chicago road following the ancient .Sac trail connecting the Illinois country with Detroit. Congress had already, in 1836, appropriated $20,000 for the Michigan City harbor and certainly when informed of the conditions, would at least be as liberal with City West. In fact, no reasonable man could doubt that the national legislature must abandon its attempt to convert Trail creek into a refuge for ships and confine its expenditures to the more practicable enterprise at City West, the future great port of Indiana.
"So Morse dammed the creek and built a sawmill to convert the pines into lumber for the stores, hotels and dwellings that were erected that fall, and in the season of 1837 Hervey Ball surveyed the town-site and located lots for the newcomers, and that winter the village led a busy, joyous life.
"The spring of 1837 found all things in readiness for a season of great progress. Great piles of lumber had been sawed out, the lots had been cleared of underbrush and streets had been laid out, many people had visited the place and listened to its story of golden promise, and a few families already living there knew that before another winter closed in, great changes would be seen. Large gardens were put out betimes and a stranded sloop furnished a good supply of potatoes. Curious Indians, always peaceable, came up along their trails from the interior, or by water in their birch canoes and camped on the beach nearby to watch the operations of the whites and gather in such supplies and firewater as might fall their way.
"That season the population increased to something like twenty families, all comfortably housed. Several of the dwellings were quite costly, place and period considered. A large store and warehouse occupied a prominent position, a blacksmith shop was opened, the ordinary handicrafts were represented and all was life and bustle. Morse's residence, the finest in the town was completed and Bigelow built a hotel, called the Exchange, containing twenty-two rooms, the largest tavern in all that region. Other smaller hotels were built, for many prospectors stopped at City West and with the commencement of work on the harbor, many new families would need to be cared for, pending the erection of their dwellings.
There were not enough mechanics, nor was there time to think of providing quarters for the purpose of education and religion, nor was there a teacher or preacher in the town, notwithstanding the fact that the inhabitants were educated and religious people. It was simply that the time had not yet come for these things, and they were postponed until the next year. Some of the children were instructed by their mothers in their homes.
"Death, however, did not stay his hand because the people had so much work to
do; he visited the growing hamlet more than once that season and forced a
cessation of their labors each time for the funeral. Avoiding the old Indian
burial ground that occupied the crest of a sand knoll by the creek and between
the village and the beach, in which some of the mounds were marked by rudely
split boards inscribed with puccoon root, the whites buried their few dead in a
lonely spot back of the sand ridge and simple rites were conducted by some
citizen who was accustomed to pray in public. The site of this early cemetery
was lost many years ago.
"Of the social life of this infant metropolis, it is of record that "the young society of City West was not large in numbers, but very select. Of young ladies proper, there were not more than five or six. Of young misses there were of·the "first set," five. The most lovely one of these, probably the youngest, beautiful as well as lovely, bore the given name of Mary. All five were quite polished, cultivated, good-looking, dressed well, were accustomed to the refinements of life, and formed a very small but a truly city-like group of girls." There were several boys and other children in the village, but only a few boys connected with this small group of girls." There were several unmarried young men, these being employed in the hard manual labor that was going forward.
"Under these circumstances and the "first set" being so limited in number, balls and evening parties were not indulged in and there is no evidence that our city ever had a wedding. With no churches, there were no church socials or festivals; with no farmers, there were no huskings or raisings. The ten or eleven girls and young women were thus left to their own devices for amusement, and they found it in going berrying, reading on the beach, or basking in the warm sun on the banks of fine, clean sand.
"Wild fruit was in great plenty that season, from the wintergreen berries of May, down through the list of blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, sandhill cherries and huckleberries, to the less edible haws and roseberries of late fall. Some grew on the sandy slopes and others on the flats or marshes, and after the frosts, came the nuts to be found at a great distance, so there was variety in the excursions. Then there were lazy hours for these young ladies to spend in gazing from the lofty brows of the sand mountains across the swelling lake at distant white sails, bound in or out of Chicago, destined soon, as they fondly believed, to be seeking City West instead.
"One day a dozen or so mounted young men rode in from· Michigan City making the beach road ring with their hilarious shouts as they galloped along, and they made a brave show as they traversed the streets of the new town and inspected its progress for an hour or two before returning as they came.
"Another day, and this was July 4, 1837, was made memorable by a visit from Daniel Webster. It was the greatest day in the entire history of all City West, the very summit of its career. Webster, the great expounder of the constitution, the influential senator, a probable candidate for the presidency at the next election, visited City West at the precise moment when he could do it the most good. Traveling eastward from Chicago in a private two-horse carriage, he was induced to turn aside and so arrange his itinerary as to breakfast at the Fort creek metropolis. A committee of leading citizens went to Chicago and brought this about. The great man arrived on schedule time, was entertained at the Morse mansion, a few prominent persons in the community being of the party, and was given ocular and documentary proof of the positive superiority of the local estuary for harbor purposes over anything that could be found elsewhere on that part of the lake, Indiana City and Michigan City, more particularly.
"The Whigs in the community were greatly enthused by this visit, for political reasons, and all were excited because of their hope that he might view the harbor proposition as they did. After the breakfast, which was a good one, and the inspection which was all too brief for the City Westers, the great orator made a little speech, which was non-committal, and proceeded by the beach road to Michigan City, where the brilliant Edward A. Hannegan met him, and the populace tried to give him the time of his life. He dined and spoke there and went on to Laporte, where he spoke and supped.
"The financial disaster that swept over the country in 1837 fell upon City West with a crash and hurled its projectors and supporters into the depths of· ruin. Money tightened, values were depressed and debts must be paid. The proprietors of our hopeful little village were not men of great wealth and they exhausted themselves in their venture. They could not stock the stores, equip the hotels, complete the harbor survey, dig the Calumet canal, or proceed another step without selling more lots than there was a market for in the panic. And Daniel Webster's breakfast did not bring the anticipated appropriations which went instead, increased to $30,000, to Michigan City, where Hannegan is reputed to have produced some rare good whiskey that Fourth of July.
"In the autumn, a year after the town was established, its finish was clearly seen and the inhabitants began to scatter. In 1838 all were gone. The tragedy was complete.
"In the midst of the fruit season of 1840, one of the former dwellers in City West, one who had left in 1837, returned, arriving with a companion at nightfall. The houses were there but the place was solitude. After calling at the abandoned Exchange hotel, they domiciled themselves in the house that pleased them best, prepared their supper and slept, and the next day they examined the deserted village more thoroughly, bathed in the lake and departed, first gathering an abundance of fruit, without seeing another human being. Later, possibly several years, Mrs. Sarah J. Stonex, then of LeRoy, in Lake County, who had known the place in its halcyon days, was one of a small party that visited the town. The adventurers went from house to house, entering such as took their fancy, and explored the great empty hotel. There was no sign anywhere of any recent company.
"One night, more than half a century ago, (now about 75 yrs.) traditionally numbered as a night of wild storms, old City West, then fallen into sad dilapidation, was swept out of existence by a fire. No one saw the conflagration, or knew of it at the time, and the supposition is that a midnight stroke of lightning was the cause. By the shifting sands and the processes of nature, the last vestige of this early competitor of Chicago has long been obliterated, with the exception of the Central house, this week burned.
"Old City West is gone. Its existence, though short, was bright and the glory of it is romantic. Its site today is a desolate wilderness, frequented only by occasional fishermen or, as has been refuted, by some fugitive felon or band of sand dune buccaneers. The old beach road is abandoned and impassable, and the old Sac trail is replaced by a labyrinth of railway lines such as the promoters who breakfasted with Webster that day, had never dreamed of in their plans for scooping commerce of the great west by means of a harbor at Fort Creek. As late as 1842, the Indiana general assembly memorialized congress in favor of a harbor at City West, but the resolution was a brief, perfuctory, unsympathetic document, especially when compared with fervent prayers the same body was sending up annually to the national legislature, and the sole response was silence. Chicago and Michigan City got the appropriations, while the two others languished and died."
A settlement somewhat southeasterly from the original site, located along the old Chicago-Detroit trail (now Dunes Highway) and just east of the present railway station called Tremont continued to flourish for several years, and this was generally known as City West, or New City West. A postoffice was still maintained there in the early 40's under the name City West post-office, as may be seen by old letters, folded as envelopes, for neither the envelope nor the postage stamp had come into use at that time, the message sheet having been folded in the form of an envelope, bearing the name and address of the party addressed and the inscription "postage Paid." Here for a few years a cooper-shop flourished. The hoops, or withes, for the buckets, tubs and barrels were made from hickory and oak sprouts taken from the woods. The frame school-house still standing, but used as a dwellinghouse, was often known, prior to the advent of the trolley-car, as City West school. The trolley line completed in the year 1908, gave rise to new names for old places, -- as Tremont, Port Chester, Mineral Springs, Oak Hill, Meadowbrook, Wilson, Wickliff, and so on. On an old beech tree along the little stream that flowed through New City West are initials carved by boys, now old and decrepit men. A few chestnut trees grow near by the old site.
On the east bank of this stream stood a tavern in those early days. Among the families of this settlement were the Posts and the Greens, some members of the second generation of whom still survive.
At this writing scarcely a building of New City West survives, but a few years ago some were still standing.
The name Waverly as applied in recent years to the beach at the mouth of the above-mentioned little stream, called Fort Creek, has been due to the filing of a plat of a small subdivision by one John W. Foster away back in the summer of 1834, then in Waverly township, in La Porte County, now in Westchester township, Porter County. He named the subdivision or townsite Waverly. The land was owned by William Gassett. Valuable improvements were made, but a disastrous forest fire wiped them out. A school house and one or two residences now occupy the site. The school-house has long been known as the Waverly School-house and the road running north and south by the same has long been known as the Waverly road, and since the road led ultimately to the beach at this point, it was quite natural that the beach finally become known as Waverly beach to distinguish it from beaches approached by other trails.
Considerable speculation has existed concerning the exact location of Little Fort (La Petit Fort) built by the French in the days of New France, near the mouth of the stream above described as Fort Creek. I venture no opinion upon the subject. My friend, Prof. George A. Brennan, of Chicago, who has made considerable investigation of the subject, together with a study of the military maneuvers at that point says in his book, "The Wonders of the Dunes:"
"The writer has located the site of this fort on a high bluff about one-half mile from Lake Michigan as fixed on the map of the Chicago region made for General Hull in 1812."
I think no physical evidences remain.
Great as are the contrasts between City West, of 1837, and Waverly Beach, of 1929, still greater contrasts are to follow, due to improvements about to be made by the State Conservation Commission at this point in the new Dunes Park. In lieu of a metropolitan city with a harbor and canals, as seen by the dreamers in their dreams, posterity will inherit a great play-ground, with giant dunes bathing their feet in the surf of the sea; dark and shady dells; great amphitheaters, built by the winds and the waves; pavilions made by man, and bathing beaches fashioned by Nature in her varying moods, all as a refuge from the grind and grime of nearby metropolitan areas.
And thus over the ashes of old hopes, new ones rise.
Be this the irony of fate, or the gift of the good angels of destiny?
The little brook that prompted the project of City West and held a place on Colton's map of 1838; that took its name from an old historic French Fort, and that forged its canyon route through high hills of sand to pour its waters into the great lake, is from this eventful year 1929, by order of its new masters, doomed to approach its destination unobserved through a subterranean conduit, thus removing an ancient land-mark and its beauty to increase artificially the continuity of the strand.
Closely connected with the proposed city at the mouth of Fort Creek just described, was a projected city at the mouth of Salt Creek, that is, at the junction of Salt Creek and the Little Calumet River (then called Calumic River).
As was stated above, the canal mentioned in the plat or drawing of City West was to extend through the little valley comprising the hinterland of the Dunes, on over westerly to the mouth of Salt Creek. Two adventurous promoters named Lamson and Chittenden platted a parcel of land just south and west of the mouth of Salt Creek containing some 200 acres, with Salt Creek as the western boundary of the subdivision, comprising some 73 blocks and hundreds of lots, with a public square in the center of the town-site. The plat or drawing representing this subdivision, signed by Silas Lamson and Austin Chittenden, was filed in the office of the Recorder of Porter County, May 13, 1837. Having imbibed the spirit of the times and knowing the psychological value of names, notwithstanding that as has been said "a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet" and thinking in terms of cities and not villages, they did not name the town site Lamsonville nor Chittendale, but called it Manchester. These promoters were residents of La Porte County. No doubt their hopes ran high. They were at the head of navigation on the Little Calumet River, then having a much larger volume of water than at present. The Chicago-Detroit road had been deflected so as to pass through the parcel selected as a townsite and across the marsh on a bridge commonly called Long Bridge. The site was high and dry and commanding. It overlooked the valley stretching out below. The Chicago-Detroit road was then an interstate artery with a probable future, for railroads were then little known even in the east and wholly unknown in the west. Would not transportation always be conducted by wagons? Therefore would not the Detroit-Chicago road be permanent and a highly-travelled thoroughfare? The canal was to allow boats to pass through the proposed harbor at City West. A fairly good farming country lay to the south, and the dunes on the north were largely covered with white pine timber; so why could not a city be built here? By comparison it had many advantages which other locations lacked. Some evidence of the fact that a canal was to be extended between City West and Manchester and was fully contemplated may be obtained by the examination of the plats. The plat at City West called for canals and the plat of Manchester contains a street named "Canal Street" and the plat of Athens, just south of Manchester, contained a designated canal extending north and south along the west bank of Salt Creek.
But of greater force is a copy of a letter in the hands of the writer, written
by Alexis Bailly and Mary Bailly as administrators of the Estate of Joseph
Bailly, deceased, bearing date August 25, 1836, addressed to Jacob Bigelow of
Michigan City, who, it will be remembered, was one of the chief promoters of
City West and the signatory to the plat of that townsite which was filed, which
letter is as follows:
Colimque, August 25th, 1836
Agreeable to the promise made the other day we the administratrix and myself as Administrator on the Estate of Jos. Bailly, deceased will, which please to look upon as, submit two propositions independent of the partial understanding entered into on the 23rd inst. either of which ·said propositions if acceded to will annul the minutes of that day.
1st. We will sell the qr. of Sect. 13 near City West on the following terms, say six thousand dollars to be paid as follows, two thousand dollars Cash down two thousand dollars nine months from the date of the first payment and two thousand dollars nine months from the last, bearing interest at the rate of six per cent until paid, you will also obligate yourself to give to said estate free of charge Six choice Lots in City West, and to make a Canal
in a specific time to run along the marsh up to the Junction of Salt Creek with the Calimic paying to said estate for whatever lands or material you may want of said estate to effect the project in contemplation at a fair valuation.
2nd. We are willing to make a sale of the quarter of Section 13 near City West without any further condition for the sum of Eight thousand dollars, paid as follows, four thousand dollars cash down, two thousand dollars one year from the date of the first payment and two thousand dollars one year from the date of the last payment, bearing interest at the rate of six per cent until paid, and six choice lots as above stated.
Should you prefer to either of the above propositions the partial contract already entered into, Mr. John H. Whistler whom Mr. Bailly has appointed his attorney will sign for him any contract, the basis of which will be the minutes taken on the 23rd inst.
Mary Bailly, Admintrx.
Alex Bailly, Adminstr."
Jacob Bigelow, Esq.
A few lots only in the subdivision were sold. Few, if any, buildings had been erected, although the construction of a mill was evidently contemplated to be run by power obtained from the water of Salt Creek, then a stream of considerable volume.
Unfortunately, but probably in keeping with the mode of the promoters of that day, a mortgage had been executed as against the land subdivided as the town site which was held by Hervey Ball of Lake County, who had extended credit to the promoters signed an indemnity or a guaranty contract concerning the payment of the price of grain purchased or to be purchased by the promoters. The blighting effect of the panic of 1837, as above described, was over the land. The debt remained unpaid; the mortgage was foreclosed to satisfy a debt of some fourteen hundred dollars and the land was sold under the hammer, and another dream failed to come true.
The Hedstrom Road, now in process of being graded and connecting with the Dunes Highway just east of Wilson, passes through this old subdivision.
At this juncture it is well to bear in mind that in those days of '36 and '37 there were four or five villages in the race for commercial supremacy along the southerly end of Lake Michigan, with the chances of success pretty evenly distributed. I quote the following from Mr. Timothy Ball, then a small boy in this county, taken from one of his historical books:
"This was the era of western speculation, and four little places on Lake Michigan were about this time struggling for existence. These were Chicago, Indiana City, City West and Michigan City. The first was in Illinois, the second in Lake County, the third in Porter, the fourth in LaPorte. To them might well be added the fifth -- Liverpool on the Calumet. I have no hesitation in saying that no ordinary foresight of man could then, or did then, see much difference in their chances for success."
But there is still a tale of another ambition -- another dream to found a town or city. Joseph Bailly, a Frenchman engaged in the fur-trade in the region of the great lakes, was the first white man to settle in the Calumet district. He came in 1822. For ten years he was the only white settler in this land of the Indians. He was diligent in business, and acquired many sections of land. He too had at least a modest ambition to found a town that should bear his name. He prepared a plat bearing date December 14, 1833, entitled "Town of Bailly." The site was located on the north bank of the Calumet, in the southeast corner of section 28, T. 37 N., R. 6 W. He laid it out "four square," with blocks, lots, streets and alleys. He honored his family in the naming of the streets. One he called LeFevre, after the name of his French-Indian wife, at the time of their marriage; others were named respectively Rose, Ellen, Esther and Hortensia, after the names of his daughters. One he named Jackson (doubtless for the President of the United States), and one Napoleon, (in honor of the French hero.) Streets running at right angles to the foregoing bore the names of the great lakes: Michigan, Superior, Huron, Ontario, Erie and St. Clair. He had a form of warranty deed printed especially for use in the sale of lots in this subdivision, with notarial certificate attached, leaving only blank spaces for the name of grantee and a description of the lots sold in the "Town of Bailly." There were prospects of a railroad and a canal. He negotiated a contract of agency with one Daniel G. Garnsey for the sale of lots. A few lots were sold. But in 1835 death called the first pioneer of the Calumet region, and the deeds, plat and the books of account which he had carefully and neatly prepared in his native tongue, for forty years, were all laid aside. No more lots were sold. But a Bailytown still remains as the name of a settlement on the land once owned by Mr. Bailly, on the old Detroit-Chicago trail. And thus ended, tragically, hopes doubtless once fondly cherished.
But this great industrial region was to be favored not only with a Liverpool and a Manchester, but with a Sheffield. Several years after City West, Liverpool and Manchester had become subjects of memory and of history, in the 40s and 50s of the last century, an adventurous civil engineer who thought he saw in the Calumet region a land of great promise, who by name was Geo. W. Clark, purchased some 15,000 acres of land in the northwestern part of Lake County, extending from the Illinois and Indiana State line eastward for several miles, on which are now located in whole or in part, the cities of Hammond, East Chicago, including Indiana Harbor, Gary and the settlements of Pine, Clark and Buffington. Land was then selling at $1.25 per acre. Upon his death in 1866 a part of his interest went to Caroline M. Forsyth, wife of Jacob Forsyth, who likewise had great faith in the region.
In the early 70s some bankers formed a syndicate and purchased from the Forsyths about 8000 acres for the purpose of building an industrial city which was to be named Sheffield. The Forsyths were to receive something over $450,000.00 for the land located around Wolf Lake. About $80,000.00 was spent by the new company in improvements, principally by the erection of a very large frame hotel, still remembered by many, at what is now the junction of Sheffield Avenue and Indianapolis Boulevard. The hotel was finished in 1874, but the panic of '73 with its disastrous depression was now on, and like many another adventure of that day, the promoters were unable to complete the purchase of the land, and it reverted to the Forsyths. The plat or drawing of the proposed city which was to have been located east of Wolf Lake, was filed in the office of the Recorder of Lake County on the 20th of March, 1874.
The hotel burned down in 1910, and thus the last physical vestige of the projected city of Sheffield followed the fate of its predecessors. Like Waverly, it left its name on an avenue.
There have been more than a score of these adventurous projects in this region that have failed. Some were prematurely launched; some were overtaken by calamities and adversities unavoidable by man, and some were evidently promoted with downright dishonesty. I might note that examples of the latter were Baxter's Addition to Chicago and River Shore Addition, both in the marshes of the Little Calumet river, near the site of Liverpool, whose only inhabitants during all these years have been muskrats and fowl that feed upon wild rice; whose paper streets no census enumerator has ever trodden in all the decades since their dedication, and whose alleys have been overgrown with tall grasses for a possible thousand years, and whose inaccessible location doubtless not even a surveyor has ever entered.
Concluding, let me add that there have been dreams hereabouts which were not all dreams. A little while ago there were some dreamers who dreamed not of the "fountain of youth" nor the "pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow," but of a place at which all the raw materials which enter into the production of steel could be assembled at a hitherto unknown minimum of cost; to which the ore, the heaviest of all, machinery-mined-and-loaded, could be transported without an ironrail or the touch of a human hand. They were captains of industry -- craft-descendants of old Tubal-Cain. They had both enterprise and capital. They dreamed of a great army of men daily making tons and tons of steel, while great towers were emitting smoke "like incense from the altar of labor." They awoke and sought the place of which they had dreamed. By and by they found the place on the banks' of a two-mouthed, sourceless, sluggish, silent stream, skirting the shore of an inland sea. They sought the employment of many men, and had the means to satisfy the pay-roll. (Maybe that helped the dream to come true). They built furnaces, factories and mills. Thousands of men are at work, and the smoke ascends, and sometimes descends, but a city close by is building, still building -- not built. Both site and city are unexampled and unrivalled. The incorporating citizens of the new town sought not the capitals nor marts of the old world for a name; they just gave it the name of one of the dreamers -- the outstanding figure in the world of steel -- Gary. But I have wandered far from the subject of my story, for I have passed from dreams that did not come true to dreams that did. I leave the story of this adventure for some historian who shall chronicle achievements as well as aspirations-deeds as well as dreams. I revert, but just to say that, after all, those "Cities" whose prophets were false, or -- came too soon, lie buried in a land of marvels, and sometime, we know not the day, they may yet arise, like the fabled phoenix, from their mouldering ruins, at the sounding of the trumpet of Progress, and those streets long ago dedicated but never used, marked or graded, may yet resound with the foot-steps of a busy metropolitan population.
Transcribed by Steven R. Shook, January 2009