History of Porter County, 1882County history published by F. A. Battey and Company . . . .

Source Citation:
Goodspeed, Weston A., and Charles Blanchard. 1882. Counties of Lake and Porter, Indiana: Historical and Biographical. Chicago, Illinois: F. A. Battey and Company. 771 p.







THE township of Portage received its name from a county of the same name in the State of Ohio. It was organized at the time of the general division of the territory of the county in 1836. Some changes have been made in its metes and bounds since that time, and an effort was made by sundry parties of Lake County at one time to have certain terri-


tory belonging to the above-named county set apart to Porter County. This scheme was defeated, and the western boundary of the township and county remains, as at the time when Lake County was set off, a straight line.

General Description. -- In surface the township varies from a level prairie in the south to sand hills in the north. These sand hills are highest near the lake, and shade off toward the center, where they give place to a sandy plane that gradually loses its "grit" as we go south. The soil of the northern part is about all sand, while in the southern part it is a rich and productive loam.

Salt Creek cuts the southeast corner of the township, and passes out near the northeast corner of Section 32 to enter again at the northeast corner of Section 20; thence it flows north and west, entering the Calumet in Section 31, about one-quarter of a mile west of the east line of the county. This is a fine stream, with numerous small feeders that afford abundant water for stock. Salt Creek Mill is situated on this stream, just over the line in Liberty Township. Longinus (Long) Lake is situated partly in the northwest corner of this township and partly in Lake County. It is more marsh than lake, and can boast of no beauty of scenery or surroundings. Much sand is shipped from this township to Chicago, and it may be that in time this will be a fruitful source of wealth, for the supply is almost limitless. That found south of the Calumet is thought to be of the best quality. A peculiar kind of clay or "loam" is found near Crisman. It is used for fine molding, for calking boilers, etc. There is a large spring on the Gaylord place. It contains much iron and some sulphur. The water is thought by some to possess valuable medicinal qualities. No coal has yet been found. Some bog iron ore is found, but not in paying quantities. The southern part of the township is strictly agricultural and well improved, while the northern part promises to become the seat of great manufacturing interests.

Industries, Taverns, Wild Animals, etc. -- There was a saw-mill among the sand hills, built in 1851 or 1852. It was run awhile and then abandoned. There is a cheese factory which was established about six years ago. It has been doing a good business and is still running. They have been making some butter, but have been paying more attention to cheese. Several steam saw-mills have been set up in different parts of the township, but, like the steam thresher, they did not stay long in one place.

The first tavern in the township was built on Willow Creek, among the sand hills, in 1837. An Italian by the name of Carley, who had previously kept a stand farther north, on the lake, built the house and kept it for a time. Another house was opened at the same place soon


after by two women. These two are the only taverns that have ever been kept in the township. These were on the old stage line between Detroit and Chicago. This formerly ran along the beach of the lake, but was afterwards moved farther south. To enable the stages to cross the Calumet, a bridge sixty-four rods long was built in 1836 and 1837. This was made of poles throughout. Cribs were built of poles for piers; poles were used for stringers, and small poles and split timber were laid across these for the floor. This rude bridge was situated a few rods below the mouth of Salt Creek.

This is a temperance township. No regular saloon has ever opened its doors here to entice the youth. An attempt was made at one time to start one at Crisman, but as the party had no license, it was closed by the people in a summary manner.

In 1836, a bear was killed in the northern part of the township. In 1838, two cubs were killed by a man named Greene in the southeastern part. Wolves were very troublesome until the railroads were built. The whistle of the locomotive and the roar of the trains seemed to scare them away.

Early Conditions. -- The first settlers endured many hardships that, to the tender-footed sons of these hardy sires, would seem beyond their powers of endurance. These sturdy pioneers sowed, and their children and their children's children are reaping an abundant harvest. The first houses were built of logs without nails. Windows were made temporarily of greased paper, and doors of a quilt with sticks across. At the time of the first settlement here, there were no envelopes or matches. A letter was written upon one side of the paper, and then it was folded and fastened with a red wafer or two in such shape that the address could be placed upon the other side. Postage then was 25 cents per letter, payable upon delivery. Matches made their appearance a short time later, in small boxes holding about a dozen; these sold for a shilling (12 1/2 cents) a box. Supplies were brought from Michigan City, a distance of twenty miles. The first birth is unknown. The first death was probably that of a Mr. Ashton, who died in 1837. In 1838, Mrs. James died. This was a very sickly year. Probably the first marriage was that of Henry Harold to Miss Dorr. An Indian trail crossed the southern part of the township. On Section 36, Township 36, Range 6, was what had the appearance of an Indian burying-ground. Evidences of about twenty graves were to be seen.

Schools and Teachers. -- This township is well supplied with schools, except, perhaps, in one locality, where another school is badly needed. There are seven houses, all of which are occupied. Four of these are brick, and all are good, substantial structures; in fact, Portage is noted


for its good schoolhouses. The largest, and by many considered the best school in the township, is the one at Crisman Station. It has been brought up to its present degree of excellence by the present teacher, N. E. Yost, who has had the place for four years. The following is a list of the teachers in the township for the school year of 1881-82: N. E. Yost, at Crisman, M. L. Ferris, at Blake's, W. E. Hawthorne, at Hawthorne's schoolhouse. Miss Lottie Hewitt, at Peak's, Miss Minnie Spencer, at Robbins', Miss Rose Mitchell, at Addison Crisman's, Miss Pettit, at Sand Knob School. The first schoolhouse was built in 1840 on Section 20, Township 36, Range 6. One was built in the southwest part about the same time. Both of these were built of logs and were used for school only in the winter time. The desks were arranged around the wall. The first mentioned is still standing, and serves as a habitation for Sus scrofa. Mr. Robbins was the architect, and all the material and labor was contributed by the people who resided in the vicinity. In size it was 18x20 feet. Where Crisman now stands, in 1854 was erected a log schoolhouse, 18x24 feet. This was used about nine years. It was built entirely by voluntary contribution. The first term here was taught by Elder Bartlett, a Baptist minister. He taught two terms. Cyrus Sales taught next, and after him in order came Christina Fry, Emily Gerhart and Chancey Gaylord, who was a cripple, and who taught two terms. He was the last one to teach in the old log house. This gave place to a good-sized frame on the northeast corner of Section 12. The present neat and commodious brick was built in 1879.

The Churches. -- There are three churches in the township, the Presbyterian, the Methodist and the Swedish. The first church built was the Presbyterian in 1852, at a cost of about $800. Mr. S. P. Robbins built the church and furnished all the requisite materials and money except about $160. One hundred dollars was furnished by the missionary fund of the church and about sixty dollars was raised by subscription. After it was completed Mr. Robbins deeded it to the Trustees. The following are the names of some of those who helped to organize the church: S. P. Robbins and wife, Benjamin Stodard and wife, Francis James, Emily James, Russell Dorr and wife, Daniel Richardson, Mr. Leters and sister, and others. Rev. James C. Brown was the first minister. Rev. Humphrey and Rev. Ogden are the only other regular ministers that the church has had. Ministers have come in occasionally from other points and preached here. The Methodists have had the use of the church for some time, and the Presbyterians have not been having services. The Methodist Church is situated about one and a quarter miles northwest of the one above-mentioned. It was built about two or three years later than the Presbyterian. It is not now used by them, but is used occasionally by the German.


Lutherans. Mr. McCool was the principal one in its organization and erection. It cost about $800, and is somewhat larger than the Presbyterian. The first religious services were held at Spurlock's and Herold's dwelling houses. Afterward Robbins' schoolhouse was used for the purpose. The first society to organize was the Methodist. Two organizations were affected about the same time — one at Robbins' schoolhouse, and the other at the Grove on the west side. These date 1836 or 1837. Sabbath schools have been kept up for a part of the time at the abovementioned places, and also at some of the schoolhouses. The Swedish Church is located in the southwestern part of the township. Here, services are sustained and good congregations assemble.

Crisman Village. -- The town of Crisman was laid out by Mr. B. G. Crisman, after whom it was named. Mr. Crisman is one of the oldest settlers in all this region. A post office was established here in 1871, with Isaac Crisman as Postmaster. Mr. Crisman was followed by Charles Seydel. S. P. Sargeant took charge next, and handed the mail bag to Joseph Bender, who passed it to Joseph White, who has held it four years. The first store established here was opened shortly after the post office, and was owned by Isaac Crisman. He was succeeded by Charles Seydel, who sold to Joseph Bender, and he to Joseph White, who has kept it for four years. The store has, with a single exception, followed the post office. This is the only store that Portage has ever had.

First Settlers and First Elections. -- In the spring of 1834, Jacob Wolf and family located in the solitudes of Portage with his family. His sons John, Jacob and E. Wolf were grown at the time. One of the younger sons, Josephus, still lives in the southern part of the township. He owns a large amount of land. At the same time came Berrett Dorr and family. Two of the boys, Russell and Edmund, were of age at the time. Reuben Hurlburt and family came the same spring. There was a large family of boys, of which William, Henry, Jacob, Griffith and David were born when the family came. The two Spurlock brothers and R. and Wilford Parrott finish the list for 1834. In 1835, in the spring, S. P. Robbins, Benjamin James and his son Allen came. From 1836 to 1840, the following came: Mr. Blake and family, Mr. Peak and family. Palmer Sumner, Peter Ritter, Mr. Harrison and family, Mr. Curtis and family, Mr. Smith, Mr. Arnold, Walker McCool and Thomas J. Field, who came in 1836.

The first election of the township was held April 30th, 1836, at the house of Jacob Wolf, with James Spurlock as Inspector. At an election held at the house of Jacob Wolf, Portage Township, on the first Monday in August, 1836, the following persons polled their votes: James Connet, E. D. Wolf, John Lyons, William D. Wolf, Jacob Wolf, Sr., Milton


Wolf, Frederick Wolf, Russell Dorr, Henry Herold, William Gosset, Griffin Holbert, B. Dorr, John Hageman, Jacob Blake, Henry Batten, Daniel Whitaker, William Frame, George Spurlock, John Wolf, James Spurlock, Reuben Holbert, Samuel Herring, Nelson Elison, Francis Spencer, Benjamin James, George Hume, J. G. Herring, S. P. Robbins and William Holbert -- total, twenty-nine. The changes in the boundary of the townships will be found in a county chapter.

Future Prospects. — A large number of Swedes have settled in the northern part, of later years. On the whole, the progress of the township has been slow and steady, but sure. The rapid growth of Chicago, and the flattering promise of South Chicago, together with the tendency that manufacturing establishments show toward this section, all raise high hopes for the future. Many large manufacturing establishments have started already in the wilderness of stunted pine among the sand hills and morasses at the south end of the Great Lake, and the indications are that there are many more to follow. While all this goes on at the north, the fertile farms of the south will feed the mouths that nourish the hands that run the factories.



Transcribed by Steven R. Shook, February 2012


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