The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 1, Page 12.


City West and Indiana City, Now Gone and Almost Forgotten Were Once Rivals of Chicago

In the office of the Porter county recorder is a plat of old "City West" at Waverly Beach, Dunes State Park, established 100 years ago.

City West was founded on the site of "Petite Fort" erected ninety years before. City West, old as it was, was not founded until 112 years after Pere Marquette, French missionary explorer pitched his tent at the mouth of the Grand Calumet river.

The old plat of City West in the recorder's office, laid out on Lake Michigan in 1836, contains about 25 blocks with streets named after the states of the union, with rights of way showing a prospective railroad and a canal which was to connect the lake with the Little Calumet river, three miles to the south.

The city after a brief period of prosperity and with forty houses, three hotels and a saw mill, declined until in a few years the site of the town as well as the old fort on the hill had returned to its original wilderness appearance.

The land afterward fell into the hands of John D. Morgan, who ultimately acquired about 320 acres, embracing Waverly Beach, Mt. Tom and nearly a mile of the lake front.

It was the Morgan tract that was purchased by the Indiana state conservation department to become a part of the 2,000 acre dunes park, near Tremont. Morgan died long ago and the purchase was made from the heirs.

It was the Morgan tract that holds the historic site of "Petite Fort", erected in 1750 and abandoned in 1790. It was this Morgan tract that holds the historic site of old City West, which was founded in 1836 and abandoned within a few years.

At the same time that City West was founded at the mouth of Fort Creek near the site of old Petite Fort, another band of promoters founded "Indiana City" at the mouth of the Grand Calumet river near the spot where Pere Marquette, the first white man that ever visited this region, pitched his tent and remained for six days at the latter end of March and the first few days of April in 1674, which was just 262 years ago.

Four cities, which were to be the premier cities of the northwest, were founded about the same time in the "30's" - Chicago, Indiana City, City West, and Michigan City. Indiana City at the mouth of the Grand Calumet died and gave way to Gary, the city that was to come 85 years later. City West died and gave way to Michigan City which now is one of the leading port cities of northern Indiana.

Old "Indiana City" is now within the city limited of Gary, while old City West is embraced in the dunes state park which is now the playground for millions of people who know little or nothing of its history.

When Pere Marquette arrived on the site of Gary 262 years ago the American continent was barely fringed along the eastern coast with white settlements. He pursued his journey around the southern end of Lake Michigan, and it is quite probable he found camping place at the mouth of Fort Creek where 172 years afterward City West was founded.

It was therefore altogether probable that Pere Marquette was the first white man to visit the Indiana sand dunes and pitch his tent under the shadow of Mt. Tom, the highest of the Dunes peaks overhanging Waverly Beach and the site of old City West.

All trails lead around the lower end of Lake Michigan, just as all rail and motor highways now lead around the lake, following the same old trails.

The great Sauk trail came up from the southwest and at or near the site of Petite Fort, joined the Pottawattomie Trail that followed around the lake from the land of the Illini and the Wisconsin tribes. At or near the site of Petite Fort the Sauk or Pottawattomie trails joined and went west on to Detroit, diverging trails leading to Mackinac, and the upper lakes.

When City West was founded it was on the stage route between Detroit and Chicago, the former Sauk-Pottawattomie trail, on branch of which followed the beach, another followed the inner side of the dunes, while the third followed the ridge, which in Gary is known as "Ridge Road," and between Michigan City and Baileytown is known as Dunes highway.

The history of City West is not complete without going back to the stirring days when England, Spain and France fought many bloody battles in this region to gain possession of what even then was forseen to become a mighty empire.

"Petite Fort" or "Little Fort" was built on Fort Creek a short distance above its mouth at Waverly Beach by the British along about 1750. It was successfully occupied by British, Spanish, French and Americans, and finally was abandoned in 1790.

The Spanish captured it from the British who in turn were driven out by the French and then was recaptured by the British, finally falling into the hands of the Americans, following the Revolution.

The old fort stood on a sandy bluff on the west side of Fort Creek. The foundations of the original stockade still may be seen by digging.

The Indian village was directly on the banks of Fort creek which formerly was much wider than it is at present. There are many old Indian trails and roads in the vicinity. The main trail between Detroit and Fort Dearborn passed along the inner side of the dunes to City West, which afterward was located at the mouth of Fort Creek, and included the site of Little Fort, which then was in ruins.

City West was founded in 1836 the plat being recorded by J. Bigelow. The plat was irregular and embraced about 20 acres now included in the Morgan tract which was sold to the state of Indiana for the dunes state park.

It included the beach at the mouth of the river and there the founders of City West built a long pier extending several hundred feet into Lake Michigan where schooners unloaded lumber and food stuff for the people of the pioneer city.

The main subdivision comprised about 25 blocks and the plat was recorded July 14, 1836. Its promoters claimed it would be larger than Chicago or Michigan City. Plans were made to build a light house, but there is no record of it ever having been built.

A saw mill had been erected in 1835 and a number of people were living in the future great city when it was organized. The business part of the city lay at the foot of the bluff on which was located the ancient "Little Fort" of the Revolutionary War.

The speculators who boomed City West were of the Florida type. They placed a ship canal from Waverly Beach to the Little Calumet river, a distance of over three miles, thus ante-dating Burns Ditch more than 90 years. They secured an appropriation of $5,000 for a light house, but it was never built as far as is known.

In addition to nearly forty buildings, a saw mill and a lake pier, City West had three hotels, the Bigelow, the Bradley and the Morse. The Bigelow hotel had 30 rooms, and it was here than Daniel Webster stopped when making his stage coach trip to the west. It is said that Webster obtained the congressional appropriation for the City West light house.

Then came the panic of 1837, just as the new metropolis of the west was learning to use its infant feet. The panic was caused largely by tremendous speculation and poor banks, and City West was the first to go down under the reaction. The citizen were compelled to go elsewhere to make a living. City West in a very few years became a memory.

Indiana City, at the mouth of the Grand Calumet River, now Gary municipal park, was founded about the same time and suffered the same fate. Chicago and Michigan City were the only two "future greats" on the lower end of Lake Michigan that survived.

Round about the site of the pioneer city, now devoted to a state playground are many historic landmarks. One mile south on the summit of a bluff is the ancient burying ground of the Bailly family, as for hundreds of years it has been the burying ground of Indians.

A little further south, on the bank of the Little Calumet river, is the original pioneer home and trading store of Joseph Bailly, the first white man in "all this region."

The old trail between Detroit and the French settlements on the Mississippi river, afterward became the stage coach route between Detroit and Chicago. It is now the Dunes Highway, the greatest motor highway in the United States.

"Petite Fort", "Trail Creek," "Grand Calumet", Chicaqua River", these were names with which to conjure when Marquette's peaceful trail was followed by swarthy men armed with swords and guns who sought to win an empire.

From the time Pere Marquette broke the first white trail through the dunes, there followed a century of warfare. The dune region more than once was devastated by fire and sword and it was not until the end of the Revolutionary war that the Stars and Stripes guaranteed the safety of millions of pioneering Americans into the territory, which now, as well as then, was known as the "Cross Roads of America".

Joliet, DePinetot, LaSalle, Champion, Wayne, Swearingen, down through the centuries their names recall memories of ruthless battles, of weary marches, of indestructible fame.

"Little Fort," the "Petite Fort" of the Indians and French is now a memory. "City West," which followed it 80 years later, is lapsing into memory. The old trails of the redmen and the French voyageur are now become paths for roaring motor cars.

"Little Fort," now included in the Indiana dunes park, has witnessed many battles between the whites and between the nations that were struggling for supremacy at the "Cross Roads" of the continent. Over it battlements at different times fluttered the flags of England, France, Spain and the United States. Before their day "The Calumet," the flag of the Pottawattomies, waved over all the region, unchallenged and unconquered, until the white man came with shining steel and smoking guns.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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