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 18.


JOSEPH BAILLY WAS COUNTY'S FIRST WHITE SETTLER. Remarkable French-Canadian Came From Michigan In 1822 To Buy Furs From the Indians

Though Porter is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, a white man lived and carried on his trade of fur buying in Porter county at least a dozen years before any white man ventured into this section.

He was Joseph Bailly, a French-Canadian, who as early as 1793 operated as a fur buyer at Mackinac, Mich. When fur-bearing animals became scarce in that locality or around established posts, it became advisable to establish new posts on the wilder frontiers.

So, in 1822, Mr. Bailly, with his family and household goods, came and located here in the heart of a Pottawattomie country, on the north bank of the Little Calumet river, at a point a short distance northwest of what is now the town of Porter in Porter county, about a half a miles north of the old Indian territorial boundary line, now usually called Indian Boundary line. He thought he was locating in Michigan territory, in which he had lived for so many years.

Mr. Bailly had two matrimonial ventures, both of which took place before he took up his residence in Porter. The first of these was his marriage with the daughter of an Indian chief. It is said this marriage was consummated in true Indian fashion. Mt. Bailly paid for his bride in horses and other things of value specified by the chief. The couple became the parents of six children. After a number of years had elapsed, some disagreement occurred between Bailly and his Indian wife so that eventually they separated, the father making provisions for the children.

Later in 1810, he entered upon a second marriage by taking onto himself, according to the common law marriage customs of the time and place, a widow of French-Indian blood, whose maiden name was Marie LaFevre. That their marriage was a happen one is attested to by the many years they dwelt together, making a home in the wilderness.

It is known that they resided at Mackinac for some time, but in 1822 came to Porter county to locate on the banks of the Little Calumet river. The site remains a beautiful one today; the buildings topping a slight knoll which yet is covered with gigantic elms, maples and oaks. The Little Calumet flows peacefully by the place.

They dwelt in peace with the native whiles carrying on a fur trade with them. The servants were both French and Indian, and with the passing years the place grew in importance. The furs were carried on horseback, through the dunes to the lake, then by boat to Mackinac. The Bailly family were devout Catholics and made an effort to convert the Indians about them. Other log cabins were erected, one being a chapel where visiting priests might hold religious services.

The amount of education and refinement brought into the Bailly home is astonishing when the distance from civilization is considered. The trip to Fort Dearborn, where the little girls were taken to be educated, was a long one and the children made the journey on horseback, being gone a year. Although the family were Catholics, the Carey mission school near the present site of Niles, Mich., was also used a source of education for the Bailly children. It was here that Robert Bailly, the 10-year-old son, died of typhoid fever.

He was the first to be laid in the family cemetery located half a mile north of the Bailly home, up on a high hill. A paved road now leads by this historic spot, and many stop to climb the hill topped by the huge wooden cross. Mr. Bailly in the same year of the death of Robert created a chapel as a memorial to his son, whose death was a great blow. Before the building of the chapel, services were held in the residence, the parlor being used for the sacristy, where confessions were held, and the dining room as the place where mass was celebrated. For a time the mission was the only Catholic mission between Detroit and Chicago.

Here, Indians in their migrations, spring and fall, pitched their tepees and tarried, for they were always welcome at Bailly's. Here paused the white travelers in their journeys between Fort Dearborn and Detroit. In the late '20's and the early '30's, the place was popular and received many compliments from travelers in the descriptions of their journeys through the wilderness.

With the early '30's came all sorts of proposed developments - highways, state and national, railroads, canals, and location of town sites, on paper, and wild speculation in western lands. Mr. Bailly tried to adapt himself to the new day. He purchased many sections of land. He became interested in the location of a harbor at the southern end of Lake Michigan. He forsaw that eventually somewhere at the southerly end of this inland sea a great commercial center would develop. By the treaties of 1832 at Tippecanoe and 1833 at Chicago, allotments were made to the Bailly family. Mr. Bailly caught the spirit of the times and laid out a town site on the north ---?--- of the Calumet, a short distance west of the site of his home and trading post.

He prepared a plat, bearing date of Dec. 14, 1833, entitled "Toen of Bailly, Joseph Bailly, proprietor." He laid it out "four square," with blocks, streets and alleys. He honored his family in the naming of the streets. From his papers it appears that one Daniel G. Gurnsey was acting as his agent in the promotion of the enterprise and the sale of lots.

After a few lots had been sold the health of the old trader began to fail, and in December, 1835, he died, and was buried in the sanctuary where years ago he buried his son.

Their daughter, Esther, married John H. Whistler, a son of Bapt. John Whistler, who built the first Fort Dearborn. Agatha, another daughter, married Edward Biddle in 1819. Mr. Biddle was a member of the prominent family by that name in Philadelphia. Mrs. Bailly survived Mr. Bailly until 1866 cherishing the memory of her departed husband.

In the year 1841, Rose Bailly married Francis Howe, a Chicago business man. He died in 1850, leaving his widow and two daughters, Rose and Frances. Hortense, the youngest daughter, married John Wicker, the first merchant of Deep River. Mrs. Rose Howe, and her daughters, Rose and Frances, neither of whom married, are both deceased. Frances continued to reside at the homestead parts of each year until the time of her death in Los Angeles, Calif., in 1918.

The Baillys associated with the first families of Chicago - the Baubiens, the Zinzies, the Ogdens, the Hubbards and others. Joseph Bailly was born in Quebec in 1774.

The Bailly library has been preserved by Miss Frances Howe at the old homestead. It consists of some 200 to 300 books, some historical, some religious.

After the death of Miss Howe, the homestead was sold to, and is now in the possession of, the Sisters of Notre Dame.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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