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, Pages 4-5.


Porter County's First Century

The story of Porter County's First Century. A community epic from a pioneer settlement to a bustling and prosperous community is picture produced in panorama of years since the county's founding in 1836, Intrepid French missionaries the first white men to traverse the valley, termed it "Natural Wonderland."

Midwest call is sounded.

The story beings - the narrative of century fraught with achievement.

Porter county is 100 years old in this year of our Lard and there's drama, intensely human, in her story.

What wonders this century are wrought?

From tallow dip to electric illumination.

From oxcart to skyliner; covered wagon to Zephyr.

From the little red school house to modern educational systems.

From grist mills to world-renowned factories.

From a trading post to a prosperous 22,000 population.

All of these transitions and more are woven into the web of Porter county's history, which this account will endeavor to chronicle.

But first to digress to lay a foundation for the coming of the pioneer life to the county; to tell briefly what transpired before those days, over a century ago when the Morgans, Campbells, Adams, Bells, and Clines cast approving eyes upon this virgin land and vowed here to build their homes.

More than and a half centuries ago white men first visited the region that is now Porter county. They were intrepid French traders and Jesuit missionaries, the former plying their trade and the latter seeking to implant the Cross of Christianity in the hearts of the red men and to claim the rich northwest territory for their sovereign, Louis XIV of the throne of France.

In 1672 the two Catholic missionaries - Father Allouez and Father Dablon - traversed the country from the Lake Michigan shore to the Kankakee river, stopping at Indian villages and studying the characteristics of the country.

The following year Father Marquette, on his return eastward from the Mississippi river, passed up the Kankakee river with six of his companions. Upon reaching the source of that stream they made portage to the St. Joseph river, down which they passed an then crossed the lake to the French posts on Green Bay.

In 1679 Robert Cavillier, Sieur de la Salle, set out from Canada for the purpose of discovering the Mississippi river and descending to its mouth. His company of some thirty men, among whom was Henri de Tond, Father Hennepin, and Sieur de la Motte, passed down the Kankakee and Illinois rivers. On that occasion, LaSalle failed to reach the mouth of the great river, and in 1680 he returned eastward by land, passing through Porter county on his way to Frontenac.

In 1681 he again started westward - this time with a much larger company - followed the lake share, and in April 1682, reached the mouth of the Mississippi, where he laid claim in the name of France to all the country drained by that river and its tributaries, giving the country the name of Louisiana in honor of the French king. By this act, Porter county became a dependancy of France.

All northern Indiana became a British possession in 1759, and there sprang up a spirited rivalry between the French and English for the control of the fur trade. Louisiana was ceded to the Spanish by the secret treaty of Fontainebleau in 1762, and nineteen years later the Spanish authorities decided to take possession of the territory about the head of Lake Michigan.

Although Don Pierre was permitted to occupy the country without bloodshed or resistance, his victory was of comparatively short duration, for the treaty of 1783, between the newly recognized republic of the United States and Great Britain, fixed the western boundary of the United States at the Mississippi river, and Spain was soon forced to acknowledge the claims of the new government. The British retained possession of the post at Detroit and continued to exercise dominion over the country in the westward until 1796, when Porter county really came under the authority of the United States.

The triumph of Continental arms in the Revolutionary war paved the way for the conquest of the vast Northwest territory, opening the rich middlewest to the relentless advance of civilization. Settlement was a tedious process, however, until just before the turn of the nineteenth century in 1796.

Through a peace agreement with the Wyandats, Ottawas, Chippewas, Pottawattomies, Sacs, Miamis, Delawares and Shawnees, the Indians, in exchange for government annuities in money and supplies, relinquished large tracts of land which could be opened for settlement.

By an act of congress, approved May 7, 1800, the territory northwest of the Ohio river was divided and Gen. William Henry Harrison, later president of the United States, was appointed governor of the newly established Territory of Indiana. A meeting was held at Vincennes on January 10, 1801, and certain regulations for government of the territory adopted.

The first movement of the United States toward exercising authority over the country around the head of Lake Michigan was in 1803 when Col. John H. Whistler was directed to establish a fort at the mouth of the Chicago river. The fort was completed in the spring of 1804 and was named Fort Dearborn.

It became headquarters of the fur traders of the lake, and wielded considerable influence over the Indiana inhabitants of Porter County. Trappers and hunters increased in numbers along the Calumet and Kankakee rivers; corn was cultivated upon the prairies and taken to the fort to supply the white people there, the traffic being carried on by means of canoes which skirted the lake shore, or by pack ponies over the Indian trails.

Under the terms of the Greenville treaty the Indians conveyed 16,000,000 acres of land for the miserable pittance of $2,600 and a promised annuity of $1,000. Twenty-eight years later, in 1832, dissatisfaction with the treaty provided the spark that sent the great Indian chieftain, Black Hawk on his mission of pillage and hate.

Settlement of the treaty territory was marked by untold hardships. Among the Indian leaders taking part in the trouble was Tecumseh, one of the greatest and most influential Indian chiefs. The second war with England definitely settled British interference with the Indians as they considered it no longer an advantageous policy to pursue and it definitely fixed American title to the lands south of the Great Lakes as it existed before the war. An attempt was made by the British commissioners to help their Indian allies in the treaty which closed the war of 1812; their purpose being an Indian nation in the already established American northwest territory, but excepting eastern Ohio where white settlements were definitely and firmly fixed.

The American commissioners refused to consider the proposition and stated they would break off negotiations if the British commissioners insisted upon settling aside of American territory for Indian tribes. The British commissioners yielded and the Indians were left to their fate to make the best terms possible with the Americans for peace. The Pottawattomies in 1815 made a new peace agreement with the Americans and in a short time the tribes generally were said to accept the peace terms offered them.

In 1816, Captain Hezekiah Bradley with two companies of infantry rebuilt Fort Dearborn on the Chicago river which was destroyed during the war of 1812. At that time it was ordered abandoned by Captain Heald, successor to Captain Whistler, as impossible of defense and the seventy men, women and children who occupied it were attacked by Pottawattomies and Winnebagoes on their retreat from the fort. Some Miamis who were supposed to be friendly to the United States were sent to aid them in their retreat and the result was a massacre.

A few survivors, surrendering to the promise they would be sent to Detroit, were guarded by Shawhena and a few other Indians who intended to carry out the agreement. Many of the savages insisted on the scalps of the prisoners, and as they were in the majority, it is doubtful if the prisoners lives would have been spared but for the arrival of Shauganash, "Billy Caldwell," who by threats and persuasion, obtained possession of the prisoners and eventually brought them safely to a white settlement.

Indiana was admitted to statehood in 1816, and the government purchased from the natives a strip of land ten miles wife, extending across the north part of the state.

After that the border enjoyed peace and tranquility. Trappers and traders returned to their favorite haunts and a new era was about to open. John Kinzie, called by many the father of Chicago, reopened his trading store there after the arrival of the troops and Jean B. Beanbein also settled there. A short time later Francis LaFramboise became a resident. As a fur center Chicago now became generally known.

The various division of the Northwest territory swarmed with agents of the American Fur Company, organized in 1809 by John Jacob Astor, or New York, and the Northwest Company, the Mackinaw Company, and the Southwest Company, shortly came under Astor's control, which gave him a monopoly on the fur trading in the Great Lakes territory. The practice of the American Fur Company in dealing with the Indians were of the most pernicious character and through the government sought to protect them by proper laws, these were not generally observed.

In 1812, the first white settler made his home at the place now known as Baillytown, in Westchester township. He was Joseph Bailly, or Baille. Mr. Bailly established a store and built up a considerable trade with the Indians. He had married an Indian woman, and was thoroughly acquainted with the habits, customs and language of her people. Madam Bailly spoke French fluently, and adopted many of the customs and refinements of civilized life, but always retained the dress of the aborigines. The settlement of Baillytown became widely known. Travelers, traders, adventurers, missionaries and government officers made it their rendezvous. It was the leading place for assembly for religious services; it was an important center of trade; it was a place of safety in time of danger. Mr. Bailly purchased a sloop in order to navigate the great lakes, and gave his daughters the advantages of travel and an eastern education.

In 1831 a road was cleared from Detroit to Fort Dearborn. It passed through what now constitutes Jackson, Westchester and Portage township. It was a wild, rude pathway, fatiguing in its roughness, abounding in dangers and often uncertain in its course. Over this a mail line was established between Detroit and Fort Dearborn, the mail being carried in knapsacks upon the backs of soldiers, two of whom were regularly detailed for the purpose. In 1832, the entire Northwest was thrown into great consternation by the tidings of outrage and massacre committed by Black Hawk in the regions near the Mississippi. The territory of Porter county, with its single white inhabitant, had little to fear, but the natives were very much excited by the events. Government troops were immediately dispatched to the scene of the war, and passed over the Detroit and Fort Dearborn road.

Alexander Robinson was now chief of the Pottawattomies, having been chosen to that office in 1828. He was known among the natives by the name Chechebingway. He convened a great council of the tribe at Fort Dearborn, and successfully used his influence to establish a lasting peace with the whites. Within this year, the government purchased the Indian title to all the lands of Porter county lying south of the old Indian boundary established in 1816.

The doorway to determined settlement was opened in the bloody struggles that were wages in 1832. The power of the Indians in Illinois, Indiana and other states was forever shattered and remnants of the once ---?--- tribes, their spirits broken, were scattered beyond the Mississippi.

Word of a natural wonderland beyond Lake Michigan filtered back through the east, into Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Connecticut, and all of New England. Pioneer hearts stirred, God-fearing folk left for this new El Dorado.

Porter county lent itself naturally to settlement. The broad prairies and timberlands, blanketed with rich topsoil, attracted the shrewd eyes of the pioneers, not to mention the striking beauty of the area.

Other factors, too, are explanatory of the wave of migration which engulfed Indiana in those early decades of the last century.

The improvement in overland travel, the packet down the Ohio, and over the Great Lakes, and by prairie schooner, over well defined pioneer trails, also played a part together with the safety of life and property guaranteed by treaty with the Indians.

Thus the tide of empire moved steadily westward.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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