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 4, Page 4.


First Product An Augur; Wagon and Buggy Making Once the Leading Industry

While Porter county is characterized as an agricultural center, there were many flourishing industries in the county long before the Civil war. Almost from its inception, the community seems to have had men who realized that it were to flourish it must have more than agriculture to rely upon. The names of several of these are found all through the early records, as promoters of and investors in industrial enterprises of various nature, that gave employment to its people and also attracted others to the rapidly growing young settlement.

The first mention in the histories of a manufacturing nature was an "augur" made by John L. Foster in 1834. Foster came to Indiana in the thirties and settled in what is now Westchester township, and fitted up a small forge to make augurs which found ready sale among the pioneers. In the winter of 1835-36 he made up some augurs and took them to Chicago. Mr. Foster was also a surveyor and in the spring of 1835 laid out the town of Waverly.

Among the early manufacturers of Valparaiso were the three brothers, George C., Henry M., and Andrew J. Buel, who began the manufacture of wagons in 1839. George and Henry retired after a few years but Andrew J. continued in business until his death in 1868. Brewer Brothers also began making wagons about the same time as the Buels and carried on a successful business for some years. Michael Barry, a native of County Kerry, Ireland, came to Valparaiso in 1863 and formed a partnership with his brother, Thomas, soon after his arrival for the purpose of making carriages and wagons.

In January, 1888 they removed their factor into the old woolen mill building and began operations on a larger scale. In May, 1887, William F. Spooner acquired an interest in the factory, which occupied about two acres of ground and three building located between the Pennsylvania and Nickel Plate railroads. The monthly pay roll amounted to $1,000. A few years later the partnership of Barry and Spooner was dissolved, the former going to some place in Illinois, and the works were discontinued.

Henry William, T. B. Louderback, Thomas Lorenzo Russell, and Israel Trahan, Shrop, Spry and McGee, have all been engaged in the wagon-making business. T. A. Hogan has at various times been engaged in the manufacture of wagon stuffs, bent wagon felloes, buggy felloes, shafts and poles, plow handles and beams, sled timbers, cheese boxes and so forth. William Frakes conducted a pottery shop in Valparaiso in a building where the corner of Franklin and Monroe streets is now located.

In the early days of the county with timber plentiful in nearly every section, saw mills bobbed up in nearly every township. The first saw mill was erected in the county in 1837 by Boyd Eben, Cornelius Aaron and Josephus Blachly, on a branch of Salt Creek, in Union township. They sawed about 1,000 feet daily. During 1837-38 a chair and wheel factory was operated by Abraham Snodgrass on Spring Creek, in Liberty township. He soon sold out and went west, and it was used no more.

In the year 1843, Reason King and Mr. King erected a tannery one and a half miles northeast of Prattville. In connection with the tannery a boot and shoe factory was put in operation, and was continued for some time.

In 1843 Boyd Blachly had the first carding machine in the county, it being located in Union township. It was later owned by Staffer Brothers, Thomas Ailesworth, Wilson and Hardesty and A. Wilson.

In 1841 William Cheney built a flour mill southeast of Valparaiso, which he later sold to William Sager. In 1864 Mr. Sager greatly enlarged the mill. During the World war the mill was operated by C. A. Sager, a son of William Sager. In 1852 William Cheney and Truman Miller built a flour mill just south of the corporate limits of Valparaiso. In 1855 Samuel Haas and M. B. Crosby built a steam flouring and saw mill within the limits of Valparaiso. It cost $15,000. S. P. Robbins and a Mr. Cropin, of Chicago became interested in it. The mill burned on June 7, 1861.

A tannery was built in 1843 south of Valparaiso by a Mr. Hatch. Afterward, a small tannery was carried on by John Marks south of the Pennsylvania railroad. About 1880, a Mr. Gerber built a steam tannery on grounds south of the Pennsylvania railroad on the east side of Washington street. In 1865 it passed into the hands of George Powell and John Wark, and, in 1868, into the hands of William Powell and John Wark. In 1871 Wark sold to Powell. In 1874 it was burned to the ground, and the tanning business ceased in Valparaiso and Center township.

John Saylor opened the first brickyard in Valparaiso, but the exact date when he began making brick cannot be learned. Others who have engaged in this line of business were Charles Briggs, Dickover and Weaver, Moses Prazier, Hartier and Dumas, A. W. Lytle and the Durands. In February, 1897, W. C. Goodwin, representing a Chicago brickyards syndicate, visited Valparaiso and announced he had secured an option on forty acres of land lying near the Pennsylvania railroad, one and a half miles west of the city, where he expected to have a brickyard in operation within six months, with a daily capacity of from 50,000 to 75,000 brick. A test of the clay showed that it was suitable for making first class brick, and the yard was never established.

A. Kellogg and Sons started a foundry and machine shop at an early date, and in 1857 began the manufacture of furniture in connection therewith. The next year Daniel White and one of the Kelloggs established a planning mill. In 1864 White built a sash door and blind factory at the corner of Washington and Monroe streets. This factory changed hands several times during the next few years, being owned successively by Wasser and Vestbinder, Alonzo Smith, A. Freeman and John D. Wilson.

The Valparaiso Woolen Mill company was organized in 1868, with a capital of $60,000. Among the stockholders were George, William and Julia A. Powell, H. R. Skinner and A. V. Bartholomew. The company began the knitting yards, jeans, flannels and blankets in 1867, but owing to the high prices that prevailed at the close of the war and the subsequent constant decline, the woolen mill was not a profitable venture. After a few years the Powells bought up all the stock and after running the mill for a while closed down until times should grow better.

In 1872 a pin factory was started in place of the woolen mill and run for about three years, when it was removed to Detroit. In 1876 new machinery was placed in the woolen mill and the manufacture of yarns was again commenced. In 1881 knitting machines were installed and the manufacture of hosiery was introduced. For a time the company used about 500,000 pounds of wool annually and had a monthly payroll of $3,700. Unable to compete with the woolen mills located in larger manufacturing centers, with better facilities for shipping and in closer touch with the great markets, the Valparaiso mill finally succumbed to the inevitable.

A brewery was started in 1862 by Korn and Junker on a lot near where the Continental Diamond Fibre company plant is now located. It produced 2,000 barrels per annum. Another was carried on for some time on the present sire of the gas works, but came to an end in 1865.

Cigars were manufactured here in the sixties by Bernhard Rothermall, Urbahns and H. C. Kruyer. Mr. Rothermall was also engaged in the manufacture and bottling of soda water. An attempt was made by N. R. Strong to produce grape wines during the Civil war, and for some time thereafter. Though a very fine wine was made, the enterprise did not result favorably. Mr. Strong went to California, and the enterprise has been virtually abandoned.

W. H. Holabird, about 1871 began the manufacture of hunting suits, and a year or two afterward established the enterprise. His suits attained a wide notoriety, and the sales became large. Because of ill health, he was forced to relinquish the business, which was taken over by Hudson J. Upthegrove and J. W. McClellan, who employed fifteen hands and had a large trade. Mr. Upthegrove conducted the business for a number of years; and then sold it to Jesse Faust. The latter conducted it for some time and then abandoned the business.

In 1867 Don A. Salyer built a paper mill at the crossing of Washington street and the Pennsylvania railroad. About $20,000 capital was invested in the enterprise and the monthly payroll was $550. The product of the mill was chiefly straw wrappers, some 1,000 tons of straw being annually used as raw material, producing from 700 to 800 tons of paper. When the straw-board factories formed a combination, Mr. Salyer's mill was purchased by the trust and later was dismantled.

Charles H. Parker, Sr., began the manufacture of varnishes, paint dryers, Japans, black iron enamels, and paint specialties in 1871. His first place of business was located near the Nickel Plate railroad, at the west end of Factory street. On July 18, 1889, his factory was destroyed by fire. The loss of $12,000 was not insured because it was impossible to obtain insurance owing to the nature of the business. Later Mr. Parker erected a paint factory near the Grand Trunk depot. His three sons became associated with him and the business was incorporated in 1895. Last fall the business was taken over by Ralph G. Bowman and brother.

In 1892 two brothers named Dulaney came here from Canton, Ohio, with a newly invented electric clock, which they proposed manufacture and sell outright. A stock company was formed, most of the stock being sold in Valparaiso and Chicago. About a month after it opened a sheriff from Ohio appeared here and attached the machinery to satisfy the claims of some of the Dulaney's creditors in that state. Benajah Williams and J. H. McGill raised enough money to satisfy the sheriff. Williams and the Dulaneys engaged in several financial transactions and in the end Williams foreclosed a mortgage on the building, but permitted the Dulaneys to remove the machinery. Williams was indicted by the grand jury on complaint of some stockholders, but he was released by the court, which ordered a receiver appointed and released certain Valparaiso people from liability. This was the end of the industry.

Following the Dulaneys, the Cosmo Buttermilk Soap company, took over the building south of the Pennsylvania depot and operated a soap plant for a number of years. The plant went into receivership, C. M. Gogan being named by John H. Gillet as receiver. The plant was moved to Goshen in 1896.

In October, 1899, the Chicago Mica company was brought here and on February 29, 1900, the city council, upon petition signed by 174 taxpayers, by a vote of 5 to 3, donated $5,000 to the company. The company is now known as the Continental Diamond Fibre company.

Powers, Higley and Company began the manufacture of desks and educational specialties in 1887. In the spring of 1903 the factory was removed to Valparaiso and located in the addition known as Chautauqua Park, through the influence of the Valparaiso Land and Development Company, which was organized in 1900. The firm was succeeded by the Chatauqua Manufacturing Company, then the Lewis E. Myers and Company and finally by the Chautauqua Trade Products, Inc.

In 1905, James H. McGill began the manufacture of electric specialties in the building formerly occupied by the Kellogg foundry and machine shop on West Indiana avenue near the Pennsylvania depot. In 1912 the building was enlarged. In 1919 new factory buildings were erected on North Lafayette streets, at which time the McGill Metal Company was established.

C. O. Hillstrom, who had begun the manufacture of organs in Chicago in 1869, moved his factory to Chesterton in 1880, and four years later enlarged the plant with a capacity of eight organs daily. In 1899, a strike among the piano workers in Chicago factories left the Russell-Lane company to remove a portion of their work to the Hillstrom factory, and in this way Chesterton had for a time a piano factory. In 1906 Mr. Hillstrom began the manufacture of a cabinet dresser. A branch was established at Fort Worth, Texas. After Mr. Hillstrom's death the organ works were closed down.

In 1890 the Hydraulic Press Brick company established a large plant at Porter. On October 21, 1904, the plant was destroyed by fire, with the exception of the barns, clay sheds and some minor buildings, the loss being $50,000. Early in the spring of 1905 the plant was rebuilt, the buildings made fire proof. In 1912 the company employed 90 men and turned out 75,000 brick daily.

In 1893 the Vienna Enamel Stamping company, which had been established some years ago at Porter, passed into the hands of a receiver. In August, 1900, officials of the Chicago Flint and Lime Glass company entered into negotiations for the purchase of the property. The Porter Land Company gave $1,600 in cash and eighty-four lots to secure the location of the works. On June 16, 1902, a heavy rain flooded the ovens and three months were spent in pumping out the water. Other causes delayed the opening to December 24.

On January 1, 1905, Pitkin and Brooks took a six months' option on the property, but at the expiration declined to close the option. In July, 1911, the works were dismantled, the stock and fixtures removed to Chicago, and a year later the matter was in the courts for adjustment. A little later Pitkin and Brooks made overtures to the Valparaiso Commercial Club, offering to locate their factory in Valparaiso for $3,000. This sum was raised by the citizens of Valparaiso, and a building was built in Chautauqua Park. The company operated for a number of years when the business was moved to Bowling Green, Ohio.

In 1897 a branch of the Warren Featherbone company of Three Oaks, Mich., was established at Porter. It was in operation but a few years. In January, 1905, the property passed into the hands of the Sall Mountain Asbestos company, manufacturers of rubber and mica roofing, fire-proofing materials. In 1912 the company had 105 persons on his payrolls.

In 1887, J. L. Coovert began the manufacture of drain tile at its factory between Washington and Lafayette streets near the Grand Trunk. Later he turned his attention to the manufacture of concrete tile.

The Dickover Cement Products company maintained a plant at the Grand Trunk railroad on Washington street, which was later taken over by the Marks Supply company.

A tile factory was operated for many years at Hebron by Robert S. Keney, and brick and tile mills were operated at Porter. A locknut bolt for use in automobile construction and certain lines of railroad work was established at Porter in the winter of 1911-12.

In 1910 the Indiana Steel Products company was originated in Valparaiso and has been conducted successfully ever since.

The Charles W. Hall and Company was established to manufacture juvenile specialties and cabinets.

The Valparaiso Home Ice Company was organized by C. F. Mason in 1910 with E. W. Agar, secretary, and John H. Ross, treasurer, to manufacture artificial ice, ice cream, butter. Herbert Schleman is president of the company at the present time.

Others which started up in recent years, but for various reasons were not successful in establishing a market for the products were the Pioneer Truck company, Lion Electric company, Hess-Mercury Carburetor company, Fraunkfelter China company, Chesterton; Porter County Creamery company, Pitkin and Brooks glass factory, Cook Laboratories, and the Kingley Shirt Company.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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