House served as a toll road house for the Michigan Road

The Michigan Road was one of the earliest state roads built in Indiana. It was built in the late 1820s into the early 1830s and stretched from Indiana’s southern border to its northern border. Shown in the photo is a house that once served as a toll road house for the Michigan Road from about 1866 to 1892. It is located on a stretch of road in Indianapolis, Marion County, that is still named the Michigan Road. The house was originally built in 1850 as a farmhouse. Later it was used by the Augusta Gravel Road Company as a toll house to collect fees from those who traveled on the Michigan Road. There was a pole out in front of the house that when lowered served as a barrier across the road. Of course when the toll was paid, the pole was raised again. The pole was later removed when the road was widened in the name of progress. Samuel Howard and his wife lived in the house and collected the tolls. They also operated a small grocery store and ran a post office. There was no charge for those going to church or funerals. Cattle, hogs, sheep and poultry were among the livestock driven along the road to be sold in Indianapolis. It was also used by farmers and other travelers. There is a roadside historical marker calling attention to the historic house. Information for this post was obtained from the application for the house to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Former Michigan Road Toll House
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Wesleyan church in Larwill was built prior to 1900

The old white clapboard church is a classic structure from the 1800s. At the corner of North and King streets is the Larwill Wesleyan Church. Larwill is a small, unincorporated community in Whitley County on both sides of U.S. Highway 30. State Road 5 also goes through the town. According to a newspaper article provided by the Whitley County Historical Museum, Larwill Wesleyan Methodist Church was dedicated Dec. 28, 1879, at a cost of $1,850. The church had been organized in June 1879 under the direction of Rev. Aaron Worth, then the pastor of the Albion Circuit in Indiana. There was a church split and some members of the Larwill Methodist Church decided to leave that church and start their own. There were seven charter members of the Wesleyan Methodist church including three couples. It was known as Larwill Wesleyan Methodist Church for several years but at some point Methodist was dropped from the name and it has been known as Larwill Wesleyan Church since then. The wood frame church has stood remarkably for more than 140 years in Larwill. I am not sure if it is still an active church today. Note the beautifully designed windows on the side visible in the photo. And it appears the parsonage built in 1880 is still standing also.

Larwill Wesleyan Church
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Historic barn in Kosciusko County is a bit unusual

Lately I’ve been posting a lot about old barns. The sense of urgency has increased somewhat, at least in part, because of one barn near Milford that burned down earlier this week. It was built in 1928. This week’s post is about a barn located on the southern end of Country Club Road where it meets County Road 600 South in Clay Township, Kosciusko County. According to Dan Coplen’s book “That’s Life: Stories of Kosciusko County Indiana,” the barn was built in 1910 by James F. Priser. The Prisers grew a lot of onions and when they were ready for harvest, the onions were hauled by wagon to the barn and placed in a storage bin on the main floor. Other vegetables were grown on the farm, too, and there was some livestock. What is different about this barn is it has two banks, one on each side. It is known why it was built that way, but it is guessed because the wagons could be pulled straight through the barn and not backed in on one side. The barn is large enough two wagons could be pulled through side by side. That was probably a good thing especially if a lot of onions were brought in. The barn is not on a hill and the dirt was hauled from a ridge. The work was done entirely by men with scoops and wagons. Coplen also notes in his book the ridge was very close by and still shows signs of excavation. I’m sure it was quite a task to build this barn.

Historic barn near Claypool in Kosciusko County
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Sweitzer barn a reminder of the past in Concord Township

Here’s another Sweitzer barn. This one is located on Old County Road 17 in Concord Township, Elkhart County. These barns are interesting to read about and are noted for having an overshoot, or forebay, an area where one or more walls overshoot its foundation. They are banked, or set into a hillside to allow easy access to the basement and level above. Often these types of barns were built prior to 1900. I don’t know when this particular barn was built because I don’t have access to the Elkhart County GIS. I am told it was once a dairy farm of probably more than 100 acres. That area has been developed with several subdivisions so now there are many houses nearby. Someone who has lived nearby for several years said he believes the farm was once owned by a man named “Dude” Weaver (not sure of his actual first name). The farm was also on both sides of the road at one time. Older plat maps seem to indicate this was once the Swinehart farm. A man named Benjamin Swinehart once lived there and his obituary says he died of a heart attack while walking from the barn one day in 1913. I should also mention this area was known as the Sugar Grove community several years ago. It can’t be found on a map, but was simply a local community likely named after the Sugar Grove church and cemetery.

Sweitzer barn on Old County Road 17 in Elkhart County
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Barn was the site of many local basketball games

Seeing a basketball goal in a farm barn is quite common. Many barns have been used for neighborhood basketball games. Shown in the photo is a barn located on Elm Road, south of 12B Road in Bourbon Township, Marshall County. It is a few miles southwest of Bourbon. This particular barn, built in 1934 according to the county GIS, was used for more than nearby kids playing ball. When the barn was built, Walter Baker owned the farm. He was a prominent man and served as Bourbon Township trustee and four terms in the State Legislature beginning in 1939. He also taught school for 18 years, according to his obituary. Responses to a Facebook post indicated the barn was used for practice by the Bourbon High School basketball team and many intramural and FFA teams played there too. Walter Baker’s sons, including Ralph, were on the high school basketball team. It is said the barn had an excellent haymow floor to play on. It was still used for basketball after the farm was sold to the Metheny family. So apparently the barn had quite a reputation as a hotbed for hoops. Someone who lives in the area told me about the barn and specifically pointed it out, so I figured it was used for more than just pickup games.

Barn on Elm Road in Marshall County
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Poultry building located on Mishler farm near South Whitley

I have family living in South Whitley, Whitley County, so when I visit them I will often do some history research. I noticed an old farmhouse at the corner of County Road 500 South and 950 West near South Whitley in Cleveland Township by the railroad tracks. This has been owned for several years by the Mishler family. This family owned several farms in Cleveland Township and according to a family history provided by the South Whitley Public Library, Daniel Mishler helped his sons acquire farms along what is now 950W. Son Ira received this particular farm. Shown in the photo is a poultry house built in 1956 according to the Whitley County GIS. The farmhouse was built prior to 1900, but I’m not sure if it was there when Ira obtained the farm. He acquired the farm sometime between 1889 and 1916 according to plat maps from both of those years. The family history also says the Mishlers had an electric line ran along 950W from the Collamer Dam to supply electric power to the family farms along that road. They had electricity before many people did in that area. There are some other old buildings on the farm that has apparently been in the same family for more than 100 years now.

Poultry building near South Whitley
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Barn is on historic Yoder family farm in Marshall County

There are still some family farms that have remained in the family for more than 100 years. One example is in Marshall County along the Plymouth-Goshen Trail near U.S. Highway 6 in German Township. The Yoder farm is located along both sides of the Plymouth-Goshen Trail, itself a historic story. The bank barn shown in the photo may have been built in 1900 according to the county GIS, but that could be a default date so it may have been built earlier than 1900. There is another old barn not shown in the photo that was built in the late 1850s or early 1860s. According to information provided to me by the Marshall County History Museum in Plymouth, the house on this farm was built in 1925 by Manasses Yoder. It was a Sears kit house and came in by the nearby B&O Railroad (now known as CSX). It was unloaded about a mile from where it was placed. The dirt excavated from the basement was used in the bank for the barn. I don’t know for sure when this farm was originally purchased by the Yoder family, but the 1924 obituary for Jonas Yoder says he lived on the farm for the last 70 years of his life, so that would date back to at least 1854. As far as I know, the farm is still owned by the family. I also know some of the heritage of the family includes the Amish.

Barn on Yoder farm in Marshall County
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Silver Lake Ramblers played basketball in this building

For the second week in a row, my post is located in Silver Lake in Kosciusko County. This week the building shown in the photo was once the site of Silver Lake High School basketball games. It is located on Main Street (State Road 14) near the intersection with Jefferson Street (State Road 15). To the right in the photo is the Silver Inn tavern. Above this building is where the high school basketball games were played. In some previous posts, I have pointed out high school basketball teams played games wherever they could find a place to play before gyms were built. Sometimes that was above a hardware store or in a church basement, etc. It was 1919 when games were first played indoors in Silver Lake. Prior to that, the team played and practiced outside. That was fairly common and the season began earlier and ended when it was too cold or snowy to play outdoors. A few years ago I talked to Tom Sittler, a former high school basketball coach who grew up just outside of Silver Lake and still lives in the area. He told me his dad played on the Silver Lake team before they had a gym built. He remembers his dad telling him the court almost looked like a big cage because there was wire mesh fencing around it. The owner of the tavern treated the players to a meal after games. Games were played there until 1927 when they were moved to a dance hall at the lake. In 1930, a new school was built with a gym.

Former site of high school basketball in Silver Lake
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Building in Silver Lake was originally a hotel

Silver Lake is a small town in southern Kosciusko County where two state highways – 15 and 14 – intersect in the middle of town. It was once a railroad town with a depot (which is no longer standing) and at one time had three hotels. In today’s world, that would be rare for a small town but it wasn’t in the age of railroad travel. There was probably enough business generated from the railroad of people coming and going to keep three hotels busy. Shown in the photo is a building that was originally a hotel and is the only one still standing. It is located on State Road 15, or Jefferson Street in Silver Lake, near the intersection with State Road 14. According to the Indiana Landmarks inventory of historic structures for Kosciusko County, it was originally called the Enos Hotel and was built around 1915. The county GIS says it was built in 1890, so there is some difference in dates obviously. I would tend to believe it was built closer to 1890 based on the look of the building. It is a two-story brick and concrete block structure built in the Classical Revival style. I have also seen a postcard showing the building was known as the Crown Hotel at one time. Later this building was also a barber shop and a shoe shop. Apparently now it is used for apartments. The railroad line is still active, but trains no longer stop like they did several years ago.

Former hotel in Silver Lake
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Building on West Lincoln in Goshen more than 100 years old

Several months ago I was curious how many old carriage house buildings were still standing in Goshen. Several still are, but this building pictured on West Lincoln Avenue in Goshen was not one of them as I first thought. I had been told it was a carriage building and based on its proximity to a nearby house on Third Street considered the oldest standing house in Goshen, I tended to agree at first. But thanks to Joe Springer, curator at the Mennonite Historical Library at Goshen College, I was told this building was not a carriage house. It was built in about 1913 and was originally a seed and wool business that was operated by Charles Harper. A newspaper article from July 1913 referred to the building as new. It was built by ex-Mayor Charles Kohler. The business had been located on South Main Street in Goshen but was moved to West Lincoln. After this building was built, another building was erected to its rear. I should note in 1913, Lincoln Avenue only went as far west as Indiana Avenue (according to a 1915 map) and the whole area to the west along what is now the Lincoln Avenue corridor was undeveloped. The building built in 1913 is now used by Embassy Coffee.

Site of former seed business in Goshen
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