I’ve noted in a few previous posts through the years there are still some of the old one- room schoolhouse buildings still standing in Elkhart County. Often they have been converted into a residence as is the case with this week’s post. Shown is the former White Brick Schoolhouse in Jefferson Township, Elkhart County, on County Road 14 at the intersection with County Road 23, south of Bristol. According to Dean Garber’s book about one-room schoolhouses in Elkhart County, the brick school was built in about 1889 and replaced a wood frame building on the same site. It was probably painted white, thus the name of the school, to hide the color of the brick. The school closed at the end of the 1928-29 school year, as did all of the other schools in the township. Garber’s book gives very little other history of the school, except for the names of a couple of teachers, Ira Zigler and Silas Smucker. When I drove by the building to get my photos in 2018, it appeared at that time it was used as a residence.
Former White Brick School in Jefferson Township, Elkhart County.
Please keep in mind my Local Remnants blog is about local history and I have no intention of embarrassing anyone at all. So please look past the abandoned farmhouse in disrepair shown in the photo and note the history associated with this property. I could tell when I drove by the house, located on County Road 500 South in Cleveland Township, just west of South Whitley in Whitley County, it is a very old house by its type. According to the Whitley County GIS, it was built in 1850. Further research shows this was once the Tressler family farm for many, many years. I saw a Tressler on the property in an 1889 map and the GIS shows it was deeded over to someone without the Tressler name, though they still may be related (I don’t know for sure) in 1990. Peter Tressler, born in Germany in 1824, was listed as the property owner on the 1889 map. He lived in Ohio until 1853 when he brought his family to Whitley County and purchased land three miles southwest of South Whitley. He purchased the farm on 500 South in 1865. If the GIS is correct, someone other than a Tressler built the house. Peter Tressler died in 1907 and his son Simon Peter took over the farm and was shown as the property owner on the 1916 map. The GIS also shows a poultry house built in 1901 is on the property. Simon Peter’s son, Kermit Grove Tressler, later owned the property.
Very old farmhouse near South Whitley in Whitley County.
Admittedly, this white two-story old farmhouse is a bit of a mystery. It is located at the Y-shaped intersection of County Roads 29 and 142 in the Baintertown area of Jackson Township, Elkhart County. It was built in the 1890s, according to the Indiana Landmarks inventory of historical structures for Elkhart County. I contacted the Elkhart County Historical Museum and was told research suggests there were a “huddle of homes” in the area that were in some way related to the operation of mills that were once prominent in Baintertown. I don’t know this for sure, but I would make an educated guess the house was built for someone who worked at one of the mills. Later, after the mills were closed, I found a man named William Ecklebarger who apparently lived in the house according to old township plat maps. Then even later it was bought by the Kline family in about 1947 or so. They still own the property today. It was a 19-acre farm in the 1940s and is still farmed. There is also a chicken house, corn crib and barn on the property. I felt when driving by I needed to get a photo of this historic house in Elkhart County.
Old two-story house in Jackson Township, Elkhart County.
Sometime in the early 1980s or late 1970s, the Eel River Railroad was abandoned. There are still traces of it remaining, though. Shown in the photo is a remnant which I believe is where the railroad crossed County Road 300 South in Whitley County, in Columbia Township not far from State Road 205. This would be between county roads 300 and 400 West. The railroad ran at an angle between South Whitley and Columbia City through the countryside. The photo shows a circular piece of concrete which may have originally supported a signal post of some type I’m guessing. It is close to a county road, so it may have supported a railroad crossing sign, though I’m not absolutely certain. It can’t be seen in the photo, but if you are close to it you can look in the background and see where the railroad came through. By the way, this particular railroad also came through South Whitley and crossed the old Nickel Plate Railroad.
Remnant of Eel River Railroad in Whitley County.
I’ve posted several remnants of the former Winona Interurban Railway and here’s another one. This photo was taken from County Road 1000 South, west of County Road 1000 West in Franklin Township in Kosciusko County. However, 1000 South is the dividing line in this area between Kosciusko and Fulton counties, so what you see in the photo is actually in Fulton County because it is facing south. For much of Kosciusko County, follow the electric power lines coming south from Warsaw and it pretty much was the path of the interurban railway. As a reminder, the Winona went from Goshen to Peru and came through a small portion of Fulton County on its way to Peru. Electric railways were a major step forward in transportation and considerably diminished the time it took to get between cities or towns. The Winona Railway ceased carrying passengers in 1934 and carried freight only until 1952. Stay tuned, if you are interested in the history of this railway because I will post more on it in the future.
Path of the Winona Interurban Railway in Fulton County.
Those driving by on Armstrong Road in Oswego, a small, unincorporated community in Kosciusko County, may easily miss even seeing the old house. More specifically, I’m referring to the old Pound family house on Armstrong Road. According to the Kosciusko County Interim Report published several years ago by Indiana Landmarks, the Pound house in Plain Township was built in 1840 and has the Gothic Revival and Greek Revival characteristics. The Pound family operated the nearby Pound Store for many years. It is more well known because it is owned by the Kosciusko County Historical Society and is open in the summer months for tours. And it is the oldest commercial building still standing in Kosciusko County. I’m not sure how long the Pound family lived in the house, but they operated the store for multiple generations before it was sold to the historical society. I’ve driven by the old house several times and at the time I took the photo in 2018 I don’t believe anyone was living in the house, but that may have changed since then.
Pound family house in Kosciusko County.
This week I am posting something about another interurban railway, the Winona Interurban Railway. This electric railway went from Goshen to Peru. Along the way, one stop was in Milford in Kosciusko County. The railway came down the middle of Main Street through town. On the south edge of town, it took a jog to the west off Main Street when it crossed Turkey Creek. Shown in the photo is a portion of the footing for the railway bridge. When the leaves are off the trees, it can be seen from Main Street. After the railway crossed the creek it continued at an angle in a southwesterly direction until reaching what is now State Road 15. From there it straightened out and headed south. The railway stopped carrying passengers in 1934. From then until 1952, it only hauled freight. I’ve shared remnants of the railway before and will share more in the coming weeks.
Winona Railway bridge remnant over Turkey Creek in Milford.
Here’s another post about the former St. Joseph Valley Railway, also known as the “Valley Line.” This electric interurban railway was an example of sometimes what happened with interurban railways. Big dreams were met with harsh reality and finances couldn’t match the dreams. The Valley Line was meant to connect northern Indiana with Ohio but was never finished and was also never fully electrified. It lasted only about seven years roughly, or from 1911 to around 1918. Poor financing and a poor safety record combined to seal the fate of the railway. Shown in the photo is what is now a mountain bike trail in Bonneyville Mill County Park, east of Bristol in Elkhart County. The railway came through here on its journey in Elkhart County. Do a search and you will find my other posts about the Valley Line. Some interurban lines managed to last 20 or more years, but this one had the odds stacked against it and didn’t last nearly as long.
Remnant of Valley Line in a county park.
When I drive by an old farmhouse, particularly one that is no longer occupied, I start wondering what the history of that farmhouse is. Perhaps my mind works in strange ways, but I’ve often found there is a story behind many of those farmhouses. The one shown here is on Berkey Avenue, or County Road 32, on the fringes of Goshen in Elkhart Township of Elkhart County. It is on the north side of the road, east of Old County Road 17 and next to a large cornfield. After doing some checking, I found this farmhouse has connections in the past to a Cripe family. Daniel Cripe Jr. had the farm on the other side of CR 32. His son Benjamin Cripe later settled on the farm with the farmhouse shown in my photo. Benjamin’s son Hiram Cripe also lived there. The farm was passed on to a daughter, Florence Cripe Neterer. She was married to Noble Neterer. One of their daughters was the last person to live in the farmhouse and she died in 2006. According to county property records, the farmhouse was built in 1845. The Cripe family owned a considerable amount of land at one time on both sides of CR 32. The farmhouse is still in the family though I’m told no one is living there now.
Farmhouse just west of Goshen in Elkhart Township
I know I’ve said this before, but the combination of a rural church and a cemetery next to it used to be much more common than it is now. Although obviously cemeteries are still there, quite often the church has been torn down or is no longer in use. Pleasant Valley Cemetery is located next to what used to be Pleasant Valley Church of the Brethren. It is believed the oldest grave in the cemetery is that of Noah Blough, infant son of J.R. and C.H. Blough, who died Sept. 2, 1867. The cemetery is on County Road 8 in York Township, Elkhart County, near Middlebury. For many years the church congregation probably took care of and maintained the cemetery. Now I’m guessing it is likely it falls under the authority of the York Township Trustee. In the early years, the cemetery was probably used more often for burials of church members. When transportation was more of an issue than it is today, typically only those living close by would attend a church. There is a lot of history in this area of Elkhart County. Some of it takes a little research to find.
Pleasant Valley Cemetery in Elkhart County.