Remnants of Native American trails are very difficult, if not impossible, to find. Obviously the topography has changed much in close to 200 years. Fields have been plowed, housing developments built, cities and towns have grown, etc. I was with a friend in the spring of 2016 and he took me to a place south of North Webster in what is now part of the Tri-County Fish & Wildlife Area of the Department of Natural Resources. He had been told there was a remnant of a trail in that area. After walking around for a while, we came to a place where he felt confident it was likely located. But of course the land was altered significantly when DNR took possession of it several years ago. This particular spot is located along Hoss Hill Road, south of North Webster in Kosciusko County. There is a small ridge that indicates a possible trail location. Trails were often located on higher ground. Several years ago I was able to obtain a map showing Native American trails in Kosciusko County and it shows a trail heading in a northwesterly direction in this area.
Possible remnant of Native American trail near North Webster.
Our local history dates prior to the arrival of white settlers. We know Native Americans lived in the area. Several relics such as arrowheads and more have been found scattered throughout the area. We also know the Miami tribe lived near what is now Lake Wawasee in Kosciusko County. Native Americans were sometimes nomadic and didn’t stay in the same place very long. They followed their food sources and lived near bodies of water. Chief Flat Belly, a very large man according to historical accounts, lived in the area near Lake Wawasee. At least at one time, his village was located in the area shown in the photo, which is the intersection of County Road 1000 North and State Road 13, south of Syracuse. This can be determined, for example, through copies of surveying notes. Surveyors were in the area in the 1830s and often made notes of what they saw, including Native American villages or encampments. Flat Belly owned a large amount of land around Lake Wawasee and led his people from 1820 to 1837. The U.S. government built him a brick house in the late 1820s in Noble County. I don’t believe it is known for sure how long Chief Flat Belly lived in the area shown in the photo.
Former location of Chief Flat Belly village in Kosciusko County.
One of the more interesting historical roads, at least for me, would be the old Goshen-Huntington State Road. It dates to the very early years of settlement in the area in the 1830s. As the name implies, it connected Huntington and Goshen. Today, that road is actually numerous different roads including this stretch of County Road 29 shown here. It is just north of Syracuse in Elkhart County. I took the photo with the camera facing to the north. There is a clue to the old state road in Syracuse. Did you know Huntington Street is so named because it was once part of the old state road? So is State Road 5 in some areas, Old State Road 13, Syracuse-Webster Road and others. As I recall, the Goshen-Huntington State Road was built, at least in part, to give access to the mills in the Goshen area. Of course travel was much more difficult then and largely dependent on the weather being cooperative. But this would have been an important and well traveled road at the time it was built. Settlers needed a way to get to the mills.
County Road 29 north of Syracuse.
Elkhart County has a nice county parks system and one of those is the River Preserve County Park. It was formed in the early 1970s after NIPSCO donated some land to Elkhart County Parks. Shown is a building that was once part of the Baintertown Hydroelectric Plant just south of Goshen near the Elkhart River. After a mill went out of business in the early 1920s, the land was sold to the Interstate Public Service Company. The company operated the hydroelectric plant until 1969 and by that time the company was known as NIPSCO. For more than 45 years, the power of water was harnessed to provide electricity to the surrounding area. As I recall, power was provided as far south as Syracuse and possibly other areas. There are other traces of the past even as far back as when the mills were operating. I will post more on these later.
Former hydroelectric plant in Baintertown area.
A few of the old one-room schoolhouse buildings still stand in Elkhart County and elsewhere. When we look at schools today we see a tremendous amount of change for sure since the old schoolhouses were in use. This building is on the southwest corner of County Roads 29 and 142 in Jackson Township, Elkhart County. The Wyland brothers who were known for their mills settled near here in the 1830s. The brick building was built in the late 1880s, replacing a wood frame school which had stood since the 1850s. It was known as the Baintertown-Rodibaugh School and was closed in 1913. At that time, students were sent to New Paris for school. I should also note what is now CR 29 was once the Goshen-Huntington State Road and would have been known as that when the school was in use. The building may be used for storage now or possibly a garage. Note the overhead door.
Former school building in Jackson Township of Elkhart County.
Last week I talked about a road remnant in Kosciusko County. This week I move to the neighboring county to the north in Elkhart County. County Road 44 is an east-west road in the county. To the east part of this road actually followed the Wabash Railroad for a while. Going back to the west, the road would have at one time crossed County Road 3 south of Wakarusa. I recall a farmer who has lived in the area a long time telling me this and I was able to later confirm this by looking at old township plat maps. It’s almost impossible to see where a road would have went through because of the growth there now. County Road 44 simply dead ends at County Road 3 now. Not far from here, CR 44 intersects State Road 119, which, in part, was once the Plymouth-Goshen Trail. I can’t help but wonder if CR 44 was possibly an old alignment of that trail. It’s worth taking at look at the old maps.
County Road 44 dead end in Elkhart County.
I mentioned before I’m interested in finding remnants of roads and here’s another example of one that was pointed out to me a few years ago. It is west of Oswego, a small, unincorporated community in Kosciusko County. County Road 550 North once went straight through, but no longer does. This is near County Road 175 East. The photo may not show it as well, but I remember when standing there and taking the photos, a road cut was more visible. I’m not sure how long ago the road was vacated, but apparently it has been some time judging from the growth that has occurred since then. Vacating county roads is fairly common of course. A road, or a portion of it, no longer serves a useful purpose. This happens quite frequently around lakes when roads are vacated because they are no longer used. Travel patterns change sometimes. I just think it is interesting to see clues to the past of how people used to travel.
Road remnant near Oswego.
Old church buildings in the countryside used to be much more common than they are now, but there are still a few of them left. And a few are still used for church services. Shown in the photo is the Syracuse Baptist Church at the intersection of CR 1000N and Syracuse-Webster Road, south of Syracuse in Kosciusko County. It was originally built in 1889 as a United Brethren Church. Keep in mind in 1889, travel was still difficult and people tended to go to a church close to where they lived. The church was built as an offshoot of another United Brethren Church about a quarter mile to the east on 1000 North. The church had other names through the years including Zion Chapel and Freedom Chapel. It was an independent church before becoming a Baptist church as it is now. It is also worth noting there is an old one-room schoolhouse across Syracuse-Webster Road still standing. And Syracuse-Webster Road was once part of the Goshen-Huntington Road, an old state road prior to the days of the state highway department. The foundation and framing of the church building are original portions.
Syracuse Baptist Church in Kosciusko County.
The Cuppy house is a true historical landmark in South Whitley. It was built by Abraham Cuppy, who was once a state senator, in 1837. Hardwood floors and beams made of bark-stripped whole tree trunks and a unique staircase with hand-cut spindles are some of the historical features of the home. It is located on State Road 5 on the south side of town near the intersection with state roads 14 and 105. Abraham’s wife, Sarah Cuppy, opened up the home as a stop for escaped slaves as they made their way to Canada. It was a station for the Underground Railroad. When this home was built, it was part of a large farm with more than 570 acres. It is said there are hidden walls and secret passages within the home. There is an old barn across the road that was part of the farm. Abraham died at the young age of 36 and Sarah was left to take care of the children by herself. Of course the house has surely been added on to and modified through the years and is now a private home. The Cuppy name is part of an almost forgotten past of South Whitley.
Historic house in South Whitley
While in Michigan during the summer of 2016, not far across the border from Indiana, I was able to attend an interesting museum program about the history of the Benton Harbor-St. Joe Railway & Light Co. I was able to get a copy of an interesting map showing the route of the old electric railway. There are a few remnants of the line that still can be seen today, such as the right of way along the south side of M-60 just off California Road near Dowagiac. You can clearly see the cut for the roadbed of the railway. Sometimes electric power poles are a clue also. This railway would have been heavily used by people looking for a way to get to resort areas in and around Lake Michigan. Interurban lines lost their battles with the automobile. The independence of driving your own car was too much to compete with. And the Great Depression also hurt interurban lines a great deal. The end of the Benton Harbor-St. Joe Railway came in August of 1935 when the interurban cars were ridden for the last time.
Path of former interurban line in Michigan.