Last year I was with a group of friends and, among other stops, we stopped to take a brief look at what was once a small community in Walnut Township, Marshall County. Originally platted in 1866 by proprietor Frederick Stair with 70 lots, the community was first known as Fredericksburg. In 1869 11 lots were added and the name was changed to Walnut Station because the railroad first came through. That railroad was later known as the Lake Erie & Western. There was a post office at Walnut Station until 1906 and in the early 1900s there was a store, elevator, two churches and a school. The community was never really very large, but it did have a post office and was platted with named streets. Today the railroad tracks are still there, but upon a closer examination it was clear the railroad line is not used very often. There are still a few houses in a small cluster, but I don’t recall seeing any businesses or marked streets as used to be the case. I’m not sure when things began to change in Walnut Station, but it is considered a “ghost” community now. A reminder of the past in Marshall County.
Former community of Walnut Station in Marshall County.
Railroad history is interesting to me and northern Indiana has plenty of it. Several railroad lines have been abandoned, but were important in the history of transportation locally. One such railway never carried any passengers (though that was apparently promised at one time) and didn’t last very long, but it still has an interesting history. I’m referring to the Syracuse-Milford Railway in Kosciusko County. It formed in the early 1900s for the purpose of transporting marl between lakes in Syracuse and Waubee Lake near Milford. Marl was dug out of the bottom of lakes and used in the making of concrete. The railroad line, only about 6 total miles in length, went through the countryside between the two towns of Syracuse and Milford. Traces of it remain today, though they are limited. The tree line shown here is part of the old path of the railway. It is just off Syracuse-Webster Road, south of the “crazy corners” intersection near Syracuse. The route of the Syracuse-Milford Railway can still be found on a 1914 Kosciusko County Atlas. A short lived railway, and short in distance railway.
Path of the former Syracuse-Milford Railway near Syracuse.
The Lincoln Highway is one of the most historical highways in all of the United States. And Indiana is immersed in that history because the road came through the Hoosier State. If you drive on U.S. 33 between Ligonier and Fort Wayne, you will see remnants of the original alignment along the way. One such alignment, shown in the photo, is near Chase Road in Allen County, north of Fort Wayne. Part of the old road alignment remains, as does a pony truss bridge. These bridges were typical of those found on roads in the early days of automobiles. Of course in 1913, the year the Lincoln Highway began, there weren’t nearly as many automobiles on the road as there are now. And those automobiles didn’t move as fast, were lighter and not as wide as today’s cars. A bridge such as this would likely not be able to handle the amount of traffic today on U.S. 33. The bridge and old road alignment are now on a farm. The Lincoln Highway was rerouted in the 1920s and went west from Fort Wayne, not north. That alignment is known today as Old U.S. 30.
Old alignment of Lincoln Highway north of Fort Wayne in Allen County.
In the much earlier days of state highways, it was very common for those roads to go through the middle of a town or city. One example is the original version of State Road 15 in Indiana, known today as Old State Road 15. Shown is a photo of Old 15 in New Paris, Elkhart County, looking north from Market Street (I believe that is the correct name of the street). The original version of 15 came through the heart of New Paris and the downtown area. It entered the town from the south after coming through Milford in Kosciusko County, a few miles to the south. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, 15 was rerouted and moved to the west of the railroad tracks. Doing so eliminated having to cross the tracks multiple times. Railroad crossings, still dangerous to a certain extent today, were even more unsafe in those days. I read in the historical accounts of the road being rerouted some downtown business owners were not so thrilled with the road being rerouted as it obviously would reduce traffic in town. But those changes were in the midst of being more common. It should also be noted this stretch of Old 15 was once the Logansport-White Pigeon State Road a long time before it ever became a state highway.
Old State Highway 15 in New Paris, Elkhart County.
Depending on the location, old road remnants are around more than we might think. I found this one just south of Warsaw in Kosciusko County. Today’s State Road 15 comes into Warsaw from the south and, at one point, takes a jog to the east before straightening back out. Where it takes a jog County Road 150 West connects with it. Older maps indicate the county road was actually an old alignment of the state highway. When the new road takes a jog or curves, sometimes that is an indication there is an old alignment nearby, but not always. State Road 15 has been in place since the early 1930s. Even before it was named a state road, though, there was a road in the same place connecting Warsaw with Claypool, Silver Lake and other towns to the south. Prior to it being named a state highway, it was known as the Dixie Highway. And going back even further, the road likely had other names, though I am not sure what those would have been. I just know today’s State Road 15 in that area has a long history.
County Road 150 West near Warsaw.
Sometimes history is more obvious, but sometimes it isn’t so obvious. I’ve been in West Goshen Cemetery a few times but it took me a while to arrive at the conclusion there is a remnant of the old Plymouth-Goshen Trail in the cemetery. It’s now used as a driveway for the cemetery and is on the east end of the cemetery and runs north-south. If you follow the road to the north on your way out of the cemetery it is fairly close to what is now Dewey Avenue, the angling road. I noticed on an 1861 Elkhart County map a road including what is now Dewey Avenue (which also used to be part of the Plymouth-Goshen Trail) but then running south all the way to what is now State Road 119. It was to the west of what is now Indiana Avenue. Keep in mind the original part of West Goshen Cemetery is in the southeast corner. Recently I came across a pamphlet for West Goshen Cemetery provided by the Goshen Historical Society. In the pamphlet, it references a “dividing road” and, based on that description, the driveway is a good fit. The driveway also runs parallel to a ridge. There is a good sized drop off and it was quite typical in the early years of the county for roads to take the higher ground. The Plymouth-Goshen Trail was surveyed and then built in the 1830s, so this is part of very old local history. I am not sure what the pillar or post is that you can see in the photo. Maybe a reader knows?
Remnant of Plymouth-Goshen Trail in West Goshen Cemetery.
My last post was about Sparklin Cemetery in Elkhart Township. This one is about Hire Cemetery, another very old cemetery in Elkhart County, but this time in Benton Township. It is on the north side of County Road 148, about a half-mile east of US 33. The oldest known grave marker is that of John Hire, a small child who died at the age of 2 in September 1833. I do know the Hire name still has a presence in this area of the county. I would assume they are related to the Hires who settled the land in the 1830s. There was also once a church at the site of Hire Cemetery. It was known as Colclazer Chapel. But when the Richville Methodist Church was built in the 1870s a couple of miles away, it was decided the church building at the cemetery was no longer needed, so it was discontinued. The older rural cemeteries often have an interesting history and Hire Cemetery is no exception. We can learn a lot about the history of a given area by going through a cemetery. I should also note the cemetery will, if it hasn’t already, be getting one of the blue heritage signs issued by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Hire Cemetery in Benton Township, Elkhart County.
The very old cemeteries in Elkhart County are an integral part of the county’s history. In Elkhart Township is the Sparklin Cemetery. It is on the west side of State Road 15 (which at one time was the Logansport-White Pigeon State Road) just south of Waterford Mills. If you are driving by in a car, you could easily miss it. I spotted it, but I was looking for it at the time too. The cemetery was founded on the Azel Sparklin property and it is said the first burial was Azel’s wife, Elizabeth, who died at the young age of 32 in 1829. There are several very old tombstones in this cemetery, some of which are no longer readable. It is also said some of the stones were removed and others destroyed, thus it is not really known for sure how many people are actually buried in Sparklin Cemetery. Off in the background is the Elkhart River. There are some who believe this is the second oldest cemetery in Elkhart County. I would tend to agree it is possible. It is not a very large cemetery, but it has a lot of historical significance. Azel Sparklin was one of the county’s earliest settlers.
Sparklin Cemetery near Waterford Mills in Elkhart County.
I like to look at old maps and sometimes when I do, I notice things that may not be so common. For example, I noticed “Reed’s Station” on a 1914 Kosciusko County Atlas. It was shown in Wayne Township, south of Warsaw along what was then the Big Four Railroad (since then it has been renamed New York Central and later Norfolk Southern, what it is now). More specifically, the location would have been east of what is now State Road 15 along what is now County Road 350 South. It is my understanding from what I have learned about the history of railroads, sometimes a “station” did not actually mean a train stop. It could have been just a track siding or maybe there was a small structure or building of some type. And there may not necessarily have been a railroad worker stationed there. Also, Reed’s Station may have been named after a railroad employee or a train engineer. I’m not really sure what kind of railroad operation there may have been at Reed’s Station. As you can see from the photo, there is really no indication any building once existed there such as a foundation or something similar.
Location of Reed’s Station near Warsaw.
Quite a few years ago I was told following the path of the former Winona Interurban Railway between Warsaw and Mentone in Kosciusko County essentially consists of following the path of the electric power poles. Sure enough this photo is proof of that. It was taken from along Shilling Road between Palestine and Mentone. It is located close to the photo I posted just last week. Old maps show the interurban followed an angled route between Warsaw and Mentone. I would guess about a 30 degree angle if you look at the maps, but then again I was never really very good in geometry. There are other remnants of the old electric railway such as what I posted last week. To the best of my knowledge there is also a remnant still in place over Trimble Creek closer to Warsaw. One can imagine the interurban would have been welcomed by those in rural areas who could now get to the county seat in Warsaw quicker to take care of any business or shopping they may have to do. The interurban took us out of the horse and buggy days into more modern transportation.
Route of the Winona Interurban between Warsaw and Mentone.