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.
Last summer I visited Coloma, Michigan, while on vacation one week. I attended an interesting program at the history museum there about an interurban line serving Coloma. While in Coloma, I stopped to get pics of this old building. It was built in 1910 by the Benton Harbor-St. Joe Railway and Light Company. It served passengers and freight on the interurban line for the next 18 years until 1928. The station’s transformer provided the first source of electricity for Coloma. This railway allowed people to travel to Chicago, especially in the summer. Fruit was also carried from the area to Benton Harbor and from there it was shipped overnight to Chicago for the morning market. Between 1928 and 1933 the building was used as an electrical substation. I’m not sure if the building is used for anything now. I do know it is located in a park and there is a historical marker sign affixed to the building.
Former interurban station in Coloma, Michigan.
Here is another remnant of the Fort Wayne & Wabash Valley Traction Company in Fort Wayne. There were three shop buildings built in the 1920s on Spy Run Avenue in Fort Wayne. Shown in the photo is one of the three shop buildings. The shops were a place for interurban cars to be parked after a day of service. Maintenance and repairs were also done in the shops. I’m sure interurban cars were probably built there too, especially in the earlier years of the electric railway. And cars were rebuilt or remodeled. There was a time of transition from wooden interurban cars to those made of steel. This particular shop building is used for a business of some type today, though I’m not sure what it is. There are still several remnants of the Fort Wayne & Wabash Valley Traction Company not only in Fort Wayne, but also elsewhere.
Former interurban shop building in Fort Wayne.
While on my vacation trip across the border into Michigan, I also stopped to see this old and beautiful house in Cass County, east of Cassopolis. It was built by James E. Bonine, who came to Cass County in the 1840s. The Greek Revival farmhouse began to be built not long after Bonine settled in Cass County. In the 1860s the house was remodeled and the tower with its distinctive mansard roof and double doors was added to the house. The house was enlarged to the north, adding the dining room, kitchen and another parlor on the first floor; and four bedrooms on the second floor. Bonine was a successful farmer and businessman and one of the largest landowners in the county. By the early 1850s, he had more than 1,600 acres. He also built a carriage house across the road, which I also have photos of, and in which there is evidence fugitive slaves were hidden there, meaning James and his wife, Sarah, worked for the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad Society of Cass County is restoring the Greek Revival house and offers tours of it.
Bonine house in Cass County, Michigan.
During the summer of 2016, while on vacation I ventured across the border into Michigan, but not too far. I stopped in Dowagiac and visited the local history museum, quite interesting in itself. Then I walked down the road a bit and looked at the old train station. This building was finished in 1903 for the Michigan Central Railroad. It was the third depot in Dowagiac, replacing one built in the 1870s. Since 1903 it has remained in use as a passenger station because now it serves Amtrak, a high speed rail service. The brick building trimmed in limestone was restored in 1995. It is a beautiful building for sure. When you stop to think for a moment, there aren’t many train station buildings still standing today. Most of them have been torn down. Fortunately a few, such as this one in Dowagiac, are still used today for something.
Train station in Dowagiac, Michigan.
Augustin Mottin de la Balme was a French cavalry officer who served in the United States during the Revolutionary War. A Daughters of the American Revolution historical marker can be found along Dela Balme Road near Columbia City in Whitley County. He led a group of soldiers who fought against the Miami Indians led by Chief Little Turtle along and near the Eel River in Whitley County in 1780. The Miami lived in a village along the Eel River and attacked La Balme before he reached the Eel River trading post. La Balme and his men fortified themselves on the banks of the river. There was a battle that lasted either several days or weeks; accounts vary of the battle. La Balme was eventually defeated by an overwhelming force and he died in the battle. Only a few survivors managed to escape the battle. Fortunately the DAR marked this important piece of history from a time when America fought for its independence.
Historical marker in Whitley County.
There is something about traces of old roads no longer existing that interests me. Maybe it’s what those traces reveal about transportation patterns of the past and how people got from point A to point B. Some of those remnants are more obvious than others. The one shown in the photo is at the Whitley-Kosciusko county line. It is looking north from Old Trail Road, itself a historic road (the former Yellowstone Trail). There is visible evidence a lane or road once existed here. I had some help from the former Kosciusko County surveyor who saw the remnant by looking at old aerial photos of the county. Aerial photos can be quite helpful when researching history, especially road history. Sometimes you can see things from above not so obvious at ground level. This road may have been access to the old Pennsylvania Railroad, still an active railroad line.
Road remnant at Whitley-Kosciusko county line.
Here’s another post regarding my trip to Fostoria, Ohio, last year. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the main reason for my visit was to see the railfan park. For those who love watching trains, this is a hotspot. The “Iron Triangle” brings together three railroad lines. On a busy rail traffic day, a train watcher can more than get their fill. I have seen this to a lesser degree where I live in Elkhart County because there is a large rail yard not far from me. Train traffic can be busy here, but not quite to the degree it can be in Fostoria. What you see in the photo is a railroad whistle marker (hence the “W” on the concrete post). It alerts the engineer it is time to blow the whistle. I was able to catch the older concrete marker and in the background a newer type of whistle marker sign. There are still some of the concrete markers left in a few places. Of course engineers today would already know to blow the whistle when they come into a town, depending on whether the town has quiet zones.
Railroad whistle marker in Fostoria, Ohio.
When it comes to railroad lines, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad is one of the most recognizable names from the storied past of railroads. It dates to roughly the 1820s and has a vast and rich history. When I went to Fostoria, Ohio, last year on a vacation trip mainly to see the railfan park, I managed, of course, to get some history of the railroads there. I noticed the old B & O depot on Main Street is still standing. I could not find when the depot was originally built, but if I had to guess it would be roughly the 1920s? I just don’t know for sure to be honest. It is no longer used as a train station but is now maintenance offices for two different rail lines, one of which is CSX. A train station was a busy place, especially before automobiles started to fill the highways. You might say it was the “social media” of that era, though contact was face to face and not through a computer. Fortunately there are still a few depots still standing and in use today.
Former B & O Railroad depot in Fostoria, Ohio