Elkhart County, and other counties, has several “ghost” communities. They were actually platted and may at one time have had several businesses and residents, but today have little, if anything. One example is Locke, Locke Township, north of Nappanee roughly along County Road 50. According to history accounts, Locke was first laid out in 1867 by three men. Originally the town seemed destined to become a business point and at one time there was a dry goods store, grocery store, hardware store, tin shop, furniture store, boot and shoe shops, a sawmill, a wagon shop, blacksmith shops and more. But then the people of Locke started paying attention in about 1875 when Nappanee was platted. It grew and no doubt a main reason why was the B & O Railroad decided to come through Nappanee instead of Locke. There are many examples of this in our history. One town hoped for and expected the railroad to come their way, but instead it went elsewhere. Locke could not hold its own as a town and many of the businesses went instead to Nappanee.Today there is not much at all in Locke except a few houses and possibly a few businesses.
Ghost community of Locke near Nappanee in Elkhart County.
Here is another remnant of the Lincoln Highway, this one in Allen County on the edge of Fort Wayne. I took the photo where the old alignment of the road intersects U.S. 33 near Interstate 69 and also U.S. 30. This is a very busy traffic area with the road interchanges. Remember, U.S. 30 and I-69 were not here in the 1920s. With that thought in mind, it would be easier to understand the remnant I have in my photo. The old route of the Lincoln Highway would have included Goshen Avenue, which is on the other side of the interchanges and out of the view of the photo. I do not recall the name of the road now that I have in my photo. With the technology in place today, it is sometimes easier to see where old road remnants would have been located. Google Maps, for example, has an aerial view that is useful sometimes in determining routes of old roads. Looking at hardcopy maps will not always reveal the answers, though they are often helpful. But here is one more trace of the old Lincoln Highway.
Remnant of Lincoln Highway in Fort Wayne.
Here is another trace of the nationally famous former Lincoln Highway. This one is found on the 1928 route of the Lincoln Highway, which eventually became U.S. 30 and then later Old US 30. Remember, the original route of the Lincoln Highway was different before being rerouted on a much straighter alignment in 1928. Shown is the remains of an old bridge in the backyard of a private residence which is part of another old route alignment that goes through the woods and comes out as a private drive about one-fourth of a mile away. It is found off Old 30, east of State Road 13 in Whitley County. Actually it is closer to State Road 5, north of Larwill. I am not sure if this bridge was used over a creek, stream or ditch. When I took the photo, it was in the middle of summer and everything was still grown up, so it was obviously harder to see from a distance. You can, however, see how much it has grown out around the bridge.
Old bridge remnant of Lincoln Highway in Whitley County.
A history buff such as myself is sad to see old train stations just torn down. But it is a reality to face. Thankfully, though, some have been remodeled or converted into different uses, such as the train depot in Culver, Marshall County. A fire destroyed the original wooden depot in 1920, which was named Marmont, the original name of the town before it was changed to Culver in 1896. A new brick depot was built, though not in the exact same location. It opened in September 1925 for the Vandalia Railroad, later owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Passenger trains stopped running sometime around the 1950s or possibly the 1960s. The depot was in disrepair for a while and tearing it down was an option certainly considered. But the Lions Club came to the rescue and had the building renovated and turned into a community center for Culver. There is a town park nearby and beautiful Lake Maxinkuckee too. Nice to see an old building still have a use in the modern world. I have a photo I will share later where the right of way for the railroad can be seen going through a wooded area.
Former train station in Culver, Marshall County.
I had driven by this old church building several times, but last year I decided to stop and get some photos of it. As you can see by the sign, it is the Southwest Bible Church. It is located on County Road 40, not far from State Road 119 in Harrison Township, Elkhart County. Although it is fairly obvious by looking at the photo the church building is old, I’m not sure how old it is. I saw a reference online talking about the cemetery nearby and saying the church building built in the mid 1850s is still standing. I saw a church located here as far back as 1874 on old maps. I’m guessing it was originally a German Baptist church because of the settlement patterns in the area, but I can’t say that for sure. It is located in the small community of Southwest, which used to be a little more prominent than it is today. Also, State Road 119 is of historical significance as it used to be known as the Plymouth-Goshen Trail. To the best of my knowledge, this is still an active church today.
Southwest Bible Church in Elkhart County.
The Providence Primitive Baptist Church was organized Oct. 5, 1850, in Elkhart County with five members. In 1852 a parcel of land was purchased from Sam Hoover and a church building was erected in 1852. That is when the original church was built. I’m assuming the current church shown in the photo here is not the original church building, but I was not able to find when this building was built. It is located about a mile or so east of State Road 19 on County Road 46 in Union Township, Elkhart County. As was the case with many rural churches long ago, there is a cemetery on the property too. It is west of the church and can not be seen in the photo. Churches used to take care of cemeteries, but rarely do anymore. There is also another Primitive Baptist cemetery west of Milford in Kosciusko County, but the church attached to it was torn down many years ago. The Primitive Baptist denomination traces its origins in America to the early colonies. They came from England and many of them ended up settling in the Southern states where several of their churches still exist.
Providence Primitive Baptist Church in Elkhart County.
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.