West of Milford in Jefferson Township, Kosciusko County, is an area known as Hastings. It was a small community at one time many years ago, though today there is not much evidence left of it. The Island Chapel Church was part of this community. It is on County Road 425 West near the intersection with County Road 1000 North. The church was originally part of the Evangelical Association but later it was decided to unite with the Methodist church. As I recall it may have taken yet another name later, though I’m not quite sure. The building was dedicated in 1877 and I do know Sunday school rooms were added in the 1950s. Though the building still has the appearance of a church on the outside, it is now, I believe, rented out as a holiday house. I saw photos of the inside posted online. At least someone has found a new use for an old building. I’m not sure when it ceased being an active church. The “Island” part of the name of the church likely came from the fact the area was prone to heavy flooding in the years before drainage ditches and there were pockets, or islands, of higher ground scattered about.
Former Island Chapel Church near Milford.
There is more to this photo than a farm field and a tree line. Actually the tree line is the focus in this week’s post. I had been researching the history of a Ganger family line dating to the 1830s in Elkhart County. The original homestead was located on what is now State Road 119, west of Goshen in Harrison Township. One of the children born on that homestead, Levi Ganger, was a grandson of the original farm owner. He later moved away from the farm and eventually owned his own farm in Harrison Township bordering what is now Bashor Road (County Road 30) and Old County Road 17. This photo was taken along Old CR 17, south of Bashor Road. The tree line off in the distance was the boundary of the Ganger farm. Levi died in 1950 and part of the farm was sold off later and developed as a subdivision. There are houses now along Old CR 17 where this farm used to be. Levi’s farm went to the south about to where Clinton Street now intersects Old CR 17.
Tree line in Harrison Township, Elkhart County.
In Whitley County, in Cleveland Township near South Whitley, just off State Road 205, is County Road 500 West. As shown in the photo, it crosses the Eel River. Going south, the road stops at Pook Road. I get curious about road alignments and sometimes will look at old maps to see how much they have changed, if at all. In this case, this road once went further south than what is now Pook Road. This was seen on a 1916 Cleveland Township plat map. These maps can be found online, in libraries, museums, etc. The 1916 map also showed the road jogged west, then east. This was common in those days when roads were often not straight as many of them are now. It is also worth noting 500 West crosses the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks now. This used to be the Nickel Plate Railroad, well known to railroad history buffs. Also, an iron bridge on 500 West built in 1900 was removed in about 1985 and replaced with the current bridge.
County Road 500 West in Whitley County.
When you read about local transportation history, it often involves the automobile and railroad. But one of the earliest forms of transportation was the stagecoach. We hear the word “stagecoach” and often think of the Old West, but stagecoaches were running in the East and Midwest long before they did in the West. A while back I came across an 1838 map of Indiana stagecoach routes published in the Indiana Quarterly of History magazine in 1907. This map clearly shows a route running from Warsaw south to Wabash and along the way it would have went by Claypool in Kosciusko County. The house shown may have been a stagecoach stop at one time. Stagecoaches ran until about the early 1860s or so before railroads came through. Public traveling, of course, was much more difficult in those days and took considerably longer. Roads were rough, uneven and rutted. It was a bumpy ride, to put it mildly, in a stagecoach. But it was the best way to go for some people. The photo is on State Road 15, north of Claypool.
Possible stagecoach stop near Claypool.
There was a time when a rural church was considered a community gathering place. Especially in the days before automobiles, those who went to church typically attended the closest one. As one might imagine, travel was not as easy in pre-automobile days. Shown is the Oak Grove United Methodist Church on County Road 200 South in Richland Township, Whitley County. At a cost of about $2,000, according to “History of Whitley County and its Families,” work began in 1880 on erecting a brick church among a grove of large oak trees on land deeded by Mary and Walsingham Smith to the trustees of the church. By November 1880 the church was ready to be dedicated. It had one large room which would seat about 125 people. The church was heated with wood stoves and the first lights were kerosene lamps with several lamps on a chandelier which hung from the ceiling, as well as a hanging lamp above the pulpit. A furnace was not put in until 1946 and then a basement was made in 1950 under the entire church with an outside entrance. There is also a cemetery across 200 South which I will talk about later.
Oak Grove United Methodist Church in Whitley County.
The Winona Interurban Railway was an electric railway spanning from Goshen to Peru in Indiana. It began in the very early 1900s and its heyday was likely around 1910 or so, before World War I. Like most interurban lines, competition from the automobile, coupled with the Great Depression, was too much to overcome and the Winona stopped carrying passengers in 1934, though it did carry freight (on some of the line) until the 1950s. The railway passed through downtown Warsaw in Kosciusko County on Center Street. Shown is a remnant of what was a freight office for the Winona in the lower level of a building at the corner of Center and Indiana streets. This is across the parking lot from what is now the Old Jail Museum. Items could be shipped or received by using the Winona. I am told by Bill Darr, who has extensively researched the railway, there was a short spur on Indiana Avenue off the main track on Center Street for the interurban car to pull off to receive or drop off freight. I’m not sure, to be honest, what this building is used for now.
Winona Interurban remnant in Warsaw.
Here’s another photo from my summer of 2016 trip to see a cousin in Middletown, Ohio. We also visited a covered bridge in Germantown, Ohio. It was built in 1870 in a location different from its present location. Until it was moved in 1911, it was on the historic Dayton Pike. In 1963, 52 years after being moved, it was restored. The bridge now sits on East Center Street spanning Little Twin Creek. According to the Ohio Historical Marker near the bridge, it is reputed to be the only existing covered bridge of its kind in the world. Nothing more is on the marker to indicate why it is the only one of its kind still standing. Covered bridges are symbols of individual initiative in America’s pioneer days. They were often remarkably designed and a few of them have stood the test of time. It’s good to see they are still around, even if not in their original location. They are neat to look at.
Covered bridge in Germantown, Ohio.
Here’s another photo from my 2016 trip to visit a cousin in Middletown, Ohio. This is the former Big Four Railroad train depot built in 1909 on Charles Street near what is now State Road 122. The brick building had a bench for passengers to sit on inside. It looks like a typical train station from that era. A few of these buildings have survived and by looking inside them it can be determined they were very functional buildings. You might say a train station was the “social media” of its day. People gathered there to drop off or meet people and often heard some of the latest news. It was a social gathering place. But eventually trains stopped carrying passengers and the last train to leave this station left April 30, 1971, which was considerably later than many railroad companies which stopped carrying passengers as far back as the 1950s. Today this building is a gift shop I believe, unless it has changed from when I was there. Note the tracks in the photo. This is still an active railroad line owned by Norfolk Southern Railroad.
Former train station in Middletown, Ohio.
Particularly during the last couple of years I’ve put more emphasis on taking photos of old barns. I’ve often found there is a story worth telling with many of these barns. They were built as multi purpose barns and commonly housed cows, pigs and horses and sometimes chickens, turkeys or ducks. Farming has changed considerably and some of the older barns have been torn down to make way for a new, more functional pole barn. Some of the older ones have survived, though, such as this one along Beer Road just outside the town limits of Milford to the east. It sits right next to Turkey Creek. I’m not sure exactly when it was built, but I would guess early 1900s if not sooner. I do know it was part of the Slabaugh farm many years ago and ducks were raised there. There is an interesting story to tell about ducks being raised around Milford, but that would take more space than I have here. Several farms raised ducks and today Maple Leaf Farms has a strong presence in the area. If you know of another old barn worth taking a photo of contact me.
Old barn east of Milford in Kosciusko County.
A specific area on the eastern shore of Webster Lake near North Webster in Kosciusko County is known as Miller’s Landing. It includes summer cottages, a boat landing and a long pier reaching out into the shallow water. It was named after the Miller family who settled there in approximately 1856. David and Sophia Miller came to the area from Mercer County, Ohio. They had a son named Joseph David Miller who eventually owned and operated Miller’s Landing. Residents built their cottages and Joseph collected annual rent from them for the use of his property. Miller’s Landing was also operating as a campground as early as 1898. Those who came to Miller’s Landing would sometimes come by horse and buggy and parked their rig in a barn on the Miller farm. The farm stretched east from Webster Lake to the Oak Grove area. The photo shows an old barn built by Joseph in 1907, so it was likely not the original barn on the property. It is located just off County Road 950 East. Until the 1980s Miller’s Landing was also a frequent flag stop for the Dixie tourist boat. There is still a sign along CR 950E identifying the area as Miller’s Landing.
Old barn near Webster Lake.