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.
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.