A trip a few years ago in the summer of 2016 just across the border in Michigan proved to be very interesting for a history buff like myself. On a stop in Cass County, Michigan, I toured the Bonine House. While there I took some photos of a former carriage house building dating to the early 1850s on the corner of M-60 and Calvin Center Road. It is across the road from the Bonine House and was built by James Bonine. This building has significant history because, according to the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County, there are references to the carriage house being used to house, feed and clothe slaves seeking freedom on their way to Canada. The carriage house is being restored and I should note the photos I took were before much of that restoration work started. There are photos on the Underground Railroad Society website showing more of the restoration work. I believe eventually the carriage house will become a period museum for the Underground Railroad. I’m glad to see this because there are stories that need to be told about the Underground Railroad.
Carriage house building in Cass County, Michigan.
In 2017, I posted something about the Benton Spillway in Elkhart County. It is now part of the River Preserve County Park. More specifically near County Road 31 and also the small community of Benton. At one time in the past, the spillway was part of a system involving a dam and a canal. You can see in the photo a couple of concrete abutments. I’m not sure what those were for specifically, but I’m sure they had something to do with the dam and canal system. Perhaps there was a ditch or culvert here? This is a reminder of the commercial past in Elkhart County when the power of water was being harnessed in multiple ways. Of course the early settlers of the county depended heavily on water and typically migrated to areas near a creek, river or stream. A hydroelectric plant was built in the nearby Baintertown area in later years before shutting down in 1969. Elkhart County Parks took control of the system in 1970 and the River Preserve was created. I took this photo when visiting the Gathering at Five Medals living history event held annually.
Benton Spillway in Elkhart County.
When you take a drive through the countryside, you are less likely now to see the combination of a country church and cemetery. What was once much more common is now not so common due to development and other factors such as many rural churches closing their doors. A few exceptions remain, such as the former Union Chapel Church in Harrison Township, Elkhart County, on County Road 38, also referred to in the past sometimes as the Blosser Park Road. The church was also known as the Inbody Union Church. Last week I posted about the cemetery next to the church. The church was originally built in the late 1850s or possibly about 1860. It looks typical of many churches built in that era, a simple clapboard design and small frame structure. Of course in that era, those who went to a church lived close by due to transportation constraints and also more of a sense of community existing. Today the building may still be an active church. There is a sign on the front saying it is the New Testament Baptist Church. The front entrance looks to be an addition to the original building.
Former Union Chapel Church in Elkhart County.
Here’s another of the very old pioneer cemeteries in Elkhart County. It bears repeating there is a gold mine of history to be found in cemeteries. This is the Inbody Cemetery, also known as the Harrison Chapel Cemetery, on County Road 38, just west of the intersection with County Road 17 in Harrison Township, Elkhart County. This cemetery was started when George Inbody donated a small plot of land from his farm for a burial ground, according to the Elkhart County Genealogical Society website. Also on the website it notes the oldest stone found is for Abraham and Esther Teter, who both died Sept. 16, 1840. It is not a particularly large cemetery and there is an old church building on the west end of the cemetery that is still standing. I will post something later about the church. I took the photo of the cemetery in the winter time and didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time walking around, but I noticed some very old tombstones still standing upright.
Inbody Cemetery in Harrison Township, Elkhart County.
Last week I posted an original alignment of the Michigan Road in Marshall County near Plymouth. This week I have one from St. Joseph County. I believe this is somewhere near LaPaz. As I recall the old alignment comes off Old U.S. 31. You can see the old alignment in the photo closest to the camera, while Old U.S. 31 is in the background. The Michigan Road ran from Madison in the southern part of Indiana to Michigan City on the northern end. As one can imagine, when first commissioned in the 1820s it would have had a significant impact on travel and commerce in Indiana. Prior to the road being built there were very few roads and the ones existing usually didn’t go very far. Even now you can still drive on most of the original Michigan Road. Go to historicmichiganroad.org and it gives you a turn by turn description of the route. Of course now it is several different roads.
Historic Michigan Road in St. Joseph County.
I’ve posted a few times about the Michigan Road in various locations. It is one of the most historic roads in the state of Indiana. The road was originally commissioned in the late 1820s to run from Madison on the southern border up to the northern border at Michigan City. Even today, one can drive on most of the original road with a few exceptions. As you could imagine, the road has been chopped up into a combination of federal, state, county and local roads. Here’s another post for the old Michigan Road. This photo was taken north of Plymouth off Old U.S. 31. There is an original road alignment coming off Old 31. In the photo you can see a portion of Old 31 to the right in the background. There is a business on that corner as I recall, but I don’t remember what it is. When I say Old 31, technically it is now Old, Old 31 because a few years ago a new road was built and is now U.S. 31. There will be more posts in the coming weeks about the Michigan Road.
Old Michigan Road alignment near Plymouth.
Admittedly this post is one I’m not so sure about, so here goes. A while back someone who lives near Milford and has for a long time told me about an old road alignment involving Old State Road 15 south of Milford. He then showed me where the alignment was. Now it is a private driveway leading to a home but it’s possible many, many years ago it could have been an old road alignment. I didn’t see anything on the 1879 and 1914 plat maps, but obviously there is a 35-year gap between those and many years before and after unaccounted for with maps. I do know what is now Old SR 15 south of Milford was once part of the old Logansport-White Pigeon State Road. I’m talking about the era before automobiles came, or in the 1800s. It’s possible what is shown in my photo may have been an old alignment of that road to avoid low lying, marshy ground. More specifically, this is north of Mock Road, south of Milford. If anyone knows more than this, please feel free to contact me.
Possible old road alignment off Old SR 15 near Milford.
I’ve mentioned this before, but there is a lot of history associated with cemeteries, especially rural ones. It may seem odd to say that, but not only is there the history of those buried in the cemetery, but also how the cemetery came into existence or has changed through time. Shown in the photo is the Hess Cemetery located on County Road 21 in Elkhart Township of Elkhart County. It is south of Kercher Road, or County Road 38. I took the photo facing to the west. As the name implies, the cemetery is named after the Hess family who owned the land surrounding it for many years. I found a D. Hess owning 199 acres in 1874, then William Hess owning more than 100 acres in 1915, 1929 and 1937. In 1915, the land was labeled on the map as the West View Farm. I’m not sure how long this family owned the land before 1874 and after 1937. According to information provided by the Elkhart County Genealogical Society, the earliest burial in the cemetery is 1856. There is a stone near the entrance which says early pioneer Balser Hess donated the public cemetery. There are now many houses nearby, but this used to be primarily farmland. If my memory is correct, there is an old farmhouse and barn nearby which may have been part of the Hess farm at one time.
Hess Cemetery on CR 21 in Elkhart Township.
There are not many of these bridges left in use, at least not in the local area. The older bridges have often been replaced or have been moved elsewhere and no longer carry automobile traffic. Shown in the photo is the beautiful and historic Indiana Avenue bridge in the city of Goshen, Elkhart County. Specifically, this is a Pennsylvania truss bridge and was built in 1898 by the Bellefontaine Bridge and Iron Co. of Bellefontaine, Ohio. The bridge spans the Elkhart River and is located near the Old Bag Factory. It still carries automobile traffic on a busy road and was renovated twice in recent memory, once in the 1980s and again during 2010-11. It is worth noting a military convoy in 1919 using the old Lincoln Highway crossed this bridge. The convoy was led by a young military officer named Dwight D. Eisenhower, who, of course, would end up being president of the United States. The convoy had originally planned to use the Pike Street bridge in Goshen, but due to weight limitations had to take the Indiana Avenue bridge instead. Also, the bridge was used in the early 1900s for a trolley system to cross the Elkhart River. Simply put, the bridge is a historic jewel for the city of Goshen.
Historic Indiana Avenue bridge in Goshen.
The former First Presbyterian Church at the corner of Jackson and Chauncey streets in Columbia City is now a café. This historic building, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is a beautiful building dating back to when it was built in 1893. It replaced a frame building standing on Chauncey Street which was dedicated in 1859. But growing membership meant a new church was needed with more room. The congregation decided to have a new church built instead of remodeling the current one. A building committee decided to move the old church to the corner of Van Buren and Washington streets. Ground was broken for the new church July 16, 1892. The first brick was laid in August. The dedication service for the new First Presbyterian was held Oct. 22, 1893, and the Rev. Otho Thornberry announced the completed building cost $10,500. That may sound like a small amount today, but I can imagine it was huge in 1893. There was a debt in the amount of $1,000 but passing the hat eliminated the debt as congregation members pitched in to pay it off. I am not really sure when the church closed and when it became a business. But I know it is a historical landmark in Columbia City.
Former First Presbyterian Church in Columbia City.