Very few families can say they have lineage all the way back to the 1830s in the same county. Probably even fewer farm families can claim this too. One exception is the Stutsman family farm in Harrison Township of Elkhart County. Shown in the photo is the old farmhouse built sometime in the 1800s off County Road 15, north of County Road 30 (Bashor Road). There is an old barn near the farmhouse too. The Stutsmans still live in this house and have for several years. The lineage of this family can be traced back to 1833 in Elkhart County. Benjamin F. Stutsman first staked out the land in 1833 after coming from Ohio with a brother and two sisters in covered wagons. There were different reasons why families migrated to Indiana and other parts of the Midwest. One reason was cheaper and available land. Many families came to Indiana from Pennsylvania and Ohio. The Stutsman land is not as large of a tract as it originally was because some of it was sold off, but it is still farmed today. A nearby farmer cash rents the land and farms it.
Old Stutsman farmhouse in Elkhart County.
I was driving to South Whitley from Huntington one day last year and noticed this old building at the corner of State Road 105 and County Road 800 South in Cleveland Township near South Whitley. Built in 1909, the concrete block building served as a one-room schoolhouse at one time. According to the Indiana Landmarks inventory of historical structures in Whitley County, it was known as the Bash Hill School and served as the District No. 5 school in the township. Schools were located only so far apart in each township to ensure no child would have to go too far to get to a school. Of course in 1909 there would have been very few, if any, automobiles in the area and most kids walked or rode a horse or mule to school. There was a bell tower on the roof near the front of the school which has since been removed. I’ve seen old photos of the school with the bell tower still on it. As you can see in the photo, the doors and windows have been boarded up and part of the staircase at the front entrance was removed. I don’t know what, if anything, the building is used for today. It is located on a farm I believe.
Former Bash Hill School near South Whitley in Whitley County.
It’s interesting to note some of the farming families with lasting legacy in the local area. A few families can actually trace their roots to when the original settlers came to the area. Since the 1840s, the Fisher family has owned land in Van Buren Township, Kosciusko County, near Milford. More specifically, on County Road 250 East near County Road 1100 North. This is also near where the Syracuse-Milford Railway once came through as I have previously posted about. The barn shown in the photo was built in 1915 according to the Kosciusko County property records found online. That would obviously make it more than 100 years old. It is a bank barn, which is common in this area, but what is unusual is it is banked on two sides. I’m not sure if I have seen many barns like this, if any at all. The land around the house and barn is still farmed, though the current property owner cash rents it to a nearby farmer.
Barn near Milford is more than 100 years old.
Just outside North Webster in Kosciusko County, off County Road 600 North to the west of town, sits a rather historic barn. As you will see on the barn itself, it is part of the historic Mid-Lake Farms. This farm once covered several hundred acres of land stretching from literally Webster Lake to Tippecanoe Lake. Most of that land has been sold off through the years, but part of it still remains in the Warner family as it has since the 1830s. The family still owns the house and land where the barn is located. It is believed this barn was built in the 1920s and was once used to keep show horses. A restoration project on the barn, including painting and other work, began last summer and will continue this year. It looks pretty good for a barn nearly 100 years old now. It is no longer used for keeping horses and the land around it is no longer farmed. But part of the Warner family legacy remains near North Webster.
Historic barn near North Webster.
Just to the north of Milford in Kosciusko County is the small, unincorporated community of Milford Junction. As the name implies, it is at a junction of two railroads, CSX and Norfolk Southern. At one time in the long ago past, Milford Junction had a post office, grocery store and a few other businesses, including a hotel. Shown in the photo is the building which once served as the hotel on North Street by what is now the rail line for Norfolk Southern. In the days of passenger trains, a junction would have been quite a busy place. There was a railroad depot nearby (the Winona Interurban Railway line also came through this area). A hotel would have naturally had quite a bit of business from people traveling on the railways. I’ve read about this hotel in old Milford newspaper articles. It is referenced several times in newspaper articles. I can’t say when it was built with any reasonable accuracy but I would guess prior to 1900. Today it is a private residence or possibly apartments.
Former hotel at Milford Junction, north of Milford.
In the past I’ve posted a few remnants of the former Syracuse-Milford Railway. Here’s yet another one. For probably less than 20 years there was a short rail line connecting the Kosciusko County towns of Syracuse and Milford. Eventually the main purpose of the line was to carry marl dug out of the bottom of lakes to concrete plants near either end of the line. I’ve also read in old newspaper articles the impression was originally given passengers would be carried on this railway, but it never happened. Apparently that created quite a stir for a while. This particular remnant is just off County Road 250 East in Van Buren Township, east of Milford. I stopped to take this photo after taking photos of an old barn nearby. Although this railroad line ceased to exist in the early 1920s, there are surprisingly still a few visible remnants of it if you know where to look. Some can’t be seen just driving by.
Trace of the old Syracuse-Milford Railway.
It’s interesting sometimes to find the history of a building that has been standing for a long time and is still being used, though in a different form. Hunter’s Hideaway now occupies a building on South Main Street in Nappanee, south of Market Street (U.S. Highway 6), which used to be known at one time as the Nappanee House. Originally it was known as the Nappanee Hotel and dated to at least the 1870s. It was close to the B & O Railroad line and no doubt many railway travelers used the hotel, especially commercial travelers such as salesmen and others. This is yet another example of how railroads impacted business in towns they passed through in the days passengers traveled on trains. Eventually the Nappanee House became a boarding house when another hotel was built in Nappanee. I’m not entirely sure, but it appears the Nappanee House ceased to exist in the early 1900s when a bank bought the lots. I should also note the original location of the hotel was elsewhere on South Main Street.
Site of former Nappanee House.
Etna Green is a small Kosciusko County town west of Warsaw along both Old US 30 and US 30. It was once a stop on the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad and there was a depot in town. The railroad first came through Etna Green in the late 1850s or early 1860s. That depot was eventually replaced. The one built in 1914 still stands today. It was relocated at some point to just off North Street. Passenger service for the railroad probably stopped by the 1950s or so, though the depot may not have been relocated till much later. It has been beautifully restored, though. I had a chance to stop by and take a look inside last summer. The man who owns it happened to be there doing some work on it at the time and was kind enough to give me a “tour” of the building. It for sure has the look and feel of so many depots built in this era. A functional building serving the needs of the railroad line. The railroad line is still used today by a smaller company, though it is not as active as it was in its heyday.
Former train station in Etna Green, Kosciusko County.
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.