A couple of years ago I was with a friend and we were looking for traces of the old Winona Interurban Railway in Miami County (Indiana). While on County Road 1500 North in a rural area we passed by this former one room schoolhouse building. According to information sent to me by the Miami County Historical Museum in Peru, this building was known as the Buffalo School, and was the District No. 9 school building in Perry Township. In the days of the one room schoolhouses they were located 1 or 2 miles apart and numbered according to the location within a township. The township trustee often took care of the schoolhouses in their township. Buffalo School was originally a frame building built in 1864 but it burned down a few years later and was replaced by the brick structure shown in the photo. Obviously brush and undergrowth have blocked the view of the old schoolhouse, but you can still see enough of it to tell what it was. I’m not sure what it is used for now, if anything. A farm is located not far away.
Former Buffalo School in Miami County.
Here’s yet another trace of the former Wabash & Erie Canal in Huntington County. As I said in my post last week, there was a 220-feet long dam feeding water into the canal system. At the Historic Forks of the Wabash museum park just outside Huntington, there are remnants of the dam. Now they are simply hunks of concrete but at one time in the past the dam was a vital cog in the canal system. This is a part of our transportation history which seems to be getting lost in the shuffle. Only in a few places do remnants remain and unless you are specifically looking for them, you won’t usually see them. There are a couple of web sites where remnants are identified and the locations given. These have been very helpful to me. When the railroads started coming in beginning in the 1850s or so, it eventually made canal systems obsolete. Freight and goods could be hauled much faster on the railroads. But fortunately a few traces of the old Wabash & Erie Canal can still be seen.
Trace of canal dam system in Huntington County.
The Wabash & Erie Canal was an important part of our transportation history. It opened up avenues of trade and farmers being able to market their crops further distances. It also brought people from the East to the Midwest and other places to settle. At the Historic Forks of the Wabash museum property in Huntington County there are traces of the former canal. The photo shows a remnant of what was once the 220 feet long Wabash Dam No. 1 on the Wabash River. It provided a source of water for the canal. When I was at the site, I took photos of a few other remnants of the dam. I know this is just a hunk of concrete now, but it is a reminder of the past. The canal system was built in the 1830s and preceded the railroad. When the railroads started coming, the canal lost its significance and importance. Obviously a train could haul freight much faster. But the canal was still in use until the early 1870s. I would encourage you to visit the Historic Forks of the Wabash if you are interested in some local history.
Remnant of canal dam in Wabash River, Huntington County.
If you like local history, I would suggest visiting the Historic Forks of the Wabash Museum Park in Huntington County. It is at the intersection of State Road 9 and U.S. Highway 24 near Huntington. The photo shows a plaque affixed to a rock. It was on these grounds the historic Treaty at the Forks of the Wabash was signed in 1838. Miami tribe council meetings were held here and also treaty negotiations. Not seen in the photo is a house believed to have been used by Miami chief Jean Baptiste de Richardville for treaty negotiations. Native American history is not so easy to find. A limited amount is available for various reasons. We do know for sure the Miami tribe inhabited this area. In addition to what I have stated here, there are also remnants of the Wabash and Erie Canal nearby. There are other historic buildings and if you head a little east on U.S. 24 you can see more canal remnants as well as remnants of an electric railway that came through the area. It’s worth a trip to Huntington County. You can also walk around the park and enjoy the surroundings.
Historic marker in Huntington County.
I know I’ve said this before, but one of my favorite things to research and write about, as well as post on this blog, is anything to do with the old electric railways or interurbans. Electric railways usually did not last very long relatively speaking but had an important place in our transportation history. Shown in the photo is what used to be a retaining wall for the Winona Interurban Railway. It protected the railway from erosion or the land caving in, which can be understood when you look at the topography here. Of course the tracks for the interurban were below the retaining wall level with the road. The specific location is along State Road 19 in Miami County, just south of the Fulton County line. The farmhouse shown is also of historical significance as this family has owned the land for multiple generations. Although there may have been another retaining wall on the Winona line, I am not aware of another one surviving to this day. I’ve traced most of this line, pretty close to all of it actually, and have not seen anything of the sort except here in Miami County.
Concrete retaining wall in Miami County.
In downtown Goshen a former Shell gas station now serves as a Verizon wireless dealer. It is located on Main Street at the intersection with Jefferson Street. This building has a very long history as a gas station. Although I don’t know for sure when it originally opened as a Shell station, I found it listed in a 1933 Goshen city directory. It may have opened prior to that, but the library does not have an exhaustive list of city directories. A few years are missing. Through the years it had different names and owners. Probably many people would remember an L.E. Seybert owning the station. He died in 1965 and sold the station in about 1958. The Goshen Historical Society has a few old photos showing the Shell station. The last year I saw a Shell station listed at the Main Street address was in 1992. By 1993, it had moved to Pike Street at the corner of Third Street. It was there for several years until Shell closed several of its stations about 8 to 10 years ago I would guess. Since then another Shell station has opened south of Goshen High School on U.S. 33.
Former Shell gas station in downtown Goshen.
Finding remnants of former roads is something I find interesting. It kind of gives us a glimpse of the past and the routes of travel of people at that time. Shown in the photo is a trace of a former county road in Kosciusko County. It is located south of Leesburg just off State Road 15, south of the road you turn on to get to Clunette (which I believe is County Road 600 North?). I was looking at a 1914 county atlas and noticed at that time there was a road connecting what is now State Road 15 with the next parallel road to the west. But since then, the road has obviously been vacated and no longer exists as a road. Part of it remains in the form of a private driveway. The next road going west off State Road 15 is to the north of the Tippecanoe River. I took the photo from across the road so as to avoid trespassing on private property. At one time in the past, people traveled on this road.
Road remnant near Leesburg in Kosciusko County.
In the spring of 2015, I took a trip to Marshall County with a few friends to trace the route of the former Vandalia Railroad, also known as the Eel River Railroad. We also ventured into neighboring Fulton County and that’s where I took this photo of the concrete bridge abutments for the old Vandalia Railroad. This is the Tippecanoe River and you can also see part of County Road 900 West in the photo. It is more specifically in Aubbeenaubbee Township (that’s right) near the small community of DeLong. The Vandalia Railroad was formed in 1905 as the result of a merger. It was later part of the Pennsylvania Railroad. I could go into more detail, but the history of railroad mergers and buyouts is sometimes complicated. I’ve taken photos of remnants of this railroad elsewhere, for one example in South Whitley, and posted on this blog. Bridge abutments are so obvious because of their size and stand out because there is no longer a bridge above.
Bridge abutments in Fulton County.
Here’s a building with quite a long history in Goshen. According to the Elkhart County property records, the building located in the 100 block of West Jefferson Street, west of Main Street, was built in 1925. Originally it may have been an automobile dealer. I do know the 1941 Goshen City Directory shows Clyde C. Werner owned a Chrysler dealership at this address. By 1945, though, the city directory showed it was known as Smith Auto Works & Supply Co. A friend told me he bought auto parts there in the 1960s. It was still under the Smith name at that time. Currently it appears as though the building serves as a garage and also an auto parts dealer. It certainly has the look and feel of a much older building. I could picture an automobile dealership being located here at one time. I also know there were several more dealerships located in town than there are presently. After World War II, cars were coming off the assembly lines in huge numbers and the demand was greater. Things have obviously changed since then. Fewer people buy new cars now.
Old automobile service building in Goshen.
Mills producing various kinds of flour are becoming a thing of the past. Truthfully, most of these mills have been closed and torn down. As you could imagine, there isn’t much of a market for this when flour and bread can be obtained elsewhere quicker. In the past, though, a mill was one of the most important things and the need was great because bread was a staple of the human diet. People would travel several miles to get to a mill. Shown in the photo is a remnant of the old mill off Dixie Drive, north of Backwater Road in Tippecanoe Township just outside of North Webster. It was originally known as Boydston’s Mill. There were different owners of it through the years and it was burned and rebuilt more than once. Eventually it was renamed the North Webster Roller Mill. At one time it produced three different brands of flour and also corn meal. But times changed and the mill became less vital to the local economy, though the mill dam was the key to the existence of a nearby lake. The mill burned to the ground in 1949 when it was owned by the Long brothers and was never rebuilt. All that remains today is part of the concrete foundation, part of which is shown in the photo.
Remnant of old roller mill near North Webster.