(in the September 24, 1980, Lowell Tribune, page 8)
Orchard Grove Community is located east of Lowell on State Road 2, and near the intersection of State Road 55.
Taken from H.T. Ball's "Lake County, Indiana, 1834-1872" is the following: "Orchard Grove is smaller than Southeast Grove is pleasantly situated near the edge of the marsh, and gives a name to the post office, store and school house, of an intelligent, prosperous farming community. The two Kenney families, the Woodruff, the Handley and Warner families have long resided here, and a number of other families in easy circumstances are living on the choice farms of this locality."
In the marsh south of Orchard Grove were two islands. On Red Oak Island were two stores or trading posts, run by French traders Bertrand and Lavoire with their Indian wives. At Big White Oak Island was another store, kept by Laslie, also French.
On Dec. 31, 1838, Charles Kenney and his son Jeremiah were in the store on Big White Oak Island looking for horses. They stayed all night with Laslie an his Indian wife, who treated them well. The following morning, New Year's Day, they were happy to see an old Indian custom whereby the oldest Indian bestowed gifts upon the children.
An aged, venerable old Indian gave a silver half-dollar to each of the thirty children of the camp. As the children received their gift each returned a kiss to the old Indian.
Charles Kenney, born in October 1792 in Kennebec County, Maine, and his wife Deborah Rollins Kenney were early pioneers of the Orchard Grove area. He served as a non-commissioned officer in the War of 1812, and his father was a soldier in the Revolutionary War.
Charles and Deborah married in 1815. In 1816, they moved to Muskingum County, Ohio, a sparsely settled area, where he engaged in sawmilling. Not liking the climate he returned to Maine and went into lumbering.
In 1837, he drove a 4-horse team back to Porter County, Ind., and wintered in Hebron. In 1838 he came to Eagle Creek township and purchased 160 acres of prairie and 40 acres of timber land at $1.25 per acre.
Charles and Deborah had five children: Hannah N., born in 1816, died 1880, married Aaron Hale, born 1810, died 1898; Charles A., born in 1820, died 1871, married Hannah Woodruff, born 1828, died 1897; Jeremiah M. born 1823, died 1911, married to Phoebe Woodruff, born 1830, died 1914; Joseph A. born 1818 died married Mary Jane --, born 1827, died 1858; George W. born 1837, died 1858, not married.
Their son Jeremiah, born in Maine Nov. 10, 1823, came to Lake County with his parents and assisted in opening up the new farm, one of the earliest in the area. He stayed to help his father until he was 21, then after working as a farm hand for two years, he rented land and began farming on his own..
Industrious and economical, he saved to buy forty acres of land, the nucleus of the splendid farm of 500 acres he acquired and left as a heritage.
On Oct. 12, 1848, Jeremiah married Phoebe Woodruff, who had moved to Lake County with her parents in 1839. To this union were born four sons and two daughters: George W. (1849-1924), married Olive Fuller who died in 1922; daughter Lucinda (1851-1938) married Amos Craft (1850-1911); John C. known also as Jay (1854-1937) married Thena Warner (1859-1946); Joseph D. born 1856, died 1886, in Missouri; Schuyler C. (1858-1945), and grandfather of Milton C. Kenney, married Rhoda Rebecca Antrim (1862-1927); daughter Effie Louetta (1866-1951) married Frank Elmer Tilton (1857-1939).
During these years that Jeremiah was raising his family, his father, Charles Kenney died on July 15, 1856, and his mother Deborah died Mar. 27, 1869. Both are buried in the Orchard Grove cemetery.
In 1872 Jeremiah Kenney purchased the general store at Orchard Grove from DeForest Warner. He and his son operated the store and also farmed. Jeremiah was post master for more than 30 years. The store in Orchard Grove, at Kenney's Corner, was the last source of supplies for hunters and fishermen heading for the Kankakee River which was known nationwide to duck hunters.
DeForest Warner had come to Orchard Grove with his wife Lovicy (Curtis) in 1850 by way of Connecticut and New York where he had been engaged in farming. He purchased 379 acres at Orchard Grove, built a cabin, farmed and also ran the retail store.
Warner was also a cattleman and was said to have one of the largest barns in the area. By his influence, the post office was established at Orchard Grove. Warner was also a Justice of the Peace for many years.
The four Warner children were Theron, Myron, Anson and Thena (Mrs. John C. Kenney).
When Jeremiah Kenney's store came up for sale about 1900, it was purchased by George Fisher of Lowell. Fisher was a former salesman for Lynch Bros. General Store in Lowell. His sons Charles and Arthur, in their teens helped run the store.
Arthur's job was to hitch up a little gray horse to a "cracky wagon" and peddle groceries and notions to the farmers. The story about the Fisher's is in the book "Slivers, Knots, Selects, Clears." It is Arthur M. Fisher's own story of his success as a retail lumberman in business in Gary, Ind., and Rockford, Ill.
The book begins with Arthur M. Fisher's boyhood days in the Lowell area. He was a 1903 graduate of Lowell High School. The autographed book was loaned to us by Mrs. Cordie (Bessie) Kenney of Orchard Grove.
A cheese factory was built in Orchard Grove in 1878 by Warren, Carter & Co. of Chicago., with a capacity of 8,000 lbs. of milk per day. It opened in June and in October of the same year it was $2,000 "behind." The farmers were alarmed and attached the property of the company, and none too soon.
Later the business was purchased by G.W. Handley and Jeremiah Kenney, who ran it for many years on a 7 or 8 month yearly schedule. One writer tells us that large cheeses were always available at the country store.
An Oct. 12, 1907, edition of a Lake County newspaper was loaned to us by historical society member Kenneth Childress, a great grandson of Jeremiah. On the front page is a long story of the fifty-ninth wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Jeremiah M. Kenney. Mr Kenney was 83 and his wife 77.
Jeremiah M. Kenney died June 26, 1911, and his wife Phoebe Woodruff Kenney died April 7, 1914. They left their five living children, many grandchildren, many relatives and friends.
Some of the information for this column was given to us by Mrs. Ina Fern Tilton Vandercar, daughter of Frank and Effie Tilton, and granddaughter of Jeremiah M. Kenney.