The pioneers and the early settlers of southern Lake County made interesting history in the years when the area was a wilderness, and kept it interesting decades later. Some of those stories follow.
In 1868, the election for the incorporation of the Town of Lowell was held on June 27, but for some reason the report was not made public until Sept. 9.
In May, 1875, the town election had just been held, with the following results: For Trustee in the First Ward, Melvin Halsted was elected with forty-two votes, while his opponent John Frazier got 32; in the Second Ward, John Hack won over Dan Dry 52 to 20; and in the Third Ward, it was Dan Lynch 44, and J.W. Viant, 30. The clerk-treasurer's position was won by George Waters with a vote of 65, to J.W. Viant's total of 9. Viant apparently was serious about public service -- running for two offices in the same election. P.A. McNay, with 56 votes, won the marshal's position over Perkins Turner's 12 votes. These were almost all well-known pioneer names in the area.
About that same time the Monon Railroad was heading north, and was making progress at Delphi. The Lowell Silver Cornet Band was trying to re-organize and wished to hire a teacher. The new store building of A.D. Palmer at Tinkerville was progressing rapidly, and he was hoping to be in business at the new location very soon.
In 1874, Patrick Buckley was busy erecting a new barn on his farm two miles east of Lowell, when it was the custom of the neighbors to get together for a "barn raising' party, with potluck food and music for dancing."
George M. Deathe and C.C. Sanger dissolved their partnership in March, 1875, and Deathe was preparing to open up a new hardware store in Lowell. For many years, his store was at the northwest corner of Clark St. and Commercial Ave.
There were protests even in those days, for in November, 1881, many people in the area were opposed to replacing the dam at the old mill in Lowell. It had been washed out for some time, and they were trying to keep Mr. Specker, the owner, from replacing it.
But it seems he had everything ready for construction and quietly put in the dam on a Sunday morning, before official papers could be served.
Some years before that protest, there was another one over the Foley Mill, northeast of the present Lake Dalecarlia. The court declared the dam a nuisance and ordered it removed within forty days, or the Sheriff would be instructed to do so .
There was a claim that the dam would do $50,000 worth of damage to southern Lake County, as it was a feeder for two other water power mills to the south.
It was also November, 1881, when Cass Viant was badly beaten up by a bully named 'Honan,' a conductor on the work train for the new Monon in Lowell. Honan bullied his way in the pay line at the Union House Hotel, knocked Viant to the floor, and ran from the angry crowd. He was caught later and was fined ten dollars and costs by Justice Wood.
An old timer once told the story of what he thought was the greatest foot race in the history of Lowell. He thought it was about the year 1881, during the 4th of July celebration on the town square, where a racetrack was staked out for the event.
The race was for a fixed time rather than distance, to see who could run the most miles in two hours. The contest started about 2 p.m. on a very hot and dry day, with a large group of runners entered. Each runner had someone to hand him a wet sponge along the course.
At the end of two hours, only four runners were left, and the winner was Albert Webb, the favorite, who had practiced running behind trains between Lowell and Shelby. He managed to run twenty miles in the two hours, while David Fuller ran nineteen miles. August Sunderman, Ben Worley, and Al Kelsey were some of the other names the old timer remembered as contestants. Bets as high as fifty dollars were placed during the race.
The following is a list of Lowell High School students in 1881: Frank Dickey, Eva Haskin, Hattie Pattee, Philo Clark, John Klein, Homer Fields, Lois Pattee, Ellsworth Fry, Ernie Lynch, Wilbur Clark, Ida Stubbs, Cassius Dwyer, Merritt Post, Nettie Smith, Schuyler Dwyer, Kate Blackley, Clara Webb, Charles McNay, Mamie Bryant, George Klein, and Lois Foote. These students attended the old school which was replaced by the building of 1896 which is still standing on Main St. in Lowell. Many buildings in Lowell were built about that time.
In 1896, there were six banks in Lake County: two in Crown Point; one in Lowell; one in Hobart; one in East Chicago; and one in Whiting.
It must have been an exciting time for the residents of Lowell on June 20, 1897, when the electric lights were turned on for the first time.
During that year, a fine bell was obtained by the Town of Lowell and mounted on a steel tower 40 feet in height. The bell and fixtures had a combined weight of 460 pounds.
Another event that year was the dedication of the new frame Church of St. Edward on Castle St., replacing a smaller one erected many years before. A large crowd attended, with six neighboring parishes joining in the ceremonies.
Many stories have been written of the big fire of 1898, when many buildings on the north side of downtown Lowell were consumed by flames. But other large fires took place before and after that year.
In October, 1895, much of the Kankakee Marsh burned, and an earthquake was felt in Crown Point.
In June, 1897, fire destroyed an elevator, warehouse, haybarn, and coal sheds with a loss of $11,000 by Mr. Nichols, O. and J. Dinwiddie, McNay, and Ackerman. This fire was due to lightning.
In November, 1902, Fred W. Schmal, father of this writer, purchased a hardware store in Morocco and ran it for a short time until he came back to buy the old Union House Hotel from his brother Peter Schmal, who moved to Crown Point. Fred ran the old Hotel until 1916.
In December, 1902, the Lowell Gun Club was planning a big shooting contest at their grounds, which became Oakland Park.
The Crown Point Telephone Co. was well-established in the county by 1903, with their lines running in many parts of the county, including the ranches of Barringer Brown, Oscar Dinwiddie, and John Brown, whose numbers were 1302, 1303, and 1304. The growth of Lowell was healthy and substantial in 1904, recovering from three large fires and rebuilding to replace the more flammable structures.
On June 9, 1905, a big crowd of over 4,000 people, including over 200 war veterans, was on hand to witness the unveiling and formal dedication of the large monument on the town square. The big stone, dedicated by the Governor of Indiana, shows the names of veterans of three wars, and includes the name of Abbie Cutler, Civil War nurse and wife of Dr. A.S. Cutler.