The northwest corner of Commercial Ave. and Mill St. in Lowell, now the site of a modern service , had a watery beginning. In 1852, when Melvin Halsted founded the town, it was a deep valley where the race from the grist mill met the creek at its bend.
An old real estate map shows the 1853 wooden grist mill just 66 feet west of Mill St. at Jefferson St., now the site of the Palo Theatre. A wooden flume stretched from the dam on Main St., forcing water south to operate the stones in the mill, then rushing down the race almost directly south, meeting the stream near the west edge of the service station property.
Another race from a sawmill met the stream farther north. In those early years Main St. had no bridge to the west, and Mill St. ran only from Jefferson St. north to the creek. Halsted St. did not exist south of Main St.
But in a few years, the "county road" which was to become Indiana 2 (and Commercial Ave. in Lowell) was developed, and Mill St. was connected to the new dirt road. According to an old story, due to a property owner's refusal, the corner of Mill and Commercial was not to become a crossroad.
An old frame building stood on the corner for many years. In 1902 it housed the harness shop of Hayden and Petrie. The Lake County Directory of 1909 shows that Samuel Petrie (1868-1943) was in the harness business there alone. He later moved to his new building at the corner of Commercial Ave. and Halsted St., where he stayed for many years.
The little building on the Mill St. corner was then used by Lewis Shurte as a 'cream station' -- where ice cream was made. Shurte was followed by Russell Burroughs.
In the 1920's the building was moved to the east side of the original American Legion Post 101 building, and was used as a Boy Scout cabin. It was moved again when the Legion building was expanded, and was remodeled and used as a Scout hut. It still stands on the Legion grounds and is now used as a storage unit.
To the west of the harness shop on the corner of Mill St. and Commercial Ave. was another small frame building, the shoe shop of Mr. Staff. The 1909 Directory lists: "Walter Staff, shoemaker and cobbler, 203 W. Commercial." The harness shop was at the old time address of 201 W. Commercial. Walter Staff and his wife, Anna, lived at 125 Mill St., where he moved his shop in later years.
To the west of the shoe shop, a one-story brick building was built early this century, and was used first for auto sales and service. The earliest known owners were Frank Nelson, well-known banker and business man, and James Brannock, a prominent contractor who, in 1928, constructed the curbs and roadway at Mill St.
Anda Maxwell, well-known dealer in hardware and implements in the larger building to the west, was also in business there with Frank Nelson, selling Ford autos. Kenneth Brannock, son of James, also was an auto dealer there, with Charles Bowman as his partner. They sold Oaklands, Pontiacs, and Chevrolets.
Sometime in the 1930's Alexander Black and his wife were the operators of a restaurant in the brick building. They were followed in the food business by Lillian DeMoss and by Mr. and Mrs. Harold Heuson, who ran the "Pick and Whistle" for several years until 1945 when Ruby Zander became the proprietor for a time. Several other businesses occupied that space until 1961, when the building was torn down to make way for an expansion of the service station.
A story in a June 1925 Lowell Tribune told of the completion of the service station on the corner, built and owned by James Brannock. It was at an angle at the corner, with an outside concrete pit for changing oil and lubication service.
There was a canopy over the pumps, which were powered by a hand lever that lifted the fuel into the clear glass tank at the top of the pump, allowing the gasoline to be hosed into the autos by gravity. The Model A Fords of the period also had a visible gas gauge on their dash, where the actual fuel could be seen in the tank just to the front of the windshield.
Even after that 1925 station was built, part of the valley of the old mill race could still be seen to the west.
James Brannock operated the "Lowell Filling Station" himself for several years in the 1920's and was followed by Keith Dinwiddie, descendent of 1835 Lake County pioneer Thomas Dinwiddie. Keith was there until 1939, when he sold the business to Bernard Roy, who stayed until 1944. "Beanie" Roy later was the operator of the Airport Standard Service station at Cedar Lake.
Elmer Worley, also a descendent of a very early pioneer family, ran the popular station in 1945 and 1946 with his partner and brother-in-law, Ross Ruble. Two service bays were added in the 40's on the north side.
Another well-known Lowell business man, James Combs, was the proprietor in 1947 and 1948, followed by present Lowell real estate agent WIlliam Langen and his partner, Pat Harper, who were there until 1952, when they left to start the Lowell Lumber Co. on the west side of Lowell.
In 1952 Elmer Childress was the owner and Elmer Gerner was the operator, then in 1953, the Henry Brothers. Donald Dean Henry and Sherard "Sonny" Henry, also descendents of early Lowell residents, went into business there until 1961, the year the brick business building to the west was torn down to make room for a new station building facing Commercial Ave. The Henry brothers left the business to start a long standing auto dealership, Henry Bros. Dodge.
Robert Adam came to Lowell when his father, Rev. William Adam, was appointed pastor of the Lowell Lutheran Church in July 1949. Rev. Adam served the Lowell church until 1966.
An experienced mechanic, 'Bob' purchased the filling station business from the Henry brothers on May 3, 1962, soon after the new building was erected. Remodeled again just a few years ago, the busy building has been a beehive of activity for many years. Robert Adam and his firm are celebrating their 25th year in business at that location this year.
Finally, the old valley with the mill race can no longer be detected.
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