Through the years, many of the industries in the Three Creeks area were very important in the development and growth of southern Lake County, while others were short lived. The early saw mills enabled the settlers to build better homes and buildings for industry.
1837: A saw mill was erected on the east bank of Cedar Creek, in the sprawling community of Egypt, about two miles south of the present town of Lowell. That mill, "with a run of corn stones," was operated by Israel Taylor, son of Pioneer Adonijah Taylor. It was washed away after a few years, but was rebuilt in 1844 with an attachment for grinding wheat. It was near a general store owned by John Dilley. No other history of this mill is available.
1847: By this time there were at least five saw mills in operation in southern Lake County, including one operated by pioneer Benjamin McCarty at the old village of Pleasant Grove, now a part of Lake Dalecarlia. It was known as the "Carsten" mill by 1854, and at one time was operated by Melvin Halsted. The buildings were gone before 1900.
1848: Andrew Ault was busy building a dam and saw mill in 1845, but passed away before the project was completed. Halsted took over the task, and completed the saw mill, which was just south of Main St., at Cedar Creek, in Lowell.
1853: Halsted then built a grist mill from the saw mill lumber, on Mill St. at Jefferson St., now the site of the Palo Theatre building. This mill was also powered from the dam on Main St. The building was moved in 1879 and used as a barn at a location unknown.
1850: Brothers Thomas and William Fisher of Eagle Creek Twp. began a busy broom factory, raising their own broom corn. As many as one thousand brooms per week were made, and over fifty thousand were shipped to Chicago at 75c per dozen! The Ross family saw mill was nearby.
1859: Perry Clark, son of 1837 pioneer Jabez Clark, was the owner of a brick factory north of Main St. at Liberty St. in Lowell. Clay and straw from nearby land were the materials used for bricks used to build three buildings on the ridge, facing east. Near the three-story brick factory were three domed kilns to bake the brick and the tile. Glassy hard bricks made there were used for many sidewalks in Lowell, one of which can still be seen on the south side of West Main St.
1868: A large, three-story building, 80-by-50 feet and three stories high, was built for a woolen mill by Halsted, Lapin and Co. Machinery from the 1853 mill was moved to this building, but only a small business in the woolen industry was done. In a few years it was the home of the "Home Manufacturing Co.," where farm wagons, cultivators, harrows and other implements were made. This business also failed in a short time, and by 1882 the big building was again a grist mill, owned by Mr. Specker. It could be powered either by water from the dam or by a 60 horsepower steam engine. Specker also rented space for community meetings. The building, destroyed by fire in the early 1900's, was on Main St. near the stream.
1878: A cheese factory was built in the community of Orchard Grove, east of Lowell, by Warren, Carter and Co. of Chicago, with a capacity of 8,000 pounds of milk per day. Opening in June, by October it was "$2,000 behind." The wary farmers became alarmed and attached the property just in time. It was then purchased by G.W. Handley and Jeremiah Kenney, who were successful for many years on a seven or eight month per year schedule. It was later managed by Frank Tilton, son-in-law of Mr. Kenney, an early south county pioneer. Another early cheese factory was near the Illinois state line, operated by pioneer Wellington A. Clark, who kept about 100 cows.
1881: In the summer, at the time when the railroad was being built in Lowell, a large elevator, planning mill and molding factory were constructed by Du Breuil and Keilman. It measured 32-by-60 ft., was 75 feet high, and was stream powered. The site was on Globe Drive near the railroad station.
1882: H. Dickinson was the owner of a factory on the east side of Lowell, where several household items were made, including the "Chicago Water Elevator and Purifier!" This was a pump of a sort, with a crank that operated gears above and below, where a double chain with small buckets were attached.
1890: A frame creamery building was built in downtown Lowell to make butter and ice cream, and to ship milk to Chicago on Monon Railroad. It was replaced in 1915 by a two story building, of masonry construction, and after new machinery was installed, the Cedar Valley Creamery advertised "Butter without a fault."
Later it was used as a pickup station for larger dairies to the north, including the Borden Co. of Hammond. The building is now a part of the American Legion building, and was purchased by the veteran's group in 1937.
1902: By August, drilling for oil had been going on for nearly four months in the Kankakee Valley at Shelby. The project was watched with great interest by everyone of the area, and excitement arose when a report was circulated that oil was discovered.
On Tues., Aug. 8, 1902, a large crowd, among them anxious investors, watched as an expert "shot" the well with over two hundred quarts of nitroglycerine. The great concussion was felt for miles around, as the rock, oil, water, and other matter was forced into the air for several hundred feet. It was thought at the time that the oil was a good quality, but that well and several that followed were never good producers.
1915: John Miller, who was first a blacksmith, later was the owner of a Ford dealership at the site of the present Dante's Restaurant, corner of Commercial Ave. and Parkview St. His industry was the assembly of the "Lowell" truck a sturdy looking vehicle with hard rubber tires. The same was built in Gary, called the "Gary" truck.
1920: The Lowell Reduction Co., founded in the 1920's by Carl Kenney, Sr., was in a field north of State Road 2, north of the present Indian Trail Grange Hall. Built to make farm fertilizer, it was forced out of business during the depression of the 1930's.
1920's: The Dearborn Manufacturing Co. was housed in a long frame building near the site of the 1868 woolen mill on Main St. near the creek. With main offices in Chicago, brushes were made at the Lowell plant similar to those sold by the well known Fuller Brush Co.
John Singleton was the superintendent from the city, and Thomas Yeater was the foreman and millwright. The Old Timer has first-hand knowledge of this plant, for he worked there for a few months in 1936-37. The company was another victim of the great depression in 1937. A newer building on the site is now the home of the Sharpline Trading Co.
Among other industries through the years were the Lowell Electric Co., which served the town of Lowell from a building at the site of the present Lowell Water Dept.; the Lowell Road Plane Co., near the present site of Globe Industries; Thomas Arnott, who made furniture in downtown Lowell; Paul E. Ellis, who made cigars at 201 N. Castle St.; the McNeely and Beckman Tile Factory, near the railroad in downtown Lowell; and in later years, a small plant at Creston where meat hooks were made.
These and many more not listed played a very important part in the formation and growth of our south county area, from the pioneer days to the present time. Listed here are only those that have gone by. Now several larger industries are aiding in the economy of this area.
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