The following bits of history from the turn of the century were taken from the Reports of the Secretary of the Old Settlers Assn. of Lake County, 1896 to 1905.
1896: "In Lowell a $12,000 school house is going up rapidly, which if not the largest and most costly in the county, is expected to be equal to any in modern style and convenience." It is hard to believe that the writer was talking about our old school building still standing on Main St. in Lowell (east of the library building, soon to be Lowell's new Town Hall), built for the cost of a lower-priced automobile of today!
The 1896 building was erected for the use of both a high school and a grade school until 1915, when a new high school was built on Oakley St. (now a part of Lowell Middle School). The 1896 building continued to be used as a grade school for many years.
Rev. Ball, the secretary, also wrote: "...a large business house has also been erected (1896)." The Old Timer is guessing that he was referring to the old opera house building erected at the northeast corner of Commercial and Mill Sts. and destroyed by fire in 1976, after being saved from the big downtown fire of 1898. Many other Lowell buildings were built in 1896.
On June 20, 1897, the first electric lights were turned on in the Town of Lowell, powered by a steam generator erected on the present site of the water treatment plant on Liberty St., just north of the post office. Three hundred people voted in Lowell that year, and the schools held 365 children.
Ball wrote that there were 150 telephones in Crown Point in 1897 and "communications have been established with Cedar Lake, Lowell, and on to Plum Grove."
"On Wed., Oct. 20, 1897, there was dedicated in Lowell a new Catholic Church building. The attendance was large, six neighboring churches being represented." This was a gothic-style frame building with a steeple, facing west on Castle St. to the west of the present Lowell Healthcare Center. This building burned to the ground in 1914, and was replaced by the brick building (completed in 1915) that is now the east wing of the Lowell Healthcare Center. There was a hall on the lower level, the church on the first floor, and a two-room school on the top floor.
1897: "Besides other improvements in Lowell, a fine bell was obtained by the town." This bell is now on display on the lawn in front of the Lowell Fire Station.
In 1898 the number of families in Lowell was about 300. Here is more about the 1898 fire: "A great fire at Lowell. Loss estimated at 50 thousand dollars. Quite amount of building, the erection of brick business houses in the 'burnt district' is going on this summer, the houses much better than those which were consumed by fire." The great fire burned all the buildings from the site of the present Roberts Law Office to the Dr. Bacon mansion at the corner of Commercial Ave. and Fremont St.
In 1899 Rev. Ball wrote about the local soldiers returning from the Spanish American War.
One of the great improvements in 1899 was the construction of gravel roads in the county, as 175 miles of improved roads were to be finished by 1900, with the cost to Cedar Creek Township of $47,540. The following year some of these roads were changed to macadam (tar and gravel), similar to the surface of Commercial Ave. until the late 1920's, when a concrete road, now covered with asphalt, was built.
By 1904, wrote Ball, the telephone system was in place over most of the county, but it came many years later for some of the rural areas. By August 30, 1904, the pavers had finished laying the brick road around the courthouse square in Crown Point.
Fri., June 9, 1905, was the dedication day for the monument now standing at Senior Citizens Park in Lowell, built to preserve the names of veterans from the Three Creeks townships who served in the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War of 1898.
Also in the process of construction in the summer of 1905 was a railroad from Indiana Harbor south to cross Lake Prairie and the Kankakee marsh, passing on to Danville, Ill. This added 33 more miles of rails in Lake County.
In his reports, Rev. Timothy H. Ball explained his interest in the 1904 publication Encyclopedia of Genealogy and Biography of Lake County:
Many copies of the original book from 1904 and later reprints still exist and are being read and reread by those interested in the history of the area, including stories about pioneer families.
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