Pioneer History by Richard C. Schmal

Names and Places

(from the April 26, 1995, Lowell Tribune, page 18)

The names of the rivers, lakes and sites of our county and state were often influenced by Native Americans or by the French explorers. According to a large map, printed in 1933 by the Indiana State Dept. of Conservation, the Indian name for the state capitol, Indianapolis, was "Chanktunoogi." or "Makes a Noisy Place," They called Lake Michigan "Mishisagiegan," or "Great Lake."

The name of the great trail which crossed Lake County is being used today on one of the area highways, the "Sauk Trail." The Calumet River was called "Riviere de la Panse" by the French, while some Indians called it the "Gekelmuk." The Potawatomi's called it "Calumic" (pipe) or "Kennimkyah," meaning "deep water." Their name for Cedar Lake was "Meskwahockbis" -- Lake of the Red Cedars."

Comparing the map and many history books about the area, spellings often varied. The Kankakee River was called by many names: "Aukiki" -- beautiful river; "Mawhahkeki" -- wolf country; "Kiakiki" -- swamp country; and "Theakiki" -- home of the wolf. The French called the river the "Quiqueque."

The Indian name for Chicago was "Chicagou" or "the place of wild onions."

One of the towns named by the French is La Porte or the door, after an opening in the forest to the great prairie of Lake and Porter Counties.

The villages and towns of northwest Indiana were often named after the location, for the founder or from the Bible.

The early settlers in the area that was to become the Town of Lowell named it "The Outlet," or "Outlet Post Office," so called because it was on Cedar Creek, the outlet of Cedar Lake. The name of Lowell was attached to the plat of the town in 1852, when Melvin Halsted laid out 16 lots. When he lived in the East, he liked the area of Lowell, Mass., and dreamed of a similiar city, with the business places in the valley and the homes on the hills. There are a total of 13 cities an towns with the name of Lowell in these United States.

Pioneer Solon Robinson, founder of Crown Point, first called that area "Lake Court House," and when the final decision was made to make it the county seat, both he and the newly appointed county agent, George Earle, agreed on the new name of Crown Point, after that of the same name in New York state.

The village of Creston was so named as a station by the railroad company in 1882, but prior to this the pioneer settlement was one-half mile to the east on the present Morse St. in an area called Tinkerville, so called because the businessman there, probably a blacksmith, was a tinker, a man who fixed whatever was broken. For many years the post office there was called the Cedar Lake Post Office.

The Town of Shelby was named after William R. Shelby, who laid out streets and lots in 1886. There had been earlier settlements in the area, and village life blossomed with the coming of the railroad in 1882.

The Town of Schneider was named in honor of Fred J. Schneider, who was a large landowner in that section and originally owned the land on which the town was located.

The little village of North Hayden originated in 1905, when the New York Central Railroad system went through, and was named after Cyrus Hayden (1844-1923), son of 1837 pioneer Nehemiah Hayden. There is a town named Hayden in southeastern Indiana, in Jennings County near the county seat of Vernon.

Another village, Belshaw, had its beginning when the New York Central Railroad came through in 1905, and was named after early settler William E. Belshaw, who owned all the land in that area.

The towns of Brunswick and Hanover Center (now a part of Cedar Lake) were named by early German pioneers after cities in their homeland. Two miles southwest of Brunswick is the village of Klaasville, which was founded by Christian and Wilhelmina Klaas who came from Germany in 1847.

St. John, at first called St. John's, was named by founder and 1837 pioneer John Hack, whose farm in Germany adjoined that of 1838 pioneer Joseph Schmal, the Old Timer's great grandfather. The farming area near St. John was called Prairie West.

The following is taken from Griffith's Diamond Jubilee (1979) publication: "While controversy surrounds the origin of the name of Griffith, the one generally accepted centers on a railroad surveyor for the Grand Trunk Railroad, a Mr. Griffith, who set the grade, and who signed the maps."

Munster was named after Jacob Munster, who came to Indiana with his father, Eldert Munster, in 1855. The family name was actually Monster, but was changed to Munster. Jacob was a farmer, soldier, store-keeper and trustee, and it was the post office substation in his general store that first gave the town its name.

The Town of Merrillville had many names in pioneer times. It is on land that was once an Indian village called "McGwinn's," a part of which was called by the early settlers "Wiggins Point," after pioneer J. Wiggins. Wiggins died during the great epidemic of 1838, and the name was changed to Centerville, but later changed to Merrillville, after Dudley Merrill.

The Town of Highland was named after the particular terrain of its area, and was named when the railroad cut through the high sand ridge with the marsh land to the north and the prairie to the south.

Two miles north of Highland is the community of Hessville in Hammond, named after Joseph Hess, who settled there in 1850. It was situated on a broad ridge of sand.

In the 1860's there was a growing settlement in the northern part of Lake County called by the strange name of "State Line Slaughter House," but when the place officially became a village in 1873, it was called Hammond, after one of the owners of the Hammond Packing House, George H. Hammond, who came from Detroit, Mich. The Robertsdale section was named after George M. Roberts, one of the first to buy land in the area.

Whiting, home of the Standard Oil Refinery since about 1889, was named after "Whiting Station," the depot that is said to have been named after a railroader named Pop Whiting.

East Chicago was named for its location east of Chicago, and Indiana Harbor after the waterway.

The area known as Deep River, named after the nearby stream, was first called Woodvale, named after early pioneer John Wood, who came in 1835.

Hebron, in Porter County, originally was called "The Corners," where two busy roads crossed, and was a half mile north of an Indian village called "Indian Town," long gone. The name of Hebron is said to have been taken from the Bible, Hebron of Judea.

Demotte bears the name of a former congressman, Mark L. DeMotte.

The Town of Rensselaer began with a small settlement on the banks of the Iroquois River, where an early log cabin was built by pioneer Joseph Yeoman. It became the county seat in 1839, with the name of Newton. Soon James C. Van Rensselaer arrived from New York State, bought thousands of acres of land and changed the name to his.

Lake Village in Newton County was so named because of it being the largest village of Lake Township and near the big Beaver Lake, now drained.

Roselawn, a name that suggests beauty, nevertheless was named after two of the three men who formed a company and built a store on the new railroad in 1882. The 'Rose' came from the name of Orlando Rose, and the 'Lawn' from the name of Lon Craig. At first it was called Rose-Lon, but soon evolved to Rose Lawn, or Roselawn.

One of the latest settlements in south Lake County, Lake Dalecarlia, was once the site of an early pioneer business, a saw mill in the old pioneer community of Pleasant Grove, named by the pioneer Bryant family. A dam was built on Cedar Creek in 1928, and a new lake was formed under the name of Wonder Lake. But because there was another lake by the same name in the state, the stockholders had to chose another name. Those of Swedish descent, out-numbering the rest, chose the name of a county in Sweden near Lake Siljan and called it Lake Dalecarlia.

No matter what their official name, many places are called "home" by Lake County residents.


Last updated on October 26, 2005.

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