According to the Aug. 27, 1925, issue of The Lowell Tribune, a very important historical event took place Sat., Aug. 22, 1925.
About 400 persons, attracted by the dedication of a historical marker, attended the annual meeting of the Old Settlers and Historical Association, which took place on the grounds of the Lowell Grade School building on Main St. After several speeches, including one of welcome by Lowell businessman Albert Foster, it was time to dedicate the marker in honor of two south county pioneers, Melvin Halsted and Jabez Clark.
The dedicatory address, of 45-minute duration, was given by Schuyler C. Dwyer (1869-1953), prominent Lowell attorney and grandson of Jabez Clark. He was also the son-in-law of one of the area's early doctors, Dr. E.R. Bacon. According to the Tribune, "his talk would go down in history of southern Lake County" -- and so it did. It is recorded in the "History of Lake County, Volume X," published by the Lake County Historical Association in 1929.
Dwyer began by telling the large crowd that these two men were the outstanding figures who planted seed of a Christian education in Lowell, and dedicated this spot for intellectual enlightenment in this new land. He said: "Let us fancy we see these two patriarches as we remember them, and that they have paused at this marker."
He said that we could see Mr. Clark with his stocky build, gray bearded tender face, short gray hair, with a home-spun gray suit buttoned close to the chin, trousers tucked into short, freshly oiled boots. Of Mr. Halsted -- a stately bearing, medium height, long facial features, full head of hair, short beard, and wearing clothes in the fashion of the time. His kindly face showed courage and determination.
"To you, Uncle Jabe, we are remembering that back there in 1837, you and Mother Mariette, as you called her, with your two babies Perry and Cornelia, packed your few belongings, including your medicine bag and apothecary equipment, into the covered wagon, and bringing the first thresh machine into the area, you followed the overland trails, shipped on the Great Lakes and landed near Michigan City. In search of fertile land and good wood and water, you paused at the 'Outlet' [early Lowell area]."
Dwyer told about how the family first stayed for the winter in an abandoned, one-room log cabin on the site of the present doctor's office at the northeast corner of Mill and Main Streets. In the spring they moved to another cabin on the east bank of Cedar Creek, north of Lowell.
"That you then, in the wording of that day, 'took up' at $1.25 per acre, the land lying between the street now entering Lowell from the north, named Clark St. for you, and what is now Burnham St. You built the first frame house in Lowell in 1843 on the south side of what is now East Commercial Ave., at the foot of Burnham St.," recalled Dwyer.
This three-story building was Clark's dwelling, his doctor's office, a general store with apothecary shop, court room, and a haven for the storm bound traveler. From there he directed the first school, directed extensive farming operations, and gave employment to the arriving settlers.
"You erected the first, old-style brickyard, and made some of the bricks that are in some of our first churches, [none still standing]. Church lots and this school ground was spared from your first farm as was the 'Public Square,' now the little park [Senior Citizens Park] where now stands the Soldiers' Monument."
He told how Clark dug a deep public well and invited all to hold their celebrations, picnics and campaigns there. "We can yet hear the first Lowell Cornet Band -- which you fostered, coming near your home and playing soft serenades to you as you lay in your last illness.
"Your teachings, your lessons of economy and thrift, charity, and kindly neighborliness that implanted in this community is a finer and more enduring monument to you than any marker human hands can fashion."
Dwyer then turned a bit and looked as if he actually saw Melvin Halsted as he greeted him: "How do you do, M.A.? How are you? On the banks of the lordly Hudson [River] at Albany, you first saw the light of day in 1821. As a young man of 18, you had the responsibility of your widowed mother's family, moved to Ohio in 1839, then in 1845 you settled on a hill in West Creek Township, but farming wasn't exactly your forte; you wanted to build and operate mills, set machinery in place, and build roads and bridges, and even a railroad. You dreamed you would transform this 'Outlet' hamlet; like unto its Massachusetts namesake city."
He told about Halsted moving in 1848 to a log cabin about 30 rods south of what is now Commercial Ave., on the bank [now leveled] west of the Monon Railroad, building a dam for mill purposes such as sawing, flouring and manufacturing.
"You had a brickyard near the present intersection of Main and Halsted Streets, and in 1850 you commenced to build the first brick home, a mansion at that time.
"In 1851, you had the marvelous courage to go overland thru the wild west to get your share of the yellow metal [gold]; and you returned in 1852. [He also returned several times to the gold fields.] Between 1852 and 1857, you built the first flour mill [on the west side of Mill at Jefferson St.], and the first brick school house on the south side of Commercial Ave. in 1854; and the first brick church in 1856 [earlier Baptist Church, gone since 1904].
"You platted at least six subdivisions, which are named for you, but the greatest achievement was that of getting a railroad to Lowell. You were getting the right of way while your mules and their drivers were grading that already acquired, but finally your cherished dream was a reality, and the old L.N.A. & C. locomotive drew its first train thru here in 1880. Your equal in morality and absteniousness is not to be found. Your longevity of 95 years helps confirm the statement.
"So to you, Uncle Jabe, and to you, Uncle Melvin, all the honor and glory of this ceremony is yours. One of the great great granddaughters of Jabez Clark, Betty Grubb, is to pull the string that unveils the marker, thus dedicated and presented to the Lake County Historical Assn., and to the people of Lake County forever."
But "forever" it was not to be, because sadly the bronze plate placed on the marker has been missing for about two decades, and because of the many changes in ownership of the old school property, it has not been replaced. Only the stone remains at the northwest corner of Main St. and Union St. Do you suppose that Mr. Halsted and Mr. Clark still pause there?
Return to Lowell History
Return to the "Pioneer History" A to Z Index Page