For many decades road signs with the name "Dinwiddie" could be seen along State Road 2 in Eagle Creek Twp., when the busy highway I-65 was only a dream. But in recent years, the name of the old pioneer village is nowhere to be seen. Yet the area remains an important part of the history of Lake County.
Indian Trail Grange and chair William J. Nichols (one of the Old Timer's high school classmates) have formed a committee to find a way to have the signs replaced so that the area around SR 2 and I-65 will once again be called the Village of Dinwiddie. The Grange Hall is located just west of the interchange, near the relocated Dinwiddie home. [Note from year 2001: Signs were replaced in recent years.]
The following retuned story, taken from the "Pioneer History" column of July 1980, is about the early pioneer Dinwiddie family and gives many reasons why the name should be revived.
Among the early settlers in the 1830's was Thomas Dinwiddie, who first lived at the eastern edge of Lake County, and with him came his son, John Wilson Dinwiddie, and his daughter, Susannah Dinwiddie, followed later by his wife, Mary Ann (Wilson) Dinwiddie, from Ohio.
John Wilson Dinwiddie (1813-1861), the son, began farming at the age of 23, worked for a time on the canal at Joliet, Ill., and went into business at Crown Point for a short time. He returned to Eagle Creek Twp. to farm in 1852. He served as trustee of Eagle Creek Twp. and supervised the building of Plum Grove School, Eagle Creek School, and Byrant Community School, which were rated as the best in the county at the time.
John W. also served as county commissioner and was recognized as one of the most energetic and thorough businessmen and farmers in the area.
He and his wife, Mary Janette (Perkins) Dinwiddie (1818-1888), had eight children. He was an excellent manager, was highly successful, and rapidly accumulated property until the time of his death in 1861, at the age of 47.
Upon his death, his wife Mary, who also had fine leadership skills, took over the management of the large family estate, which contained over 3,000 acres in the 1870's. In 1870 a new home was erected at the cost of $2,500, a house which was moved to its present location just west of the Plum Grove Cemetery in the early 1960's, when I-65 was built. Jerome also assumed great responsibility in helping his mother care for the large farm.
Oscar Dinwiddie, the son of John W. and Janette Dinwiddie, was born in 1845. Barely hampered by the loss of one leg, he was very progressive in his ideas, helped to organize the Grange, and was at one time a national officer in the Grange. He was awarded a bronze star for his exhibit of corn at the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893.
He also traced his family records, collected much historical material, and was one of the organizers of the Old Settlers Association of Lake County (now the Lake County Historical Society). He was its first president in 1875, served in that office again from 1900 to 1908, and again from 1916 to 1920.
He was often a victim of accidents, yet lived to the age of 85. He was living in Lowell then with his grandson, Keith Dinwiddie, who many will remember as a Lowell businessman, the operator of the Standard Station at the corner of Mill and Commercial Ave. in Lowell, the present site of Adams' Car Care Center.
Many writers have told about the Chicago and Wabash Valley Railroad, the "Onion Line," which once served the thriving village of Dinwiddie.
It was founded in 1898 by Benjamin J. Gifford, who planned to have his railroad extend into Chicago. He acquired about 36 thousand acres of swampland in both Lake and Jasper Counties.
His railroad had its start at the little village of Zadoc and went through McCoysburg on its way to the village of Dinwiddie, a total length of 40 miles.
Several daily trips were made, controlled from the headquarters at Kersey. The old Fifield Elevator, still standing on Range Line Rd., was another stop along the line. The right-of-way through their land was given to Gifford by Oscar and Jerome Dinwiddie and their sister, Frances Brownell. All three agreed to donate the land if the station would have the name "Dinwiddie."
The line was abandoned by the Monon Railroad (Monon bought out Gifford) in 1935, but a part of the right-of-way can still be seen along Ind. 2, west of I-65, where two lines of trees outline the way, at a northwest angle.
The village of Dinwiddie included a grain elevator, coal and lumber yard, and several homes, including those of Jerome Dinwiddie, Edward Dinwiddie, Oscar Dinwiddie, Edward and Martha Bryant, and the Brownell home, still standing.
We hope that this story about the prosperous and generous members of the pioneer Dinwiddie family and their fine endeavors will influence the proper officials to have the pioneer name put back in its place of honor.
Any help with this cause will be greatly appreciated by Bill Nichols and the Indian Trail Grange.
[Note from the year 2001: The signs are back!]
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