Dunn's Bridge, Southeastern Porter County
Hidden in the southeastern section of Porter County is a little known historical landmark called Dunn's Bridge which, according to the local legends, was constructed from part of the original giant Ferris wheel at Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1893.
Old-timers in the area of Tefft remember that a local farmer, J.D. Dunn, traveled to Chicago at the close of the fair in 1894 and bought part of the wheel as scrap. Transported to Dunn's property by railroad and horsedrawn vehicles, the steel pieces were fashioned into a bridge over the Kankakee, with John Cooper as the blacksmith and Alonzo Hilliand as the carpenter.
The area near the bridge and the present village of Dunn's was a favorite picnic area, with a dance hall, amusement park and several rustic taverns. Some of the picnic crowds reportedly remembered riding in the "monster wheel" in Chicago back in 1893.
Built by George Washington Gale Ferris, the wheel had a diameter of 264 feet. The prize attraction at the fair, it has a capacity of 1,400 persons, using 36 unclosed catr.
But some accounts disputed the fact that a part of Dunn's bridge came from that giant wheel, because old newspaper stories record that the wheel was torn down in 1894 and rebuilt on Chicago's north side. After remaining in Chicago until 1903, the wheel was said to have been shipped to St. Louis, Mo., for display at the 1904 World's Fair.
Another story told how the giant wheel was destroyed by dynamite in 1906. Although there are no local records to prove the bridge is actually a part of the famous wheel, it is believed that in 1894 Dunn purchased parts of the wheel which had worn out and were scheduled for replacement. Also, the bridge's construction closely resembles the inner portion of that first Ferris wheel.
In 1966 Porter and Jasper County officials were building a new span near the old historical structure, which, they said, was no longer safe for more modern traffic. But they decided to preserve the old landmark for all to see.
[For further information on Dunn's Bridge, go to "The Legend of Dunn's Bridge," put out by the North Judson, Wayne Township, Public Library.]
Among the Indians in Lake County, 1819
According to the "Book of the United States" by Grenville Mellen, son of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Maine, a small party of explorers looked at Cedar Lake even before the pioneers built their log houses.
The book gives a vivid description of early life among the Indians, who lived on territory now known as Cedar Lake, and who hunted, fished and roamed at will over Lake County so long ago.
Young explorer Grenville Mellen, an 1818 Harvard graduate, came west in 1819 with a party of his friends to explore the region. They were traveling along the southern shore of Lake Michigan until they reached a point north of Hammond, where they came to an old Indian trail, somewhere close to the present Hohman Ave. in Hammond.
Following this trail, they came to the Lake of the Red Cedars, when one of the party became ill. The Indians there were kind to them and persuaded them to stay until the member of their party had recovered.
While they stayed with the tribe, the explorers wrote a vivid description of the life and habits of the Native Americans: "The Indians are of a red copper color, with some diversity of shade. The men are of middle stature, large boned, with small black eyes, high cheek bones, thick lips, large mouths, black straight coarse hair. Their general expression is gloomy and severe.
"The squaws differ from the men, both in person and in features. They are short of stature, with broad faces, but with an expression of kindness and sweetness on their faces. The faces of the squaws were painted with less care than the men. They protect their feet with moccasins of dressed deer, elk or buffalo skin.
"The women's dress is partly like that of the men, but their leggings only reach to the knee; they have sleeveless shirts, which come to the ankle, and a mantle covers all. The wigwams are made of branches resting against each other at the top and are covered with leaves of grass. A small opening at the top serves as a chimney and window. The fire is in the middle of the lodge and the family sits around it on the bare floor. They kindle a fire by turning one piece of wood at a time.
"Furniture is scanty, consisting of a kettle, wooden bowl, a couple of wooden or horn spoons, a few skins for bed clothes, and a buffalo stomach for carrying water. Besides fruits and roots they feed on flesh of animals they kill, with the meat being boiled or roasted."
When traveling, Pemmican was their favorite food, according to the story. Pemmican, or the Cree word "pemmikkan" (fat meat), was a dried lean meat, pounded into a paste with fat. The explorers also told how it was made: "It consists of flesh cut into thin slices, dried in the sun or over a slow fire and afterwards beat to a coarse powder between two stones. The powder is then mixed with grease and packed."
Two pioneer authors of Lake County, Rev. Timothy H. Ball and Solon Robinson, the founder of Crown Point, often wrote that they were aware that explorers were in the area of Crown Point and Lake County, before the coming of the pioneers in 1834, but names were never mentioned and were perhaps not known.
About a decade ago a small box was given to the Old Timer by Sylvia L. Miller (died 1990, age 86) with a note telling him to use what he could of the interesting clippings inside. Information for this month's stories came from those historical clippings.
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