In 1856, just four years after the original plat for the Town of Lowell was drawn by founder Melvin Halsted, a plot of land at the southeast corner of Fremont St. and Commercial Ave. was donated as public land by pioneer Jabez Clark. The land, donated for a public square, was shown on an old plat map: "Plat of Clark's Addition to Lowell, acknowledged by Jabez Clark, July 4, 1856." Dr. Clark was subdividing land to the east of Halsted's original lots, which were bounded by Mill St., Main St., Jefferson St., and Clark St.
Clark was also interested in good education and donated land for a brick school in 1862 on the site of the 1896 school building still standing at Main and Union Sts. A boulder still standing on that corner once featured a plaque to his memory: "Jabez Clark - Public Benefactor - First Physician - Merchant - Justice of the Peace - School Director - Earliest Married Settler in Cedar Creek Twp." The boulder also held a plaque in memory of Melvin Halsted, but both memorials disappeared years ago.
Dr. Clark came to this area in 1837, at age 29, with his wife, Marietta, and two children, Perry and Cornelia. The family originally stayed in a deserted cabin near Main St. and Mill St.
The following year, Clark built a larger log house north of Lowell on Cedar Creek, and purchased a quarter section of land from the government for $1.25 per acre, farmed and later used the first threshing machine in the area.
His next home in 1845 was a frame building of four rooms, two below and two above, over a basement in the side of the hill on the south side of the "county road" (Commercial Ave.) across from Burnham St. He had room for weary travelers and was the only doctor in the area for 15 years.
To quote a story in the 1952 Lowell Centennial publication: "He promoted public affairs and donated land for school grounds and the public square."
Townspeople near the age of the Old Timer remember the area at Commercial Ave. and Fremont St. as simply "the square," where many of the local social activities took place. One of those events took place during the Fourth of July celebration of 1881, "when the greatest foot race in the history of Lowell" was featured.
According to a story written by a witness, a race track was staked out and the runners raced to see who could run the most miles in two hours. The big race began at two o'clock on a very hot and dry day with a large group of runners, and wet sponges were offered to each along the way. After two hours in the heat, only four runners held on, with favorite Albert Webb as the winner.
He claimed that he practiced running behind steam trains (on the new 1881 Monon line) between Lowell and Shelby. Webb ran 20 miles in the two hours; David Fuller, 19 miles. Some of the other racers were August Sunderman, Ben Worley and Al Kelsey.
Unlike the big race of 1881 at the old square, the Lowell and Lake County Parks Departments are sponsoring the "Buckley 5 Miler" on Sat., July 10, at Buckley Homestead County Park, where runners will use scenic Belshaw Rd. as well as trails through the park.
Soon after the big fire in downtown Lowell in 1898, the town's first water system was completed, and a "black monster" appeared on the square. It was the new water tower, called the "standpipe" -- 100 feet high, 10 feet in diameter, with a capacity of 59,000 gallons.
Six hours of pumping was needed to fill the big structure with sulphur water. Some residents still claim that they joined other daredevils in the long climb up the tarred ladder to the top! The big "black monster tower" was demolished in 1957 and replaced by the tower on Liberty St. (200,000 gallon capacity).
On June 9, 1905, a crowd of over 4,000 people, including more than 200 war veterans, stood in the rain and the mud to witness the unveiling and formal dedication of the veterans' monument on the square by the Governor of Indiana. The large monument, 25 feet high and weighing 45 tons, lists the names of 504 soldiers and sailors and a nurse, veterans of four wars: the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War. Because it took several years of planning for the erection of this marker, dedication dates in papers and books have ranged from 1900 to 1903, but 1905 is the correct date for the dedication.
Band concerts were enjoyed at the little park for many decades, with streets nearby filled with horse-drawn vehicles. Most of the stores in downtown Lowell stayed open until 10 p.m. on Saturday nights to accommodate busy farmers shopping and trading. Saturday night was a pleasant social time around the square, with band concerts, ice cream socials, and friends meeting friends and sharing the news.
The "Lowell Silver Cornet Band" often played there, as well as volunteer bands made up of businessmen and recent high school graduates. They performed on a portable bandstand which was also used at Oakland Park during the annual Labor Day Celebration.
A change came in 1970, when the Lowell Women's Club came to the Park Board with a great project in mind involving conservation and beautification of the town square emphasizing a senior citizens' recreation area. Their award-winning plan became a reality, a design including a centrally located fountain, crosswalk paths and horseshoe and shuffleboard courts, and the name of the park was changed to "Senior Citizens Park."
The Lowell Women's Club has devoted many hours each year to the upkeep and decorating of the little park, winning more awards along the way. Some of the work in the 1970 project was aided by Company A, 6th Engineers, United States Marine Corps Re-serve, a name etched in concrete in the park.
At a recent meeting, Women's Club President Pat Cooper reported that the group is planning more improvements at the park, with the repainting of the gazebo as the top priority.
After 114 years as the "Public Square" and nearly 30 years as "Senior Citizens Park," another change has taken place. On Apr. 20, the Lowell Parks and Recreation Board voted unanimously to change the name to "Olde Towne Square." A majority of Lowell residents, who responded had voted for the change when the Park board offered a survey in 1998.
Return to Lowell History
Return to the "Pioneer History" A to Z Index Page