While recording the historical events of the last months of the 19th century, Rev. T.H. Ball, pioneer historian, expresses sadness, joy and thankfulness as he wrote: "We meet with very thin ranks as pioneers, but as descendants of pioneers and as early settlers we can count a large number. Very thankful we all should be for blessings, for memories, for privileges, for protection."
The occasion was the meeting of the Old Settlers Assn. of Lake County in the fall of 1898, when plans were made for the 25th anniversary of the group. (The name was later changed to the Lake County Historical Society.)
Rev. Ball, secretary of the group for decades, made his report every five years, printed in small, hardcover books. Several of the original printings are available at the Lowell Public Library.
One of the annual social events listed in the publication was the large Dinwiddie Clan reunion, "pleasant and interesting as usual." The Dinwiddie family history books are also at the Lowell Library, among many other family publications.
The report told how busy the townspeople of Lowell were in the first months of 1899, when the village of 300 families was recovering from "the great fire of Oct. 4, 1898." The fire, believed to have been set by an arsonist, destroyed two blocks of frame business buildings on the north side of Commercial Ave. in the downtown shopping district. "The erection of brick business houses in the burnt district is going on, the houses much better than those consumed by fire."
After the death of Malcolm T. Hart of Crown Point on Nov. 14, 1898, the report told about a huge sale of some of his holdings. "Some weeks afterwards, as in the usual order of events, there was at the Hartsdale farm [north of U.S. 30, west of U.S. 41] a sale at which more than 1,000 persons were present, the sales amounting to about $4,500."
Rev. Ball wrote of the passing of Julius Demmon, Merrillville pioneer, on Oct. 16, 1898. He was the owner of 2,000 acres of farm land near where the present Southlake Mall stands. He noted unusual figures at the burial: "In attendance were six daughters, six sons, six daughters- in-law, six sons-in-law, as well as 61 grandchildren."
Also listed was the death of a well-known south county pioneer, William Sanders, age 97. His home, for many years, was near the Sanders Cemetery on what is now 205th Avenue near U.S. 41, in the area known in the early days as "Pine Grove."
Rev. Ball noted that "On Jan. 25 and 26, 1899, an interesting and instructive Farmers' Institute was held in the courtroom at Crown Point."
"Very cold weather came in the latter part of January 1899: On Jan. 29 Mercury was down to 10 below zero at 7 a.m., zero at 10 a.m., 4 above at noon, 6 at 3 p.m. and then fell very cold in the evening. On Jan. 30, 1899, the temp hovered around zero all day, below on the 31st." He wrote that because of the lack of snow, there was a very deep frost in the ground. As a comparison, 100 years later on Jan. 5, 1999, the temperature fell to 20 degrees below zero in the woods where the Old Timer lives.
Listed in Rev. Ball's "Necrologic" reports was the death of Martha (Foster) Halsted, wife of Melvin Halsted, founder of Lowell, who died at her Lowell home on Feb. 18, 1899, age 74. Mr.. Halsted later married the widow of early settler Palmer Cross.
"A local Grange was organized in Crown Point, perfected on the 25th of Feb. 1899, with 25 charter members. On Apr. 12, 1899, the Plum Grove Grange was organized." Indian Trail Grange, organized in 1938, is now the only one in the area.
During those early months of 1899, some of the Lake County men were returning from military service in the Spanish-American War. Unlike the hundreds of men who signed up for the Civil War of the 1860's only a few from the area went off to fight in Cuba and the Philippine Islands. On Apr. 1, 1899, the body of Charles Ross, great-grandson of an early pioneer of Ross Twp., was sent to Crown Point for burial. During the four months of fighting there were 300 reported dead, 1,500 wounded and 5,000 died from disease.
The war was officially declared against Spain on Apr. 25, 1898, the main purpose to liberate Cuba from Spanish domination. The conflict officially ended on Dec. 10, 1898, when a treaty with Spain relinquishing her sovereignty over Cuba and ceding Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippine Islands to the United States, for which the U.S. paid 20 million dollars, was signed.
The following veterans of the Spanish-American War are listed on the monument in downtown Lowell: H.M. Nichols, 1st Washington Reg.; W.L. Nehemiah, 31st U.S. Vol. Reg.; W.S. Latta, 1st U.S. Inf. Reg. Army; W.A. Davis, 2nd U.S. Inf.; C.L. Cutler, 3rd U.S. Art.
The secretary's report for 1899 included the improvements and progress which was happening in most of Lake County's towns and villages, with the new business buildings at Lowell and great improvement in road building, roads of dirt, gravel or macadam (small stones combined with tar), with 175 miles of good roads in Lake County.
Cost of roads in Cedar Creek Twp. in 1899 was nearly $50,000, with the total cost in seven townships over a half million dollars. "We are providing for them [next generations] rock roads on which to travel long after we have ceased to walk on the highway of life." [Ball]
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