To quote from the book, Lake County, Indiana, 1873, by pioneer historian Rev. Timothy Ball: "Cedar Creek is the outlet of Cedar Lake and winds along a narrow valley, at first eastward and then running southward, reaching the Kankakee River at a distance, on a straight line, of about 13 miles from its outflow at Cedar Lake.
The creek has been changed often by both man and nature since the days of the pioneers. A part of that "narrow valley" became Lake Dalecarlia in the 1920's when the Wonder Lakes Development Corp. built a dam and subdivided the area. Further south another dam was erected at Lowell and the waters of the creek filled the huge mill pond.
An 1875 map shows the stream divided as it left the mill pond, with one fork toward the dam on Main Street in Lowell, the other meandering through swampy land that is now a part of Liberty Park. Some water from the dam rushed down a long wooden trough on stilts to operate the first grist mill on Mill Street and Jefferson Street, the water returning to the creek near Commercial Avenue.
Water was among the four most important things for the Lake County pioneers, along with land, tees, and animals. Lowell's founder, pioneer Melvin Halsted, recognized the value of Cedar Creek for powering saw mills and grist mills when he moved from his West Creek Township farm in 1848 to a deserted cabin near the creek to further his dream of a fine community here. Cedar Creek and its water power is the prime reason that the Town of Lowell is where it is.
Another change in the old creek bed came in 1881, when the railroad right-of-way was first built to the west of the present rails (near Liberty Park) and a new ditch was excavated to the east, paralleling the rails. Cedar Creek then flowed on a crooked course under the bridges in downtown Lowell.
Two buildings actually spanned the creek, a wagon shop and a blacksmith shop. The Bisig Wagon Shop was demolished before 1920. The Beckman blacksmith shop and the wagon shop fronted Washington Street. Bernie Beckman's shop was one of the Old Timer's favorite places, where as a young boy he watched with awe as the strong blacksmith shod horses and worked at the forge. If a lad lingered too long, he was told to get to work or leave the shop. One of the jobs was to sweep the rough wooden floor, open a trap door and push dust (and everything else) through the hole into the creek below.
Between the blacksmith shop and the present antique shop on the northeast corner of Halsted Street and Commercial Avenue was the narrow Halsted Street bridge, with steel pipe for railings. The stream flowed under the south end of the antique shop, as well as under a part of the present furniture store. The early bridge on Commercial Avenue was made of wood. South of the bridge, the creek ran very close to the foundation of the old Main Garage building, now a remodeled building on the east bank.
Early in the 1900's a frame livery stable stood directly over the stream, built on tall pilings with the doors opening onto the south edge of the Commercial Avenue bridge. No doubt there was a trap door in the floor, where everything was swept into the creek.
The old creek bed ran a crooked course through the present American Legion property and turned almost due east to the north of the present Oakley Street. An 1856 real estate plat shows Cedar Creek running eastward at a slant, making South Fremont Street and South Union Street dead ends. The "Lowell Ditch" was later dug, making the present course under the Oakley Avenue bridge and through the site of the old south "swimmin'" hole, where a small dam was built to make it deeper for the swimmers (sans suits). Then on the way to spill into the Kankakee River.
From The Lowell Tribune on March 15, 1956, (with a photo): "Dyer Construction Dredges New Creek Course" -- This aerial view shot Sunday through a hazy sky shows plainly the new course of the creek. The dotted line runs down the creek from Halsted Street and follows a straight course across Washington Street at right, across Commercial Avenue, to the bridge near the Legion building. The dotted line that angles to the left shows the present [old] course flowing through Halsted Street under business buildings. All of this area and that spanned by the Commercial Avenue bridge will be filled to street level.
"State engineers hope to increase the creek's efficiency and prevent future flooding." (Several homes in the Halsted Street area were often flooded, especially in the early spring.)
The interesting aerial photo, though taken in a haze, shows the ditches needed to change the course, as well as some old building now gone, but is too faded to reprint.
The creek bed on the south side of Commercial Avenue was moved some distance to the west during that big project in 1956.
From a recent item in The Lowell Tribune: "The Lake County Drainage Board and the Town of Lowell are joining forces to clean out Cedar Creek as it meanders through town, making an effort to improve the flow of the legal drain and beautify its banks." With the cooperation of the Lake County Commissioners and the Lake County Surveyor's Office, the creek will be cleaned of weeds, grasses and debris and a hired contractor will excavate.
"Cedar Creek is an important drain in this part of the county," so said Lake County Surveyor George Van Til.
A tentative plan has also been proposed for landscaping where Cedar Creek flows through the downtown area of Lowell.
[Note from year 2002: In the fall of 2001 the cleaning of the stream was completed. The new Legion Park was landscaped with an ornamental iron fence and a river walk. Early in 2002 three tall illuminated flag poles and benches were added to the pretty little park.]
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