Lewis W. Shurte, born June 27, 1891, was a son of Franklin and Elizabeth (Griesel) Shurte (pronounced "Shoe-it"). Franklin Shurte died in 1895 when "Lew" and his brothers John and William were a very young age. Their mother took in washing and worked as a practical nurse to support her family.
Lew Shurte attended schools in the Lowell area and excelled in sports, especially baseball and basketball. He played on Lowell's star teams of 1912-14 and was remembered for his great ability to pitch left-handed. He was offered positions on semi-pro teams, but declined, preferring to stay in the area to hunt and fish.
Merritt Kelsey was a well-known Lowell business man. He began his livery stable business in 1898 on the south side of the Commercial Avenue bridge and in 1906 moved into his new brick building, now a furniture store in downtown Lowell.
Lew was employed at the Cedar Valley Creamery, which was housed in what is now the west part of the Lowell American Legion Post #101 building. The busy creamery shipped dairy products on the adjacent Monon Railroad twice daily, with milk sent to Hammond and Chicago in the "milk train." Both Lew and Vernal attended Purdue University for short courses in milk testing and butter and ice cream making.
Lew's next occupation was to separate his own business, picking up cream from dairy farmers in south Lake County. The business was headquartered in a small frame building on the northwest corner of Commercial Avenue and Mill Street, now the site of Bennett's Auto Care. The old building, one of Lowell's earliest commercial buildings as a harness shop, still stands behind the American Legion building. Moved decades ago to be used a Legion-sponsored Boy Scout hut, it is now a storage building.
Vernal helped Lew in the cream station, testing for butter-fat content, writing checks and bookkeeping.
The cream business was later sold to Russell Burroughs, Lew's brother- in-law.
Being an avid fisherman and hunter, Lew, impressed by stories about raising silver fox in hunting and fishing magazines, traveled to Muncie to meet George and Gen Southerland, a very knowledgeable and friendly couple with successful experience in raising silver fox on Prince Edward Island, Canada (near Nova Scotia), and also in the United States. The two families became lifelong friends.
Marcia Shurte, a retired teacher and daughter of Lewis and Vernal Shurte, recently wrote about her parents: "My dad prepared pens and bought breeded stock from him [Southerland]. There was a lot to learn, including the usual animal care and a very scientific diet as well as health concerns about ear mites, worms, and other conditions. These first pens were located on the East Harrison Street [1200 block] property for awhile, with his brother-in-law Art Fuller as the caretaker.
"Before 1928, my dad purchased the 98-acre Horner property and marshland northeast of town and our family moved there. [It is now Holtz Road and for a time was called "Fox Farm Road," now Redwing Lake.] He then went to larger pens and expanded the ranch, usually raising about 25 pairs and their offspring. He sold breeders, but mostly harvested the pelts which he shipped to the New York Fur Auction. [A few scarves and jackets were sold locally.] He continued the business for about 25 years."
At the age of 47 Lew lost most of his eyesight, totally blind in one eye and a 75% loss in the other. He suffered from a gastric hemorrhage and lost about 75% of his blood at a time when blood transfusions were still in development.
Miraculously he survived and recovered. Lew hired help to care for the foxes, but because the price of furs was going down and the operating costs were going up, the business was slowing down.
After trying mink farming for a short time, he sold the business and went into partnership with Clarence Brown in the Allis Chalmers Farm Implement business, with Vernal again as the bookkeeper. For a time he began to sell milking machines, but the loss of his eyesight was too much of a handicap. Lew died in 1954.
Vernal had graduated in 1909, when Lowell High School was at the Main Street site. Her classmates were: Cora Hayden, Merle Westberg, Lela McNay, Dean Mahler, William Purchase, Edgar Metcalf, Forrest Pinkerton, Anna Larson, Leota Pinkerton, Mary Ball, Flora Frye, Marguerite Wagin and Walter Brownell.
About a year or two after Lew's passing, Vernal brought her bookkeeping skills to Hardings, Inc., where she was a happy employee, as the Harding family was very good to her. She worked there for 26 1/2 years, doing bookkeeping until just a few months before she died at age 90 in 1982.
This writer remembers well the great hospitality received at the Shurte home when groups of young people would come out to "Shurte's Marsh" for moonlight ice skating parties and parked their old Model A Fords near the barns.
Return to Lowell History
Return to the "Pioneer History" A to Z Index Page