1900 to 1910 was a decade when some of the people in the news were Sigmond
Freud, Frank Lloyd Wright, Albert Einstein, Commander Perry, Henry Ford and
the Wright Brothers. U. S. presidents were William McKinley, Theodore
Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.
Chesterton and Porter were small railroad towns with many first generation
immigrants from Sweden, Germany, Ireland and Poland. At the start of the new
century there was telephone service but no electric lines. Streets were not
paved and most homes had outhouses.
Railroads were the EJ&E, the Lakeshore & Michigan Southern and Michigan
Central. Factories operating in 1900 were Chicago Hydraulic Pressed Brick
Company, Hillstrom Organ Factory and Warren Featherbone Factory.
At the May meeting of the Duneland Historical Society, Eva Hopkins and Nancy
Hokanson told the story of that long ago decade year by year. Eva told of
happenings in Chesterton and Nancy did the same for Porter. They used
historical photographs of schools, churches, businesses, prominent citizens,
neighborhoods and disasters to help tell the story.
Some of the highlights they described were:
Chesterton had incorporated in 1899 and Joseph Stephens was named the first
town marshal. Chesterton got its first gravel road after the gravel road
proposal passed. Augsburg Swedish Lutheran built a new building. Dentist Dr.
Harry Ruge came to town.
Five hundred people attended the funeral for Dr. Hiram Greene. The Glass
Works started up at Broadway and 11th St. Dr. Charles Wiltfong came to town.
Peter and Victor Hokanson opened a meat market in Porter. Fifty train car
loads of sand from the dunes were shipped to Chicago each day to be used as
fill for the elevated street car lines.
A fire on the east side of Valparaiso Street (now Calumet Road) destroyed
several businesses including the post office. Chesterton Fire Department
organized. St. Patrick School was built at Broadway and 3rd St. A livery
barn and two houses burned in Porter.
Chesterton Town Hall and Fire Station building was dedicated. Rural mail
delivery was offered to residents who could read and write and who were in
the habit of receiving mail. Charles Nickel was the first plumber in
Chesterton. Featherbone Factory was employing 170 workers, many of them
women. The company made corset stays out of turkey feather bones.
Chesterton Tribune moved into its new building on Valparaiso Street
(Calumet Road). A bakery operated in the basement. Chicago Hydraulic Pressed
Brick Company was extensively damaged by fire. Dick Sabinski started
commercial fishing at what is now Porter Beach. Reid Murdock pickle factory
Portage Home Telephone opened an exchange. This was in addition to the
Chesterton Telephone Company. The services were not interchangeable.
Attorney G. R. Williams bought the first automobile in town. He and Eddie
Johnson went to Chicago to drive the auto home. Four miles from Crocker it
quit and they had to walk home. The Swedish Methodist Church built a new
brick building. The Lakeshore and Michigan Southern Railroad began commuter
service to Chicago. The Featherbone Factory closed and Sal Mountain Asbestos
Factory opened in the same location. Art Nickel moved his drug store to 3rd
An immigrant train wrecked at Woodville and killed 88 people. Many unknown
Polish immigrants were buried in St. Patrick Cemetery. South Shore Railroad
was under construction north of town. The city of Gary started. Joseph
Ameling built a saw mill on the banks of Coffee Creek.
Houses were built in Morgan Park, the first addition to Chesterton, and 500
Schwedler maple trees were planted. Silent moving pictures were shown in
Moroney Hall. Chesterton Home Water Company was formed.
The first Johnson Inn was built at Waverly Beach. Commercial fishermen would
send barrel loads of fish to Chicago daily. John C. Dille and Bennett Morgan
started a hardware business. Porter Riverside Land Company was organized.
The company developed and sold lots until 1934.
The town of Porter incorporated and Emil Busse was the first town marshal.
The 3-story Central House which had been moved from City West by David
Hopkins burned down. H. F. Carlson began his grocery business on Valparaiso
Street (Calumet Road). The new Lyric Theater started on Valparaiso Street
(building now Flanneryís). South Shore trains began running.
Twelve people were killed in the wreck of a South Shore train at Shadyside
(near Burns Harbor). The first spike was driven for the interurban which
later ran to Valparaiso. The first electrical meter in Chesterton was
installed in Friday Hall by Carl Harvil. Arc street lights in Chesterton
were turned on at midnight on December 31, 1909.
Art Nickel took over the drug store previously run by Charles L. Jones in
Chesterton Bank became Chesterton State Bank. Chestertonís population was
1,400 and Porterís was 524. Lyric Theater closed and the Derby Theater
opened. Interurban tracks were laid in downtown Chesterton.
The first interurban trip from Flint Lake into Valparaiso attracted 3,000
people. Margaret Larsonís parents moved into the first Sears house located
on Howe Road. Street lights were installed in Porter.