History of Portage Township, Porter County, Indiana
From: History of Porter County, Indiana
The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago-New York 1912


This township was created by the general order of the board of county commissioners, April 12, 1836, which divided the county into ten civil townships, but the present boundaries are materially different from the ones originally defined by that order. It is situated in the northwest corner of the county, and is said to have been named after Portage county, Ohio. It is bounded on the north by Lake Michigan; on the east by the townships of Westchester and Liberty; on the south by Union township, and on the west by Lake county. It is four miles wide from east to west on the northern boundary, and five miles in width on the southern. It greatest length from north to south is a little over eight miles and its area is about thirty six square miles. In the northern part are the sandhills common to the shore of Lake Michigan in that region. South of the sandhills lies the valley of the Little Calumet river, which contains some swamp lands, and still farther south is a level prairie, with a rich soil, well adapted to agriculture. This prairie is watered by Salt creek and its numerous small tributaries. Salt creek crosses the southern boundary near the southeast corner, flows northward until it enters Liberty township near the northwest corner of section 33, township 35, range 6, and reenters Portage township near the northeast corner of section 20 of the same township and range. Large quantities of sand have been shipped from this township to Chicago, and near Crisman there is a fine grained clay that has been used quite extensively for molding, calking boilers, etc. Some bog iron ore has been found, but the deposits are small and have never been developed.

In the spring of 1834 Jacob Wolf, Berrett Dorr and Reuben Hurlburt brought their families and located claims in Portage township. They were the first settlers. Jacob Wolf had three grown sons; Mr. Dorr had two sons of age, and Mr. Hurlburt had five sons, three of whom were then in their "teensy." Later in the year George and James Spurlock and Wilford Parrott joined the settlement. During the next two years a number of immigrants settled in the vicinity, among whom may be mentioned Benjamin James and his son Allen, S. P. Robbins, Walker McCool, Thomas J. Field, Henry Herold, Griffin and William Holbert, Daniel Whitaker, Francis Spencer, J. G. Herring, George Hume, William Frame, John Hageman, Jacob Blake, Henry Battan, John Lyons and James Connet. An old tally sheet of the election held in April, 1836, shows that most of the above voted at that time, and at the election in August following twenty nine votes were cast. Henry Battan was an old revolutionary soldier. The life and customs of these early settlers did not differ much from those of other pioneers. The first dwellings were log cabins, erected without nails, with greased paper windows or no windows at all, the huge clay fireplace and the same rude furniture. There were the same dreary trips through the forests and across the bleak prairies to Michigan City for supplies, the same plain food and homespun clothing.

The first birth is not known. The first marriage is believed to have been that of Henry Herold to a Miss Dorr, and the first death was that of a man named Ashton in 1837. In that year a man named Carley opened a tavern at Willow creek, on the old stage line running from Chicago to Detroit. Two women, whose names seem to have been forgotten, later opened a house of entertainment for travelers at the same place. The first school house was built in 1840 on section 20, about a mile and a half southeast of the present village of McCool, and not long afterward a second school house was erected in the southwest part of the township. Among the early teachers were N. E. Yost, M. L. Ferris, W. E. Hawthorne, Lottie Hewitt, Minnie Spencer, Rose Mitchell. Cyrus Sales, Christina Fry, Emily Gerhart, Chancey Gaylord and a Baptist minister named Bartlett. In the school year of 1911-12 there was a certified high school at Crisman and four district schools. The teachers in the high school were W. A. Briggs, Minnie I. Hyde, Glen Kinne, Mary Rice and Camilla Babcock. In the district schools the teachers were: No. 1 (Peak), Goldie Johnson; No. 6 (Dombey), L. Clyde Bay; No. 8 (McCool), Bertha Sweet; No. 9 (Wolfe), Rudolph Mahns. The absence of numbers 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 is owing to the consolidation of districts or the absorption of some of them by the Crisman high school.

Portage township has three postoffices, located at Crisman, Dune Park and McCool. The first two are money order offices. Crisman was laid out by B. G. Crisman, after which it was named. It is located on the Michigan Central railroad in the eastern part. The postoffice was established there in 1871 and the first postmaster was Isaac Crisman, who was also the proprietor of the first store in the place. After a short time he sold out to Charles Seydel, who in turn was succeeded by Joseph Bender and Joseph White. For many years this was the only store in the township. The town has never grown to any considerable proportions and in 1910 had a population of about 75. McCool, named after the pioneer family, is located in the triangle between the Baltimore & Ohio, the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern, and the Wabash railways, and apparently, like Topsy in Uncle Tom's Cabin, it "just growed." The railroad junction attracted a few small business enterprises, whose proprietors built dwellings in the immediate neighborhood, others followed, and in 1910 school and Crisman were about the same size. Dune Park is a small station on the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern rairoad, about a mile and a half south of Lake Michigan. It takes its name from the sand dunes in the vicinity. In October, 1891, Frank A. Turner, of Valparaiso, filed in the recorder's office a plat of a town named Fairview, located on section 34, township 37, range 7, in the extreme northwest corner of the county. The plat is rather pretentious in character, showing some six hundred lots, with streets and alleys, but there was never a house built upon the site.

About thirty five years ago a few Swedes settled in the northern part. They were soon followed by others of their countrymen until a large number of them came. These people are industrial and generally make good citizens. One of their first acts was to establish a church, which is still in existence. Presbyterian and Methodist churches had been founded in the township many years before.

Portage township is a network of railroads. In the northern part are the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, and the Chicago, Lake Shore & South Bend, 'the latter an electric line. Through the central part, radiating in various directions, are the Michigan Central, the Wabash, the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern, and the Baltimore & Ohio, and the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago crosses the extreme southwest corner. The great manufacturing enterprises of Chicago have worked their way gradually southward and eastward around the head of Lake Michigan, building up successively the cities of Hammond, South Chicago, East Chicago, Gary and Hobart, and the excellent transportation facilities offered in Portage township lead many to believe that this portion of Porter county will in the near future become a great manufacturing district.

Probably no township in the county, unless it be Center, can show a better system of public highways than Portage. More than thirty miles of fine macadamized roads traverse all portions of the township, and good bridges span the streams. Like some of the other townships of Porter county, the population of Portage has been rather variable during the last twenty years. In 1890 it was 954. Ten years later it had increased to 1,014, but in 1910 it was but 959.

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