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


When the board of county commissioners issued the order of April 12, 1836, dividing the county into ten civil townships, the territory now comprising Westchester was included in the townships of Lake, Liberty and Waverly. Two months later the citizens of Lake and Waverly townships petitioned the board of county commissioners for the consolidation of the two townships. The petition was granted and the new township thus formed was called Westchester. As thus created, it included all that portion of the county lying north of the line dividing township 36 and 37. Subsequent changes were made by the erection of Pine township, and changes in the boundaries of Liberty and Portage, until Westchester was reduced to its present size. It is bounded on the north by Lake Michigan; on the east by Pine and Jackson townships; on the south by the townships of Jackson, 'Liberty and Portage, and on the west by Portage. Its area is about thirty three square miles. In the northern part are the sandhills so common along the shore of Lake Michigan, but the central and southern portions have a more fertile soil and are well adapted to agriculture. Originally the surface was covered with a heavy forest growth, but the portable sawmills have used up practically all the native timber suitable for lumber. A great deal of sand has been shipped to Chicago, and in the vicinity of Chesterton are fine beds of clay which has been utilitized extensively in the manufacture of brick both common and pressed. These claybeds and the sandhills are the oniy mineral deposits of commercial importance in the township.

It was in Westchester township that the first white settler in Porter county built his cabin. In 1822 Joseph Bailly located on the Calumet river, at the place later known as Bailly Town. A more complete account of Mr. Bailly and his frontier post will be found in Chapter III. In 1833 Jesse Morgan came with his family and settled in what is now Westchester. His daughter Hannah, born in February, 1834, was the first white child born in the township. In 1835 William Thomas, Sr., William Gosset, Jacob Beck, John Hageman, John Foster, William Frame and Pressley Warnick brought their families and located in Westchester. Some of these men settled in territory afterward added to other townships and their names appear as pioneers therein Other early settlers were Eli Hendricks, Ellianan Ranks, William Coleman, Alfred Marvin, two men named Abbott and McCoy, and a mulatto named Landy Gavin, who had purchased his freedom from slavery. The first death in the township was a son of Joseph Bailey in 1827, and the first marriage was that of Esther Bailey to Col. John H. Wisner, who came from Detroit in 1803 and erected old Fort Dearborn near the mouth of the Chicago river. Their marriage occurred in Chicage, but they later became residents of the township. The second marriage was between Samuel Thomas and Lucille Hale.

In the winter of 1833-34 a private school was taught at the home of Jesse Morgan, but the name of the teacher cannot be ascertained. Two years later a school was taught in a vacant trading post on section 5, township 36, range 5, about a mile and a half east of the present town of Chesterton. As the population increased regular school districts were organized, school houses erected and teachers employed under the public school system. In the year 1911-12 there were twenty three teachers employed in the public schools of the township and the incorporated towns of Chesterton and Porter. Eleven of these teachers were in the commissoned high school at Chesterton, viz: F. M. Goldsborough, superintendent, Galeman Dexter, principal, Matilda Swanson, Agnes Long, Helen Miller, Etta Osborn, Jennie Crane, Dott Osborn, Agnes Morgan, Rose Murphy and Mabel Pelham. E. E. Stultz was principal of the grammar school at Porter, and his assistants were Emily Peterson, Tennia Osborn, Mary Bradt and Anna Kossakowski. Of the ten school districts at one time, three have been discontinued through consolidation, etc. The teachers in the district schools for the year 1911-12 were as follows: No. 3 (Furnessville), Edith Lindstrom; No. 4 (Waverly), Edna Doyle; there are two schools in District No. 5, that at Bailly Town taught by Emma Peterson, and the one at City West by Bertha Carlson; No. 6 (Old Porter), F. M. Wimple; No. 7 (Salt Creek), Mabel Brummitt; No. 10 (Mosquito Town), Oral Haslett. The school houses in all these districts are modern in their design, well equipped with working apparatus, etc., showing that the people of Westchester are not behind in their ideas pertaining to the education of their children.

The first attempt to establish a town was in the spring of 1835, when John Foster, who was a surveyor, laid out the town of Waverly on land belonging to William Gosset about two miles northwest of the present town of Chesterton. Several thousand dollars were expended in making improvements, but in 1838 a forest fire destroyed the work that had been done and the town was abandoned. City West was started about a year after Waverly. It was located near the mouth of Fort creek and for a time promised to become a town of considerable proportions, but a change in the main route of travel inflicted such an injury upon the town that it sank into decay. Porter (afterward called Old Porter) was started when the Michigan Central railroad was built in the early '50s. The first house there was erected by John Richards and used for a store. The second and third were built by Frederick Michael and used for a store and dwelling, respectively. A postoffiee was established at Porter soon after it came into existence and continued there until 1872, when it was removed to Hageman, which was started in that year by Henry Hageman. A new postoffice was established at Porter the following year. The two offices being only a mile apart there was considerable confusion in the distribution of mail, and the office at Hageman was finally discontinued. The present town of Porter was incorporated early in the year 1908, with a population of about 500. Furnessville, in the northeastern part, takes its name from Edwin L. Furness, who was appointed postmaster when the postoffice was established there in 1861. This place was formerly known as Murray's Side Track. No regular plat of this place was ever reeorded. A Mr. Morgan built the first house there in 1853. Two years later Mr. Furness built a frame house and opened a store.

Chesterton, the largest town in the township and second largest in the county, was at first known as Coffee Creek, from the stream of that name. It is said that the creek is so called because a teamster lost a bag of coffee in it while trying to cross at a time of high water. A postoffiee was established there as early as 1833 and was kept by Jesse Morgan for nearly twenty years. It was first located on section 6, southeast of the present town, and was called Coffee Creek postoffice. After several years the people grew tired of the name Coffee Creek and changed it to Calumet, after the river which flows just north of the town. When the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern railroad was completed in 1852, the town moved northward to the railroad and by the close of that year there were some twenty or more houses in Calumet. The next year the post office was removed from Coffee Creek and the name changed to correspond to that of the town. In the meantime a postoffice had been established at New City West, about a mile south of the old City West, and this office was consolidated with the one at Calumet, with D. H. Hopkins as' postmaster. The first house in the present town of Chesterton was erected by Luther French in 1852 and was used for a hotel under the name of the Sieger House. The second was built by a man named Enoch. The first brick building was erected by Young & Wolf in 1874. Just when the name was changed to Chesterton is a matter of some difference of opinion. The adjutant general's report of enlistments for service in the Civil war shows a Porter county company, most of the members of which came from Calumet, so it is probable that the name Chesterton was not adopted until during or after the war. It is said that the name was changed to avoid confusion with the town of the same name in the State of Illinois. The present name was derived from that of the township. The Northern Indiana House was built by Leroy Brown about 1855, and kept as a hotel by him for several years. In the early '50s Mr. Hopkins removed the Central Hotel from City West to Calumet, where it was remodeled and used as a house of entertainment for many. years. In the early days Calumet (or Chesterton) was known as a "tough" town, having at one time nineteen saloons, though the population numbered only about 300. That has all been changed, and the Chesterton of the present is as orderly a town as there is in northern Indiana.

On March 31, 1899, a petition was filed with the board of county commissioners asking for the incorporation of Chesterton. A census taken according to law, showing 198 voters and a total population of 716. At a special meeting of the commissioners on April 24th, an election was ordered for May 4, 1899, when the people should vote on the question of incorporation. The proposition was carried by a vote of three to one, and since then Chesterton has been an incorporated town. Chesterton has a bank with a capital of $25,000, an ice company, a telephone exchange, a number of well appointed retail stores covering all lines of merchandise, Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran and Swedish Methodist and Lutheran churches, and lodges of a number of the leading secret and benevolent organizations. The population was 1,400, an increase of 612 during the preceding ten years. (See Chapters XII and XIII for detailed accounts of fraternal organizations and churches.)

Some difficulty was encountered in the incorporation of the town of Porter. A petition was first filed with the county commissioners on August 7, 1907, but when it came for hearing on September 2nd, a number of citizens appeared and asked for the exclusion of certain territory. The board dismissed the petition, chiefly on the grounds that the petitioners had filed no bond. On October 7th a new petition, accompanied by a satisfactory bond, was filed with the board, but again the remonstrators appeared and succeeded in defeating the project to incorporate. The petitioners then appealed to the circuit court, which tribunal ordered an amended plat, excluding the territory in question, and the matter was then referred back to the commissioners, who ordered an election to be held on the last day of February, 1908, when the people might vote on the question of incorporation. At that election eighty three votes were cast in favor of the proposition, and only eighteen in the negative. Porter has one Congregational and three Lutheran churches, a commercial club, a large department store and several other mercantile establishments, and in 1910 reported a population of 524.

Westchester township is well supplied with railroads. The Michigan Central, the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern, and the Pere Marquette all center at Chesterton and Porter, the Chicago, Lake Shore & South Bend electric line passes through the northern part, and another electric line connects Chesterton with Valparaiso. West of Chesterton there is a place marked " Gilbertville" on some of the maps, but no official plat of the town was ever filed in the office of the county recorder. There are about thirty miles of macadamized road in the township.

In 1890 the population of the township was 2,669. During the next ten years it decreased to 2,455, but since 1900 there has been a marked increase, and in 1910 it was 2,953, a gain of almost 500 during the decade.

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