Transportation Methods In Elkhart County, Indiana
From: Pioneer History of Elkhart County, Indiana
With Sketches and Stories
By: Henry S. K. Bartholomew
Press of the Goshen Printery
Goshen, Indiana 1930


0NE OF THE important problems which confronted the first settlers was that of transportation. As has been told in earlier chapters the first settlers had to travel along Indian trails and roads that had been cut through the dense forests which covered practically all of northern Indiana. Then some of the main highways were laid out and built, but the facilities which they afforded for travel and the transportation of the surplus farm products to market and of the supplies needed by the settlers, were exceedingly poor in comparison with those of the present day. Everything had to be hauled by wagon with either horses or ox teams and the markets were far away, at first at Fort Wayne and Michigan City. The boats on the St. Joseph river were a great help to the people of the northern part of the county but those in the southern part of the county continued the use of wagons until the building of the first railroad, which was more than twenty years after the earliest settlers came. The hardships which resulted from the lack of adequate transportation facilities can not be told by those of us who are fortunate enough to live a century after the county had its beginning. It is doubtful whether even the imagination can do the matter justice.

It is not a matter of wonder to the people of the present day that the appearance of the first railroad train was hailed with delight by everybody who saw it.

In an excellent paper written by Mrs. Elizabeth Pancost of Elkhart and read before one of the Elkhart clubs, that talented lady thus tells of the appearance of the first train that ever came into what was then Elkhart village:-

"About four o'clock on a Friday afternoon, early in the month of October, 1851, a wood burning engine hauling a train of flat cars and a caboose rolled over Main street crossing, which was then a forest south of the village. For weeks this had been a topic of conversation. The thoughts of a train of cars and an iron horse had filled the town folks with excitement. Many had waited up all night in order to be on hand to welcome the first train. It was rumored they would run a free excursion to White Pigeon on the following Sunday and people came from miles around to have their first train ride. With one coach, an old box car, with boards arranged for seats, crowded with passengers, the train started. Calvin Dome, a boy of about fifteen years was killed on this trip. Orville T. Chamberlain delights in telling the story of running away from school to see the first train. His teacher was the father of C. G. Conn. No doubt he was severely reprimanded, as Mr. Conn was strict in his discipline. Silas Baldwin, father of Mrs. A. R. Beardsley, was the first local railroad agent in the village."

Many years before the building of this line a company called the Buffalo and Mississippi Railroad Company had been organized with the view of building a railroad through the northern tier of counties and passing through Goshen. When a rival company was organized for the purpose of constructing a road from Toledo to Chicago, entering Elkhart county at its north end and passing through Bristol and Elkhart, it was feared that the proposed road through Goshen was doomed. Efforts were made to prevent the granting of a charter to the rival company and for this purpose Michael C. Dougherty and Joseph H. DeFreese were elected to the legislature. In spite of Goshen's efforts to prevent it, what was known as the Northern Indiana Railroad Company finally secured a charter. But it was learned that the charter was not satisfactory and negotiations were opened for the transfer of the charter of the Buffalo and Mississippi Company to the Lake Shore Company. This was finally accomplished by the Lake Shore Company agreeing to build a spur from Elkhart to Goshen. Concerning the building of this spur and its subsequent extension eastward, Wilbur L. Stonex in a paper read before the Elkhart County Historical Society said:

"Besides this it was agreed that if the citizens of Goshen would purchase and donate to it a tract of land now owned by its successor the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern 'Railway Company (Subsequently the New York Central) on the east side of Goshen, it would erect and maintain a round house there. The land was donated and the round house was erected. In the fall of 1851 the railroad was built into Elkhart and the year following saw it extended into Goshen as agreed. We at this day can scarcely realize the magnitude of this event and the wild excitement of the people over it. The coming of the first train was celebrated by public meetings and bonfires and the men to whose perseverance it was due were the heroes of the day The securing of the round house was considered a very important thing, but when the company located its shops in Elkhart the round house was abandoned. Because of the careless phraseology of the deed to the company which failed to make the maintenance of the round house a condition of the title, Goshen lost both the round house and the land. But these were mere incidents. The railroad was the great prize and secured for Goshen all that the projectors hoped for. The compulsory construction of the road from Elkhart to Goshen led to its extension east to Toledo and Goshen thus became a point on the main line and Elkhart, favorably located at the junction of the two branches, became the natural location for the shops of the company which have contributed more than anything else to the building up of that splendid and growing city."

The building of this line, although it consisted of only one track and but few trains were run over it each day, afforded transportation facilities east and west which were regarded as ample at that time. However, those who wished to travel north and south did not fare so well. For almost twenty years after that people who traveled in that direction had to be content to go by stage. A stage line from Goshen to Warsaw was maintained until the railroad between those two cities was completed in the early seventies.

In the Goshen Democrat of May 23, 1866, appears the following announcement concerning this line:

"It affords us pleasure to announce to the traveling public that Mr. P. B. Sheldon, late of New York, has purchased the interest of Mr. Miller in the Goshen and Warsaw stage line and will continue to make daily trips between here and that place as usual. His coaches are of the best pattern and are easy and comfortable to ride in and as he employs none but trusty drivers, we can cheerfully recommend passengers to patronize this line. The stage stops at all hotels, thus affording all an opportunity of securing seats without having to run all over town to hunt up the agent."

The writer can still remember, when at the age of three or four years, he would take hold of the window sill and pull himself up far enough to look out of the window and see the stage pass by on Main street in Goshen, where the family resided at that time. Four horses were driven to the stage coach and the driver had his seat on the top. He looked as if he "felt big", driving those four horses through town where so many people could see him. He always drove on a trot when going past our home, so the coach was not in sight very long. The stage left Goshen in the morning and returned in the afternoon of the day following. Years afterward it was learned that one of the drivers was a man named Phillips who was living in Warsaw as late as 1904. He was then quite an old man of medium size and had a gray beard on his chin but was shaved on the sides of his face.

In the latter sixties a company was formed to build a road from White Pigeon to Wabash, through Goshen and Warsaw. Captain Wells, who had just built a road from White Pigeon to Kalamazoo and sold it to the Lake Shore Company, headed the project. Hon. J. H DeFreese who had aided materially in securing the line east and west through Goshen, was made one of the directors of the company and became one of its most active workers. The company was first known as the Goshen. Warsaw and Wabash Railroad Company and the line from Goshen to Warsaw was built soon after it was organize& The intention was to build it to White Pigeon to connect with the road running north from that village. That would have placed Goshen on a line running from Grand Rapids to Indianapolis. The Lake Shore Company had led Captain Wells to believe that it would purchase the road of him when it was completed. When the road was built as far as Goshen it refused to guarantee its purchase, so construction work northward from Goshen was abandoned or rather never begun. The result was that Captain Wells was broken financially and for over ten years Goshen was the northern terminus of the road. Middlebury had voted a liberal tax to aid in building the road and had already paid it to the county treasurer. When the project was abandoned the money had to be refunded to the taxpayers. I n the early eighties the road was extended to Niles and still later to St. Joseph on the shore of Lake Michigan. It is now a part of the Big Four system.

An incident in connection with the early operation of this line was related to the writer over twenty years ago by the late William Conrad of Warsaw. A number of prominent Warsaw Masons and their wives came to Goshen to attend a Masonic gathering. A special train had been provided to bring them to Goshen in the afternoon and take them back after the close of their meeting that night. The function lasted until quite late and between the time of the arrival of the train in the afternoon and the hour for its departure in the evening a heavy snow storm had raged. The snow drifted in many places on the railroad track The train managed to run as far as Waterford and could go no farther. It backed into Goshen and the Warsaw visitors were obliged to stay until the next day before they could return home.

In 1873-4 the Baltimore and Ohio railroad was extended to Chicago, running some distance through this county at its southwest corner. This led to the building up of that enterprising and thriving town, now city, of Nappanee.

In 1888 work was begun on a railroad, to run northeastward from Goshen to Sturgis. It was intended to make its northeastern terminus Jackson, Michigan, and its southwestern Danville, Illinois. Milton Mercer, E. D. Chipman and Wilbur L. Stonex of Goshen and Jonathan S. Mather of Middlebury were members of its board of directors and gave substantial aid to the enterprise. In August 1888 the control of this company passed into the hands of J. J. Burns and Company and the road was built from Goshen to Battle Creek, Michigan, and put into operation in January, 1889. Soon after this the company failed and after many futile efforts to secure the necessary aid from other companies to build the extensions which had been planned, the road passed into the hands of the Lake Shore Railroad company, with the result that its service finally became very limited. To many people it is familiarly known as the Pumpkin Vine road.

Several years later the Wabash Railroad Company built a direct line from Detroit to Chicago, running through Millersburg, Benton, New Paris and Wakarusa. After this road was built the village of Foraker was started and is now a prosperous trading point for a considerable territory in Union and Harrison townships.

In 1886 a street railway line was built in Elkhart and in 1896 a line was completed in Goshen, the first car being run July 4, 1896. In 1898 an electric line was built between Elkhart and Goshen and the first car was run between the two cities December 21, 1898. In 1905 the Winona line between Goshen and Warsaw was built. Since that time many miles of paved roads have been built and other roads have been greatly improved. A large percentage of the population, both of town and country now own automobiles, thus providing means of travel in every direction and in every section of the county.

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