Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Lost Porter County: Lansing

Lansing was one of the first communities to appear in Porter County. Its existence was fleeting and little has been written about the place and its people. Despite its ephemeral nature, research has uncovered several interesting historical facts that go beyond coincidence that can be connected to this small hamlet.

The first resident of the area that would later encompass Lansing was Joseph Detweiler Shoemaker. Shoemaker, born January 12, 1807, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, married Catherine Johnson in Pennsylvania when 24 years of age. Joseph and Catherine soon moved to Holmes County, Ohio, where they would live six years prior to migrating to Porter County's Jackson Township in 1838.

Joseph's obituary, published in the January 30, 1896, issue of the Hawarden Independent of Hawarden, Sioux County, Iowa, states that when Joseph arrived in Jackson Township that "The section was a dense forest at that time and in fact almost a perfect wilderness, but a farm was cleared and he resided there 27 years."

Soon after his arrival, Shoemaker is believed have sold a nine or ten acre portion of his land to Elijah Casteel and and William Briscoe Calhoun, Senior. Coffee Creek traversed through this small parcel. Casteel and Calhoun dammed the creek, constructed a mill race, and erected a sawmill, likely between 1838 and 1840, and the new facility was referred to as Casteel Mill.

Shoemaker and his family migrated to Iowa in the spring of 1865, arriving in Marshall County, Iowa, on July 1. His wife died shortly after their arrival, on September 23, 1865, and seven months later he married Mrs. Mary Ford on April 5, 1866. Shoemaker died on January 24, 1896, in Sioux County, Iowa, at the age of 89.

It is believed that Elijah Casteel and William Calhoun, proprietors of the sawmill, were related. Elijah was married by Justice of the Peace David Vestal in Randolph County, Indiana, on January 6, 1827, to Anna Calhoon (Calhoun). By 1833 Elijah was operating a grocery in Michigan City, LaPorte County, Indiana.

Marriage registration of Elijah Casteel to Anna Calhoon.
Source: Randolph County, Indiana, Marriage Records, p. 64.

In 1835, Casteel won election as commissioner of one of Porter County's original three township's, Waverly Township - this was one year prior to Porter County's separation from LaPorte County. He would soon after be elected Jackson Township's first justice of the peace.

Casteel was granted federal land patents for two 80-acre parcels in Section 20 of Jackson Township on March 30, 1837, a short distance west of Casteel Mill (W½ of the northwest quarter and the W½ of the northeast quarter).

William Calhoun and Elijah Casteel did not remain long in Jackson Township; they sold their interests in the sawmill in 1840 and migrated to Missouri. Calhoun led an interesting, successful life that ended tragically. He was born November 29, 1812, in Ohio. His father was killed serving in the War of 1812, leaving him an orphan. As was common among orphaned children at the time, he was bound out in the employ of others to learn a trade. He ran away from his master at the age of 14 and resided in Ohio, later moving to Porter County.

Soon after arriving in Missouri, William married Melvina Warren on April 24, 1840, in Howard County. The couple then moved to Linn County, Missouri, where they lived near the Sullivan County boundary line. William and Melvina had eight children, five daughters and three sons.

Though he began his life in Linn County with little money and few possessions, William eventually amassed more than 3,600 acres of land and become a man of considerable influence. In their 1888 history of Sullivan County, Missouri, The Goodspeed Publishing Company includes the following concerning Calhoun's demise: 
Among the foulest deeds which blacken the war history of this community was the murder of William Calhoon (Sic). While away on business, he chanced be in Scottsville [Sullivan County] late in the evening of August 27, 1864. While there, he and several other citizens were captured by a posse of men, ostensibly for the purpose of hunting guerillas. They, then, started for Mr. Calhoon's home, and upon arriving at the same, Mr. Calhoon entered the house, closely guarded, to get water for the men and himself. His wife asked him where he was going, and he replied they were going to hunt guerillas, which was the last remark that fell from his lips. They then mounted their horses, some stopping at a melon patch. Mr. Calhoon and John Hatcher, however, rode on. Two men accompanying them came back and soon two shots were heard. When Mr. Calhoon's body was found, it was pierced with two shots, either of which would have proved fatal. His pockets were rifled, and his papers were scattered. Mr. Calhoon was a wealthy man, and it was known that he had sold some cattle but a few days previous to the murder, which facts led to the belief he was killed for his money. Circumstantial evidence pointed to James Head as the leading murderer, and at times Mr. Head almost acknowledged his guilt. He was arrested, but bailed out by his friends, and died from the effects of an accident before being brought to trial. During his illness parties who were suspected of being accomplices never left his bedside; it is thought this course was taken for fear that Mr. Head would admit his and others' guilt.
Much less is known about the life of Elijah Casteel. He can be found in the 1860 Federal Census of West Locust, Sullivan County, Missouri, residing with his wife Anna. The census lists his occupation as "Farmer & Merchant." The combined value of his real estate and personal estate is noted as $7,184, suggesting that he had accumulated more than a modest level of wealth by the age of 58.

Remarkably, on September 10, 1857, a survey plat was recorded in Sullivan County, Missouri, for the town of Valparaiso, with Elijah Casteel listed as proprietor. Coincidentally, Valparaiso was located in Sullivan County's Jackson Township. The Goodspeed Publishing Company's 1888 history of Sullivan County states the following:
Valparaiso was surveyed September 10, 1857, for Elijah Casteel, proprietor. The southwest corner of Block 5 of this town is 8 chains and 27 links [546 feet] east and 18 links [12 feet] north of the quarter section corner of the west line of Section 18, Township 64, Range 19; an addition to the town was made April 1, 1859. This town flourished to some extent for a few years, but after the completion of the present Council Bluffs & Kansas City Railway, and the building up of Pollock, Pollock took its place.
Elijah Casteel and local residents apparently petitioned for the establishment of a post office at the newly founded community of Valparaiso. Casteel was appointed Valparaiso's first postmaster on October 5, 1858, serving in that capacity through July 10, 1865, when he was replaced by Ezekiel W. Banner. A Valparaiso post office would remain in Missouri until October 7, 1879, when it was renamed Pollock.

Given this information and Elijah Casteel's involvement in the founding of Porter County, one is left to wonder if Casteel was instrumental in the naming of Valparaiso in Porter County? Various genealogies suggest that Elijah died prior to 1870 since he cannot be located in the that year's Federal Census.

Portions of Townships 64N 19W and 64N 20W in Sullivan County,
Missouri, showing approximate location of Casteel's Valparaiso [Pollock].

Source: Edwards Brothers' An Illustrated
Historical Atlas of Sullivan County, Missouri
, 1877.

News item concerning Valparaiso, Sullivan County, Missouri.
Source: Lexington Weekly Intelligencer, July 29, 1876.

United States Post Office Department records of Sullivan
County, Missouri, postmaster appointments highlighting Valparaiso.
Source: National Archives and Records Administration, Microfilm Roll M841.

Using the Public Land Survey System, Casteel Mill can be described as having been situated in the northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of the southwest quarter of Section 21 in Jackson Township, along present day Mander Road. A distillery was constructed near the mill by Abner Enoch. The distillery's boiler, however, burst in 1849 and the production of alcohol was abandoned.

By the end of 1840, Eli Bingham Lansing and his brother-in-law, Hiram Dille, owned the Casteel Mill. It is known that the sawmill was still in operation during the winter of 1851-52, when John B. Johnson was employed at the sawmill and being paid $1.25 per thousand board feet of production.

On July 16, 1842, Eli B. Lansing was issued a United States patent (Patent No. 2,726). It has been written that Lansing rode his saddle horse, named Bulcher, to Washington, D.C. to submit his patent application for his overshot waterwheel design. Lansing' patent claimed the his invention improved upon existing technology through "the construction of the buckets (radial) marked D, with inclined plane ends, D' D', diverging in contrary directions, in combination with the spiral or scroll-case E, for condensing the water and causing it to act by percussion and reaction." This waterwheel design was referred to as the Lansing Principle. Lansing's overshot waterwheel technology was reportedly universally used until is was superseded by the turbine.

Diagram from United States Patent No. 2,726
issued to Eli B. Lansing on July 16, 1842.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office, Washington, D.C.

Oddly, the patent indicates that Lansing was residing at Wheeling, Delaware County, Indiana, at the time the patent was granted. A possible explanation is that Eli was installing the technology in that region of the state in 1842 and his postal address was located at Wheeling.

A number of families would soon settle close to the mill and the community that developed near it was referred to as Lansing in honor of Eli Lansing. By 1850, the surrounding community supported a miller, wagon maker, gunsmith, joiner, cabinet maker, two blacksmiths, three coopers, three cobblers, and four carpenters. The population became of sufficient size that a petition for the establishment of a community post office was approved; the post office services began at Lansing on September 17, 1851, and discontinued on May 14, 1857. Elijah H. Johnson served as Lansing’s first and only postmaster.

United States Post Office Department records of Porter
County, Indiana, postmaster appointments highlighting Lansing.
Source: National Archives and Records Administration, Microfilm Roll M841.

Relatively little is known about Lansing's postmaster, Elijah H. Johnson. An obituary for one of his children indicates that Elijah moved to Porter County in 1847. He appears in the 1850 Federal Census of Jackson Township as being 41 years of age, born in New York, and occupied as a carpenter. His wife, Clorinda, also born in New York, is listed as being 38 years old. They had apparently lived in Michigan for several years since four of their five children were born there; these four children were Andrew Jackson (14), Lovina (11), Phebe L. (9), and George M. (6). Their youngest child, Melissa A. (2), was born in Indiana.

At some point in time after 1852, the sawmill along Coffee Creek was converted by Eli Lansing into a grist mill. It is speculated that the conversion from sawmilling to grist milling was due to the rapid clearing of land and planting of crops in Jackson Township and adjacent northern Washington Township. The grist mill was called Forest Mill in reference to the significant amount of timberland still encircling the mill site.

Forest Mill as it appears on an 1876 plat map
of Jackson Township, Porter County, Indiana.
Source: Hardesty's Illustrated Historical Atlas
of Porter County, Indiana
. [see p. 77]

Eli Bingham Lansing was born on March 29,1807, in Vermont. At Morgan County, Ohio, on February 8, 1821, he married Lovina Dille, the daughter of John Dille and Nancy (Gallaher) Dille. Lovina was born on May 29, 1808, in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, and passed away in Indiana in 1862.

To the union of Eli and Lovina Lansing were born the following children:
  • Aratus Lansing, born November 29, 1828, in Tuscarawas County, Ohio; married Maria I. Johnson on January 28, 1849, in Porter County, Indiana; died January 17, 1910, in Des Moines, Polk County, Ohio
  • Nancy (Lansing) Williams, born September 6, 1830, in Tuscarawas County, Ohio; married Milliken Caleb Williams on July 9, 1848, in Porter County, Indiana; died March 1, 1910, in Westville, LaPorte County, Indiana
  • Charlotte K. (Lansing) Faulkner, born January 14, 1835, in Indiana
  • Robert Lansing, born November 4, 1838, in Indiana, died February 10, 1903, in Whiting, Lake County, Indiana
  • Rachel Dille Lansing, born March 8, 1841, in Indiana
  • Martha Lansing, born January 2, 1843, in Indiana; died prior to 1850
  • Lovina "Vina" (Lansing) Faulkner, born June 4, 1848, in Indiana; married Clarence Faulkner; died October 6, 1867 at Pentwater, Oceana County Michigan
  • Hortense (Lansing) Kenney, born June 19, 1850, in Jackson Township, Porter County, Indiana; married Charles L. Kenney; died July 30, 1910, in Inland Township, Benzie County, Michigan
  • Horatio Lansing, born June 1851 in Jackson Township, Porter County, Indiana

1860 census enumeration of Eli B. Lansing and family.
Source: 1860 Federal Census of Jackson Township, Porter County, Indiana.

On January 30, 1866, in Porter County, and about four years after the death of his wife Lovina, Eli, now 58 years old, would marry Rachael S. Dunn, age 25 years. Rachael was born in Pennsylvania in 1841. The following two children resulted from Eli's second marriage:

  • Arizona Lansing, born May 26, 1867, in Indiana; married Justice Ellis Garrison; died August 14, 1946, at Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California
  • Myndred "Mindrix" Lansing, born August 1869 in Michigan; died in California
By June 1870, Eli B. Lansing had moved with Rachael and his two youngest children to Inland Township, Benzie County, Michigan, where, at the age of 62, he was occupied in farming.

The last known living grandchild of Eli B. Lansing was Rachel Susan (Garrison) Phelan, Arizona's daughter, who passed away on November 26, 2004, at Pasadena, Los Angeles County, California. Thus, an astounding 197 years spanned the birth of Eli and the death of his granddaughter, Rachel! 
Forest Mill would later be renamed Smith Mill when George Byron Smith and a man named Becker purchased the property. Prior to moving to Jackson Township, Smith, his wife, Caroline (Baird) Smith, and children had lived in Porter County's Union Township where George was occupied as a farmer. Smith and his two sons, Myron B. Smith and Dorman A. Smith, would operate the mill through the 1870s and as late as 1888 the Smith Mill was still producing flour that was sold in the surrounding communities.

Myron B. Smith would later establish M. Smith & Son, a dry goods business in Chesterton located at the southwest corner of the present day intersection of Calumet Road and Broadway Avenue. The Smith Building, which housed their business, still stands. Their retail business also sold clothing, chinaware, groceries, rugs, sewing machines, and pianos.

Postcard image of M. Smith & Son in Chesterton, circa 1907.
Source: Collection of Steven R. Shook.

When the grist mill at Lansing discontinued operations in uncertain, but it is believed that production ceased during the 1890s. A more modernized mill, the Long-Tratebas Mill, was located less than three-quarters of a mile downstream on Coffee Creek and likely placed considerable competitive pressure on the operators of the Smith Mill. By 1906, the mill pound associated with the mill at Lansing no longer appears on Jackson Township plat maps, suggesting the mill's commercial collapse.

It is also unknown when the name of Lansing faded from the collective memory of the citizens of Porter County. Both Jackson Center, situated a mile to the east, and Sumanville (Suman), one mile to the southeast, would challenge Lansing's place as the hub of Jackson Township's commercial activities. Both nearby communities would become of adequate size to warrant the establishment of post offices (Jackson Center, 1862-1884; Sumanville, 1876-1904).

Source Material

Adams, Orvyl Guy. 1928. Place Names in the North Central Counties of Missouri. M.S. Thesis. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri. 406 p.

Baker, J. David. 1976. The Postal History of Indiana, Volume II. Louisville, Kentucky: Leonard H. Hartmann. 1,061 p. [see p. 966]

Ball, Timothy H. 1900. Northwestern Indiana from 1800 to 1900 or A View of Our Region Through the Nineteenth Century. Chicago, Illinois: Donohue and Henneberry. 570 p. [see p. 101]

Campbell, R. A. 1875. Campbell's Gazetteer of Missouri. St. Louis, Missouri: R. A. Campbell. 801 p. [see p. 616]

The Chesterton Centennial, Inc. 1952. Chesterton Centennial 1852-1952. Chesterton, Indiana: The Chesterton Centennial, Inc. 104 p. [see p. 22]

Edwards Brothers. 1877. An Illustrated Historical Atlas of Sullivan County, Missouri. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Edwards Brothers. 56 p. [see pp. 19, 39]

Ellsberry, Elizabeth Prather. 1958. The Warrens and You. Kansas City, Missouri: Brown-White-Lowell Press. 294 p. [see pp. 183-184]

Fisher, William Hubbell. 1873. Reports of Cases Relating to Letters Patent for Inventions Determined in the Supreme and Circuit Courts of the United States. Volume I. Cincinnati, Ohio: Robert Clarke & Company. 728 p. [see pp. 319-339]

George A. Ogle & Company. 1906. Standard Atlas of Porter County, Indiana: Including a Plat Book of the Villages, Cities and Townships of the County. Chicago, Illinois: George A. Ogle & Company. 55 p. [see p. 17]

Goodspeed, Weston A., and Charles Blanchard. 1882. Counties of Porter and Lake, Indiana: Historical and Biographical, Illustrated. Chicago, Illinois: F. A. Battey & Company. 771 p. [see pp. 202, 303]

The Goodspeed Publishing Company. 1888. History of Adair, Sullivan, Putnam, and Schuyler Counties, Missouri. Chicago, Illinois: The Goodspeed Publishing Company. 1,225 p. [see pp. 184, 778-779]

Hardesty, A. G. 1876. Illustrated Historical Atlas of Porter County, Indiana. Valparaiso, Indiana: A. G. Hardesty. 90 p. [see pp. 25, 77]

Northwest Indiana Genealogical Society. 1997. Jackson Township Cemeteries, Porter County, IN. Valparaiso, Indiana: Northwest Indiana Genealogical Society.

Packard, Jasper. 1876. History of La Porte County, Indiana, and Its Townships, Towns and Cities. LaPorte, Indiana: S. E. Taylor & Company. 467 p. [see p. 40]

Newspapers (listed by date of publication)
Practical Observer, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; April 26, 1856; Volume 4, Number 18, Page 2, Column 3.

Practical Observer, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 26, 1856; Volume 4, Number 35, Page 4, Column 4.

Lexington Weekly Intelligencer, Lexington, Lafayette County, Missouri; July 29, 1876; Volume 6, Number 17, Page 3, Column 1. Column titled "Shorts."

The Tribune, Chesterton, Porter County, Indiana; January 23, 1890; Volume 6, Number 41, Page 1, Columns 1-2. Column titled "Two More Victims."

The Chesterton Tribune, Chesterton, Porter County, Indiana; September 21, 1894; Volume 11, Number 24, Page 8, Column 3.

Hawarden Independent, Hawarden, Sioux County, Iowa; January 30, 1896; Volume 18, Number 38, Page 1, Columns 3-4. Column titled "Mr. Shoemaker's Death."

The Porter County Vidette, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 15, 1917; Page 4, Column 1. Column titled "Washington Township."

The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; July 12, 1934; Volume 7, Page 1, Columns 4-5. Column titled "Siftings Gleaned from Hither and Yon -- and Now and Then -- and Way Back When," by A. J. Bowser.

The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; November 14, 1934; Volume 8, Page 1, Columns 4-5. Column titled "Siftings Gleaned from Hither and Yon -- and Now and Then -- and Way Back When. Early History of Jackson Township," by A. J. Bowser.

The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; May 13, 1935; Volume 8, Page 1, Columns 4-5 and Page 8, Columns 1-3. Column titled "Siftings Gleaned from Hither and Yon -- and Now and Then -- and Way Back When. History of Jackson Township," by A. J. Bowser.

© 2018 Steven R. Shook. All Rights Reserved.


  1. I would really like to find out more about the specific property owners of parcels in Tremont, Indiana, those that took part in the lease back program through the Indiana Dunes. Could you lead me in the right direction?


  2. The location of the M Smith and Sons dry goods business in Chesterton had been vacant for years but just this week it is the new home of Running Vines Winery. Today, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020 I believe is its grand opening. RV formerly was located east across Calumet.

    1. You're correct. Apparently, they are having a trivia contest at the grand opening. They asked me to provide some questions.

  3. Thank you so much for this blog post. Elijah Casteel and Anna Calhoun were my 4th great-grandparents. and it was wonderful to read this narrative. I am currently writing a family history book and your report confirms my research.