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proposed june 2021

Proposed mural in progress, June 2021. Artist Rein Bontreger.

Historical Mural 
    The Newton County Historical Society with the permission of the Newton County Commissioners added a mural depicting Newton County Historical Facts on the east facade of the County Maintenance Bulilding, which also houses the Resource Center for the Newton County Historical Society. All efforts were made to depict images from each of the ten townships.

Table of Contents

Newton County Origins

Newton County Map

Newton County Pun’kin Vine Fair

              Ten Townships

McKinley Park/Military Contribution

                Settlements and Towns

George Ade

              Two Rivers

Hazelden

Beaver Lake

South Newton School Corporation

Bogus Island

Edgar Charles “Sam” Rice

Railroad

Scott-Lucas House

Corn Represents Agriculture

Willow Slough Fish & Game Area

The Regal Fritillary Butterfly

LaSalle Fish & Wildlife Area

 Newton County Courthouse

Kankakee Sands/American Bison

                Original Courthouse

North Newton School Corporation

                First Courthouse

Fair Oaks Farms

                Present Day Courthouse

Jennie Conrad

The Kent Hotel

American Chestnut

Newton County Stone Quarry

Roselawn Street Scene

Foster Park

Diana Hunt Club

Perfection Fairfax

Life In Newton County

Warren T. McCray

Meet the Artist: Rein Bontreger

 

Newton County Historical Society

 

Newton County

            The original Newton County was formed by statute on February 7, 1835 and was a roughly square area some 30 miles on a side, encompassing what is now the northern half of the county, the northern half of Jasper County, and a large section to the north. The northern border was cut back to the Kankakee River on February 1, 1836, with all land north of the Kankakee River going to Lake and Porter counties. The county was abolished and combined with Jasper County in 1839. On December 8, 1859, Newton County was re-created, and the borders were redrawn to essentially their current state.

            Gov. Willard appointed Thomas R. Barker as organizing Sheriff who then issued a special election to be held April 10, 1860, for county officials. On April 21, 1860, the officers elected were declared qualified to perform their duties by Barker.

            Newton County is named after Sgt. John Newton, who served under Gen. Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox”, in the American Revolutionary War. It is adjacent to Jasper County, which was named after Sgt. William Jasper, whose story is similar. At least four other states, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas, have adjacent Jasper and Newton Counties, as though these two were remembered as a pair.

            Newton County was the last county to be organized and is “Indiana’s Youngest County.”

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Newton County Map

Ten Townships

            In 1860 there were five townships: Lake (Twp. 31N, R9 & R10); Beaver, (Twp. 29N, R9 & R10); Washington, (Twp. 28N, R9 & 10); Jackson, (Twp. 29N, R8); Iroquois, (Twp. 28N, R8). Other Townships formed: 1860, Jefferson (Twp. 27N. R9 & 10); 1862: McClellan, (Twp. 30N, R9 & R10); 1865: Grant, (Twp. 27N, R8); 1871: Colfax, (Twp. 30N, R8); 1872: Lincoln, (Twp. 31N & Twp. 32N, R8).

 

Settlements and Towns

            1831-33, the Brook Settlement. Towns platted: 1851, Morocco by John Murphey; 1860, Kentland by A. J. Kent; 1861, Goodland by William Foster; 1866, Brook by S. H. Benjamin; 1876, Lake Village by Richard Malone; 1882, Roselawn by Craig and Rose; 1882, Julian, by J. B. Julian; 1882, Foresman, by J. B. Foresman; 1905, Conrad by Jennie Conrad; 1906, Ade, by W. T. McCray; 1907, Enos by R. & L. Bartlett; Sumava Resorts, 1927, Dvorack and others.

 

Two Rivers

        To the North, the Kankakee

        Indian name: “Au-ki-ki”

            The Kankakee rises near South Bend and flows southwestward in a straight channelized course created by dredging in 1911. It is the northern boundary lines for Lincoln and Lake Townships and separates Newton and Lake County.

        To the South, the Iroquois

        Indian name: “Pinkamink”

            The Iroquois rises in Jasper County and flows generally west-southwestwardly entering Newton County in Jackson Township through Jefferson Township.

 

Beaver Lake

            Beaver Lake, the largest body of water ever to be known within the confines of the State of Indiana in modern times is now a thing of the past. It was a natural water area seven miles by five miles in extent, a placid lake of 15,000 acres located six miles south of the Kankakee in McClellan Township. It was muck bottomed and shallow except for a narrow 12’ channel through it. Reeds, grasses, and pond lilies grew rank in most of the primitive waters and a few islands were located amongst the waters.

            Wildlife concentrated at the lake in great numbers including white swans, ducks, and geese along with cranes and herons of many kinds and a variety of bird breeds. Residents of the past recalled the many beaver dams that were seen in various parts of the lake, one reported to be more than a mile in length.

            First attempts to drain the lake began in 1854. In 1873 the “big ditch” was dug out and completed the draining of Beaver Lake into the Kankakee.

 

Bogus Island

            The largest island in Beaver Lake was known as Bogus Island, named for the horse thieves and counterfeiters who used it as a hide-out from 1830-1858. They made counterfeit coins and hid stolen horses on the northwest end of the island, where a precipice 25’-35’ high was carved from the northwest winds blowing across the lake. It sloped south to southwest, covering approximately 13 acres in length. The only access was from the north end via sandbars.

            Bogus Island comprised forty acres and was densely overgrown with oak trees. It was surrounded by an almost bottomless marsh, making the task of reaching it from mainland extremely difficult and dangerous.

            In 1857, a group of vigilantes from the area, met at the home of Captain Thomas Rogers Barker, located at the south shore of the lake. They devised a plan for removal of the outlaws but was never carried out. After the arrest of William Shaffer, one of the meanest bandits of the area, the remaining outlaws fled in fear of arrest and never returned.

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Railroad

            In 1859, the Logansport and Peoria railroad track was built between Logansport and Peoria, IL, ran the first train through Goodland and Kentland on December 25, 1859.

            The “Big Four” built a railroad through the southwest corner of the county in 1871. The Monon railroad was built through Roselawn and the northern part of the county in 1878. In 1882, the Chicago, and Eastern Illinois, (C.& E. I.) built a railroad through Goodland, Foresman, Julian, and Mt. Ayr.

            The “Three I” railroad was built through the northern part of Lincoln Township in 1883. In 1888 a branch of the C. & E. I. was built through Brook and Morocco. As these railroads were being constructed many towns and villages sprang into existence.

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Corn Represents Agriculture

            The massive expanses of cultivated prairie ground throughout the county have continued to provide the farmers with productive fields of grain for markets and pasture for livestock. Many tons of specialty crops such as mint and farm produce have been shipped from Newton County through the decades. Frog legs and oysters from the Kankakee marshes were a specialty of the Chicago restaurants in the early 1900s.

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The Regal Fritillary Butterfly

McClellan Township

            Standing in front of the mural, you can pose between the wings of the endangered Regal Fritillary Butterfly. The Kankakee Sands, as a region, both in Indiana and Illinois is a hotspot for the rare butterfly. Late June and early July is the prime time to see them.

            The male Regal Fritillary has two rows of spots on the hind wing; the female would have two rows of white spots, while the male has an outer row of orange spots. Which are you posing with?

            Not too long ago, the regal fritillary was only found in one preserve in the state of Indiana. Kankakee Sands was built around that site with the hope that restored surrounding habitat might allow the butterfly to expand out to new habitat, grow its population and thrive as a species.

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Newton County Courthouse(s)

        Original Courthouse

        Iroquois Township

            In 1837 the present Benton, Jasper and Newton counties were one. The county seat was in Pine Twp. The first board of commissioners met at the home of Robert Alexander in Parish Grove in 1838. Its members were Amos White, Joseph Smith, and Frederick Kenoyer. At their first session it was ordered that the Circuit Court, Probate Court and Commissioner’s Court be held hereafter at the house of George W. Spitler, provided that the majority of Pine Township residents be in favor of it. Amos White took a petition to every voter in the township asking to sign either for or against removal. Sixteen signed in favor and eight against said removal.

            The explanation of the transfer of the county seat to a smaller settlement in the northern edge of the territory was to accommodate Mr. Spitler, who had been elected clerk and had refused to act unless the place of business was brought nearer to his residence. The commissioners agreed and in March 1839, met at Mr. Spitler’s house, located south of present-day Brook about 2 miles. In 1974 a landmark was placed at the site of Newton County’s first courthouse.

Newton County First Courthouse

        Jefferson Township, built 1861

            In March 1861, a bid of $1,000.00 was made by J. B. Chesebrough for a Newton County courthouse. It was to be a plain structure with court and jury rooms above and four offices below, held by the Clerk, Auditor, Recorder and Treasurer. In June 1861, the building was completed and accepted.

        Present Day Courthouse

        Jefferson Township, built 1906

            On February 1, 1904, the County Commissioners condemned the courthouse building and ordered a new structure to be built for $25,000. After year-long meetings and discussions, the commissioners ordered the appropriation of $25,000 by the Council for the new courthouse, making the final order for the erection of the building. On August 6, 1906, after many months of debate on contractors, cost and political push and pull, the present-day courthouse was complete and accepted.

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The Kent Hotel

Jefferson Township

            The iconic turret tower of the Kent Hotel has stood prestigiously above the downtown business district of Kentland since 1894. Dubbed as one of the most modern structures in town at that time, the building boasted its first floor offered 20’x20’ office space; 22’x40’ dining room and a 20’x76’ kitchen, laundry, ware room, commercial men’s sample, and business room. On the second floor there was a parlor, sitting room, and twenty large guest rooms well ventilated and lighted. The building was furnished with the “East Lake” style and fully heated and lighted on a modern plan.

            Today, it is no longer a hotel but the home of a fine dining restaurnt named the Old Colonial Inn.

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Newton County Stone Quarry

Jefferson Township

            Mt. Newton, the Kentland Dome, and presently the Newton Impact Geological Site are names that evolved through the years for the rock formation abnormalities at the stone quarry located along U.S. 24 east of Kentland.

            The quarry opened in 1865, when Samuel Means and John McKee purchased lands adjacent to each other in that area and operated two quarries - McKee on the east and Means on the west. By 1906 a third quarry was operating between them, owned by W. T. McCray, and operated by Vanetta and Evans. In 1928, McCray sold it to George Hart, who in 1946 sold it to Ralph Rogers and Co., Inc. Rogers would name it Newton County Stone. It eventually expanded to include the Means and McKee properties.

            After the melting of the vast continental glaciers during the Ice Age, a thick mantle of rocks, gravel, sand and silt and mud were left behind by the melting ice exposing in places throughout Northern Indiana underlying bedrock. The Newton County quarry was one of these places. The abnormalities of the site begin with the age of the stones quarried at the site. Ancient rocks from the Ordovician age - 360 to 440 million years old are exposed at the surface and have been quarried for many years. Bedrock normally cropping out to the surface is the area that belongs to the Mississippian Period – more than 240 million years old.

            Nor do the rocks slope to the southwest as they normally do in Northern Indiana. These beds dip randomly at very steep angles and even stand vertically. They have been crushed in places and bent into folds and broken by faults in the rock. Even small grains of quartz – one of the strongest of common minerals, have fractured and show evidence of great stress. Nowhere else in Indiana are rocks known to be deformed to this degree.

            Many theories have been discussed over the decades, but the Meteorite Theory seems to be the best scientific explanation. In 1936 geologists from all over the world suggested that some of the crypto volcanic structures, such as Newton County’s Kentland Dome, represent areas where rocks have been disturbed by the impact of a meteor. They pointed out that after a large meteorite strikes the earth the suddenly compressed rocks will expand with explosive violence and the shatter them.

            When the meteorite hit studies show that it was ½ to 1 mile in diameter. The stones being mined there today should be 2,000 ft. below the surface, but the impact blasted the rock to the surface, standing it on its end. The entire event probably occurred with a time span of 2-3 minutes. Shatter cones, common to a meteorite impact have been found at the quarry – validating the theory of a meteorite falling to earth and creating the anomalies found at the quarry.

            The studies continue today as to the origins of the anomalies of the Newton County Stone quarry.

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Foster Park

Grant Township

            Named for the founder of Goodland, William Foster, (1813-1908) who arranged the necessary monies for the completion of the Toledo, Logansport, and Burlington Railroad as it struggled to complete its road from Logansport to the Indiana-Illinois line by January 1, 1860. 

            Thomas Mitten, who was planning to build the Mitten Memorial Library in 1929 paid tribute to William Foster by placing large glacier boulder, weighing 10,000 lbs. and 8.5’ long and 4’ at the base facing U.S. 24. The stone itself resembles that of a mitten.

            A public park is an integral part of the Newton County communities. They serve as a place for family reunions, events and festivals, playgrounds for young and old, or just a place to sit and relax and read a book.

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Perfection Fairfax

Grant Township

            For 12 years, Perfection Fairfax ruled over Warren T. McCray’s Orchard Lake Stock Farm, its 1600 acres and 500 head of registered Hereford cattle. During the farm’s hey-day 1910-1920, Orchard Lake Stock Farm was a national showplace, a small empire that had a baronial mansion and a headquarters complex of more than a dozen buildings.

            Perfection was born Oct. 10, 1903, and was crowned Grand Champion in the 1907 International Livestock Exposition. McCray purchased Perfection Fairfax in Scotland in 1908 for $25,000. As herd bull, Perfection fathered many champions. One sale at Orchard Lake Stock Farm sold $565,000 worth of Hereford cattle.

            When Perfection died in 1920, McCray buried him atop a catalpa tree ridge that rises out of the flat prairie farmland. It is located six miles northeast of Kentland at the former site of McCray’s Orchard Lake Stock Farm. The 8’ high concrete tombstone with flagpole is the final resting place of Perfection Fairfax, a Hereford bull nationally famed as “King of Hereford Sires”.

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Warren T. McCray

Jefferson Township

            Warren T. McCray began working as a bookkeeper at the age of 15. At the age of 21 he went into the grocery business and then began grain trading, becoming one of the organizers of the National Grain Dealers Association.

            He purchased acreage northeast of Kentland in Grant Township that would develop into a 1600-acre farm known as Orchard Lake Stock Farm. It had a reputation as a multi-million-dollar operation based upon the purchase of his prized Hereford bull, Perfection Fairfax.

            McCray was a community-oriented man, dedicated to the development and prosperity of his hometown of Kentland. In the fall of 1920, he was elected the 30th Governor of Indiana.

            In 1924, convicted of mail fraud, McCray resigned as governor and served three years in federal prison, and was fined $10,000. He was paroled in 1926. In 1930, he was granted a full pardon by President Hoover.

            McCray returned to Kentland where he began to rebuild his farming operations. After suffering a heart attack, he died in December 1938 at the age of 73. He is buried at Fairlawn Cemetery in Kentland.

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The First Newton County Church

Washington Township

            As early as the 1820s or early 30s the United Brethren missionaries and pioneer preachers held services in Newton County. In 1836 Jacob Kenoyer settled near Spitler’s Creek, a northern tributary of the Iroquois River. Here he erected a sawmill and corn cracker as a means of livelihood. His brother Frederick and other members of the family arrived soon afterwards and settled north of the Iroquois River near the present-day Newton County Fairgrounds land. Closely associated with the Kenoyer family was the John Myers family and the neighborhood became known as the Kenoyer/Myers settlement. Jacob and Frederick’s religious convictions became stronger than their business instincts and they became widely known as preachers and exhorters of the United Brethren Church.

            The first church built in the county circa 1839 was on the farm of Frederick Kenoyer, north of the Iroquois River. It was located on the north side of CR1150 S, just west of US 41, after the old railroad tracks on the north side of the road. Before the building of the church, services were held among the homes and schools of the community.

            Upon completion it was about 20’x30’ with 8’ ceilings; faced the south with one window in the north, two in the west, two in the east and a door in the south. The seats were benches made of split logs and the pulpit was rather high.

            A historical marker was placed at the site in 1976 by the Kentland Chapter NSDAR.

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Newton County Pun’kin Vine Fair

Washington Township

            After the successful 1920 and 1921 Newton County Fair at Brook, it became evident a larger site for growth and expansion would be necessary for future events. Land adjacent to the Newton County Home was chosen as the official site for the third annual Newton County Fair in 1922.

            The how and when the name evolved into the Newton County “Pun’kin Vine Fair” is open to debate. Some say that the entry gates for the first fair were covered with pumpkin vines – others say that remarks were made that the fairground land was only fit to raise “Pun’kins.”

            Through rain or shine, good times and bad, the fair continues to be one of the most celebrated weeks for Newton County residents.

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McKinley Park/Military Contribution

            The image of the monument to the Civil War Veterans in McKinley Park in Brook is but one of the many monuments erected throughout the county honoring those who have served in the military. Each community have designated locations for this purpose. All gave some. Some gave all.

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George Ade

Jefferson/Iroquois Townships

            George Ade was, at one time, one of the most famous writers in the country, and Newton County was and still is proud to call him one of their own. Born in neighboring Kentland, Indiana on February 9, 1866, he graduated from Purdue University in 1887. In the years after graduation, Ade became a journalist for several different newspapers.

            He eventually built his fortune on a string of successful plays, books and newspaper publications in the early 1900’s. Ade had a sharp, satirical humor which was often focused on the events of the day. He began his career as a newspaper writer but soon moved on to other endeavors. At one time Ade had three plays on Broadway simultaneously. His most successful and probably best-known productions were The College Widow and The County Chairman. His writing is usually compared to Mark Twain’s because both authors possess elements of humor, rustic charm, and small-town morals. Ade was referred to as “The Aesop of Indiana.”

            “I am a bachelor, but I prefer to live in my own home. My enthusiasms include golf, travel, horse-racing, and the spoken drama. My antipathies are social show-offs, bigots on religion, fanatics on total abstinence, and all persons who take themselves seriously. I love to put on big parties or celebrations and see a throng of people having a good time.” — George Ade on George Ade

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Hazelden

Iroquois Township

            The mansion completed by George Ade in 1904 is an Elizabethan manor house.

            Ade purchased over 400 acres around the property East of Brook and thought the grove of oak trees near the Iroquois River was a “nice spot to put a little cottage.” The little cottage, which he envisioned as his escape from the busy Chicago writing scene at the turn of the 20th century, manifested itself into a grand estate. The property was a working farm with a cow barn and several smaller outbuildings along with a caretaker’s cottage. But the property also served as a recreation’s paradise with a softball diamond, swimming pool and elaborate gardens. Ade even created a garden in the shape of the state of Indiana itself. The home was decorated with the remnants of Ade’s travels East and features rich dark woodwork and large windows.

            The author enjoyed entertaining and hosted many parties for area residents. Conventions for his fraternity Sigma Chi and political receptions were also held at the estate. President William Howard Taft announced his campaign for the White House at a rally at Hazelden in 1924. The playwright found any event, from the most mundane local signage change to the grander national announcement, as a reason to organize a celebration.

            Hazelden is on the National Register of Historic Homes. The home and property are owned by Newton County and are managed by the George Ade Foundation.

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South Newton School Corporation

            South Newton High School is a multi-community high school consisting of grades 9-12 located in rural Newton County, between the incorporated towns of Kentland, Brook, and Goodland, Indiana. The Elementary and Middle School facilities are located adjacent to the high school.

            The corporation was formed in 1961 with R. D. Norris as Superintendent. Classes began at the new school in 1966. The school mascot is the Rebels; school colors are red, gray and white; the annual yearbook is called “The Regiment.”

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Edgar Charles “Sam” Rice

Beaver Township

            They called him Baseball’s “Man O’ War” because of his military service and because of his fleet-footed fielding and base running. He is arguably one of the greatest athletes to be born and reared in the Newton County area.

            Rice was a pitcher and outfielder in Major League Baseball. Although Rice made his debut as a relief pitcher, he is best known as an outfielder, playing for the Washington Senators from 1915 until 1933. He led the American League in stolen bases in 1920. He led the Senators to three postseasons and a World Series championship in 1924. He batted left-handed but threw right-handed. Rice played his final year, 1934, for the Cleveland Indians. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1963. Batting Average: .322; Hits 2.,987; Home Runs 34; Runs batted in 1,078.

            His story is one of glory on the playing field yet colored by sadness, as he is linked to what is considered to be the greatest natural tragedy to ever occur in Newton County.  On April 21, 1912, while in Galesburg, Illinois for a baseball tryout, his home and family took the full brunt of a tornado. Seven Rice family members including Sam’s wife and children were killed by the storm, and later his father, Charles Rice succumbed to his injuries. Sam would turn his full attention to baseball and never return to the Newton County area.

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Scott-Lucas House

Beaver Township

            Virginia Ann (Lucas) Scott was the owner of this Prairie Art Deco style home that is located at 514 S. Main Street in Morocco. Upon her passing away on August 15, 1998, she gifted her home and furnishings to the Newton County Historical Society for use as a museum and to showcase her antique collections.

            The house was built by Ann’s father, Ross Lucas. Three generations of the Lucas family resided in the home: Ross and Laura Lucas, her grandparents; Willard and Gladys (Stockton) Lucas her parents, and Ann and her husband Gordon Scott when they moved to Morocco in the 1980s.

            In 2004, the home was listed on the National Historic Register. It is utilized as a museum and open for social gatherings and meetings.

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Willow Slough Fish & Game Area

LaSalle Fish & Wildlife Area

Beaver/Lake Township

            Originally known as the Kankakee River State Park and Forest, Indiana’s 18th State Park would occupy three locations: Lake Township (Kankakee River State Park) and Beaver and McClellan Townships (Forest). The parks were created from funding from House Bill No. 64, authored by Representative Howard Heistand of Kentland in 1947.

        Kankakee River State Park

            Lands were donated by Murray D. Baker and Dr. and Mrs. Ray S. Churchill. More than 3700 witnessed the dedication on August 3, 1952. In 1963 with additional land donations, the park was renamed LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area.

        Forest Park

            Known today as Willow Slough Fish and Game Area, the acreage today covers 9,956 acres in Beaver and McClellan Townships. The first lands, 3,767 acres were held by Everett Madison, who sold them to the State of Indiana utilizing the Pittman-Robertson program. The development of the land included a 2500-acre lake that was named for Morocco Attorney J. C. Murphey. A dam was built over the Riner-Houseworth ditch forming the lake.

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Kankakee Sands/American Bison

McClellan Township

            As part of a bicentennial project in 2016, 23 American bison were brought to Kankakee Sands preserve in McClellan Township. The wild bison herd was brought from South Dakota to help maintain the natural habitat. The herd roams free in a 1,060-acre pasture at Kankakee Sands, where hiking is prohibited for safety reasons, but a viewing area and interpretive area are available to see America’s National Mammal. The bison viewing area is open from 7 a.m. CT to dusk. The Nature Conservancy, which owns and manages thirteen bison herds in North America, manages the Indiana herd.                                       Kankakee Sands is an 8,300-acre prairie and savanna habitat open every day of the year for public enjoyment.

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North Newton School Corporation

            North Newton Jr.-Sr. High School is a multi-community high school consisting of grades 7-12 located in rural McClellan Township, serving the students in the towns of Lake Village, Mount Ayr, Roselawn, Sumava Resorts, Thayer, and Morocco. The Jr.-Sr. school mascot is the Spartan; colors are blue, white, and orange; the annual yearbook is called “The Olympian.”

            There are three elementary schools serving grades K-6. In the north, Lake Village Elementary, Lake Village, mascot is the Tiger and Lincoln Elementary, Roselawn, mascot is the Lincoln Eagles; in the south, Morocco Elementary, Morocco, mascot is the Morocco Beavers.

            The North Newton School Corporation was formed in 1963 with Lawrence Bannon as Superintendent. 1968 was the first year of classes at North Newton Jr.-Sr. High School.

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Fair Oaks Farms

Colfax Township

            Recognized as the #1 agritourism destination in the Midwest, Fair Oaks Farms is the nation’s leading agriculture attraction located in Colfax Township. The founders of Fair Oaks Farms, Mike and Sue McCloskey, opened their doors in 2004 with the purpose to showcase the practices and innovation of their original four dairy farms.

            Over the years they have added to the Dairy Adventure and farm tour the Pig Adventure, Crop Adventure, Mooville (an outdoor play area), the Orchard, a hotel, a cafe and restaurant, a gas/convenience store, and the production of their own farm fresh products. They continue to develop other projects such as pollinators, egg production, vertical farming, aquaculture, and the role that science, technology, engineering, and math play in the story of modern agriculture.

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Jennie Conrad

Lake Township

            One of Newton County’s largest landowners in her time, Jennie M. Conrad was the daughter of Lemuel and Jane Milk, born near Kankakee, Illinois. She came to Newton County in 1890 when she came into possession of 5,000 acres of land after her father’s death. She engaged in active farming and was one of the most successful stock and hog raisers in the state. She specialized in Aberdeen-Angus cattle and Spotted Poland China hogs. Her ranch was known as Oak Dene Farms.

            During her lifetime she spent considerable time traveling and visited many foreign lands. She was an accomplished conversationist and could speak several languages.

            When the Chicago and Southern Railroad was built in 1907, at the age of 50 she obtained a perpetual right for a station and proceeded to build her town of Conrad. A post office, church, schoolhouse, and a building for manufacturing cement building material were sufficient to make a complete town. A general store, blacksmith, and hotel would be added to the list of businesses. Homes were also built for those under Jennie’s employment.

            Jennie married George E. Conrad in September 1878. They had one son, Platt Milk Conrad 1880-1960. Jennie died on September 9, 1939, at the age of 85.

            Hard times, numerous lawsuits and payouts led Jennie to mortgage much of her 5,000 acres. By the time of her death, only 1200 acres remained. These lands were left to her son and managed by a Chicago firm until his death in 1960.

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American Chestnut Tree

Lincoln Township

            While squirrel hunting in Roselawn, Bob Hoycus spotted something on the ground that looked like sea urchins. They were green and had prickly things all over them, about the size of a billiard ball. His research included an article in National Geographic written about the American Chestnut Foundation who were trying to breed a resistant strain of chestnut tree. The photos of the burrs in the magazine looked identical to the burr he held in his hand.

            Bob tried to grow some trees from the nuts but did not realize he was planting infertile nuts – they fall first. The fertile ones fall the end of September. Eventually, Bob contacted the American Chestnut Foundation who sent a scientist to examine the tree. Turns out, it’s the largest chestnut tree in Indiana. There were actually four of them in the area. The scientist returned with pollen from his trees and then bagged the pollen with the flowers in the top of the biggest tree. He returned in the fall and harvested them. The Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center at Purdue now has Chestnut trees growing from the Roselawn tree.

            The Newton County Historical Society placed a historical marker at the site in 2010, located just west of the I-65 exit on SR 10 in Lincoln Township.

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Roselawn Street Scene

Lincoln Township

            The street scene of Roselawn was typical of many of the towns’ business districts in Newton County. The small towns that sprung up from the railroad lines in the county had a typical 1-4-block business district with the railroad depots as the main hub.
            With the draining of the marshes and the clearing of the prairies, populations grew throughout the county, creating a need for more products and services, there for enlarging the business districts.
            Original wooden structures and sidewalks would be replaced over the decades with brick-and-mortar buildings in many of the towns, in particular after a fire could destroy entire city blocks within hours.

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Diana Hunt Club

Lincoln Township

            Life along the Kankakee in northern Newton County prior to and at the turn of the century was anything but slow and meandering. Business boomed from the bountiful timber along the riverbanks; frogs, oysters and fish were drawn from its waters and served at local restaurants and many in the Chicago area; visitors would flock to the water to partake in a slow boat ride up and down the river. Hunt clubs such as the Diana Hunt Club in Thayer and The Fogli Hotel teemed with visitors from all over the world to hunt waterfowl, fish the river or simply stay awhile and enjoy the calm and cool atmosphere of the area.

            Both facilities are located along SR 55, north of Thayer in Lincoln Township. Historical markers were placed at each location in 2010 by the Newton County Historical Society.

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Life in Newton County

            The family icon is a symbol of the high quality of life we enjoy in Newton County. Many of the homes and farms boast multiple generations of ownership, with anticipation that many more will follow in their ancestor’s footsteps. Our communities were built with hard work and determination and our business districts continue to grow and thrive to meet the needs and challenges moving forward into the future. We are proud to call Newton County our home!

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Meet the Artist

            Rein Bontreger has been a local resident of both Newton and Jasper counties for the past 47 years. Moving to north of Mount Ayr at age 11 from Bremen, Indiana, he graduated from North Newton High School in 1981. He started his business, Reinforcements Design, in 1985 in Rensselaer, developing self-taught skills of airbrushing and hand lettering on signs and vehicles. In the decades since, he has expanded into various additional methods of signs, graphics and shirt printing.

            Bontreger has enjoyed large graphic challenges over the years, which has led to the recent interest in murals. In 2020, he created and painted a mural in Rensselaer’s Iroquois Park using local historical subjects and interests to complete the project.

            Utilizing that same methodology, Bontreger created this large mural on the east side of the Newton County Historical Society building highlighting various points of interest pertaining to Newton County.

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Newton County Historical Society

            It is not known when the first Newton County Historical Society came into existence, or how long they were active, but we do know that they were holding meetings from time to time at George Ade’s home, Hazelden. They had on display there several Newton County artifacts, which remain there today. During their time, the McCray home in Kentland was donated to the society, but being unable to maintain the home, the house and contents were sold. Proceeds from this sale were utilized to establish the McCray Scholarship, awarded to a Newton County graduate through 2014.

            In 1991, a group of locals interested in Newton County history, gathered together and decided to resurrect the historical society. Determined to be an active group, they began planning different programs and projects focusing on the preservation of Newton County history. The membership has grown to include 61 lifetime members!

            In 1998 Ann Lucas Scott gifted her home to the historical society. Proceeds from her farm land maintain the house and property, as well as fund the Scott-Lucas Scholarship, which is awarded annually to a North Newton graduate.

            The Family History Division was formed to act as the publishing arm of the society. Inquiries regarding Newton County families are also researched and answered by members of this group.. The republication of local histories, compilations of township histories and informative brochures are now available once again for purchase due to the efforts of this group. In 2000, the Family History Division published Volume 1 of the “Historical Coloring Book.” In 2006, Volume 2 was published. The books are distributed each year to the fourth grade classes in Newton County.

            “The Newcomer,” the society’s newsletter, first appeared in 1994-1996 containing local historical facts and photographs of Newton County. The edition was resurrected in 1999, expanding from the original 4 pages up to 32, over the years.

            A project that took priority was the walking of Newton County cemeteries and recording the inscriptions from the stones. In 1997, Vol I – Lake, McClellan, Beaver and Washington Township data was published. In time, all of the original recordings were posted on the society website, making them available to everyone.

            Since 1998 in conjunction with the Indiana Gen Web Project, a web site was created that today offers a variety of genealogical records and information for those researching their ancestry or local history.

            In 2010, in conjunction with the Newton County Sesquicentennial, landmarks in Newton County were documented in a brochure and designated on the 2010 Newton County map., giving residents the ability to make a driving tour throughout the county, visiting the landmarks. Signs were placed at each location by the society.

            Public Relations/Special Events: Our members serve as representatives of the society at public events that are held throughout the county, such as the Newton County Pun’kin Vine Fair. This group has presented cemetery walks of Riverside Cemetery in Brook and Fairlawn Cemetery in Kentland.

            They have hosted many  tours of the Resource Center to classes of Newton County third and fourth grade students presenting facts and information to them about the county.

            Display Window: This creative and inventive group are responsible for the spectacular window displays at the Resource Center in Kentland. Over the past the windows have held collections of children’s toys, celebrations of our High School Alumni Associations, Newton County Landmarks, Christmas in Newton County, and 1816: Life on the Kankakee.

            The Resource Center is located at the corner of 4th Street and US 24 in Kentland.  It is the permanent home of the society.

            The displays are a variety of artifacts and memorabilia from all aspects of the county. Our library shelves are filled with local history books, local family history records, yearbooks, county records and much more.

            Our newspaper archives include hard volumes of the Newton County Enterprise and Morocco Courier. Microfilm of these newspapers are also available. From what started as a bunch of old newspapers being stored initially in the well-house at Hazelden, it is suffice to say . . .

                “We’ve come a long way from the well house!”

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Click here to visit the Newton County Historical Society home page, and to learn more about Newton County History!