Indiana: Noble County

Noble County (pop. 47,536) is west of DeKalb County. The only other Noble counties are in Ohio and Oklahoma.

The county was named for Noah Noble (1794-1844), fifth governor of the state of Indiana.

Served 1831-37

The county seat of Noble County is the town of Albion (pop. 2,349). The courthouse was built in 1887.

Richardsonian Romanesque style

Earl Butz (1909-2008), Secretary of Agriculture under Presidents Nixon and Ford, was born in Albion and grew up on a Noble County dairy farm. He was one of seven students in his high school graduating class.

Also Dean of Agriculture at Purdue

The largest city in Noble County is Kendallsville (pop. 9,862), home of the Mid-America Windmill Museum,

52 windmills on display

The Strand Theatre in Kendallsville opened in 1890 as the Spencer Opera House. It’s still showing first-run movies.

Twinned in 1980

Every October, the city of Ligonier (pop. 4,405) is the site of Pumpkin Fantasyland, with a variety of pumpkin displays and activities.

Pumpkins as presidents

Ford C. Frick (1894-1978), Commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1951 to 1965, grew up in Noble County and went to high school in the town of Rome City (pop. 1,361).

1961 baseball card

Chain O’Lakes State Park, popular with boaters, has eight connecting lakes and 11 lakes total. Illinois also has a Chain O’Lakes State Park.

The lakes are 20-65 feet deep.


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Indiana: DeKalb County

DeKalb County (pop. 42,223) is south of Steuben County and just west of Ohio.

It’s one of six DeKalb counties in the U.S., all named for Johann von Robais, Baron de Kalb (1721-1780), a French military officer who served as a major general in the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War.

He died in the Battle of Camden.

The county seat of DeKalb County is the city of Auburn (pop. 13,086).

DeKalb County Courthouse (1905)

Auburn is known as the “Home of the Classics” because of its history of producing luxury automobiles. The Auburn Automobile Company was founded in Auburn and went out of business in 1937.

The Auburn Automobile Company made Duesenberg cars from 1926 until Duesenberg folded in 1937.

1931 Duesenberg Torpedo Phaeton

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, located in the company’s former buildings, has a collection of about 125 vehicles.

The former showroom

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival is held annually on Labor Day weekend.

The Parade of Classics

Auburn is also the home of the Early Ford V-8 Foundation and Museum, “preserving 1932-1953 Ford history.”

Founded in 1991

Auburn is one of four communities in DeKalb County (along with Butler, Garrett, and Waterloo) with community mausoleums, built between 1914 and 1922. All are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Roselawn Cemetery, Auburn

The city of Garrett (pop. 6,286) was the hometown of silent film star John Bowers (born John Bowersox in 1885), whose career collapsed with the beginning of “talkies” and who apparently committed suicide in 1936 in the Pacific Ocean near Malibu.

On the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Amtrak’s “Capitol Limited” (between Washington, D.C., and Chicago) and “Lake Shore Limited” (between New York City and Chicago) stop in the town of Waterloo (pop. 2,242) – each one daily, in both directions.

2-3 hours from Chicago


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Indiana: Steuben County

Steuben County (pop. 34,185) is in the northeastern corner of Indiana, adjacent to Michigan and Ohio. The only other Steuben County is in New York.

The county was named for Prussian-born Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand Steuben (1730-1794), better known as Baron von Steuben. He was an American military officer during the Revolutionary War.

Gen. Washington’s chief of staff

With more than 100 lakes, the county has long been a popular area for visitors.

Clear Lake’s population goes from 300 in winter to 2,000 in summer.

The county seat of Steuben County is the city of Angola (pop. 8,612).

Steuben County Courthouse (1868)

Downtown Angola is centered on a traffic circle that has a monument in the middle, dedicated to the local men who fought in the Civil War.

Built in 1917

Angola is the home of Trine University, a private university founded in 1884. Its name was changed from Tri-State University in 2008, in honor of Ralph and Sheri Trine, owners of Angola-based Vestil Manufacturing Corp.

About 1,700 students on the Angola campus

From 1956 to 2008, Angola had a small amusement park called the Fun Spot. It had 30 rides, including three roller coasters.

In 2007

Notorious 19th-century criminal Sile Doty (1800-1876) was based in Angola for some years, and he once broke out of the Angola jail.

Horse thief, counterfeiter, robber, gang leader

In the nearby town of Hudson (pop. 518), the Gangsters Grille restaurant is located in the former Farmers State Bank – allegedly robbed by John Dillinger and gang in 1933.

“Food this good should be criminal”

Pokagon State Park, north of Angola, was named for Potawatomi Indian chief Leopold Pokagon (1775-1841) and his son Simon Pokagon (1830-1899).

Potawatomi Inn (1927)

In winter, the park is popular for its quarter-mile, refrigerated toboggan run, with a vertical drop of 90 feet. Top speed is about 40 mph. The original slide opened in 1935.


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Indiana: LaGrange County

LaGrange County (pop. 37,128)  is east of Elkhart County. It’s the only LaGrange County in the U.S.

The county was named for the Chateau de la Grange-Bleneau in France, east of Paris. The chateau was the home of the Marquis de Lafayette from 1802 to 1834.

The towers date from the 15th century.

The 126-mile Indiana Toll Road (part of Interstate 90) runs across the northern part of the county. The Toll Road connects the Chicago Skyway with the Ohio Turnpike.

Along with Elkhart County, LaGrange County is considered part of “Northern Indiana Amish Country.”

The county seat of LaGrange County is the town of LaGrange (pop. 2,625).

Downtown mural

The LaGrange County Courthouse was built in 1878 of red brick and Indiana limestone.

Famous for its bell tower

West of LaGrange is the town of Shipshewana (pop. 658), well-known for its manufacturers of hand-crafted Amish furniture.

Information center in Shipshewana

The Shipshewana Quilt Festival is a major annual event for quilters.

June 22-25, 2016

The Shipshewana Auction and Flea Market has antique auctions all year. The Flea Market (May to October) is the Midwest’s largest flea market.

Dating from the 1920s

The Howe Military Academy is in the unincorporated community of Howe. The academy, which dates from 1884, is a coeducational, college-preparatory boarding school for grades 7-12.


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Indiana: Elkhart County

Elkhart County (pop. 197,559) is east of St. Joseph County, along the border with Michigan.

The origin of the name “Elkhart” is uncertain. One theory is that the island on the Elkhart River in downtown Elkhart is shaped like an elk’s heart, as viewed from above.

Aerial views were not available when it was named.

The county’s population has grown consistently over the years (it was 84,000 in 1950), mainly because of the recreational vehicle industry. More than half of American RVs are made in Elkhart County.

Elkhart (pop. 50,949) is the county’s largest city. The RV/MH Hall of Fame is just northeast of the city.

Interior of the RV museum

Elkhart is also the home of the National New York Central Railroad Museum, established in 1987 to honor the now-defunct railroad line that ran through Elkhart between New York City and Chicago.

The railroad had 11,000 miles of tracks.

The Robert Young Yard in Elkhart is the largest railroad classification yard (where freight cars are sorted) east of the Mississippi.

View from the air

Elkhart has also been known as “The Band Instrument Capital of the World” because of the many factories making instruments – down from about 60, years ago, to just a few today.

The Lerner Theatre in Elkhart dates from 1924. It now has a variety of concerts and theatrical events.

A movie theater until 1987

At the corner of Lexington Avenue and Riverside Drive in Elkhart, dentist Joseph Stamp embedded many of the teeth that he’d pulled into a concrete block in front of his office.

There’s no charge to view it.

The Hall of Heroes Museum in Elkhart is “the only Super Hero and Comic Book Museum in the world.” It has more than 60,000 comic books, plus more than 10,000 toys, figures, and props.

Built in 2006

The county seat of Elkhart County is the city of Goshen (pop. 31,719), home of the Elkhart County 4-H Fair and Goshen College, a liberal-arts school affiliated with the Mennonite Church.

Elkhart County Courthouse (1870, renovated 1908)

Film director Howard Hawks (1896-1977) was born in Goshen, where his family owned the Goshen Milling Company. The family later moved to Pasadena, California.

Elkhart County has a significant Amish population. In Nappanee (the longest city name in the U.S. containing each letter in its name twice) is Amish Acres, an Amish tourist attraction.

An 80-acre farmstead


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Indiana: St. Joseph County

St. Joseph County (pop. 266,931) is Indiana’s fifth-largest county in population. The only other St. Joseph County is in Michigan, just a few miles to the northeast.

The county was named for the 206-mile St. Joseph River, which flows through Michigan and Indiana into Lake Michigan. It flows through downtown South Bend.

The bend in the river gave the city its name.

The county seat of St. Joseph County is South Bend (pop. 101,168). The city reached its peak population of 132,445 in 1960.

Old Courthouse (1855)

The Studebaker Corporation was founded and headquartered in South Bend. Its South Bend automobile plant closed in 1963, and the company went out of business in 1967.

Studebaker National Museum, South Bend

A former Studebaker test track – now a park – has a group of trees that were planted in 1937 to spell “Studebaker’ (as seen from above).

Bendix Woods County Park

The restored Palace Theatre (1921), now the Morris Performing Arts Center, hosts the South Bend Symphony Orchestra and touring Broadway shows.

Saved from demolition in the 1960s

Tippecanoe Place, built in 1889 as a home for the Studebaker family, is now a restaurant.

Richardsonian Romanesque style

The South Bend Cubs, single-A Midwest League affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, play at Four Winds Field at Covelski Stadium (1987). The gift shop is a former synagogue, adjacent to the stadium.

Sons of Israel Synagogue (1901)

South Bend’s Union Station (1929) is now used as a data center for Global Access Point, a telecommunications company. Amtrak uses a small, newer station, located two miles west of downtown.

It was across the street from the Studebaker factory.

The former East Race Canal in South Band was converted in 1984 to the East Race Waterway – the first artificial whitewater waterway in North America. It is open June-August.

1,900 feet long

South Bend is most famous for the University of Notre Dame – which is not actually in South Bend, but in the census-designated place of  Notre Dame, just north of South Bend.

The city of Mishawaka (pop. 48,252), just east of South Bend, has an AM General assembly plant that built Hummer H2s until 2010. It’s now building Mercedes-Benz SUVs for export to China.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hummer


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Indiana: LaPorte County

LaPorte County (pop. 111,467), east of Porter County, is Indiana’s second-largest county in square miles.

The county is considered part of Michiana, a seven-county area in northwestern Indiana and southwestern Michigan. The name dates from 1934, when it was the winner of a contest held by South Bend merchants.

The county seat of LaPorte County is the city of LaPorte (pop. 22,053). The Courthouse dates from 1894.

Richardsonian Romanesque style

In the late 19th century, LaPorte was the home of the Parsons Horological Institute – the first watchmaking school in the country. After a few years, the school was moved to Peoria, Illinois.

It became part of Bradley Polytechnic Institute.

The LaPorte County Historical Society Museum has a display on Belle Gunness (born 1858), a local Norwegian immigrant and serial killer who reportedly murdered 25-40 people (including her suitors, husbands, and children) before disappearing from the area.

6 feet tall, 200 pounds

The largest city in LaPorte County is Michigan City (pop. 31,479), on Lake Michigan. Michigan City reached its peak population of 39,369 in 1970.

Barker Mansion (1855)

The 90-mile South Shore Line, one of America’s few remaining interurban railroads, runs down the middle of 11th Street in Michigan City.

It runs from downtown Chicago to the South Bend airport.

Pitcher Don Larsen, who threw the only perfect game in World Series history (for the Yankees in 1956), was born in Michigan City in 1929.

Celebrating with catcher Yogi Berra

The Michigan City East Lighthouse was built in 1904. One of Indiana’s few lighthouses, it has an unusual iron walkway (no longer in use) above the pier.

Now a museum

The Washington Park Zoo in Michigan City has a 70-foot observation tower, open to the public.

A WPA project from 1937

Purdue University North Central is south of Michigan City, near the town of Westville (pop. 5,857). It has about 4,000 students.


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Indiana: Porter County

Porter County (pop. 164,343) is east of Lake County, on the shores of Lake Michigan. Its southern border is the 133-mile Kankakee River, a tributary of the Illinois River.

The only Porter County in the U.S.

The county was named for naval officer David Porter (1780-1843), who served in the War of 1812.

Portrayed by Jeff Chandler in this 1952 movie

The 15,000-acre Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has 15 disconnected pieces of land along a 25-mile stretch of Lake Michigan. Indiana Dunes State Park is within the national lakeshore.

Indiana Dunes in the 1960s

The county seat of Porter County is the city of Valparaiso (pop. 31,730).

Porter County Courthouse (1883)

The city was originally named Portersville, but it was changed in 1837 to Valparaiso after Valparaiso, Chile, where David Porter captained U.S. ships against the English in the War of 1812 Battle of Valparaiso.

Valparaiso is the home of Valparaiso University, founded in 1859 as one of the first coeducational colleges in the U.S. It has about 4,500 students. It is now affiliated with the Lutheran church.

Chapel of the Resurrection (1959)

The old Porter County Jail and Sheriff’s House (1871) now contains the Porter County Museum of History.

The jail moved out in 1974.

Indiana-born businessman Orville Redenbacher had his popcorn business in Valparaiso. The city has had an annual Popcorn Festival since 1979.

Orvillle statue

The largest city in Porter County is Portage (pop. 36,828), along Lake Michigan.

Chicago skyline is visible across the lake.

Farther east, in the town of Beverly Shores (pop. 613), are five buildings that were moved from the “Homes of Tomorrow” exhibition at the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago.

Florida Tropical House


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Indiana: Lake County

We begin our virtual tour of Indiana’s 92 counties in Lake County (pop. 496,005), along Lake Michigan in the northwestern corner of the state. Lake County is Indiana’s second-most-populous county.

This is the route that we’ll be taking around the state. We will end in Posey County, in the southwestern corner, sometime next fall.

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The county seat of Lake County is the city of Crown Point (pop. 27,317). The old Lake County Courthouse now has shops, offices, and the Lake County Historical Museum.

Built in 1880

In the Courthouse basement is the John Dillinger Museum, dedicated to the notorious Indiana-born gangster (1903-34), who once broke out of the local jail. Dillinger’s “death pants” are on display.

Replica of Chicago theater where Dillinger died

In the early 20th century, Crown Point was known as the “Marriage Mill,” because marriage licenses could be obtained so quickly. Actor Rudolph Valentino was married there in 1923 and boxer Muhammad Ali in 1964.

“The Shiek” (1921)

The largest city in Lake County is Hammond (pop. 80,830). Hammond was the hometown of humorist Jean Shepherd (1921-99), who wrote and narrated the 1983 film “A Christmas Story – full of memories of his childhood there.

Pole-licker statue, Hammond

Thanks to Meredith Willson’s 1957 musical “The Music Man” and the 1962 movie, Gary (pop. 80,294) is easily the best-known city in Lake County.

Gary’s population is less than half of what it was in 1960 (178,320). Its fortunes have declined with the shrinking of employment in the local steel mills.

The Jackson 5, and all of the Jackson family of their generation, were born in Gary. The family moved to California in 1968, when they started recording for Motown.

The city of East Chicago (pop. 29,698), just west of Gary, was the site of Marktown, a planned community for industrial workers, established in 1917. The sidewalks were for cars, and the streets were for pedestrians.

Homes are still standing, but surrounded by an industrial area.

ArcelorMittal’s Indiana Harbor complex in East Chicago is the largest steel mill in the U.S. The mill complex was formerly operated by Inland Steel and Youngstown Sheet and Tube.

Indiana Harbor Works

Greg Popovich, coach of the NBA San Antonio Spurs, was born in East Chicago and grew up in the area.

He played basketball at the Air Force Academy.

At a four-way stop in Hanover Township, south of Hammond, drivers have been throwing their old shoes at the side of the road for many years. The shoes are collected each week and donated to charity.

109th and Calumet avenues


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