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.

NEXT: ST. JOSEPH COUNTY

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Michigan: Cass County

Cass County (pop. 52,293), is east of Berrien County. With 508 total square miles, it is Michigan’s smallest county.

It is one of nine Cass counties in the U.S. and one of eight named for Lewis Cass (1782-1866), territorial governor of Michigan and later secretary of war in the Andrew Jackson administration.

Born in New Hampshire

Cass County is considered one of Michigan’s 10 “Cabinet counties,” named for Andrew Jackson and the men in his cabinet (Barry, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Eaton, Ingham, Livingston, Van Buren).

Most were created in 1829.

The county seat of Cass County is the village of Cassopolis (pop. 1,774).

Cass County Courthouse (1899)

Lawyer-politician Dennis Archer grew up in Cassopolis; Archer has been a justice on the Michigan Supreme Court, mayor of Detroit (1993-2001), and president of the American Bar Association.

He taught school in Detroit before becoming a lawyer.

The largest city in Cass County is Dowagiac (pop. 5,879).

Dowagiac Amtrak station (1903)

Dowagiac has one of Michigan’s few remaining drive-in movies – the 5-Mile Drive-In.

It opened in 1961.

Cass County has more than 100 lakes; the village of Edwardsburg (pop. 1,259) is the home of Lunker’s, which claims to be one of the largest hunting, fishing, and outdoor stores in the U.S.

Opened in 1985

The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Pokagon (1876), in Pokagon Township, was the site of the first public performance of the hymn “The Old Rugged Cross, ” in 1913.

Written by the Rev. George Bennard

The Swiss Valley Ski and Snowboard Area is in the eastern part of Cass County.

Lighted for night skiing

Cass and Berrien counties are in an area informally called “Michiana,” centered on adjacent St. Joseph County, Indiana, and its county seat, South Bend.

“Touchdown Jesus,” Notre Dame University

NEXT: ST. JOSEPH COUNTY

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