St. Joseph County

(Photo Left: St Joseph County, Liberty Township Map 1895 -Walkerton Area Historical Society-

The Kankakee River rises from the springs and swamplands of Northwest Indiana about three or four miles southwest of the southernmost bend of the St. Joseph River, where the City of South Bend is located. The village of Crumstown is considered the nearest settlement to the marshes that indicate the beginning of the river.


The Kankakee River and marsh at one time featured several large lakes. In St. Joseph County there was a lake known as Mudd Lake. Like English Lake downstream, the old channel of the Kankakee River flowed down the middle. It was located in both Liberty and Lincoln Townships. When the marsh was drained and the channel straightened, Mudd Lake disappeared. Pictured right is a composite map parts of the two townships showing Mudd Lake, circa 1875. -Walkerton Area Historical Society-





The Florence House, Walkerton.. This hotel may have been a haven for hunters. "The huntsman, starting from Walkerton on the B. & O. R. R. west for eight or ten miles - or on the L. E. & W. R. R. north for a distance of six or eight miles, can strike the marsh and enjoy a glorious day's shoot, getting back to his hotel by the evening trains in good time for supper." according to article in the St. Joseph County Independent, August 22, 1891, published in Walkerton. Walkerton Area Historical Society photo




LaPorte and Starke Counties.

Photo Left: Early 1900 log cabin near Fish Lake. -Geof Burns Collection- Fish Lake is a lake formed by glacier activity and is close to the former Kankakee Marsh. It was once a spot for sportsmen. After dredging and channelization of the Kankakee upper and lower Fish Lake was surrounded by fertile farm land. Upper and Lower Fish Lake were once the site of a bustling ice business. Before modern refrigeration, large blocks of ice were used in refrigerators to keep food cold. Obviously this ice had to be cut in winter from bodies of fresh water, stored in insulated warehouses, and shipped to where it was needed in the summer. Upper and Lower Fish Lakes were perfect for this industry. In 1888 and 1889, Swift and Co., Chicago meat packers, bought the land around both of the lakes. Construction of 3 huge ice houses with elevators on the outside for the ice was begun in 1889. Two of these buildings were 50 feet high, 250 feet long, and 280 feet wide. A boarding house and horse barn were also built. During the winter work season, 300 to 400 men would be sent to Fish Lake from Chicago to harvest ice for Swift and Co. refrigerators. Horses were used to haul the ice plows which cut the lakes into ice blocks. These blocks were then conveyed up into the ice house and covered with a layer of marsh hay for insulation. In the early 1900's, two of the ice houses were struck by lightning and burned. Until 1930, when ice cutting ceased on Fish Lake, many Swift and Co. employees took their summer vacations here. In 1935, Swift and Co. sold all their Fish Lake holdings. The buildings were torn down and the land staked out in lot sizes. In 1937,the South Town Beach Club bought the land and Fish Lake began to grow into the residential area it is today.


Photo Left: The Wray Family and Hattie Pope enjoy the river. Right: A spot known as whirlpool. Both Mary Helen Wray Photos, Walkerton Area Historical Society.


Photos Left: The Wray kids on the river at a location known as Blue Hole. It was a popular fishing spot, 1913. Right: A group pose on the river. Front center: Don Wray. Left at the back of the boat: Elizabeth Thomas and her Aunt May Thomas. Also in the boat is Dick Thomas (Not shown well) Others are unnamed. Mary Helen Wray Photos, Walkerton Area Historical Society.

Built in 1880, the Mac-Saw-Ba Club (Left) was the destination of many Illinois hunters and fishermen. The club was started by Joseph Leiter and included members from Chicago and Fort Wayne. It was located at a place once known as Davis Station on the PRR.  The members of Mac-Saw-Ba would arrive at the Davis Station depot and walk to the clubhouse. The clubhouse at Mac-Saw-Ba featured many rooms with a long ballroom on the top floor where dances were held. The club was located on the Kankakee knoll until 1915 when the clubhouse was destroyed by fire. -Starke County Historical Museum Collection-







The Nickel Plate Gun Club was located on the south bank of the river, close to the Nickel Plate Railroad.  This location was also known as Chambers Landing. It is not known if this club was founded by employees of the Nickel Plate, or just took the name because the club was close to the railroad. The Norfolk Southern Railroad continues to run through this area to this day. Photo Below Right: The Chambers Clubhouse Bridge, circa 1940. This bridge is near where the Nickel Plate Gun Club was located. Starke County Historical Museum Collection








English Lake

1871 Starke County map which shows the location and size of English Lake. -Starke County Historical Museum-

Before drainage, the Kankakee River expanded in places two miles wide and more than five miles long, creating a body of water known as English Lake.  When the river was channelized, the lake was vanished, although the town of English Lake still remains.


Photos (Left) Old house boat at English Lake. (Right) Old saloon in English Lake1892. This building remains today. -Starke County Historical Society-


Photos (Left) Boating party on the shores of English Lake. Unknown date. (right) One of many boathouses along English Lake. The Haegele Ice Company Ice House in in the background to the right -Starke County Historical Society-

Founded in the 1880’s, The English Lake Land Company, built a three story building in 1884. The club stood on the north side of the Kankakee River, near the “lake.” Its official name was the English Lake Land Company. It was also known as The Chicago Shooting and Fishing Club. It boasted 75 members, all millionaires. The club dissolved in 1913 when the marsh was drained, but reorganized as the Alpine Hunt Club. It is the only hunting lodge still standing along the Kankakee River in LaPorte County. The Alpine Sport Club was located in the heart of the marsh along a channel of the Kankakee, since dried up, and was unusual in having a direct rail connection with Chicago. Trains used to stop in front of the lodge in its heyday. At one time there were perhaps a dozen boathouses in a ring near the main building; only one of these remains today. Only part of the entire hunting lodge complex is left: the main lodge, the dining hall, one boathouse, and the wine cellar. Although no longer in use as a hunting club, the main lodge building is in excellent shape. Three stories in height, this lodge was used as sleeping quarters for the club members and still contains many of the original furnishings. The small building across from the main lodge was the club's dining hall. The wine cellar is behind this building. This club is privately owned, so please respect the rights of the owner. Do not trespass.



Photos (Left) The English Lake Gun Club/ Alpine Hunt Club, circa 2009. -Jim Wolfe Photo- (Right) English Lake Gun Club, date unknown. -Starke County Historical Museum-

Also near English Lake was land owned by Lew Wallace (1827-1905). Wallace spent many months at English Lake, and had this to say about the place: "Never, in all my world travels, have I found a more perfect spot, not a more tantalizing river." Lewis Wallace served in the Mexican War, and as a Major General in the Civil War was cited for his part in the capture of Ft. Donnellson in Tennessee in 1862. Afterwards, he practiced law at Crawfordsville and is well-known as author of Ben Hur, published in 1880. He owned a half acre of waterfront property near one of the clubs, and also 640 acres of marsh land as his private hunting and fishing grounds. He lived in a houseboat he called the "White Elephant," where he spent hours writing in solitude amidst the beauty of unspoiled nature. Wallace kept his steam launch and house boat for a lot of the time at Baum's Bridge. He also kept it at the Pittsburgh Club at Baum's Bridge. With the help of his son, Henry, the general also entertained local guests and his old friends from southern Indiana. Photo Left: Lew Wallace and friend George Wilcox at Wallace's Houseboat -Starke County Historical Society-

Photo Right: Lew Wallace fishing on his property near English Lake. -Starke County Historical Society-







The Ben Hur Club was located near English Lake. This landing was near a cabin owned by William Hine, a Civil War veteran. Mr. Hine was friends with Lew Wallace. Hine named one of his boats Ben Hur as a tribute to his friend Lew Wallace. This boat resides in the Starke County Historical Museum. Starke County Historical Museum Collection



Photo Right: On the river near Lomax. Ben Hur Club boat is picture, along with a group of people. The Erie Railroad bridge is also pictured. -Starke County Historical Society-








Photos (Left) Ben Hur Club Landing and boat, Ben Hur. (Right) Another shot of the Ben Hur. -Starke County Historical Society-

Other known English Lake area clubs included the Brighton Rod and Gun Club established in 1897 and the Railroad Club, both served by PRR at English Lake.

Riverside/ Wilders

Riverside was a stop along the CIL Railroad, on the LaPorte County (North) side of the Kankakee River. At one time several small hotels and clubs there catered to sportsmen.

(Photo Left:) River scene at Riverside. Date is 1915. Unknown if any of the building in the distance are sporting lodges or not. -Starke County Historical Museum- (Photo Right:) The CI&L (Monon) bridge at Riverside. The image is marked Dunn's Resort, but this bridge is in fact the CI&L bridge. -Indiana Historical Society-








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