Story of the Marsh

I have mentioned the Grand Kankakee Marsh before. My father was born north of Hamlet in 1893 on an “island”. Any little sand knoll or rise out of the water of the marsh was called an “island”. All of the islands were named. There was Crab Island, Coon Ridge, White Woman’s Island and on and on. These names are often mentioned in the old history books, but very seldom identified as to where they are.

Before 1900, the only way my father and his family could get to Hamlet (the nearest trading area) was by boat. Or perhaps in a real dry season, by horseback. Or walking in the winter time on top of the ice. Grandma didn’t really like this type of pioneer living, so eventually she and Grandpa sold the land and moved to Knox in 1897. Grandma liked a little more social life. Remember, no cell phones, not even a land phone, no TV’s, no radios, no mail service out in this location. They were on their own.

That was before the area was drained.

A new documentary has just been produced about this marsh, which included much of Starke County. It is called Everglades of the North – the story of the Grand Kankakee Marsh. A promo of this great video can be seen at –

The full one-hour program has just been released and can be viewed:

Monday, November 5 on WYIN, Lakeshore Public Television in Merrillville, IN – 8 p.m. CST.
Thursday, November 8 on WNIT Public Television in South Bend at 8 p.m. EST (7 p.m. CST).

Former Starke County Historian, Marvin Allen, was interviewed at our museum by the production crew, and will appear in the film. This story is part of Starke County history. I hope you enjoy it.

Jim Shilling
Starke County Historical Society