La Porte County originally had 3 townships; now there are 21. How many in the future?

A map showing La Porte County’s townships. (Click to enlarge)

By Fern Eddy Schultz, La Porte County Historian

When we first became La Porte County on 09 January 1832, we had three townships: New Durham, Scipio and Kankakee. On 28 January 1842, we added Van Buren Township from Starke County to our county. That area was originally annexed to La Porte County because the Kankakee River formed a natural barrier between the townships and Starke County, making it impassable during the major part of the year except by canoe. This was later divided into four townships: Cass, Dewey, Hanna and Prairie townships. In 1904, there was a movement to have these four townships re-annexed to Starke County. The move was opposed and did not occur. In 1904, Washington Township became the last to be formed in La Porte County, making our total 21.

New Durham Township was one of the original three. The Miriam Benedict family is credited with erecting the first log cabins in Westville, having arrived in what was to become La Porte County on 15 March 1829. “The Widow Benedict was given the honor of naming the new territory and she chose the name New Durham in honor of her old home, Durham in Greene County, New York,” according to historic records.  

La Porte County Historian Fern Eddy Schultz

Scipio Township is also one of the original three. It is unknown why it was given this name.  Kankakee was third of the original three. It was so named probably because the Kankakee River ran through it.

Michigan Township was formed 04 September 1833 from New Durham Township. It is believed it was called Michigan because a large part of it consists of the water of Lake Michigan.

Centre (later to be Center) Township formed 05 November 1833 from Scipio. It was probably so named because of its location so near the center of the county as it was established at that time.

Pleasant Township formed on 03 March 1834 from Kankakee. In June 1850, the remaining part of the designated territory after the attachment of six sections to Wills became a part of Pleasant. The name seems to have been given because it was located in what was thought to be one of the most beautiful and attractive parts of the county.

Wills Township formed 03 March 1834 from Kankakee. It was named for John Wills, the first man who with his family, settled in this locality. In June 1850, the part of the designated territory that lay east of Wills, consisting of six sections, was attached to Wills.

Springfield Township formed 06 January 1835 from Centre. Galena formed 09 March 1836 from Kankakee. Clinton formed 09 March 1836 from New Durham. Coolspring formed 09 March 1836 from Michigan. Noble formed 09 March 1836 from Scipio. Also on that latter date, a move was made to form Madison Township from Pleasant. It was an unpopular move and the resolution was canceled. The remaining part of Van Buren became part of Noble Township on 11 March 1850. Hudson, the smallest township in the county, was formed 11 May 1836 from Wills. Union was formed 04 March 1840 from Pleasant.

Van Buren, in Starke County, became a part of La Porte County on 28 January 1842. Cass Township was formed 12 June 1848 from Van Buren. “The political parties then were the Whigs and wanted the township called Harrison. The Democrats wanted it called Cass. Lots were drawn with the Democrats winning. Thus the name Cass Township was born,” according to historical accounts.

Dewey Township was formed from the southern part of Cass 08 June 1860. “The township received the name of Dewey from the Luke B. Dewey family, early pioneers who came to the area in 1857.” Family information about Luke may be found in the La Crosse Centennial book.  

Hanna Township was formed 11 March 1861. After the formation of Dewey Township, the people of what is now Hanna Township petitioned to become a part of Noble Township. There is no record of this coming about. On 12 March 1861, a petition was circulated to establish a new township called Anderson.  The lines were so confusing, the county commissioners called a special meeting 23 March 1861 and rescinded the order to create the township.

Johnson Township was formed by 1870 from Pleasant. It was named for President Andrew Johnson. Lincoln Township was formed by 1870 from Pleasant. This was the first township in Indiana to be named for Lincoln. Prairie Township was formed in 1902 from Hanna. Washington Township was formed from Union as of 05 April 1904, becoming the last (and 21st) township to be formed in La Porte County.

As of 1904, it was reported that La Porte County had the largest number of townships of any county in the state, with Allen County following closely with 20. At that time, there were two counties in Indiana, each having four townships. Today, there are 1,008 townships in Indiana.  

Indiana’s least-populated townships face forced mergers with their neighbors. Since the inception of the governmental township, the duties of that entity have changed from being responsible for schools, roads, libraries, property assessment and many others, to basically fire protection, emergency response and poor relief. These mergers, if approved, will considerably decrease the number of townships in Indiana.

FERN EDDY SCHULTZ is La Porte County’s official Historian. For more information on our fascinating local history, visit www.laportecountyhistory.org and the La Porte County Historical Society Museum. 

One Response to “La Porte County originally had 3 townships; now there are 21. How many in the future?”

  1. Tim

    Feb 10. 2018

    Interesting article thank you for putting it together.
    My great, great, great grandfather Daniel Carpenter (one of the men who helped build the Door Village fort.) settled in Kankakee Township in 1827. His farm grew to 260 acres by the end of the century. Myself and my family still live on part of the land that he settled.

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