Podcast – History of Pokagon Staten Park Part 2

History of Pokagon Staten Park Part 2

Podcast – History of Pokagon Staten Park Part 2


From the Book:
Pokagon Indiana State Park
Last week I discussed the original inhabitants of the Pokagon State Park area, the Pokagon tribe. This week I will discuss the geology of the park and its establishment in 1925.

The land that makes up Pokagon State Park formed during the last Ice Age. This Ice Age occurred during an age called by scientists the Pleistocene Age. The Pleistocene began about two million years ago and ended about 12,000 years ago. During this era the earth was about ten degrees cooler than it is now. Huge glaciers covered the Northern Hemisphere. Glaciers covered large areas of North America and Europe. Sometime around 12,000 years ago the climate began to warm and the glaciers melted. The retreating glaciers left behind multitudes of geographical features that include the kettle lakes, glacial erratic’s, marshes, moraines and kames. The glacier that covered Pokagon State Park geologists call the Wisconsin, with the Saginaw lobe extending over this part of northern Indiana. Hikers will find rock piles and huge boulders near the trails that appear to have dropped from the sky. These were deposited by the glaciers as they melted and retreated north. Steuben County, the home of Pokagon State Park, has more natural lakes than any other county in Indiana.

During this vast period of time four episodes of extensive glaciation covered most of what is now Indiana. These glaciers created two completely different landscapes. Roughly the northern two thirds comprise what geologists call the Tipton Till. Glaciers covered this area during all four glacial events. The southern third was probably never touched by the glaciers. It is a hilly, heavily forested land that still bears the marks of the vast water runoff that occurred when the Ice Age finally ended around 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.

The Huron-Erie Lobe is the glacier that covered Indiana during the last glacial event. Scientists estimate that the average temperature of the earth was about six to twelve degrees Celsius colder than it is now. Sometime about two million years ago, Earth’s climate cooled. Over vast regions of what is now Canada and North America the temperature dropped below freezing and remained there thorough the year. Snow fell and did not melt. More layers of snow covered this un-melted snow, building up layer after layer of snow. This weight of the accumulated snow turned the snow to ice. The ice formed layers up to two miles thick in the Great Lakes region. Over central Indiana the glaciers were probably a mile thick. This gradually diminished as the ice reached its margins.

The glaciers at their greatest extent in Europe covered the northern two thirds of England, most of Scandinavia and large areas of northwest Russia.

The pressure deep in the ice field caused the ice to become almost fluid in its movements. The ice flowed over the landscape, carving out rivers and lakes. It also created hills and the dune area around Lake Michigan. The weight of the ice sheet created the Great Lakes basin, then filled that basin with meltwater when the temperatures warmed and the ice melted. Geologist estimate that the ice moved about a foot a day, first advancing, then retreating. Always grinding the terrain beneath it and changing it.

Sometime around 20,000 years ago, the earth began a slow warming trend. The next 10,000 year the average temperature rose about 3.5 degrees Celsius. The vast quantities of water in the immense ice sheets created much lower sea levels than we have today. As the temperatures warmed, the ice sheets began to melt. Sea levels began rising and humans had to abandon many of their coastal dwellings as the ocean engulfed them.

The ice composed the landscape that now makes up Pokagon State park. Originally proposed as Lake James State Park in 1925, officials changed the name in honor of the Pokagons. Many of the buildings date from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). During the Depression the CCC workers lived and worked on this park and many other of the original Indiana State Parks constructing shelters, trails, bridges and other structures.

The Potawatomi Indians moved into the area, following an earlier group of natives called the Mound Builders. The Potawatomi lived, hunted and fished in this area from approximately the 1700’s until the 1821 Treaty of Chicago. The tribes then moved west after selling the land to the whites for about three cents an acre. This treaty included the land that now includes Chicago. Some of the Potawatomi continued to live in the area until the 1833 Treaty of Chicago. At that point the government forcibly moved the remaining natives out of the area except for a small band under Leopold and Pokagon and his son Simon Pokagon, who managed to negotiate a treaty for their small band to remain. Pokagon State Park takes its name from this father and son team.

During the Great Depression the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) moved into Pokagon State Park
Company 556 of the Civilian Conservation Corps set up camp in 1934. The first task the men undertook was to build temporary structures to house and feed them. The twelve buildings included barracks, an office, a mess hall, shower house, bathrooms, officers’ quarters and kitchen. About 180 men were stationed at the camp at any one time.

Company 556 broke up in 1942, after which the buildings were dismantled and moved to Angola’s Tri-State (Trine) University for use as married students quarters and other uses. Most of these buildings have since been razed. Even though Pokagon State Park staff knew approximately where the camp was, it wasn’t until 1998 that Pokagon park interpreter, Fred Wooley discovered the concrete base of the flagpole. Since then the approximate locations of the buildings has been determined, a flagpole installed on the original base and provided mowed paths to the camp’s location. The Pocket Museum at the gatehouse of the park chronicles the history of Company 556.

Established by executive order on April 5, 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the CCC served as one of the most important parts of Roosevelt’s New Deal program to deal with the high unemployment during the Great Depression. The United States Army helped provide transportation for the men that would work on environmental conservation projects around the United States. By July 1, 1933 the CCC had established 1433 camps around the country, providing jobs for 300,000 men. By 1935 the CCC would have 2600 camps with almost three million workers. The CCC built 97,000 miles of roadway, planted 2.3 billion trees, developed 800 state parks and over 13,000 miles of hiking trails in those parks. Additionally, the men of the CCC stocked lakes and rivers with over one million fish and constructed 3470 fire towers. To enlist in the CCC the men had to be United States citizens, in good physical shape, single and between the ages of 17 and 23. The CCC later raised this age to 26. The monthly pay was $30.00 per month. They had to send $25.00 per month home to their families. The CCC added an educational program, which enabled over 40,000 illiterate men to learn to read and write.

Potawatomi Inn
History of the Inn
Steuben County residents purchased 580 acres of land adjacent to Lake James and Snow Lake in 1925 after which they gifted the tract to the State of Indiana to use as the site for an inn. Construction of the inn commenced in 1927 and completed in 1927. The inn featured 40 rooms, each with its own bathroom, a long porch that faced Lake James. The porch was enclosed in the 1960’s when additional rooms were added to the inn. In 1980’s the inn added the swimming pool and deck area followed by the addition of additional conference room space and rooms in the 1990’s. The Lonidaw Lounge, whose name derives from Chief Simon Pokegon’s wife’s name, served as the original check in area and lounge.

This story is exerpted from my book, Pokagon Indiana State Park. you can find the book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and other online book retailers. You also purchase the book on my web site, http://www.mossyfeetbooks.com. You can contact me at mossyfeetbooks@gmail.com
Thank you for listening

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