Day 416 - Porter
In the late 1840s and early 1850s, young Swedish men in Chicago were attracted to northwestern Indiana by employment opportunities, including a sawmill established by the son-in-law of Joseph Bailly, a French Canadian fur trader.
In 1858, Reverend Erland Carlsson of Chicago organized the Swedish Lutheran Church of Baillytown (Augsburg Lutheran Church) with thirty-one charter members. In 1864, this congregation erected its first sanctuary in Porter, about a mile northeast of Baillytown. The log church is now gone, as is the second church, which burned in 1933. The present handsome stone church, Augsburg Evangelical Lutheran Church, was completed in 1938 on the site of the second sanctuary at 100 N. Mineral Springs Road (219-926-1658). In the church’s basement is a well-organized archives that includes a Hillstrom organ made in nearby Chesterton. On the front lawn is the Swedish-inscribed bell of the second church. The cemetery to the south contains many Swedish graves.
Because Swedes wanted their children to maintain their heritage, children were taught Swedish during the summer months. Across the road from the old Swedish cemetery, on the north side of Oak Hill Road, about .2 mile southeast of the intersection with U.S. Highway 12 (the intersection is three miles west of Indiana Highway 49) was a small tool shed belonging to Frederick Burstrom that in 1880 was moved near the cemetery and renamed Augsburgs Svenska Skola (Augsburg’s Swedish School). Today it is known as the Burstrom Chapel and Svenska Skola. Residents used the building as a public school until 1885, when Porter County built a local school. After that it served until the 1920s as a Swedish-language summer school where the community also gathered for midweek prayer meetings and vesper services. A granite marker stands near the front door, and the site is particularly attractive in the fall season with the colorful maple foliage.
The old cemetery holds the graves of many early Swedes, including Jonas Asp, who initially encouraged his fellow countrymen to settle in Porter County, and Frederick Burstrom, Porter County’s first trustee.
At Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, 1100 N. Mineral Springs Road (219-926-7561; www.nps.gov/indu) is Chellberg Farm, the homestead of Anders and Johanna Kjellberg (anglicized to “Chellberg”), now part of the national park system. The farm is one and one-half miles south of U.S. Highway 12 near Augsburg’s Swedish School. Christmas and Midsummer are celebrated at the farm in a Swedish fashion.
The Chellbergs left Sweden in 1863 and settled on this eighty-acre farm in 1874. Anders was a tailor and farmer who served the Augsburg Evangelical Lutheran Church as a deacon and lay preacher. Three generations of Chellbergs made their living from the farm, where they grew wheat, oats, corn, and rye. The farm produced milk and butter for sale, especially after 1908 when the South Shore Railroad provided faster transportation to the Chicago market.
The brick farmhouse, built in 1885, replaced a frame house that burned. The barn, constructed in 1880, has a frame held together by wooden pegs. Six other structures stand on the restored farm, on which the Solar Energy Research Institute has demonstrated renewable energy.
Not far from Porter is the small city of Chesterton. Stockholm-born Carl Oscar Hillstrom moved his organ factory from Chicago to Chesterton in 1880. He made it the main industry in town, attracting a number of Swedish immigrants and producing thousands of organs before the factory closed in 1920. Many of the stores in the Chesterton Commercial Historic District, 109-130 N. Calumet Road, were owned by Swedes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These buildings are port of the National Register of Historic Places.
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