Rochester, on the Michigan Road

My friend over at "Down the Road" is doing a remarkable job documenting sections of the Michigan Road through the state and I believe a collaborative effort is in the future. I thought I would throw in a few pictures of my own and some history on Rochester, Indiana.

Third Fulton County Courthouse-1895-96

Newly listed on the National Register of Historic Places, here is an excerpt on the early history of Downtown Rochester from the application for historic status:

Rochester was established initially as a trading post, for use including the Native Americans, in 1831 at the crossing of the Michigan Road with Mill Creek two miles south of the Tippecanoe River. Mill Creek flows between Lake Manitou on Rochester’s east side to the Tippecanoe River. Alexander Chamberlain operated the trading post, along with one in Logansport, another Michigan Road town to the south. Chamberlain and Lot Bozarth filed a plat for the town of Rochester in Cass County in 1835; it was not until 1836 that Fulton County was formed from the northern part of Cass County. The original plat straddled the Michigan Road from Mill Creek (or at present day 3rd Street) south to South Street (now 8th Street); Chamberlain built the first tavern-hotel at 516 Main Street in 1835. In 1836 Lot Bozarth and a man by the name of Caldwell were licensed to sell groceries for one year in Rochester for the licensing fee of $25.00, and the charge applied to “each license hereafter issued for each tavern”. This appears to be the beginning of formal commercial enterprise in the town of Rochester.

Bailey's-a step back in time

Excerpt on the Michigan Road:

Along with the decision to make Rochester the county seat, its location on the Michigan Road also further created commercial activity in the town. The Michigan Road, Main Street in Rochester, was Indiana’s first commissioned road linking Madison, Indiana on the Ohio River in the south to Michigan City, on Lake Michigan in the north via the new state capital of Indianapolis. The State Legislature established funding for the road in 1824 and finalized treaties with the Native American tribes to purchase lands for construction in 1826. In 1828 surveying was completed along the route with construction beginning shortly after. The original plans for the road would have kept the road further to the west, but to avoid the Kankakee wetland areas, the road made a northeasterly route from Logansport to Rochester, and then began a more northerly route to South Bend before heading west to Michigan City. In 1831 William Polke was appointed commissioner for the Michigan Road and brought his family to Fulton County and built a cabin between current day Rochester and the Tippecanoe River. Polke was the first non-Native American to settle in the county. The Michigan Road brought settlement and enterprise to the north central part of the state with weary travelers utilizing the businesses in the established towns along the road such as Rochester.

Rochester's Times Theater

Excerpt on Historic Advertising (I love this story!):

A Mail Pouch Tobacco sign (c. 1930) approximately twelve feet wide by fifteen feet tall is located on the left side of the building (north end of historic district), but an earlier advertising sign (c. 1900) was painted on the same wall for a cigar brand not commonly seen. The sign, approximately sixty feet wide by twenty feet tall, is bleeding through the Mail Pouch sign and advertises 5 cent Henry George cigars with the slogan “I am for men”. It uses yellow-gold and red and white highlights on lettering with a black background. Henry George was a popular political activist and economist during the late 19th century and sold over three million copies of his book “Progress and Poverty”. A cigar brand was named for Henry George around 1900.

This building and its adjoining buildings are some of my favorites in Rochester because architectural they are so intact from their original construction. Great, great grandad operated a saddle and tack shop out of the building with the historic advertising painted on the side....and very well may have been responsible for having it painted.


Anonymous said…
Careful, dude, or when I make it up that way I'll have to make you ride along all the way through Fulton and Marshall Counties to point out all the important stuff that I might miss!! My eye for historic architecture is still developing.

My maternal grandmother (b. 1916) was from Rochester. Her father was a sign painter (and a gambler and a drunk; ah, family). Could it be possible.....?

I'm also part Potawatomi from my grandmother's family.
hoosier reborn said…
Let's test "its a small world" theory..what was your grandmother's maiden name? My dad's family originated from there on both sides.

Potawatomi? Then you have interest in the Trail of Death too.

I'm up for the trip.
Anonymous said…
My grandmother's name was Kathryn Parker. Her father was Adolph (Dolph) Parker. Her mother went by Sue, which apparently wasn't actually her name. I get the Potawatomi from Sue's branch. Yeah, I do have some interest in the Trail of Death. It boggles my mind to think that after the Potawatomi gave up their land for the Michigan Road, they were later forcibly marched out of the state on it (as far as Logansport, anyway).
hoosier reborn said…
nope, it's all Prills, Bryants, Ulches, Garners, Fowlers and Lanes that make up those lines.

I've never considered the irony of the Michigan Road lands being sold by the native americans...and then it becoming the path down which they were removed.

Visit Polke's house, now relocated to the Fulton County Historical Society grounds, on your drive up.
vanilla said…
History, architecture the fun part; but whenever we go through Rochester my wife demands that I stop at the little shack couple blocks east of downtown on 25 so she can get her 'gyro' fix.
hoosier reborn said…

And you have to stop at the Flag Pole, just another block down and get their Lemon Ice Cream.


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