05 March 2014

North Liberty "Gateway to Potato Creek"

North Liberty's Downtown-the Yum Yum is on the right
One of the most recent listings to the National Register in Northern Indiana is one of the smallest downtowns to receive that recognition.  North Liberty's downtown, just a block long, was a lively place in its day.  The town is looking to the future by celebrating its past.  One place, the Yum Yum Shoppe, has become one of our favorite spots for pizza and ice cream...it's amazing how the car can find its way down lightly-traveled highways for ice cream.

North Liberty was platted in 1837 by Daniel and James Antrim.  It was surveyed by the St. Joseph County surveyor, T. W. Bray.  It is located at the conjunction of sections 28, 29, 32, and 33 in Liberty Township.  Liberty Township is recognized as one of the earliest settled townships of St. Joseph County.  During the 1850s, the land in the township began to be cleared for agricultural purposes.  Farming and lumber were the chief industries in the township by the 1880s.  A total of five sawmills were in operation by that time.


The first election in the township was held at James Antrim’s house in North Liberty in 1837.  The first house on a platted lot in the town was constructed in that same year by James Downey.  Four additional homes were built in the same year.  A gristmill was built in North Liberty in 1837 and a sawmill was constructed in 1839 by Hiram Bean and Alonzo Hill.  The first school was constructed in 1840 and in 1868 a high school building was constructed in North Liberty.  The first church was organized and constructed by the Methodists in North Liberty in 1851.  By 1880, there were three churches, the Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, and Episcopal churches.  The town’s cemetery was established in 1842.  The Cole Brothers constructed a large planing mill and manufacturing facility in 1866.  The establishment burned in 1871, but was reincorporated in 1873 as the North Liberty Manufacturing Company which continued into the 20th century.  The company manufactured wagons and buggies.

By 1880, the population of North Liberty reached about 400 people.  At the end of the 19th century an extension of the Wabash Railroad and the arrival of the Chicago Belt Line Railroad, which was solely a freight line, assisted the general growth of the town and its industries.  North Liberty was incorporated as a town in 1894.  By 1903, the population had grown to 504 people.  Sidewalks were placed in the town in 1912 and in 1913 the community was preparing to be illuminated with electrical lights.


The county 4-H fair was first held in North Liberty in 1928; it was held in the downtown until about 1935 when it relocated to another location in St. Joseph County.  After the arrival of the railroads and general conversion of land to agricultural production the town and township had slow measured growth during the remaining part of the 20th century.  North Liberty remained the only village in the township.  The town had a population of 977 people in 1940.  In 1960, the population had grown to 1,241 people.  By 1978, when Potato Creek State Park was established in the township, the population of North Liberty remained virtually unchanged at 1,250 people.

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