History of Walkerton

Est. 1856

Walkerton was named for James H. Walker, a LaPorte banker who in 1856 built the Cincinnati, Peru, and Chicago Railroad. The town was laid out by the railroad surveyors and the first lot was taken by C.W.N. Stephens, who moved his general store from nearby West York. His business thrived and grew with the new town.

West York, the first settlement in the area, began in 1850 along the Plymouth-LaPorte trail, which was used as a stagecoach line beginning in the 1840s. C.W.N. Stephens was appointed postmaster at West York in 1852. West York was platted in 1854 by Elias D. Jones with 35 on both sides of the Cincinnati, Peru and Chicago Railroad.

C. W. Stephens

One of Walkerton’s earliest pioneers and most prominent citizens was Charles William N. Stephens. Mr. Stephens was born in Bridgeport, Rhode Island on December 26, 1829. With his parents, he moved to New York State and lived there until he was eighteen years of age. In 1847, they came to Indiana, living on a farm on the banks of Koontz Lake.
Shortly after arriving here he started a general store and post office at the little village of Blissville on the Plymouth-LaPorte Trail. In 1850, he engaged in the mercantile line at the village of West York on the old stagecoach road leading from Logansport to Michigan City, and located on the outskirts of the then future Walkerton. After the C. P. & C. railroad was constructed, Mr. Stephens moved his store and post office on a path cleared through the scrub oaks to be near the railroad. An old Indian trail served as a street in front of his place of business. Here he continued in business at this location for forty years, dealing in general merchandise, livestock, grain, furs, etc. He was the first postmaster in Walkerton.
In his busiest years he employed twenty-two men, and had from twelve – seventeen clerks in his store. Over $1300 was taken in over his counters in a single day. He paid out $100,000 for grain in one year. The Stephens Store Co. building was a substantial frame measuring 44 ft. x 100 ft. and two stories high. His establishment was a great center of trade for many miles around Walkerton.
In 1892, Mr. Stephens’ store burned down, the fire and other financial reverses made it impossible for him to return to the general merchandise business. He continued business in poultry, furs, etc. Mr. Stephens was married to Adeline McGogy, who died within a few years of their marriage. Their daughter Mary F. (Fannie) married T. J. Wolfe. The second wife of Stephens was Susanna Rupel. Their children were Charles M. and Nellie E. Charles was a member of the Methodist Episcopal church his entire life, a charter member of the Walkerton Masonic Lodge and was a member of the order for fifty years.
On July 8, 1902, Mr. Stephens died at his home. His character and business sense had practically single-handedly pulled Walkerton out of the dust and started the town we now know as Walkerton.

First printed in the Walkerton Area Historical Society newsletter,Voice of the Past, November 1999.
 

Historical Society

413 Michigan Street
Walkerton, Indiana 46574
574-586-3868

Don Thomas – President
Marilyn Sherland – Vice President
Mary Lou Hiatt – Secretary
Stephen Neff – Treasurer
Anna Anderson – Membership

The Walkerton Area Historical Socitey began in 1983 to preserve the rich history of life of pioneers who settled in the Walkerton area in the early 1830s.  Meetings are held the first Monday of each month at John Glenn Superintendent’s Office, 101 John Glenn Dr., Walkerton, at 7:00 p.m. Visitors and new members are welcome!

More information:
Heritage House Museum | Photos from the Past | Items on-sale at the Museum

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