M.P. 53.1 - 1th Subdivision-
Water Valley, according to most maps is the area north and south of the Kankakee River between the unincorporated town of Shelby and Thayer, Indiana to the southeast. The Monon Railroad Historical-Technical Society's 2003 Tour Book lists the area as between the south bank of the Kankakee River and Thayer. The 1915 Val Plan and several Lake County plat maps include the area north of the river also as Water Valley.
Shady Shores was a very popular spot for kids during the 1970's. According to my parents, it was also popular throughout the 1940's, 50's and 60's as the place to obtain "adult beverages" when lacking the proper identification. The general area around Shady Shores and the Kankakee River flooded nearly ever year while I was in high school, but twice I spent the day sandbagging instead of attending school. Those who volunteered to help with flood control measures were not counted absent. Personally, it was a drag. After the flood in 1973, I would have sold my house and moved.
Before this area was known as Shady Shore, it was known Ahlgrims, or Ahlgrims Park. The area was a family business. At first it involved wood and, during winter, ice cut from the river. Later Ahlgrims Park was developed. Where was Ahlgrim Park located? While searching through the Monon Railroad Historical-Technical Society Archives, Robert Wheeler came across some maps and sketches by the engineers. There is a distinct possibility that these sketches were utilized when the final version of the 1915 Valuation Plan was drawn.
Below are some pictures from the early 1900's of the area known as Ahlgrim.
Left: Looking south, toward the Kankakee River at the mainline at Ahlgrims Park. The residence pictured would be on the northeast bank of the river. Right: Still looking south. This picture was taken from a distance.
A very clear close up of the former depot at Water Valley. -Photos courtesy of Marc Buhrmester-
Left: Close up shot of the Water Valley station on the east side of the tracks. Note the cinder platform and fence pictured. You are looking northwest. Right: Another view looking southwest. The tracks run northwest (right side of image) to southeast (left side of image) in this picture. Note depot and fence. Also note fence in foreground. Both fences will be shown on the drawings listed below.
Left: Water Valley depot, date unknown. Pictured are Richard Edwin and Blanch Cox Fuller in front of the Water Valley depot. -Photo courtesy of William R. Fuller, Ph.D., D.Sc. Professor emeritus of Mathematics Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA-
There is some ongoing debate whether the buildings pictured above were north of south of the river. It is my contention that these structures are all north of the river. Here is my evidence, including a PDF file of the 1932 Revision of the 1915 Val Plans for Shelby and Water Valley north of the Kankakee River.
While at the Monon Railroad Historical-Technical Society Inc. World Headquarters in Linden, Indiana researching another project, several drawings were brought to my attention by Robert Wheeler, Chief Archivist for the MRHTS Inc. The Archives at Linden contained several maps and drawings of Water Valley and the location being debated. I will attempt to post as many as I can once they are converted into PDF file format. Since the Society has no copier with the capacity to copy these drawings full size they were done in sections by Warren Mitchell and Robert Wheeler.
This drawing, dated July 2, 1941 drawn by the Office Of Engineering Maintenance Of Way, shows the proposed location of a tank in Water Valley. Note some familiar features. The depot, which is marked Station House, the Pump House and Coal Bin and of course the Kankakee River sign. On earlier drawings Bob found the inlet marked "Back Water" was listed as a Coal Barge slip. I hope to have this drawing posted in the near future.
Retired Track I.C.C. 31 This is a drawing of retired track at Water Valley, by the Office Of Engineering Maintenance Of Way, June 10, 1925. This was also found in the Archives, in the Water Valley folder.This is the siding leading off to the left, near the station, in some pictures above. This siding was taken out in 1925.
Left: Bayou at Ahlgrim Park, circa 1905. Many such waterways meandered through the park. Right: Boating scene on the Kankakee River, circa 1910. It is not know if this picture was taken near Ahlgrim Park or not. It does illustrate some of the activities that made this location popular.
Left and Right: Typical images from the many fishing camps at Ahlgrim Park and other places along the Kankakee River in the early 1900's. Both of these pictures are circa 1905. On the image to the right, notice the cabin. It is a 1910 version of a house boat. Note the shape, this cabin has been built on an old barge. Probably handy during flood season.
"The river is unique in that it has an ancient Indian portage at one end and an atomic age power plant at the other. One historian noted that between these two points there are a thousand strange tales.
Early explorers jokingly said that the Kankakee was as wide as it was long. Old maps show the many names of the river: the Thekiki, Huakiki, Aukiki, Sauwauseebe, and finally Kankakee. The French explorer and mapmaker Siegnelay also used the names: Akaki, Tiahkekink, Kienkiki, Theaskiki, Auequeque, and Quinquiqui.
The Kankakee River rises from the springs and swamplands of Northwest Indiana about three or four miles southwest of the southernmost bend of the St. Joseph River, where the City of South Bend is located. The village of Crumstown is considered the nearest settlement to the marshes that indicate the beginning of the river. Historians have written that it was probably used as a canoe waterway well over a thousand years ago.
During the straightening of the river in the early part of this century, bones of ancient animals were discovered, including mastodon, sabretooth tiger, giant beaver, and a type of large elk, all dug up by the excavating machinery. In all its twisting and turning, the river was nearly 200 miles long, but today, after the dredging and straightening, the length is about 120 miles.
Eventually, the Kankakee Marsh was drained almost dry and conservation groups in Northwest Indiana began to investigate. Their investigations and protests did little good, and in 1917 the dredging of the Kankakee river began, the final blow to a great natural game preserve. According to one concerned citizen, "all Northwest Indiana began reaping the harvest of its folly in the destruction of this natural wonderland through the reclamation projects ill-conceived drainage and deforestation."
But many acres of good land were uncovered and fine crops resulted, though many sections of the sandy land lie unproductive. The conservation groups did not forget the Kankakee Marsh, for their dream of restoring some of the marshlands came true when places like Jasper-Pulaski Game Preserve, LaSalle State Game Preserve, and the new Grand Kankakee Marsh of the Lake County Park System came into being.
The dredging of the Kankakee River was completed about 1922, shortening the length by many miles. Some people remember the "old" River and how disappointed their fathers were when they found out the straightened river no longer meandered in front of their river cabins. " - Pioneer History , Richard Schmal, May 26, 1982, Lowell Tribune, July 28, 1982, Lowell Tribune.-
The original Kankakee River trestle. Left: Looking to the north from about the middle of the bridge, date unknown. On the right of the image there is a sawmill. The Ahlgrim Family had a lumber business. Right: Looking at the original wood trestle, date unknown. In this view, you are looking south towards Thayer.
Left: Another shot of the trestle looking south, date unknown. Right: South end of the trestle and businesses. It is possible that building on east side of the bridge was old ice barn, but I could not confirm this information.
July 27, 1939. Southbound Train #73 derails at the north end of the Kankakee River Bridge at Water Valley. Fourteen cars of the freight train derailed and fell into the Kankakee River. The bridge was severely damaged and was replaced. The intense heat caused the rails to buckle under the weight of the train. Traffic was re-routed during the construction. Most likely up the Michigan City branch to San Pierre, then via the 3-I to Shelby. Left: Aftermath of the derailment. In this picture you are looking towards the southeast, railroad south towards Thayer. Note the trestle and how much it is buckled. Right: The north end of the Kankakee River bridge. Photographer is looking northeast and appears to be either in a boat, or standing on one of the derailed freight cars. -Ellis Kauffman Photographs, Courtesy of The Linden Depot Museum Collection-
Based on this photograph, I would reason that Mr. Kauffman was indeed in a boat when he took this photo. Once again you are looking at the north end of the Kankakee River trestle, towards the northeast. A building which at one time was the Water Valley depot would be on the east side of the right of way, behind the derailed freight cars that are sitting on the north bank of the Kankakee River. -Ellis Kauffman Photographs, Courtesy of The Linden Depot Museum Collection-
Looking southeast towards the Kankakee River. Clean up and repair efforts. Note former Water Valley depot to the left side of the image (Despite of what some people think.). -Photo courtesy of Collection PO401, Indiana Historical Society-
Cleaning up the derailment at Water Valley. The Big Hooks were called in to help fish the freight cars out of the Kankakee River. The current must not have been strong the day they cleaned up the cars. -Photo courtesy of Mahlon Eberhard-
The photos below of the 1939 derailment at Water Valley were provided by Jerry and Linda Drinski. All of these photos were taken by Franklin "Mick" Cyphers.
Damage caused by the derailment.
Freight cars in the Kankakee River.
More photos of the damage.
Left: Workers on bridge. Right: "Don't try this at home kids."
Spectators and workers view the aftermath.
Left: One more shot of the damage. Right: Looking north towards the accident site from the top of the water tank.
Looking south. Note water tank in the distance where the photo above was taken. Also of note, in picture to the left, note large propeller
Kankakee River Bridge, two side views. Left: Looking at the bridge from the northwest band, looking south. During the 1973 flood the water was inches below the deck spans. Right: Looking at the bridge from the southeast bank, looking north. Again, lots of graffiti are present. Those art classes in the Tri-Creek and North Newton School Systems are really paying off.
The construction of the bridge over the Kankakee River marked completion of construction between Monon and Dyer on August 22, 1881. The original pile and frame trestle was replaced with the present steel bridge in 1956-57. According to my Mother, under normal river levels and conditions, during the 1940's the old trestle was a favorite swimming spot for youths. The trestle bents were easy to climb up on. On the day of my visit, to jump from the bridge into the river would be suicide. The current was very fast and limbs and other debris struck the bridge supports while I was there.
Water Valley 2006
Left and Right: The house built by Max Ahlgrim shortly after the family arrived in Water Valley, sometime around 1875-76.
Left: Looking to the west from the center of the former Monon bridge. Pictured is the north bank of the Kankakee River at where the Ahlgrim Park beach once was located. The yellow house in the picture dates back to the time of Ahlgrim Park. Right: Another photo from the center of the bridge, looking to the northwest along the mainline.
Left: Remains of a former section house and pump house and water tank, southeast of the Kankakee River on the east side of the right of way. This location is perhaps 200 yards south of the river. Pictured is the foundation and lower level of the pump house. Right: Close up image of the entrance of the pump house.
Left: Section house foundation. This foundation is all that remains of the section house that was railroad north of the water tank and pump house. Right: Looking down into the lower level of the pump house. Some of the pipes are still there. Lacking a ladder and being alone, I decided not to try and climb down and take pictures.
Left: Looking southeast along the former Monon mainline towards Thayer. You are standing on where Bridge 55.5 was once located. Right: Where Bridge 55.5 once stood is now two culverts. You are looking northwest along the mainline.
South of the river in Water Valley are two former turn of the century hunting clubs and hotels. Pictured is the Folgi Hotel, circa 1906. Note the flooding conditions on the river. Before the river was dredged and straightened this was a common occurrence. This also made Water Valley a prime location for sportsmen, hunters and fishermen. Shelby and Water Valley once boasted 6 hotels. The highway bridge has yet to be constructed. The steel bridge that many people remember was built in 1915.
Left and Right: The Folgi Hotel still stands in 2006, however, it is no longer a hotel. This residence is south of the river on Highway 55.
Left and Right: This building is the Diana Club, circa 2006. This former resort is located southeast of the Folgi Hotel on the east side of Highway 55. Many years ago, mid 1960's, I was inside this building. Too bad I was not carrying a camera at the time. Just south of this residence, Highway 55 makes two hairpin turns and you arrive in Thayer. This marks the southern boundary of what was once known as Water Valley.