Starke County Bridge
Starke County Bridge [Photographer / Jubilee Edgell]

For Days Gone By – Starke County Historical Society to Celebrate 50th Anniversary

Writer / Mike Dikos

Photographer / Jubilee Edgell

The Starke County Historical Society is an organization dedicated to preserving the heritage of the county, along with the safeguarding of artifacts from a previous time, for generations of the future.

In June of 1974, members of the community got together to discuss ways of preserving the history of Starke County. This meeting resulted in the founding of the Starke County Historical Society, with Bruce Van Gilder as its first president. Since then, the society has been a welcome presence within the community.

Society volunteers were involved in parades and local festivals, and set up exhibits temporarily in a storefront on Main Street in downtown Knox. It has been said that the first museum was in the trunk of somebody’s car, and as donated items started to accumulate, the need for a building to house them became apparent. In 1976 the home of former Governor Henry F. Schricker was purchased and acted as the first museum. However, in order to bring the Schricker house up to standards, it was closed in 2016. The Starke County History Center, located on U.S. Highway 35, was first opened to the public in November of 2018 and now houses the museum pieces.

Starke Country Bridge
The society has been instrumental in the preservation of events, locations and historical relics throughout the county. One such historical landmark resides at the entrance to Wythogan Park. Known as Historic Bridge #39, the bridge is an excellent example of the Warren truss type of construction used in the early 1900s for both railroads and highways. Originally built in 1915 by the Rochester Bridge Company, the society acquired the bridge in 1992 when it was moved to its present location and refurbished. In 1993 the bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

One doesn’t have to look far to see a prime example of 11th- and 12th-century architecture in Knox. Located in the center of town, the third Starke County Courthouse has withstood the test of time. Designed by an architectural firm from Fort Wayne, the courthouse was built in 1897 using Indiana limestone. In 1997, to honor the 100th anniversary of the courthouse, the society was involved in a celebration that included tours of this remarkable structure.

In 1679, French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle traveled the Kankakee and St. Joseph rivers in search of trade and land for France. During the travels, encampments were made along the Kankakee in Starke County. One such encampment was located at what is known as Davis Station in northwest Starke County. To retain the memory of La Salle’s explorations through Starke County, the society, along with the Indiana Historical Bureau, erected a historical marker in 2000. Grace Burch, a local resident born at Davis Station in 1903, had the honor of unveiling the marker.

Starke County artifactsIn 1865, with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and a nation desperate to heal after a great Civil War, it was decided that Lincoln’s funeral train would travel from Washington, D.C., throughout the country to allow citizens a chance to mourn their fallen leader. The train passed through many towns in Indiana before its final stop in Springfield, Illinois. One of those towns is San Pierre, located at the southwestern tip of Starke County. In 2017 the society held a ceremony in Tierney Park in San Pierre to unveil a marker commemorating the passing of the train through town.

These are just a few of the projects and events that society members and volunteers have been involved with. Members and volunteers are also the curators and historians of the Starke County History Center, which now acts as the museum for all the artifacts pertaining to Starke County. Without the dedication and continuous efforts of the Starke County Historical Society, many places, events and items would probably be forgotten or lost. Memories that are passed down would probably fade. Keepsakes and family treasures would be lost. Places of value would be erased. History is a valued treasure that must be preserved.

In honor of the society’s 50th anniversary, a celebration will be held on June 21. To purchase tickets for the golden jubilee, or for membership and volunteer info, reach out to the Starke County Historical Society at 574-772-7242, or at

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