Learn more interesting facts about Munster History.
How did Munster get its name?
Munster is named after early residents, the Monster family (later anglicized to Munster) from the Netherlands.
In the 1850s, the railroads brought settlers into the area and carried Lake County crops and dairy product to profitable Chicago markets. The railroad depot at Maynard (roughly today's Calumet Avenue and 45th Street) was the only map reference within the boundaries of the future town of Munster.
The Munster family was one of the first of a small group of Dutch immigrants to settle in this area of Northwest Indiana. Arriving in 1855, Eldert and Nieltje Munster (Monster) purchased land north of Ridge Road and east of what is today Calumet Avenue.
Their son, Jacob, grew to manhood here and helped his family convert a wilderness into productive farm land. After serving with General Sherman in the Civil War, he returned to this growing rural community to take over the family farm, to marry, and to help raise thirteen children.
About 1870, Jacob Munster opened the Munster General Store. Fronting the old Ridge Road, its ample supply of groceries, hardware, and goods attracted customers from Lansing to Highland.
The establishment also served as a gathering place where news was shared and old friends could meet. In a corner of the store stood a small oak desk, which served as the area's first U.S. Post Office.
Tradition has it that the Post Office's location at the Munster General Store had much to do with the eventual naming of the town. In any event, the new town was incorporated in 1907 and given the name of one of its distinguished first citizens.
Our pictorial history book, Images of America, Munster, Indiana, contains a photo of the Jacob Munster family.
How did the big barn next to the old house burn down?
Tragically, the Stallbohm barn, a rare English barn, was destroyed by arson on May 15, 2002. Some believe that the portable toilet placed next to the old barn was targeted by a local teenager who set it on fire, causing the dry old barn to burn down in less than twenty minutes. The Munster Historical Society had requested the portable toilet be removed, unfortunately, the fire occurred before action was taken. Another theory is that the barn was broken into and set on fire either intentionally or by careless smoking. Priceless farm tools, the Stallbohm family sleigh, and many other artifacts were lost in the fire. To date, the crime remains unsolved.
Can you give me information about when the "Yesterday, Today for Tomorrow" sculpture was made, by whom, and for what purpose?
In observance of the 1976 Bicentennial, the Munster Rotary Club commissioned the sculpture of three Corten steel figures representing Munster's history (a native american, a farmer, and a steelworker) which was erected in Rotary Park at the northwest corner of Ridge Road and Columbia Avenue. Partially funded by the Town Board and the Bicentennial Commission, the three figures were created by metal sculptor Fred Holly.
What is the significance of the historic marker located on Ridge Road in front of The Munster History Museum?
Munster, in the beginning was a way station for travelers on their way to Fort Dearborn now known as Chicago. The trail, known as "The Old Pike," was first used by Indians as a short-cut between the Great Lakes and the Great Prairies, and then used by explorers and westbound travelers. On December 11, 1816, when Indiana became the 19th state, the site of Munster was an undeveloped swamp.
The way station inn built of logs in 1837 by David Gibson sat on the corner that is now Ridge Road and Columbia Avenue. Columbia Avenue was the only cross road on the ridge, and was a road as far back as 1838.
One of the area's first settlers, Allen Brass, purchased the place in 1845. His two-story inn eventually became known as "The Brass Tavern." It was a favorite place for stagecoach travelers to stop. The tavern is also significant in history because it housed the region's only telegraph office which brought the first news to the area of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
A bronze historical tablet, imbedded in stone, currently sits on the site of the old tavern. It was placed there by the Julia Watkins Brass Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution around 1927. The tavern and, consequently, the telegraph office were destroyed by fire in 1909. To prevent the significance of this site from being forgotten, the historic marker was dedicated by the DAR in honor of Julia Watkins Brass, daughter of Oliver Watkins, an American Revolutionary war soldier who fought in the campaigns of George Washington. Julia Watkins Brass exhibited true pioneer spirit by continuing to run The Brass Tavern after her husband Allen left for the California gold rush. She was considered an excellent cook and hostess who offered a welcome respite for weary travelers along the trail of the Indiana wilderness.
The site of Munster was under French rule until 1763 and was held by the British until after the Revolutionary War.
The first settlers came to Munster in 1846 from the Netherlands and more of the Dutch families came in 1855. The town was named after the first postmaster, Jacob Munster.
Rich farmlands along the north ridge on the Little Calumet River attracted the first families. Onions, beets, and cabbage were among the products farmed in the area.
Excepted and revised from: The Sun Journal - May 23, 1974