The History of Cass County, Indiana
Before 1826, the French interacted and traded with the Native American tribes living in the Wabash Valley. Those tribes were the Pottowatomie and Miami. A treaty signed in October of 1826 opened much of the north central portion of Indiana to settlement, marking the beginning of the end for tribes in Indiana. In 1838 the last of the Pottowatomie were removed to Kansas in what has become known as The Trail of Death.
The Wabash River has been an important trading route, as well as Indiana’s most fabled river. Miamis called it ‘waapaahsiiki siipiiwi’. Translated it means ‘the river that shines white’. Prior to American settlement, the French called it the ‘Quabache’. Cass County also has several other important waterways including the Eel River, Pipe Creek, and the north and south forks of Deer Creek. Lake Cicott, eight miles west of Logansport, is the only lake in Cass County and is the most southern glacial lake in Indiana.
One battle took place in Cass County. On August 7, 1791, on orders from Washington D.C. to scatter the native Miami tribes, General John Wilkinson led 525 Kentucky troops against the village of Old Towne. In the battle six warriors, two women and a child were killed. Two of Wilkinson’s men also died at the battle. The site of Old Towne is just northeast of Adamsboro on the Eel River.
The first permanent settler in Cass County was Alexander Chamberlain. He arrived on December 23, 1824. It was not until August of 1826, however, that he built a small round log cabin on the south bank of the Wabash River opposite the mouth of the Eel River. He was the first to establish a tavern and hotel within the county limits.
The most important early resident of Cass County was General John Tipton. Tipton had been the head of the Indian Agency at Fort Wayne, Indiana since the early 1820’s. In 1828 he persuaded Washington D.C. to allow him to move the agency to the city of Logansport. Once here, Tipton was instrumental in routing the Michigan Road and the Wabash & Erie Canal through the county. The general also played a part in the naming of Logansport. Several members of the new pioneer town had ideas on a proper name. Tipton’s offering was the Latin translation of “mouth of the Eel”. Hugh B. McKeen, Logansport’s first merchant, suggested the name of a Shawnee chief called “Logan”. Chief Logan had been a scout for the United States Army in the War of 1812, sacrificing his life for the cause. The compromise was a shooting contest in which John B. Duret won. His prize was the naming of the town. Duret favored the suggestion of McKeen with a twist. Since the town was situated on a navigable stream, “port” was added to the end, the Logan’s Port. In short time the name was condensed to its present form.
Logansport has had a long-standing tradition as a transportation center. From the time it was platted in 1828 Logansport grew quickly with improvements in transportation. The Michigan Road, connecting Madison with Lake Michigan, via Indianapolis, came to Cass County in 1832. This road was for decades the most important north-south highway in Indiana. Railroads also were the most important factor in the growth of Cass County towns like Walton, Galveston, Royal Center, Lucerne, Twelve Mile, Clymers and New Waverly.
Cass County experienced a flood at the end of March in 1913. On the 26th of that month the Wabash crested at a depth of 25.33 feet. Some sections of Logansport on the west side were under twelve feet of water. Culver Military Academy helped in the rescue effort with several boats, saving many lives. Only two people died in the flood whereas Peru, just to our east, lost eleven people to the raging water. Other floods in the county’s history have occurred in 1857, 1883, 1936, 1940, 1943 and 1959.
The impact of the Wabash & Erie Canal on Logansport and Cass County is second only to the Railroad boom of the 1860’s. The Wabash & Erie Canal connected Lake Erie at Toledo with the Ohio River at Evansville, Indiana. The total length of the canal was 468 miles, making it the longest in United States history. The canal arrived in Logansport in 1838. The first boat to come to town was “The Clyde”. Cass County towns such as Lewisburg and Georgetown witnessed booms directly attributed to the canal. These points on the canal brought in farmers produce covering north central Indiana and shipped it to places like Toledo, Ohio, Cleveland, Ohio and Albany, New York. The heyday for the canal coincided with the emergence of the first railroads to the county during the 1850’s. Railroads and mismanagement of the canal led to its demise in 1875.
Cass County has taken a pivotal role in the automobile industry. Many cars were manufactured in Indiana during the early part of the century. Logansport produced two models, the Bendix and the Revere. While the Bendix only made a few vehicles, the Revere operated here from 1917-1926 making more than 2600 automobiles.
The beginnings of the ReVere Motor Car Corporation lie with engineer and racer Adolph Monsen. From 1908 to 1916 Monsen worked for a number of automotive firms. He left Chicago in 1916 for Logansport to start his own company.
In the previous months he had met Newton VanZandt, who was the vice president of the Hobart-Cable Piano Company at the time. It was agreed that VanZandt would handle the financial side while Monsen took care of the engineering and building of the car. VanZandt was president of the company with James Henderson as vice president, C. H. Wilson served as treasurer and W. A.Cooling was the secretary.
Who decided on the name ReVere, whether it was VanZandt or Monsen, is debatable. However, it is certain that the car was named in honor of the patriot, Paul Revere. The spelling started out the same as the patriot’s name, but was later changed to include a capital “v” within the spelling.
The plant was located at 417 First Street. On August 25, 1917, the first bare chassis toured the streets of Logansport. After a trip around the city, the car was taken to Chicago and on to Racine, Wisconsin, where it was fitted with body panels.
By 1919 the first of the production cars was on its way and stock began to rise. Four styles were produced in the ReVere line during 1919. They were the two-seat Roadster, four passenger sport and a six passenger touring car. Advertisements referred to the revere as “America’s Incomparable Car”. With the price tag that was attached, it should have been. Without the advantage of a production line, this hand made car cost several times more than a Ford Model-T. The base price for a ReVere was $3850. It was a high price for the time, but the car was one of the finest on the road. The Dusenberg and Monsen engines with which the cars were equipped were capable of running 85 miles per hour. In fact a ReVere was in the 1921 Indianapolis 500. Eddie Hearne finished 111 laps before having to retire.
Innovations included an all aluminum body, bullet headlights, the first modern hubcap and an unusual double steering wheel. Most ReVeres made before 1922 were custom made according to the customer’s desire. The most famous ReVere customer was King Alfonso XIII of Spain who ordered a Sport Victoria in 1919 for which he paid $7800.
The story behind the ReVere involves its financial troubles, due to mismanagement. The first signs of trouble surfaced in 1920. Much to the delight of Logansport businessmen, Newton VanZandt informed them of an eastern syndicate that was to order 12,000 vehicles over the next five years. Those orders were never filled. In December of 1920 three Chicago firms claimed they hadn’t been paid and tried to force ReVere into bankruptcy. When assets were shown to be greater than debts, the suit was dropped. Almost immediately another petition was filed on January 26, 1921. It was at this time that the Citizens Loan and trust Company of Logansport was appointed receiver of the corporation.
The focus of the ReVere’s problems was repeatedly aimed toward Newton VanZandt. He left for the east coast and started a new car company named Richelieu and sold several hundred Richelieu cars in New York during 1921. It was quickly discovered that several ReVere cars were being loaded onto trains in Logansport at night with destinations to the east coast. These ReVere’s were being passed off as VanZandt’s Richelieu automobile.
With VanZandt apparently stealing money and automobiles, the future of the company was bleak. ReVere was again in court in October of 1922 when the Cass Circuit Court declared the ReVere Motor Car Corporation bankrupt. The factory was padlocked and sold to the ReVere Stockholders Association for $52,000. The company was re-incorporated in February 1923 under the name of revere Motors Company. Unfortunately the financial trouble frightened away investors. ReVere finally closed its doors for good in January 1926.
As for VanZandt, he died in New York City under suspicious circumstances in 1923. Adolph Monsen, the creator of “America’s Incomparable Car”, continued to live in Logansport for many years after the closing of the factory. As of the year 2007 there are only five ReVere autos known to be in existence. One of them is owned and maintained by the Cass County Historical Society, Logansport, Indiana. It was purchased with the generous contributions of the citizens of Cass County, Indiana.
This information was prepared by Bryan Looker for the Cass County Historical Society for the book Cass County History 2002. Visit their web site here.