Indiana Dunes Country History & Culture
When the world was young
Your journey through Indiana Dunes Country will introduce you to a melting pot of international cultures and a heaping slice of Midwest Americana. This land has seen quite a bit. Thousands of years of native families; hundreds of years of fur trade; French, English and Spanish rule; the stagecoach and the arrival of the railways. Each has enriched our proud Hoosier heritage.
History & Heritage
The Potawatomi people were among the first to call Porter County home. In fact, a local archaeological dig has unearthed native artifacts from up to 9,000 years ago. The first non-native visitors to the area arrived in 1650: French fur traders who founded an industry that flourished for a couple hundred years and included trader Joseph Bailly. Bailly’s homestead is now part of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. What began with the fur traders continued as pioneering spirit and then the railroads brought immigrants from across Europe. Many of their stories and traditions continue to color our way of life. You’ll discover Swedish farms and churches, Victorian homes, Irish pubs, German choirs and more.
It happened here…
Did you know that entrepreneur Orville Redenbacher launched his first gourmet popcorn product from a farm near Valparaiso in 1971? Or that the Underground Railroad, a secret network of escape routes for 19th century fugitive slaves, is thought to have included a stop on the lakeshore of Porter County? How about the fact that The Indiana Dunes was the intended site of a macabre plan by Chicago counterfeiters to hide the remains of President Lincoln until they received a ransom of $200,000 and the release of their star engraver from prison? Have you heard that the historic Civil War-era Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso was said to be a favorite venue of “The March King,” conductor John Philip Sousa, who led a concert there in 1898? The Opera House also hosted the famous Marx Brothers vaudeville comedy trio in 1919.