Updated: Sep 12
SOUTH BEND, INDIANA - The St. Joseph's River doesn't stay in Indiana for long. Only the southern bend of the river visits our state, take a look at the map I've included below. The water rushes through the St. Joseph County of both Indiana and Michigan.
What bends doesn't always break, but nevertheless, the bend is there. South Bend's original terrain is what made the area so attractive for the Potawatomi and other indigenous people of the area. As time moves on, so do people, some by choice, and others.. well.. not so much.
To even think about the future is overwhelming. It's nice to have an idea about what the rest of your days will look like, but in reality, we have no clue. It's hard to tell what's on the other side of 'The Bend' until, BOOM, it's there.
When I was first learning how to drive, down the winding roads of Sargent Road and Fall Creek in Indianapolis, there was one piece of advice from my dad that always stuck with me. TURN INTO THE CURVE.
By the 1830's, treaties such as the Treaty of Chicago (1821) and the Treaty of Mississinewa's (1833) forced the Native Americans off of their land. Chief Menominee and the Potawatomi, after refusing to leave, were then forced out of Northern Indiana. This removal, led by Indiana General John Tipton (authorized by Indiana Governor David Wallace), would come to be known as the Trail of Death. As time moves on, so do people, some by choice, and others.. well.. not so much.
Not long after the removal, Americans moving west began to settle in South Bend. In 1852, The Studebakers started a business that would soon control how, why, and what people came to the Bend.
University of Notre Dame - In 1852, Clement and Henry Studebaker arrived in South Bend and opened a blacksmith shop located at the intersection of Michigan and Jefferson and in 1857 they built their first carriage. The received a contract to build several hundred wagons for the United States Government and developed a special process to quickly age their timber and were able to complete the contract as well as expand their business.
Site of First Studebaker Business in South Bend
19th Century Studebaker Advertisement
Business kept expanding, and as the Studebaker Factory grew, European immigrants made their way to South Bend due to the hundreds of factory jobs that came available. Other manufacturers in the area, including Oliver Chilled Plow Works, also supplied work, causing the population of the area to blossom. As time moves on, so do people, some by choice, and others.. well.. not so much.
Oliver Chilled Plow Works
South Bend, Indiana
19th Century Chilled Plow Advertisement
South Bend Tribune - After the Civil War, immigrants from Europe flocked to South Bend to work in the local factories. The largest country of origin for these immigrants was Poland. For many years, South Bend had the largest Polish population in the state of Indiana, and most settled on the west side of town, near the factories where they worked. For these immigrants, the church was the religious and social center of their lives, and they attended the church closest to their neighborhood.
The Studebakers turned into the curve of 20th Century, making sure their business would be prepared for the future demands of the American people.
University of Notre Dame - Their company transformed again in 1902 when they began manufacturing automobiles. The Studebaker Corporation is actually the only of its kind that was able to transition from building wagons and carriages to manufacturing motorized vehicles successfully.
During the peak of Studebaker's reign in South Bend in 1950, the company employed 24,000 workers and produced 343,000 automobiles. The closure of the Studebaker complex was a bend in the road that the city never saw coming. On December 9, 1963 employees were told that operations would be moving to Canada.
South Bend Tribune - Eleven days later, on Dec. 20, 1963, the last locally-produced Studebaker, a two-door hardtop, came off the assembly line. Someone scrawled a sarcastic “Merry Christmas” on the windshield. Studebaker officials tried to prevent any recording of the final car for history. NBC, however, managed to sneak in a camera to record it and show it to the nation that night.
When I took morning my walk along the Studebaker Bendix Heritage Trail, it was easy to notice the ways in which manufacturing literally shaped the city. As I made my way through The Bend, I stopped by the Studebaker National Museum and their collection of historic Studebaker cars.
I wasn't prepared for how fascinating the museum was, it was cool to see the ways in which we've moved across the county.
Even the future turns into history one day, I like the road that Indiana's history has placed me on. It was a good weekend to be on the bend of the river.