The “crossroads” of Schererville, Indiana lie at the junction of U.S. Routes 30 and 41. U.S. 30, the old Lincoln Highway, where it runs through the center of the old business district is now Joliet Street. This land located at the southern tip of Lake Michigan has been called the “crossroads” from the earliest recorded history of the area. At least five (5) Indian tribes, including Pottawatomie and Fox Indians, had trails in the area. In 1816, Indiana became an official State of the Union, and in 1832, much of the northwestern part of the state was purchased from the Indians.
The “Old Sauk Trail” criss-crossed the area and was known by the early pioneers as the “Main Road.” St. John Township, then known as “Prairie West”, was “matted with thick, green spongy grass, and almost surrounded by boggy marshes, where the fallen rotted trees and matted leaves had dammed the swamps into bodies of water resembling lakes…”
In 1837 John Hack, the first German Catholic in the area, brought his wife and eleven children to settle in the area. In 1846, Nicholas Scherer brought his family to the area, along with his brother Jacob. The Scherer brothers provided the land on which the first churches were built.
Many families struggled for survival in the area of Schererville, named after Nicholas Scherer. “The tales of men who had frozen along the road back East when they were attempting to secure food for their families in the winters were numerous … epidemics of diphtheria and scarlet fever nearly wiped out whole families…” Nicholas Scherer, a determined planner, is reported to have been a “determined and industrious man who sometimes gambled on an idea that his neighbors thought was sheer folly.”
Mr. A.N. Hart, a “wizard in land speculation,” contemplated the possibility of draining the land known as Cady Marsh. Mr. Hart designed a “fantastic drainage system” later named the Hart Ditch. This ditch carried water to Plum Creek near Dyer, Indiana and then into the Little Calumet River. He also built wagon roads along each side of the ditch. By 1865, Mr. Hart had reclaimed the swamp. He set up hay presses and shipped hay from Schererville after the arrival of the Chicago Great Eastern Ohio Panhandle Railroad, which later became known as the Pennsylvania Railroad and then Conrail. The first rail lines were laid across the main road (now Joliet Street) at the point where the Town of Schererville celebrated its centennial, commemorating the town that Nicholas Scherer envisioned at the point of this early “crossroads” in 1866.
Twenty-five families had settled in Schererville by 1866. Most of the families were German Catholics. The District Number One School, a frame building, was erected in 1866 from funds received from the Township Trustee. Adreon Cook was its first director. The same year the post office was approved, and Matthias Meyer became the first postmaster.
John Thiel opened a blacksmith shop in 1870, with Michael Grimmer’s diary being established across the street. Mr. Grimmer also established a general store known as “Gard’s General Store,” with Schubert’s Saloon being built next door. John Austgen built a saloon on Joliet Street and his brother built a grocery store across the street. Henry Lustig operated a cigar factory and an ice house was built along the railroad tracks by the Police Station. Bernard Schulte ran a meat market on the southeast corner of Joliet and Mary Street, and also served as the Township Trustee. Jacob Scholl founded a carpentry shop, and his son became the nationally known “Dr. Scholl”, famous for his foot care items.
In 1873, St. Michael’s Catholic Church was constructed, and its first priest was the Rev. King, followed by the Rev. Berg. The cemetery was consecrated in 1895 on the land donated to the Church by Nicholas Scherer. In 1894, the Township build a new brick school and donated the structure to St. Michael’s. It later became the first parochial school.
The civil Town of Schererville was incorporated on September 5, 1911. The incorporating committee consisted of; John A. Mager, Jacob Scholl, Sarinis P. Swets, Peter A. Grimmer, and Frank Berwanger. Mr. Mager, Mr. Scholl, and Mr. Swets were approved by the voters as the first Town Board. Mr. Grimmer served as the first Clerk and Mr. Berwanger became the first Treasurer. On January 1, 1912, the following individuals were sworn in as public officials; Town Board Members John Mager, Sarinis P. Swets, and Joe Risch, Peter A. Grimmer was re-elected as Clerk, and Frank Berwanger was re-elected as Treasurer. On November 5, 1913, Mr. William J. Govert was elected to the office of Town Clerk.
Under the direction of Michael Grimmer, Township Trustee, the first stone road was built. It would later be paved in 1911. In 1913, the first Lincoln Highway Association was formed to promote a highway across the United States from coast-to-coast. By 1916, the Federal Road Aid Act assisted in developing this project. Lincoln Highway began in New York City at Times Square, went through New Jersey and there joined what is now known as U.S. 30. From that point, it continued through the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, and California. The intersection of U.S. Routes 30 and 41 was not paved until 1934. In 1935, U.S. 41 was widened to help relieve the traffic problems at the junction of U.S. 30 and U.S. 41. Along this intersection, the Teibel family built their restaurant, across the street from Sauzer’s Waffle Shop.
The Schererville Water Works became operative in 1920 when the town had 483 residents. In 1962, the Business Men’s Association was formed, which later developed into the Schererville Chamber of Commerce. In 1966, the Centennial Year of the Town of Schererville, the Town Board was composed of Robert Teegarden, Michael Kuhn, John Dressen, Jr., and Ralph McColly. Joe Zimmer served as the Clerk-Treasurer.
By the time of the 1990 census, the Town of Schererville had grown to 19,926 residents. The population of the Town constituted 48% of the St. John Township, with 27% of the Town under the age of 18 years. In 1991, the 125th Anniversary Year of Schererville, the Town Board had Larry Tucker, Vic Banter, Tom Kouros, John Fladeland, and D. Wes Shake as members, with Clarence Kuhn serving as Clerk-Treasurer.
Today, the Town of Schererville employs a Town Manager, a Town Attorney, and a comprehensive engineering firm, as well as many staff personnel and department employees. The Schererville Police Department and the Fire Department faithfully perform public safety duties in the town. The Town’s sewage treatment plant was completed in 1965 and continues to serve the residents today. The Town is governed by a five-member Town Council and a Clerk-Treasurer.
The Town of Schererville continues to prosper today thanks to its hardworking civic and public officials. “Pride and Progress” are truly reflected in the Schererville residents who enjoy the rich history of the “Crossroads of the Nation.”
Credits go to the Hoosier Codification Service Inc., for putting together this compilation of historical information. Additional thanks go to the Clerk-Treasurers Department as well as the Schererville Historical Society for creating the source from which the majority of this information was pulled, the History of the Crossroads – 125th Anniversary Schererville, Indiana 1866-1991.