This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hunting for trailer past

When I came to Rensselaer, there were two trailer courts in Rensselaer, the existing one at the end of West Washington Street, and a smaller one north of Bunkum Road near the city water wells. This smaller court was closed 25 or 30 years ago, but its road still shows up on google maps and mapquest. Today this area is just west of the fence of the newest part of Weston Cemetery. I suppose the trees and the grasses form a nice backdrop, better than a row of houses or a cornfield.
One cold morning I searched for evidence that there had once been a trailer court here. The view below is from Bunkum. The clear area may once have been the road in. It is hard to tell. There is no obvious evidence now that there was ever a road there.
There are a number of small dirt piles, now grown over with vegetation, but it not clear why they were formed. They look a lot like Indian burial mounds, but obviously that is not what they are. Perhaps they came from bulldozing the road surfaces or other debris left from after the trailers were moved.
If you did not know that a trailer court had been here, you might think someone had dumped this large, concrete block. Even knowing that a trailer court had been here, I do not know is original purpose. You can see the Countryside subdivision in the background.
There are a number of tires along the outside of the property. I wonder if they have been dumped in the years since the trailer court was emptied. I do not know what the blue stuff is. Could it have been a trailer skirt?
In places there is thick undergrowth, and in places there is grass and goldenrod. There are a number of small trails in the property, which were made evident by the light covering of snow. They had deer tracks, so I am pretty sure that they are animal trails, not human trails. The utility pole carries wires that are still in use. The red pine is not too large, so it is possible that it has grown up since the court was deserted.
The white cedar and the yew, however, were ornamentals for some trailer lot years ago. This photograph was taken from Weston Cemetery--you can see the fence in the lower left.
Here is another pile, this one with some auto tires.
At the far end of the lot are more tires and another pile, all a dense growth of small trees.
I do not know why the trailers were taken out and I do not know why this piece of land has been allowed to go back to nature. The land to the west and north are cultivated. Why was it not bulldozed and put into crops? Or why has it not had houses built on it? Or why did the city not buy it and make it part of Weston Cemetery? I am sure there are good answers to all of these questions, and it you know the answers, please leave them in the comments.

Digressions: Before European settlement in the 19th century, this area was inhabited by various tribes of Indiana for thousands of years. Some locals know many spots that are rich in artifacts of these peoples. Yet I know of nothing in Rensselaer or the immediate area that tells us anything about that past. In Lafayette, there is an elementary school (Wea) named after one of the tribes that had a village across the Wabash from Fort Ouiatenon, and Prophetstown State Park commemorates the gathering of tribes for the last big Indian-white battle in the Eastern U.S. Pulastki County has its county seat named after a Potawatomi chief. The only Indian reference I am aware of in the area is the Trail Tree Inn, the name of which refers to a trail through the area marked with bent trees. Why are the original settlers so completely ignored?

Also, given its demographics, Rensselaer has very few trailer homes in its vicinity. Why? Has local government discouraged them?


Anonymous said...

I know little of this trailer court, since I did not live here at the time. It is not very well cleaned up. However, I would love to hear from a local school teacher who might tell a bit about the artifacts and the Native Americans story she has encountered growing up in the Rensselaer area and collecting a few artifacts along the way.

30-year refugee said...

great pics of an area that would otherwise be unnoticed. even if i was passing thru and noticed some debris in a natural area, i'd probably never guess what was there, or that the debris/topography would provide hints.

i enjoyed that photo collection. thanks.