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

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Morocco historical tour

On May 20 Morocco had a festival called Morocco Homecoming, and we went. I especially wanted to go on their historical tour, which I assumed would be a walking tour. It was not. Instead the tour was from a trailer pulled by a pick-up truck. Here is the group ready to go.
The tour guide was a native Moroccan who said she knew Morocco history well since the 1970s. Beginning at Recher Park, we drove past the both United Methodist churches to Polk Street. Polk Street was Highway 41 before the bypass was constructed, and had many gas stations and businesses. It also provided a good view of the old rail bed of Morocco's first railroad, the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad, which cut through the town from the northwest to the southeast, connecting it with Momence, Illinois and Brook, Indiana.
On the corner of Polk and State is the old Seller's Service Station and diner, which is being restored by a local preservation group, Renewed Heritage. You can see more about them by visiting their website at
Turning west on State Street, we headed toward the old downtown. I noticed that the elevator was now owned by Wheatfield Elevator, which owns the elevators in Rensselaer. One of the other people on the tour said that the Wheatfield Elevator people were connected to the dairy farms.
On the south side of the street was a large, decrepit building that was once the Brandt Hotel, which served the railroad travelers.
The building below is one of the newest buildings in the downtown, built about 1940. It was not mentioned on the tour, but the Newton County: Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory thought it deserved a notable rating.
We then drove through the heart of the old downtown. At the eastern edge there were some occupied buildings I had not seen before, with a woodworking shop, a small gift shop, and an eatery. The sign for Morocco Glass that was there last time I was in Morocco was gone-one of the other people on the tour said the business had been closed for about a year.

After leaving the downtown, we drove past several houses of people who were important in the history of Morocco, and heard about several tornadoes that had killed people. Then we reached the western edge of town and saw the swimming pool, which looked like a lot of fun because the day was hot. The lights behind the swimming pool are for the Sam Rice Ballfield.
A bit to the south the guide mentioned Atkinson Avenue, a funny little street at an angle that "is a portion of the Bunkum Road known to the pioneers, formerly and Indian Trail." Is this a continuation of Jasper County's Bunkum Road? Anyone know more?

In 2005 Morocco built a new public library along West Street, which will eventually be the subject of another post. Further south is the Murphey Cemetery, which dates to 1844. This cemetery has few if any new burials.
The last highlight on the tour was the Scott-Lucas House, which was built in 1912 in the Craftsman style. It is now owned by the Newton County Historical Society and is supposed to be a museum. (For more info, download the pdf here and check page 7.)

It is the only building in Morocco listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Morocco Homecoming and the historical tour are annual events. If you want a fun little adventure next year, give it a try.


Mary Kay Emmrich said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the tour! I was the guide on the 4 PM tour, and we had a wonderful time looking at our town from a different perspective. Thank you for your posts about our town!

g said...

That tour was so much fun! Nice to see you again, Mary.


brianc said...

There's quite a story behind Bunkum, which on some old maps was spelled Buncombe or Buncumbe.

I grubbed up this story, in an old book by John Ade--I don't know if he was any relation to George.

I'll try to paste in the link, but you may have to search for the term:

brianc said...

Bunkum doesn't exist anymore under that name, nor either of its sub-names (Concord and Montgomery). Instead, I think it is called "Iroquois Illinois" on Google's map site search.

Watseka apparently caused the demise of the village(s), because it got the railroad.

One of Medaryville's original proprietors, Josiah Walden, once ran mail between Logansport and Bunkum, and points in between.

Anonymous said...

My Aunt Ethyl Sutton owned a hotel in downtown Morroco back around the late 40s or early 50s. I lived there as a small child while they finished building our new home in Highland. After she sold the hotel, she bought some property that is located across the street from North Newton.She had a ranch style home there and it is still there.
Can you tell me anything about her or the hotel? I was young when she died, but I have fond memories of her.
Thank you
Margaret Sutton