Local History

The History of Burns Harbor
Although our town is relatively young, Burns Harbor celebrates the heritage and history of those who helped make it the vibrant community it is today.
  1. The Early Years
  2. The Middle Years
  3. Protest & Change
  4. Building Bethlehem Steel
  5. A Brand New Town
  6. A Growing Community
The Early Years
Settlement and Immigration Prior to 1900
Settlers moved into the area that would become Burns Harbor after the federal government began selling land in 1833 and following the 1838 forced removal of the Native Americans from Indiana.

In the 1850s, Swedish and German immigrants moved into the area from Chicago to work in the local lumber industry and stayed to farm and create the Baillytown community. The Michigan Central Railroad and the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad laid track through historic Burns Harbor in 1852, providing transportation from the East Coast and to Chicago.

By the mid-1870s most of the land in historic Burns Harbor had been settled, cleared and put under cultivation.

After 1870, immigrants from Germany and other countries moved to the area to farm and to work in the nearby Porter brickyards.
In 1866 two one-room schools were built in what would become Burns Harbor. Salt Creek School was located at the corner of what is now I-94 and S.R. 149.

Salt Creek School




The Baillytown School was located 1/4 mile northeast of the intersection of U.S. 12 and the current S.R. 149.

Baillytown School


The influx of Swedish immigrants to the area resulted in the development of Baillytown. This community extended for several miles along the Chicago-Detroit Road, now U.S. 12, roughly from Waverly Road on the east to a point near the current Port of Indiana in Portage, and as far south as Old Porter Road. This included land that is now part of the Town of Porter.
People who lived in what would become Burns Harbor generally considered themselves residents of Baillytown before 1900.  

Bailly street map

The Town of Bailly
In 1822 fur trader Joseph Bailly and his family became the first permanent settlers in the area. Initially trading with Native Americans, Bailly later built a tavern on what would become Nels Olson's farm in historic Burns Harbor.

In 1833 Bailly platted a town he called the Town of Bailly in the southeast corner of Section 28 of historic Burns Harbor. Bailly died in 1835 and the dream of a town died with him.

Historic Burns Harbor Key 
  1. Haglund Log House
  2. Baillytown School
  3. Salt Creek School
  4. Town of Bailly
  5. Lake Shore & Michigan Railroad
  6. Michigan Central Railroad
  7. Indian Boundary Line
  8. Samuel Samuelson Farm

Historic Burns Harbor

Early Families
The following are some of the families that settled in historic Burns Harbor before 1900: Blank, Boo, Brickner, Charlson, Chellberg, Dalgren, Haglund, Lawson, Mautits, Paschen, Peterson, Samuelson, Swanson, Schultz and Wennerstrom.
Haglund Log Home - In 1870 Nils Haglund bought 42 acres in what is now Burns Harbor and built a log cabin for his family.
Haglund log home
Pictured above are Niles and his wife Anna standing with her brother Andrew Carlson on the right. Nils and Anna's son Anton (Tony) is standing in the front of the wagon that holds some of his cousins.

The log cabin still exists as part of a log home on Meadowbrook Road.

John & Christina Brickner Family - The Brickners were German immigrants who settled in what would become Burns Harbor in 1875. They celebrated their 1923 Golden Wedding Anniversary, as seen in the photo below.
Brickner family

Hickory Grove Dairy Farm - Otto and Ida Peterson operated their farm from the 1880s into the early 1900s. Extensively expanded and remodeled, the house still stands at 1136 S.R. 149, surrounded by the original shagbark hickory trees for which the farm was named.

Hickory Grove Dairy Farm
Boo Farm - In 1883 William Boo bought land from John and Christina Brickner at the east end of what is now Boo Road. Praxair now sits on what was part of Boo Farm.
 Boo Farm

Rose Hill Farm
- In 1906, Niles built a house on the Haglund property, which was known thereafter as Rose Hill Farm.

The house was remodeled in the mid-20th century by Anne and Virgil Hokanson and still stands at 1252 Westport Road.
Rose Hill Farm
Continue by clicking on "The Middle Years" tab above...