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Crown Point Indiana

Updated on August 6, 2015
Solon Robinson founded Crown Point Indiana  in 1834
Solon Robinson founded Crown Point Indiana in 1834 | Source

Crown Point Indiana is the county seat of Lake county in Indiana's northwest corner, was founded by Solon Robinson. Robinson was born in Connecticut in 1803. Orphaned at age 10, he married and moved west when he was 15. He lived for a while in Madison, Indiana, where he wrote for a local newspaper. Robinson founded Crown Point in 1834, when he established a general store, which did a great deal of business with the local Potawatomi Indians. The Indians called him "Wyonett Tshmokeman," which means "Chief Big Knife." Later, he formed a Squatter's Union to defend his land holdings and those of other early settlers. This protected them from land speculators and allowed them to purchase the land they had settled on at government prices. It also earned Solon Robinson the title of "Squatter King". Lake County was created in 1837, and Robinson served as county clerk, justice of the peace, and postmaster during his career as a public servant. Solon also donated the land and paid for the construction of the first county courthouse, which cost him $500 back in 1837. In the same year he started writing articles for agricultural magazines, and traveled across the country. His work was influential in the creation of the Department of Agriculture. Because of ill health, Robinson eventually moved south, and died in Jacksonville, Florida in 1880.

Cobe Trophy Race

IN 1909 wealthy Chicago resident Ira Cobe wanted to put on a big automobile event. The Coby Trophy Race was a 17 lap race on a 20 plus mile course that used roads between Crown Point and Lowell. The race lasted over eight hours. Twelve drivers started the race, which used a staggered start. Louis Chevrolet, driving a Buick, did not cross the line first, but when the times were calculated, he won by 65 seconds, at an average speed of nearly fifty miles per hour.

Financially, the race was a disaster. Rather than pay for grandstand tickets, most people set up lawn chairs at various points along the route. It was estimated that the backers lost at least $25,000, which was quite a sum in 1909. In 1910, the race was one of nine run at the Indianapolis Speedway, which had opened the previous fall. In 1911 the Speedway decided that they would only run one race (The Indianapolis 500) and no further Cobe Trophy Races were run.

Louis Chevrolet in his Buick at the 1909 Cobe Cup race
Louis Chevrolet in his Buick at the 1909 Cobe Cup race | Source

The Marriage Mill

Between 1915 and 1940, the courthouse at Crown Point was known as the "Marriage Mill". There was no waiting period to get married. Despite the fact that the town's population was only about 3,000, 170,000 couples were married during that 25 year span, including some celebrities. The Justice of the Peace even advertised in nearby Chicago.

In 1923, Rudolph Valentino married his second wife, Natacha Rambova in Crown Point. Their wedding the previous year in Mexico was considered invalid, because Valentino did not wait until one year after his divorce, as required by California law at the time. Word quickly spread around town about the celebrities, and a crowd quickly gathered. They cheered as the couple left and headed back towards Chicago.

The quick marriages ended when Indiana passed a state law requiring a blood test. It took three days to get the results back.

Many couples were married at the Lake County Courthouse
Many couples were married at the Lake County Courthouse | Source

John Dillinger's Escape

In 1934, John Dillinger and his associates were captured in Tucson, Arizona. Several states wanted them for various crimes. Indiana was able to get Dillinger so that he could be tried for the murder of an East Chicago police officer, while Ohio got the rest of the gang. During the flight, his first, he was handcuffed to the seat, and told his captors "I don't jump out of these things."

The Sheriff of Lake County was Lillian Holley, who was serving out the term of her late husband. When the prosecutor wanted to move Dillinger to the Michigan City prison, she said it would take an army to break Dillinger out of her jail. For a while, John was a model prisoner. Then he made his famous escape with a fake gun. He stuck it in the side of one officer, and then had him call other officers over one by one. He then made his getaway with two hostages and the sheriff's car.

John Dillinger escaped from Crown Point's Lake county jail in 1934.
John Dillinger escaped from Crown Point's Lake county jail in 1934. | Source

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