When early fur traders called our neck of the woods LaPorte, they couldn’t have imagined that this area would become a railroad hub, that 1920s gangsters the likes of Al Capone and Bugsy Malone would chose Long Beach for their hideout, or even that we’d become known as the festival capital of Northern Indiana. Much in the same spirit, however, LaPorte County continues to provide a gateway to relaxation and excitement.
History & Heritage
It has been said that fur traders in the 1600s called the area LaPorte (the door) after they found a natural opening in the forests that lead to the prairies beyond. While it was a well-known spot for travelers, it wasn’t until 1829 that LaPorte County would welcome its first settlers.
In February 1829, Henley Clyburn and his wife Sarah left Ottawa, Illinois, accompanied by her four brothers and her mother, Miriam Benedict. Following a journey wrought with severe winter weather, the family arrived here in March 1829. They built the first white settlement in LaPorte County and the beginning of the town of Westville.
Our forests, marshes and lakes officially became LaPorte County on May 28, 1832. Immigrant populations were crucial to the industry and development in the mid-1800s - at one point Michigan City had the largest Lebanese population of any American City.
In many circles, LaPorte County has become known as the festival capital of Northern Indiana because, regardless of the season, there’s bound to be an award-winning festival going on somewhere.
Almost every weekend, year-round, you will find a different celebration happening at the Friendship Botanic Gardens in Michigan City. For more than two decades, folks living in the southern reaches of the county have enjoyed good, family fun at the annual Mill Pond Festival in Union Mills. The HannaFest also celebrates the history, culture and people of that small, friendly community.
Another long-standing tradition in LaPorte County is the LaPorte Sunflower Fair, a terrific one-day festival for the whole family. One of the state’s premier fall events, the Wanatah Scarecrow Festival features one of the largest local craft fairs in the state, as well as great food and fun. The most highly lauded festival in LaPorte County - with national awards and visits from throughout the Midwest - is the annual Washington Park Festival of Lights.