The Star Press from Muncie, Indiana on July 1, 2004 · Page 71
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The Star Press from Muncie, Indiana · Page 71

Muncie, Indiana
Issue Date:
Thursday, July 1, 2004
Page 71
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Giant sand dune hosted marriages, boxing matches By RAY E. B00MH0WER For Prime Years The often spectacular view of Lake Michigan offered by dunes such as the Hoosier Slide provided a powerful enticement to early travelers. In 1836 Englishwoman Harriet Martineau, a writer traveling from Detroit to Chicago, stopped in Michigan City to see Lake Michigan. Although she had to endure wet weather and bad roads on her journey, when she finally made it into Michigan City what she saw impressed her, especially her splendid view of the lake. Where some people observed nothing but a spectacular view, some enterprising merchants saw the gritty substance as something else a gold mine. By the 1890s the Hoosier Slide, along with the Indiana State Prison, attracted tourists from Chicago, Lafayette, Peru, Indianapolis, and other towns. The Monon, Lake Erie and Western, and Michigan Central railroad lines lured passengers to Michigan City by touting the Hoosier Slide's beauty and its panoramic view of Lake Michigan. Even those just passing through on trains were awed by the Hoosier Slide's size. Writing about the sand hill, Carter H. Manny, whose father William B. Manny would be one of the first to see the potential industrial uses for Hoosier Slide, noted that "some people from afar who passed through in the winter time often inquired of the railroad men how such a big pile of snow got there." To entice more and more tourists to their fair city, Michigan City merchants of fered merchandise and cash prizes for races up the giant sand pile's slopes and even held marriage ceremonies on its peak. An Indiana State Prison official, hoping to attract visitors from southern Indiana, offered a free marriage license, minister, and excursion to any couple who would be willing to exchange their wedding vows on Hoosier Slide. A Mr. Plasterer, a southern Indiana farmer, and his bride-to-be accepted the offer, and many local residents and excursionists trooped up the sandy slopes to witness the happy occasion. In addition to marriages, the towering sand dune hosted hill-climbing contests, firework shows, and wrestling and boxing matches. Daredevil youngsters used wooden toboggans and hand-fashioned metal sheets to slide down the hill during winter and summer. The beginning of the end for Hoosier Slide came in the late 1890s. From time to time the Monon Railroad, which ran a switch track alongside Hoosier Slide's eastern slope, received requests from a downstate Monon agent for Michigan City sand. It was used to sand railroad tracts for better traction. This development caught the attention of William Manny, who worked for the line for a number of years and grew up in Michigan City. Manny and 1. 1. Spiro, a local lawyer, began purchasing large amounts of lakefront land, believing that the region was ripe for industrial development. Hoosier Slide was part of this property, and in 1906 Manny incorporated the Hoosier Slide Sand Company. The giant sand dune's death warrant had been signed. Hoosier Slide's destruction was aided by the industrial boom that occurred after the discovery of extensive supplies of natural gas in central Indiana in the mid-1880s. Cities such as Muncie, Anderson, Kokomo, Richmond, and others were soon besieged with new factories wanting to take advantage of this cheap natural resource. Glass companies, for example Ball Brothers in Muncie and the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company in Kokomo, sent north for Michigan City sand to help manufacture their products. Glass factories were not the only concerns clamoring for sand, according to Carter Manny, who upon his return from college in 1912 took over the sand business from his father. By the early 1920s the Hoosier Slide Sand Company had managed to level what had once been Michigan City's main landmark. With the demise of the giant dune, Manny moved his sand operation west of the former Hoosier Slide to virgin duneland. The leveled land was eventually sold by the Pinkston and Hoosier Slide companies to NIPSCO as the site for its power generating station. The amount of sand moved in the years since the first shovel broke the ground is a matter of conjecture. Some have estimated the amount at approximately 13.5 million tons (based on fifty tons of sand per railroad car and three hundred shipping days per year over a thirty-year period). Whatever the total amount removed, the result was the same Hoosier Slide was gone. Prime Years July 2004 17

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