Whiting: A City Rich in History
The name “Whiting” predates the city of Whiting. In 1869, when “Pop” Whiting, a fearless (some have preferred to call him reckless) engineer ditched his heavy freight train so a fast passenger train behind him could have the right of way, not many signs of human habitation could be found at the site.
The railroads had brought what settlers there were. In 1850, when the federal government ceded the area to the State of Indiana, it was classified as swamp land and was notable for little more than its great sand ridges parallel to Lake Michigan. In 1851, the Michigan Southern Railroad, the first of three rail lines, was built across the wilderness. German settlers, lured by high wages of $1 a day, followed to build and maintain the railroad tracks. At the end of the Civil War, Henry Schrage opened the first store, a business that became the commercial, political, and social center of the community. When Schrage became postmaster of the new post office in 1871, the name of the community was shortened from Pop Whiting’s Siding to Whiting. In 1880, the Census Bureau counted 115 people there.
Standard Oil Company began quietly buying up land along the lakefront in March and April of 1889. The company need a Midwestern industrial site convenient to rail and water transportation to refine crude oil, and Whiting fit those requirements perfectly. With the refinery, the community’s history changed forever.
Efforts to incorporate began almost as soon as Standard Oil came to the area, but were initially unsuccessful. Whiting finally incorporated as a town in 1895 and as a city in 1903. With incorporation came new services, and some of the amenities of city life, including a public library and a lakefront park, followed early in the new century. In 1923, Standard Oil Company provided land and funding for the Memorial Community Center, which became the hub of city life with its social and athletic facilities. By this time the refinery employed over 4,000 workers, and the city numbered approximately 10,000. Pop Whiting’s Siding has come a long way.