SOUTH BEND – What if South Bend, named for the southern-most bend of the St. Joseph River, wasn’t the fourth largest city in Indiana? What if the University of Notre Dame and the RV capital of the world were technically in Michigan? And NASCAR drivers Ryan Newman and David Stremme, actress Vivica Fox and basketball star Skylar Diggins weren't from Indiana?
Let’s back up a bit, to something that happened nearly 200 years ago.
An historical marker near Johnson Road and U.S. 31 south of South Bend explains it all. The original state border for Michigan and Indiana were set in 1805, about 10 miles south of where it is today.
But when Indiana petitioned Congress for statehood in 1816, Territory Delegate Jonathan Jennings proposed that the Indiana line be moved north to its present location.
The reason? State leaders wanted a port on Lake Michigan – a critical economic link to the east coast.
“[They wanted to ship] back to the east and then bring manufactured goods from the east into this area for the people who were pouring into it,” said David Bainbridge, senior curator at northern Indiana’s Center for History Museum.
Congress approved the request. In exchange for losing what's now South Bend, Elkhart, LaPorte and Michigan City, Michigan gained the Upper Peninsula – a plethora of natural resources.
If the original state line still existed, Indiana would be very different today.
“South Bend and Mishawaka had an enormous water resource in the Kankakee Swamp with its lumber and everything, and Indiana would have lost out on that,” said Bainbridge. “And who knows what companies may not have stayed in Indiana because you could not ship directly through the great lakes.”
Studebaker and Ball Band wouldn’t have their claim to fame in the Hoosier State. The Michigan Toll Road just doesn’t sound right, but the Toll Road we know would be in Michigan.
The “Michiana” we know and love might still exist, but it definitely wouldn’t be the same.