Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings
Significance. Joseph Bailly was probably the first white settler in northwestern Indianaat the time a wilderness inhabited mainly by Indians. His homestead was an oasis for travelers, a meeting place for Indians and whites, and a religious and social center.
Bailly, born in 1774 in Canada, began fur trading at Mackinac, the bustling fur capital of the old Northwest, at the age of 18. He built up a thriving business in the Mackinac and Lake Michigan areas and extended it south as far as the Kankakee and Wabash Rivers. His fur business was interrupted by the War of 1812, whereupon he enlisted in the British Army, and as a lieutenant of Canadian Voyageurs transported munitions for the British and Indians. Late in 1813 he was captured by a party of Indians loyal to the United States, delivered to U.S. authorities at Detroit, and imprisoned for 3 months. After his release he led several raiding parties against the Americans.
Following the war Bailly's fur trading activities declined, as did those of other traders in the area. In 1818 he became a U.S. citizen. He lived in the Mackinac area until 1819, first on Mackinac Island and later on Drummond Island, some miles distant. In 1822 he settled permanently in northwestern Indiana, an area as yet unsettled by whites, although the central and southern parts of the State had already been bypassed by the advancing line of westward settlement that had reached Illinois and, in places, had crossed the Mississippi River. Some of the displaced Indians had moved into the northwest part of the State. Bailly erected several log cabins to carry on his trading activities. Because the post was located in the wilderness near the trails from Detroit and Fort Wayne to Fort Dearborn, it became a stopping place and social oasis for Indian and white travelers.
In 1834 Bailly started work on his home, but died the following year. His hope of founding a town and bringing in Canadian settlers never came to fruition, but he did manage to sell a few lots. He is best remembered for his missionary-like activities among the Indians. His homestead was a religious center, the only one of its kind between Fort Dearborn and Detroit. The Bailly Homestead has been designated as eligible for the Registry of National Historic Landmarks primarily because of its associations with the fur trade.
Present Appearance. The main house, unfinished at the time of Bailly's death, and one of the log storehouses used in his trading activities are the only buildings that remain. Both have been considerably altered. The Bailly Homestead is now part of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
NHL Designation: 12/29/62
Last Updated: 29-Aug-2005