A Quick History of Whiting
by Ginger G. Rodriguez
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 the first settlers here. 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 at 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 here.
Standard Oil Company began quietly buying up land along the lakefront in March and April of 1889. The company needed a Midwestern industrial site convenient to rail and water transportation to refine crude oil. 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. Early in the new century a public library and the lakefront park were provided for all to use and enjoy. In 1923 Standard Oil Company donated 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 had come a long way.