|The Kankakee River Basin of which The Inn and surrounding lands are a part has been a region respected for its bountiful harvests and rich trapping and hunting preserves for centuries. Flecks of flint stone found during the environmental assessment of the entire Village of Aberdeen point to the prior presence of Indians and trappers on these grounds. The most prevalent Indians in this region were the Potawatomi. The Indians and traders of yesteryear undoubtedly traversed the land and streams that we are on today enroute from the Kankakee River to our south towards the trading posts along the shores of Lake Michigan, Baillytown settled by Joseph Baille (Bailly) near present day Chesterton and, of course, Fort Dearborn established in 1803 and later to become the City of Chicago.|
Valparaiso was established as a town in 1835 followed in 1836 by the establishment of Center Township in which The Inn resides. The exact dating of the buttressed walls of fieldstone, brick and concrete which form the foundation and support the living area in the historic portion of The Inn is not known. County records confirm the existence of the home at least as early as 1856. An original photograph of the home known recently as —Timberlake Farm hangs in the Inn’s old entry and depicts the seven members of the John Ritter family, owners of the property in the early 1900’s.
John came to Porter County in 1845 at the age of seven with his twenty-five year old father, Christian. He and his mother, Barbara Dowdeli Ritter, planted 150 apple trees in the area with seeds that they had transported from Erie County in New York. John later left Porter County to serve in the Grand Army of the Republic after which he had a brief fascination with the Gold Rush out west.
He returned to the area with his wife, Sarah J. Hesser Ritter, and their five children. Two children and Sarah later passed away and John remarried to Lottie M. Bradley in 1886 and they had five children, Jay, Ruth, Lyman, Harry and Maurice. Descendants of Ruth Ann Rifler Wilson live in the Valparaiso area today.The original house as depicted in the photograph had a full porch with the main entry into what is now the Library. The north end of the home was a single story. The original back door was found as we went to cut a door for the storage room in the southwest corner of the St. Andrews Retreat Center. A hidden ladder beneath the old entry closet floor has led some to believe that the house served as a way station for the Underground Railroad during the Civil War linking a known site in Hebron with other sites to the north. The rustic stone wall in front of the home along Indiana Route 2 still stands today with a wrought iron railing now fixed atop.