County Profile: Newton County

Posted on Dec 26 2021 in County
Kankakee Sands
Newton County is the home of the Nature Conservancy’s Kankakee Sands prairie restoration project. In 2016, the land trust organization (please see cover story on page 22) introduced a herd of 23 bison to Kankakee Sands. Today, more than 90 bison roam this square mile prairie. Visitors are able to see the bison easily and safely from a natural elevated viewing area established just off U.S. 41, which runs through Kankakee Sands. The Conservancy and partners have been working to restore a significant slice of prairie at Kankakee Sands since 1996. 

Newton County has the dubious distinction of being the only Indiana county that was penciled in and actually appeared on maps, erased in a merger into its neighboring county, then pulled back out from that county and reappear. This close kinship with its neighbor, Jasper County, began with the two men for whom the counties were named — Revolutionary War compadres, sergeants John Newton and William Jasper — and continues today. 

Originally, Newton and Jasper were carved from some of the last parcels of open, unorganized Indiana land in 1835. The two occupied the area that now also includes Benton County and parts of Lake and Porter counties in Indiana’s far northwest corner along the Illinois line. Instead of running side-by-side north to south as they are today, Newton ran beneath Lake and Porter counties, and Jasper was its neighbor to the south. When Benton was created in 1839 from much of what was the southern portion of Jasper County, Newton was merged into a new larger Jasper County.

In 1859, Newton was revived and formed out of the western half of Jasper County. With its revival, the new Newton County became the last of Indiana’s 92 counties. 

Both John Newton and William Jasper were sergeants in the American Revolutionary War with similar tales which linked them together. Four other states, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas, have adjacent Jasper and Newton counties to remember the two as a true duo. While Jasper was a documented war hero, Newton’s exploits may have been exaggerated in tales by the early-American author who also fabricated the myth of a young George Washington and the cherry tree.

Today, Jasper and Newton counties continue a tight connection, working together in numerous ways to benefit residents and organizations in both mostly agricultural counties. Jasper Newton Foundation Inc., is a nonprofit organization that facilitates strategic partnerships across both counties to make a greater impact. “Love where you live” has become the strong motto the foundation has fostered in building community support.

In addition, the Interstate 65 corridor runs along the shared county line where Newton and Jasper counties have seen unprecedented growth in agritourism over the past 20 years, beginning with Fair Oaks Farms. Originally large dairy operations that developed a hands-on dairy educational “adventure” and a cheese factory and shop, the Fair Oaks Farms complex now also includes a full farm-fresh restaurant, hotel, meeting facilities, agricultural educational experiences for dairy and large-scale pig operations and much more. A new agricultural/industrial park is also being added at the I-65/Ind. 14 junction that will include a vertical (hydroponic) farming facility.

County Facts

Founded: 1859

Named for: Sgt. John Newton, soldier in the American Revolutionary War.

Population: 14,011 (2018 estimate)

County seat: Kentland

Indiana county number: 56