KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — Month after month, the Kosciusko County Area Planning Commission, depending on the agenda, can consider rezoning petitions, preliminary or final plats or also possibly road or lot vacations. During the planning commission’s most recent meeting Aug. 2, one petition stood out somewhat due to its historical significance.
Gary and Cristy Young petitioned to vacate a portion of lots and streets on CR 950S in Jackson Township, east of CR 700E. More specifically, according to Dan Richard, area planning director, there were three lots (68-70), portions of two streets and one alley remaining from the small, almost forgotten unincorporated community of Kinsey, located east of Sidney. For quite a while, Kinsey had been a “ghost” town and had dwindled to almost nothing from its original plat.
According to the original plat, Kinsey was officially platted in January 1883 with 80 lots. J.W. Matthews, John Kinzie (also spelled Kinsey) and Thomas Poland were listed as the proprietors. Kinsey originally had three streets going east to west (Walnut, Broadway and Poland) and four going north to south (Matthews, Main, Kinsey and Lake).
Kinsey, like many towns in that era, did not prosper until the coming of a railroad. The New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad, more often known as the Nickel Plate Railroad, came through the northern edge of town at an angle.
In its early years, the town was listed as Kinzie. According to a history of Kosciusko County published in 1986 for the 150th anniversary of the county, politicians changed the name to Kinsey, “which has never been legal.” The 1884-85 Indiana state gazetteer listed the town as Kinzie and noted it was a rural post office (Lyman C. Fox was the postmaster) and station on the Nickel Plate Railroad. The post office closed in 1907.
Grain and livestock were shipped on the railroad and there was the Heckman & Fox general store. There was still a store as late as 1911 in town, but by then Kinsey was “unimportant as a trading center.” A 1895 Rand McNally Atlas also lists the town as Kinzie.
The 1986 history book notes there was a sawmill north of town and it burned and was thought to be a case of arson, which likely was a reason the town began to fade away. Also, the railroad ran uphill where it passed the town and when the trains stopped for mail and baggage, they had to back up in order to get started again in the era of steam locomotives. Trains also had to be pulled off on a side track when stopped at Kinsey.
Eventually the difficulties trains encountered was another major reason the town began to decline. Other reasons were competition from other nearby towns, such as Sidney and Packerton, and the coming of the automobile, making it easier to go longer distances. In 1924, much of the town was vacated and became farmland. Only a very small portion of the original plat remained until recently.
The Youngs plan to sell the three lots they own and since the lot lines will be erased, for the record Kinsey will fade away into the past. Trains still run on the tracks but they only carry freight and Norfolk Southern now owns the line.