In approximately 1830, the first permanent white settlers came to Northwest Indiana, which at that time was home to the Pottawatoomie Indians under Chief Pokagan. These early settlers were primarily Prussian farmers, but additionally included a few carpenters, millers, masons, shoemakers, saloon keepers, and a doctor.
The earliest known records documenting what is now known as Dyer, Indiana date back to 1838. In that year, the original State Line House was built facing Sauk Trail, named after the Sauk Indians. The State Line House was used to house travelers going to Chicago, and became the overnight stopping place for Union soldiers during the Civil War.
The original plat for the town is dated June 1, 1855, and has a notation which reads "No doubt an error in date of record", but does not give a corrected date. The original plat shows Illinois, Indiana, Matteson, Calumet, Ross, Lake, East, and West streets; the Joliet and Northern Indiana Railroads; and the State Line. A plat dated March 28, 1858 also shows Hart and Joliet Streets.
A gentleman by the name of John Streets built the first business in the area in 1856. Mr. Wolcott built the second store, with the third business being built by F.L. Keilman and Leonard Keilman, in 1858.
In 1857, the Michigan Central Railroad established a station at Dyer, and built a grain elevator nearby. A few years later the Monon Railroad ran a north-south line through the town, and the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway built an east-west route..
Aaron Norton Hart, a Philadelphia publisher, helped shape the early history of the town. In 1857, he and his wife, Martha, whose maiden name was "Dyer", moved to the area and invested their money and their futures in the region. They had four children, three boys named West, Win, and Malcolm, and one daughter named Flora. Mr. Hart purchased fifteen thousand acres of what was then described as "despised swamp lands" from the government for $0.75 to $1.25 per acre. Many German Catholic immigrants followed the Harts and helped settle the land, including the Bernens, Hilbrichs, Hoffmans, Millers, Nondorfs, Peschels, Scheidts, and Schultes.
In 1853, it is reported that the town was platted. District School No. 2 was established as part of the St. John Township School System. The first school was a log cabin, with it being replaced in 1862 with a school house being erected on Hart Street by John Sommer. The building cost $150 with an additional $15 being paid for the making of school benches. By 1875, they had outgrown the building and a one-story two-room building was built. Each room was heated by a large stove which burned wood or coal. From 1876 until 1898, two teachers taught in the Dyer School. The lower grades were taught by Catholic nuns and the upper grades by men. Both German and English were spoken and written.
Around 1860, Hart built a fifteen room colonial style home, which stood until a few years ago at 135 Joliet Street. He later built another home at Hartsdale on the Hart farm. At one point in time, Mr. Hart owned fourteen yoke of oxen, two teams of horses, and three teams of mules. The road and ditch digging business for which he used these animals grew to such proportions that he had as many as forty men on his payroll at one time. Mr. Hart oversaw the extensive ditch system to properly control the immense Cady Marsh and the large pond called Lake George. With the completion of the Hart Ditch, 20,000 acres of fertile land were made available for settlement and productivity in contrast to its former boggy condition.
In 1867, Reverend Jacob Schmitz moved to Dyer and became the first resident pastor. He purchased four aces where the first frame church building, St. Joseph's was erected at a cost of $4,000 to $5,000. After the Christmas service held in 1902, the original church was destroyed by fire. Father Joseph Flach, who came to the area in 1878, along with the parishioners, began rebuilding the church. The present edifice was dedicated in 1903 and has a tower of over 100 feet. Father Flach retired in 1923.
A furniture store was established in 1867, and in 1870 a hardware store was established by Joseph Peschel. Medical doctors included Dr. Hoffman, Dr. A. Seidler and Dr. J. W. Johns. The population was listed at 400. By this time, five different railroads crossed Aaron Hart's land with each one being required to maintain adequate drainage along their right-of-ways. On January 12, 1883, Mr. Hart was killed while supervising the construction of a ditch when the left bank of a twelve foot high bank caved in without warning off a large bend in the Plum Creek.
In 1880, Mrs. F.N. Biggs and Mr. George Davis organized the Union Sunday School of Dyer. By 1891, the Dyer Union Protestant Church was established. It was the first Union Church in the country.
In 1887, the Franciscan Sister of the Order of the Sacred Heart of Joliet, Illinois, began one of their first missions in the area now known as Dyer. The first convent was built in 1901 simultaneously with the building of the first school. By 1905, they were instructing 87 pupils. Records reveal that St. Joseph's has been a dominant factor in the development of Dyer, and "its imposing steeple reflected that dominance over the surround scene."
By the early 1900's, Jacob Schaeffer established a blacksmith shop, and there was a creamery on Fagen Street, a pickle and sauerkraut factory on Matteson Street, and a flour mill on Hart Street. The sauerkraut factory had eight tanks or vats, each holding 125 barrels of kraut. The brand name was "Hartman, Kallenberger and Gettler" and was sold throughout the middle west. The First National Bank was established in 1903 by John L. Keilman, William N. Gettler, John L. Kimmett, Henery L. Keilman and August Stommel. There were also seven saloons and two grocery stores. With each saloon paying the town, after its incorporation, a fee of $150.00 for a town liquor license in addition to a state license for each. Each saloon had a watering trough for horses in the front. A nickel bought a schooner of beer, with a free lunch.
On January 24, 1910, citizens of Dyer decided by a vote of 57 to 35 to incorporate as a town under the laws of the State of Indiana. The Town of Dyer was formally incorporated on February 8, 1910. It helped address the housing needs in Lake County for its growing industrial region. The town was divided into three districts or wards so that a trustee might be elected from each of the wards. The original wards were drawn as follows:
First Ward: All land within the Town of Dyer lying west of Hart Street
Second Ward: All land within the Town of Dyer lying east of Hart Street and south of the Lincoln Highway
Third Ward: All land within the Town of Dyer north of the Lincoln Highway and east of Hart Street.
The first Board of Trustees for the Town of Dyer consisted of Michael Fagen from the First Ward, Henry L. Keilman from the Second Ward and Henry J. Schulte from the Third Ward. Their salaries, as established by ordinance, were $30.00 annually, payable each quarter. William N. Gettler was the Clerk-Treasurer of the Town of Dyer and was paid $60.00 annually. He held this position until 1939. Eugene Stech was appointed Dyer's first Town Marshal and received a monthly salary of $25.00.
In 1915, the Municipal Water Utility was established, and the Fire Department was established shortly thereafter. The original Volunteer Fire Department consisted of Fire Chief John Burge, Assistant Chief Andrew Peschel, Ladder Captain Frank Beiriger, Hose Captain Leo Hoffman, and Secretary-Treasurer Nicholas Austgen. Since there was no place to house the fire hose carts, Town Marshal Eugene Stech donated the use of his barn, and Joseph Schaller donated the use of his horse shed behind the Dyer Hotel for storage of the ladder wagon. The first fire station was built in 1916 for $125.00.
The first Town Meeting was held on March 10, 1919 in a store building owned by Henry Schulte at 229 Joliet Street. The owner was paid $2.00 rent for each meeting held at his store.
National attention was focused on Dyer in the early 1920's when an experimental model highway was constructed stretching three miles from Dyer to Schererville. It was called the "Ideal Section of the Lincoln Highway". This experiment, financed by the federal, state and county governments and United States Rubber Company, set the standards for highway construction throughout the United States.
Population of the town has steadily increased. In 1893, it is reported that the town had a population of 250 people. In 1910, it had 500; and by 1950 it reached 1,556. With the development of the Plum Creek Addition and the Plum Creek Annexation, growth of the town by 1960 reached 3,993. The Schilling's Subdivision brought the count to 4,496 in a special census in 1968, and by 1970 there were 4,778 residents. By 1975, there were 7,396; the 1980 census listed the town as 9,555; the 1990 census listed the town as 10,923, and as of the 2000 census, there were 13,895 Dyer residents.
Mail was delivered to homes in the Town of Dyer for the first time in October of 1954.