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“Where Beauty Dwells Unbidden”

Goguac Lake 1870-1930

By Laura V. Nisbet


            To the residents of Calhoun County, Michigan, Goguac Lake is more than just the beneficial result of glacial movements on the face of the earth.[i]  The lake, originally spelled Coguagiack, has been valued for practical and aesthetic reasons since the first English settlers arrived in the early nineteenth century.[ii]

            As one would expect, the lake served as a magnet for settlement.  Goguac provided irrigation for crops, a ready supply of water and a focal point for community recreation.  With so much to offer to residents, the lake was a valuable and much used resource.  Nonetheless, elevated usage of the lake for recreational purposes occurred from 1870 to 1930.  That increase and the accompanying development reflected specific national trends in the amount of leisure time available to the average person and the number and kinds of organized recreational activities being offered.[iii]

            There were two distinct periods in the development of Goguac Lake.  From 1870 to 1900 there occurred a period of growth that began with the formation of the first sculling club and ended with the sale of Goguac’s first resort hotel.  This was a period of great activity but, at times, little sophistication.  Transportation was still primitive and, except for boating, activities were very similar to those in the city – dancing, eating and strolling. 

            The next period falls roughly within the years 1901 to 1930.  During this time the resort hotel was expanded to include commercial amusements and sports.  Flashy entertainments, including balloon ascensions, midway games and even a roller coaster, were the order of the day.  Not until the sale of the resort for subdivision and housing in 1924 did the lake become one of predominantly expensive year-round housing broken only by a small public beach and picnic grounds.

            I know a lake where beauty dwell unbidden.

            Among the rolling hills and fells ‘tis hidden…[iv]

            It was not until after the Civil War that Goguac Lake attracted more than scattered campers or family and church picnics.  Because there were parks for strolling and grounds for picnics within the city proper, a trip to the lake, a full two miles from the center of town, was a special occasion.[v]

            The potential refreshment of a dip in the lake on a hot summer day was not a compelling attraction in the mid-nineteenth century.  Although men’s swimming was common, it was thought to be a waste of time, too dangerous, or too immoral an activity for women and children.  In fact, it was not until the 1890s that recreational swimming was commonly accepted and as late as the 1920s before mixed public bathing became a much favored summer activity for the entire family.[vi]

            In 1870 a sculling club formed and led the way in establishing Goguac Lake as a center for local recreation.  It spawned the Goguac Boat Club which was founded on July 24, 1873.  The initial membership roll listed 22 young men and included the names of many future city leaders.

            Boating, like swimming, was restricted in the nineteenth century.  But unlike the social prohibitions on public bathing, boating was economically prohibitive.  Participation in the Goguac Boat Club not only required an income adequate to cover boating club expenses (such as dues and equipment) but also required a certain lifestyle – costly in terms of wardrobe, entertainment and travel.  Thus expense associated with a boat club restricted membership to the wealthier citizens of any community.  In this respect, Battle Creek’s first boat club was typical.[vii]

            In addition to competing in regattas in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, the club provided a social center for the young male elite of Battle Creek.  Members built a boathouse on Ward’s Island on the north end of the lake and a second, larger structure on nearby Parker’s Hill soon after.  The buildings housed three sculls and a 10-oared barge, the “C.A. Ward,” which the members used to ferry young ladies around the lake.[viii]

            During the winter, meetings were held monthly and club rooms were kept in the Riley Block above Peaslee’s Book Store at 2 West Main (Michigan).  The rooms were fitted with exercise equipment including boxing gloves, rowing machines and horizontal bars.  When not exercising, the members were planning receptions or balls and organizing a volunteer fire fighting unit named the “Goguac Hook and Ladder Company.”[ix]  After nearly 15 years as an independent organization the Goguac Boat Club merged with the Athelstan Social Club.[x]

            Steamboats first arrived at Goguac Lake in 1876.  Two gentlemen (by the names of Halbert and Ables) built and operated a 35 passenger side-wheeler but sold out to A.L. Clark for $1,000 in January 1877.  Clark launched the “Lew Clark” in May of that year and made several improvements, even adding an organ, during that first summer.  Although the boat did a steady business, Clark sold her to Ralph Cummins in July 1879.  The night that the sale was finalized, the “Lew Clark” and the boathouse burned.  The captain’s wife and two of their four children died in the blaze.[xi]

            The “Lew Clark” was quickly replaced by the “Fearless,” the “Tagliwanda” and the “Gazelle.”  For an average fare of 10 cents, a steamboat ride on the lake was easily the most popular attraction at Goguac for many years.  When horse car service to the lake was initiated in 1885, business boomed and competition became fierce.  After 1889 the “Pearl” and “Maude” were vying for customers only to be upstaged in 1893 when Captain Orton launched the “Welcome.”  This steamer could accommodate 150 passengers on two decks and lasted for 13 years on Goguac Lake – long after most other steamboats had burned or moved to less competitive waters.  Finally, in 1906, even the “Welcome” met a fiery end while winter drydocked at the south end of the lake.[xii]

            Progress, in the form of a hotel, came to Goguac Lake in 1875.  Richard W. Surby, a Civil War veteran, arrived from Lansing, Michigan, and quickly began construction of the Goguac Hotel.  Intent upon opening for business before the season was over; Surby’s resort was built in just two months.  His establishment was impressive.  “The dining room would seat 100 people:  the dance floor was upstairs and outside were croquet courts, revolving swings for he youngsters, and comfortable benches for those who preferred to just sit and relax.”[xiii]  Mr. Surby paid $750 to build the hotel which quickly became profitable and attracted visitors within a fifty mile radius.[xiv]

            The Goguac Hotel was destroyed by fire on March 22, 1877.  Although losses were set at $6,000, Surby was well-insured.  After thanking his creditors for their patience, he announced that he would rebuild on an even grander scale.  On June 1, the revamped resort opened with a flourish.  Surby’s Goguac Lake Hotel now offered the public a large hall for dancing; two-story detached restaurant and hotel, refreshment stand, picnic grove, boat rental house and elevated seating.  The affable proprietor was pleased to once again see his patrons bask “in the enjoyment of terpsichorean exercises.”[xv]

            One of the highlights of the summer was Surby’s July 4th celebration.  On June 20th he announced through the local papers that a “complete program” would be offered on the 4th.  The German Cornet and the Humphrey & Evans full-string bands were scheduled to play.  The posters circulated around the city advertised contests and prizes that included the hefty sum of $5 to the winner of the greased pole event, tub races, sack races and boy’s boat race.  All the events offered cash awards with the exception of the ladies’ boat race which simply offered a “handsome prize.”[xvi]

            The city debated building a concrete walkway from the city to the lake but never approved the project.  Visitors commonly made their way to the lake by foot, bicycle or a horse-powered conveyance which might carry as many as eight to 12 passengers.  For those more concerned with convenience than money, a hack or carriage could be hired.  In spite of the rugged travel options, more than 10, 000 visitors were reported to have attended the Independence Day festivities at Surby’s resort in 1877.[xvii]

            The same year that R.W. Surby rebuilt and expanded, he was faced with competition.  In September 1877, John D. Chamberlain of Norwalk, Ohio, purchased Picnic Island (on the south end of the lake) from William Jennings.  The following spring he constructed a spacious white frame hotel on the newly renamed Chamberlain’s Island.  Like Surby, Chamberlain offered meals, refreshments, dancing and overnight accommodations to both summer boarders and transient visitors at his resort.[xviii]

            Always a favorite destination for lake outings, the new hotel was a success.  The Chamberlains hosted elegant balls, fine orchestras and other special events.  Chamberlain built a wooden slat footbridge from the west side of the island to the mainland.  This facilitated transport to and from the island for both summer customers and his wife’s piano students.[xix]  Nevertheless, most visitors continued to arrive by rowboat or steamer.

            The steamships established regular routes around the lake, stopping at several points.  Surby’s and Chamberlain’s resorts were on the schedule and were visited throughout the day.  Also included were Jennings Landing, the Sanitarium Villa and Waupakisco Beach.[xx]

            In the 1870s, Jennings Landing was little more than a scattering of cottages on William Jennings’ farm.  The landing was frequently used for picnics and camping.  In response to public demand, Jennings built a dock and kept several rowboats to rent.  After his death, the land changed hands many times but kept the name it had first been given in 1848.  In 1919, it was purchased by the Battle Creek Country Club which continues to occupy that site.[xxi]

            The Sanitarium Villa, built in the late 1880s, was originally planned as a patient annex to the Battle Creek Sanitarium.  The pretentiously-named Villa was a frequent destination for Sanitarium daytrips.  Patients visited the lake cottage “to escape the heat and dust of the city” and enjoy the rejuvenating effects of the fresh lake air.[xxii]  This purpose was thwarted in those years when, due to city demand and drought-like conditions, the water level of the lake sank dramatically.  In 1889, the “Goguac Sanitarium closed for the season, the stench and miasma being so bad that several of the campers have been taken down sick from the bad odors.  The smell from the receding water and exposed mud was too much for the patients to stand as a health resort.”[xxiii]  As transportation to the lake became more convenient, the villa became less an annex for patients and more a vacation spot for Sanitarium employees – particularly doctors and nurses.[xxiv]

            Waupakisco Beach, formerly Cox’s Point, was a favorite swimming spot.  Many times each summer, groups hired a small steamer to ferry them to the Point and to remain there as a floating dressing room and shelter for an afternoon of swimming.  In 1895 the land was purchased for $700 by a group of seven investors organized under the banner of the Waupakisco Beach Club.  The purpose of the club was “to associate together for congenial company, intellectual benefit, social enjoyment, and out purposes.”[xxv]  Summer cottages for each investor were built the following year and the club maintained the property as a private seasonal resort until formally disbanding in 1917.[xxvi]

            As development proceeded and Goguac’s popularity increased, the desirability of lake property also continued to escalate.  In 1887 two brothers, Drs. Jacob H. and H.M. Beidler, purchased 70 acres at the north end of the lake.  Hoping to make a quick fortune they divided the acreage into lots and named the area Park Beidler.  These parcels were large enough to accommodate a tent or small cottage but little else.[xxvii]  In addition to selling and renting tiny lots, the Beidlers leased cottages and built a picnic pavilion for Park Beidler guests.[xxviii]

            Next door to the ambitious Beidler brothers, Fred and Ed Parker plied their trade each summer and attracted a large regular clientele.  Owners of a local drug store, the brothers augmented the business by offering ice cream for sale and installing a soda fountain.  This proved so popular that further expansion into the ice cream trade was planned.  On a high bank at the north end of Goguac, the Parkers built a large one room building and began selling their ice cream to lake visitors.  The concession stand and adjoining picnic grounds, on what became known as Parkers Hill, soon became a favorite lake attraction.[xxix]

            While the Parkers and the Beidlers experienced rapid expansion and general prosperity along with other lakefront proprietors, there appeared a quiet ripple on the surface of Goguac’s future as a summer resort.  In 1881, the city fathers determined that the lake was the most satisfactory source of water for the city and drew plans for a water main system.  By August 1887, the completed system was activated and the “wheezing steam pumps sucked water through 16-inch cast iron intake pipes which extended 400 feet out into the lake.”[xxx]

            Initially the new system was widely heralded with “all united in wondering how the city got along so many years without what was now almost an indispensable necessity.”[xxxi]  City fires were less threatening, bathing and cleaning more convenient and lawn sprinkling made possible through the daily contribution of several hundred thousand gallons of water from Goguac Lake.[xxxii]

            The widespread enthusiasm generated by activation of the city water mains system was not echoed by business and property owners on Goguac Lake.  According to a statement issued in 1889 By R.W. Surby, the water level of the lake, aided by a streak of drier than average weather, had sunk by over three feet since the fall of 1886.[xxxiii]  The water loss exposed a “ring of dirty, black, filthy slime all around the border of the lake and his boats rested on the mud.”[xxxiv]  The new system was seen as the primary cause of that water loss and therefore, a direct threat to the future of Goguac Lake as a summer resort.[xxxv]


            As city officials debated the seriousness of the water problem, lake property owners heatedly insisted that “Goguac is shrinking to a pond, and something must be done at once to rescue it from the impending doom.”[xxxvi]  The most discussed alternative to the looming water supply crisis involved the use of nearby Minges Brook as a supplementary source of water.  Exercising that option, in 1889 the city purchased water rights from Minges Brook residents (at a cost of $12,000) and built a dam to control the flow.[xxxvii]  After completion of the dam, the lake was maintained at a more consistent level and the fear of devastating water loss was alleviated. 

            The water supply problems resolved, Goguac Lake was firmly established as a first-rate summer resort with an array of services available to visitors.  The horse-car line had been extended the year before and operated at full capacity all season.  The service ran every half-hour in open cars and charged a nickel for the ride.  Business owners banded together to advertise Goguac’s charms and emphasized that “livery, street railway, hack and omnibus lines, etc. to the lake, will carry passengers between the city and lake at all hours day and night.”[xxxviii]

            In the summer of 1889 it was noted that “a perfect string of teams going to and coming from Goguac fills the road constantly now.  The Lake seems to be the center of attention for every one…”[xxxix]  Joining the stream were bicycle riders by the score who pedaled out over the expanded cow paths that had rapidly become busy thoroughfares.  In 1891 electric street car service commenced and eased the congestion somewhat.[xl]  The advent of that service attracted even more visitors to the lake.  Many who considered a horse car ride too lengthy or arduous readily spent the 20 minutes it took to reach the Goguac Lake Depot by electric street car.[xli]

            The atmosphere of progress and change created by the appearance of electric street cars was continued by the sale of R.W. Surby’s Goguac Lake Resort in 1896.  After 20 successful years, Surby sold the business to Mrs. S. Unna of Chicago and retired to Florida.  Mrs. Unna’s son, Julius, was the owner of the local Bee-Hive department store.  They set about updating and renovating the aged resort, spending “a lot of money remodeling the buildings, landscaping the hill and placing seats thereon, adding flowerbeds and filling in the grounds adjacent to the beach and docks.”[xlii]  The new establishment, dubbed Lakeview, opened with tremendous fanfare on July 4, 1896.[xliii]

            Independence Day, always a busy holiday at Goguac Lake, was especially festive with the opening of a new resort.  Early in the day crowds of revelers arrived by street car, wagons, hacks and private rigs.  Many brought picnics with them but an equal number queued up to Lakeview concession stands for hot meals, peanuts, popcorn, taffy and lemonade.  As advertised, there was orchestral music for dancing day and night and, on the grounds, the Galesburg Brass Band provided concerts.  Games included horseshoes, croquet, and baseball.  For sportsmen the highlight of the day was Professor John Talmadge’s demonstration of the new water bicycle.[xliv]

            Most anticipated were the elaborate “illuminations” arranged by Mrs. Unna.  The new proprietress secured the services of Pain’s Celebrated Fireworks – the very same company which supplied fireworks for the 1892 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  “There were more than 100 items in the list that included brilliant red star scintillates, whistling bombs and candles, rockets showering stars in colors…never before nor since has it been equalled.”[xlv]


            In 1897, Charles Willard’s bequest of 16 wooded acres further changed the face of Goguac Lake.  The prominent local farmer, land owner and businessman offered the parcel on the east shore of Goguac to the city with the stipulation that it be “maintained perpetually as a public park,”[xlvi]  This gift, made four days before Willard’s death, was received with great enthusiasm.  Long a favorite picnic grove, the city began to develop the property in 1915 at a time when swimming became more popular.  Between 1919 and 1922, the city hired a full-time lifeguard, constructed a circular drive, installed picnic tables and erected a bathhouse and pavilion.  During this period of extensive development, Willard Park assumed an appearance very similar to that which it holds today.[xlvii]

It is not in some fairy land of story.

But spreads its waters near at hand in glory…[xlviii]

            If the period between 1870 and 1900 represents the infancy and childhood of Goguac Lake development, then it is reasonable to regard the years 1900 to 1930 as the lake’s adolescence.  Consistent with this characterization is the tumultuous, commercial and sometimes gaudy nature of Goguac’s attractions at the turn of the century.

            In 1901, after only five years of ownership, the Unnas suffered “financial reverses” and were forced to give up management of Lakeview (more popularly known as Unna’s).  John G. Piper leased the resort but, before 1911, Lakeview was absorbed into an alliance of businesses called the Goguac Lake Resort Association.  The association consisted of independently owned businesses that functioned cooperatively and advertised as a unit.  Independent concessionaires were encouraged to establish themselves at Goguac during the summer season.  Offering a variety of attractions to lake visitors was seen as beneficial to all.[xlix]

            Fred and Ed Parker expanded their business to include a new pavilion and 25 new steel rowboats.  “The upper floor of the pavilion [sic] was a dance hall and the lower section was occupied by bath houses and the boat livery.  Later, a chute-the-chutes was built on the west end of the building and bathers could rent toboggans and slide down the incline into the water.”[l]

            Migrating concessionaires included midway games, food booths and photographers.  The amusements carried strange but enticing names.  The proprietors of the Japanese rolling ball, Hoopla, American bowling, Bungaloo, Barrel and the Knife Rack all battled for the customer’s interest and, ultimately, their cash.  So competitive was the market that one ambitious manager, equipped with baseballs, agreed to “stand perfectly still, while you hurl them at him for three throws for a nickel.  All you have to do is knock his eye out, or force his teeth down his throat to get a good cigar.”[li]

            In addition to the midway attractions, water sports, particularly swimming, were encouraged.  In the spring of 1911, by arrangement with resort management, Charles Haylock and Dr. Leslie announced they would teach the art of swimming to all interested parties.  Record holding swimmers themselves, the two instructors promoted their system of a swimming instruction and “hoped to create a little excitement at Goguac Lake.”[lii]  With the same objective, E.J. Clifton, manager of the Goguac Roller Rink and Bathhouse, purchased “all new [swimming] suits, for men and women, of all sizes, and these are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected every morning.”[liii]

            The cleanliness of swimming suits was a minor concern to many Battle Creek citizens and council members.  More urgent was the cleanliness and purity of the lake itself.  After Goguac became the primary source of city water in 1887, many believed there was a high risk of disease transmission through the water supply due to large numbers of bathers.  Refuting this belief were the weekly water tests conducted by both the Battle Creek Sanitarium and the University of Michigan.  Both received a sample of water drawn from a city faucet.  Each performed a series of tests and gauged the level of odor, color, deposit and pathogenic germs present in the sample.  The results were then submitted to the City Council.  By the standards of the day, the test results published in the local newspapers were generally excellent with little or no threat from bacteria.[liv]

            In spite of the encouraging status reports released to the public, Mayor Thomas Zelinsky and the City Council passed a resolution in 1912 “prohibiting promiscuous public bathing in Goguac Lake, and other unlawful, unreasonable, improper use and pollutions of the city’s water supply…”[lv]  The resolution was inconsistent with the reports stating that the Lake’s water presented no threat to the public.  The discrepancy stemmed from a misinterpretation of the actual condition of Goguac’s water.

            Confusion regarding the safety of city water was generated by ignorance of the obstacles in treating water for human consumption and use.  Unusually hot weather, as well as pollution from watercraft and increased human refuse all contributed to intermittently high bacteria levels.[lvi]  In response, Goguac Lake was regularly treated with hypochlorite of lime to reduce the vegetable growth and bacteria.  This strategy normally reduced bacteria growth to better than tolerable levels.

            However, when the demand for city water rose along with lake usage, the lime treatment proved barely adequate.  Laboratory tests verified the absence of colon bacilli but indicated the presence of large numbers of secondary bacteria.[lvii]  The water was safe but not harmless.  These circumstances prompted Mayor Zelinsky and the Council to pass the resolution forbidding public bathing.[lviii]

            However reasoned the decision to ban swimming, it was met with a furor of resistance from Goguac Lake resort owners.[lix]  If customers were no longer permitted to swim in the lake, it was certain to adversely affect their business.  According to the city and the law of riparian rights, “only the riparian owner has privileges in water bordering on his own premises.”[lx]  The city reinforced its stand on July 29, 1912, when it issued a warrant for the arrest of William McComb on grounds of polluting the city water supply by swimming in Goguac Lake.[lxi]  The resort owners were not intimidated and continued to permit, even encourage, patrons to use the bathing facilities.[lxii]  The city parried with a temporary restraining order “which enjoined the Goguac Lake Resort Association from promoting any more public bathing in Goguac Lake…”[lxiii]  Not to be outdone, the association countered and succeeded in having the injunction overturned and swimming rights at least temporarily restored.[lxiv]

            As the litigation continued, the City Council studied plans for a permanent solution to the problem.  There were more options than funds available to the Council as they addressed the issue.  However two proposals appeared most viable.  First, the quantity of water available could be expanded by tapping into the waters of one or more lakes and streams and diverting it to Goguac and the quality of water (taste, odor, purity), could be improved by mechanical filtration.  The second proposition entailed “that the main supply be taken from the ‘Verona Well’ site to the full capacity required, with the present supply from Goguac Lake as a subsidiary one.”[lxv]


            The Verona Well plan contained several natural advantages in water quality and temperature and being the cheaper alternative insured its adoption.[lxvi]  Resolution 880, January 13, 1913, directed the Board of Works to submit to the council “suitable and expedient plans with the requisite specifications, diagrams and plain and accurate estimates for a water works pumping plant at the location of the Verona wells…”[lxvii]  On June 4, 1914, the Verona Well pumping station was fully operational and the Goguac Lake station placed on permanent standby.[lxviii]

            With a new and permanent water supply established and the fear of swimming restrictions dispelled, the lake attractions enjoyed a fresh wave of popularity that lasted through World War I.  Renamed Liberty Park shortly after the war began; the resort area came under the umbrella management of Herman Becker.  He arranged for “the casino, a relic of the Louisiana Purchase (St. Louis) Exposition of 1904, to be brought to the site near the Goguac Pumping Station…and it formed the nucleus of Liberty Park.”[lxix]  There was no gambling at the Casino.  The ground floor housed a cabaret and the Dreamland dance hall occupied the upper story.[lxx]

            Also new to the lake were Farmer Nick’s wrestling and boxing arena and permanent concession stands.  George Keris opened his food booth, the Round Stand, which quickly became a landmark.  Unwilling to rely exclusively on architectural distinction, Keris’s concession was known for its wide ranging menu and courteous service.

            Every Sunday the crowd clustered to watch a daring balloon ascension executed by:

            the professor – all balloon jumpers were professors – who was hopping about in             his grimy tights, at one moment wildly fanning the blaze under the big bag with             his cap…and when, as was the case at least once at Goguac, the professor’s wife,             who was billed to make a double jump with him, created a last minute scene and             he screamed to the crowd that he wanted to kill her and had packed her             parachute so that it wouldn’t open, the effect was even more electrifying.[lxxi]

            Camp Custer, less than 10 miles from Goguac Lake, was established in 1917.  By 1918 the camp was home to more than 32,000 soldiers and other military personnel.[lxxii]  Not surprisingly, Liberty Park was a favorite haunt for soldiers on leave.  “During the war years as many as 5,000 Camp Custer soldiers had visited the lake resorts on pass on a single day, many to ride the launch and ogle the pretty girls at the cabarets.”[lxxiii]

            Flushed with success, the resort owners expanded once more.  A roller coaster was erected between 1918 and 1920 and a Ferris wheel, once an attraction at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, was brought to Goguac in 1922.[lxxiv]  The Ferris wheel, thought to be one of only two 72-passenger wheels ever built, towered impressively over the park. 

            Liberty Park continued to draw crowds during the early 1920s but business declined to an ominously low level by 1928.  The Sanitarium Villa closed in 1929, and the islands were no longer open to the public.  Much of the land surrounding the resorts was platted and sold for building lots.  Steamboat service was permanently discontinued.  In fact, Willard Park was the only lake facility that experienced an increase in patronage during the Great Depression.  By 1933 Liberty Park was gone, the roller coaster and Ferris wheel were dismantled and the Casino was a victim of the wrecking crew.  The lakeside wonderland was thrust into the realm of memory.  


            Tremendous changes transpired between the first scull slicing through the water in 1870 to the rattle of a roller coaster car on its wooden track in 1930.  Battle Creek was a rapidly growing community and the development of Goguac Lake was, in many ways, a reflection of the growth and maturation of the entire city.

            Perhaps the residents of Calhoun County did not view the end of the glory days of Goguac Lake with the same eyes as nostalgic historians.  After all, it didn’t happen in one day or one week or even one month.  But surely a few of the men and women who sailed across the Casino dance floor felt a twinge on the day of her passing.  When the crews dismantled the Ferris wheel, did at least one grown child remember rising up to the top of that 72-passenger wheel only to discover his stomach had been left on the ground?  Is there anyone left who craves the homemade taste of Parker’s ice cream?

            Goguac Lake, in its modern metamorphosis, continues to be accessible to the citizens of Battle Creek through the generous bequest of Charles Willard.  Willard Park provides picnic grounds, a beach, a concession stand and a small bathhouse for the many summer visitors who crowd there.  Scanning the lake, it is difficult (but not impossible) to visualize Chamberlain’s hotel, the “Welcome” and the Chute-the-Chutes.

            Yet traces of the past linger.  A smaller Ward’s Island remains, but is uninhabited and dense with poison ivy.  The Goguac Yacht Club has its clubhouse on the same spot that was the last home to the Goguac Boat Club of 1873.  A restaurant that specializes in seafood – not ice cream – occupies Parkers Hill.

            As one gazes around the lake the eye falls on a nearly unbroken line of private homes.  Granted, there have been expensive cottages and exclusive reserves on Goguac Lake since the mid – 1880s, but the balance between public and private tilted with the close of Liberty Park.  During the years 1870 to 1930, the development of the lake passed through stages akin to infancy, childhood and adolescence.  Perhaps Goguac Lake has now grown up?





[i] Pronounced GO-gwack

[ii] Edward M. Brigham, Sr., “A Geological History of Goguac Lake”.  1914.; Walter Romig, Michigan Place Names (Grosse Pointe, Michigan:  Romig Publications, 1957).  227.; Frank H. Roberts, Smithsonian Institution to Berenice Bryant Lowe, Battle Creek, 23 July 1953.

[iii] Foster Rhea Dulles, A History of Recreation  (New York:  Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1965), 148-167.;  Robert B. Weaver, Amusements and Sports in American Life  (Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 1939), 57.

[iv] J. W. Bryce, “Goguac Lake,”  Battle Creek Daily Moon Art Souvenir Edition  (Battle Creek Daily Moon, 1900).

[v] Before the turn of the century local residents would gather on the grounds of Battle Creek College.  Even more popular among “Battle Creekites” was McCamly Park.  Located on the west side of town this park “fairly hummed with social activity.”  Battle Creek Sesquicentennial Committee.   Battle Creek Sesquicentennial 1831-1981  (Battle Creek, Michigan:  Battle Creek Sesquicentennial Committee, 1980), 85.

[vi] Weaver, Amusements and Sports in American Life, 189 – 190.

[vii] Berenice Lowe, Tales of Battle Creek (Battle Creek, Michigan:  The Albert L. and Louise B. Miller Foundation, Inc., 1976), 187-188.; Battle Creek Sesquicentennial 1831 – 1981, 72.; Ross H. Coller, “People and Events of Yesteryear,” Battle Creek Enquirer and News,  24 July 1958.;  Dulles, A History of Recreation, 357.

[viii] Coller, “People and Events,” July 1958.;  Lowe, Tales of Battle Creek, 188 – 189.

[ix] Sunday Morning Call (Battle Creek), 7 February 1877.;  Goguac Boat Club Invitation to Second Annual Ball (Battle Creek:  Michigan History Room, Willard Public Library, 1875);   Lowe, Tales of Battle Creek, 188 – 189,; Coller, “People And Events,” July 1958.

[x] This decision, reported in the club minutes in February, 1887, came as no surprise, given the overlapping membership of the two clubs.  Coller, “People and Events,”     July 1958.  

[xi] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 29 January, 12 April, 5 May, 20 June, 25 July, 1877;  Lakeview News, 9 August 1956;  Arthur K. Bartlett, “Glimpses of a Half-Century,” (Willard Public Library, Battle Creek, Michigan) 1909.; Lowe, Tales of Battle Creek, 189.

[xii] Battle Creek Daily Moon, 17 August 1889; Lakeview News, 9 August 1956; Battle Creek Record and News, 8 October 1955.; Lowe, Tales of Battle Creek, 189-190.; Ross H. Coller, “People and Events of Yesteryear,”  Battle Creek Enquirer and News, September 1946.

[xiii] Battle Creek Record-News, 8 October 1955.

[xiv] History of Calhoun County Michigan (Philadelphia:  L.H. Everts & Company, 1877), 91-92.;  Battle Creek Record-News, 8 October 1955.; Ross Coller, “People and Events of Yesteryear,” (Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 1958).; Lowe, Tales of Battle Creek, 190-191.

[xv] History of Calhoun County, 92.; Battle Creek Daily Moon, 22 March, 25 April, 23 May, 1877.

[xvi] Battle Creek Moon Journal, 2, 20 June 1877; 5 July 1877.

[xvii] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 21 April 1877, 5 July 1877; Battle Creek Sesquicentennial, 74.; Lowe, Tales of Battle Creek, 188.

[xviii] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 2 August 1877, 5 June 1956, 4 October 1981; Lakeview Kiwanis Club. “Vince’s Island,” 1961.

[xix] Battle Creek Enquirer & News, 2 August 1877, 5 June 1956:  Amy South, “Looking Back,” Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 28 July 1974. 

[xx] Lowe, Tales of Battle Creek,188.

[xxi] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 25 July 1877, 22 January 1922.

[xxii] Battle Creek Daily Moon, Art Souvenir Edition, 1900.

[xxiii] Miasma or Miasmatic fevers were diseases thought to emanate from exposure to poisonous fumes, putrid matter of a noxious atmosphere, Battle Creek Enquirer and News, September 1889.

[xxiv] Battle Creek Daily Moon, 15, 17 August 1889; Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 11 September 1889; Encampment Extra Special Edition, Battle Creek Review and Herald, 12 August 1889.; Battle Creek Sesquicentennial, 112.; Lowe, Tales of Battle Creek, 195.

[xxv] Minutes of Waupakisco Club (1895-1917), Michigan History Room, Willard Public Library, Battle Creek, Michigan.

[xxvi] Minutes of the Waupakisco Club (1895-1917), Michigan History Room, Willard Public Library, Battle Creek, Michigan.; Ross H. Coller, “People and Events of Yesteryear,” Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 7 September 1958.

[xxvii] To this day, the north end of the Goguac Lake is a mass of small homes on tiny lots.

[xxviii] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 14 May 1946.; Lowe, Tales of battle Creek, 191-193.

[xxix] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 14 May 1946; Lowe, Tales of Battle Creek, 193-194.

[xxx] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 23 July 1953.

[xxxi] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, August 1889.

[xxxii] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, August 1889, 23 July 1953, 16 December 1965.

[xxxiii] R.W. Surby, “A Fair and Candid Statement of Our City’s Water Supply,” Battle Creek Daily Moon, 4 September 1889.

[xxxiv] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 10 August 1889.

[xxxv] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, August 1889.

[xxxvi] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, August 1889.

[xxxvii] The dam project was completed and fully operational by 1892.  Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 8 October 1889, 23 July 1953.

[xxxviii] The Sunday Morning Call, 13 June 1886.

[xxxix] Battle Creek Daily Moon, 17 August 1889.

[xl] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 14 May 1946; Battle Creek Sesquicentennial, 57.; Lowe, Tales of Battle Creek, 152-153.; Battle Creek Daily Moon, 17 August 1889.

[xli] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 4 July 1948.

[xlii] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 4 July 1948.

[xliii] Battle Creek Daily Moon, 26 June 1896.; Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 14 May 1946, 4 July 1948.

[xliv] Battle Creek Daily Moon, 26 June 1896.; Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 14 May 1946, 4 July 1948.

[xlv] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 4 July 1948.

[xlvi] Battle Creek Daily Moon, Art Souvenir Edition, 1900.

[xlvii] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 3 January 1896, 30 May 1954, 1 January 1951.;  Battle Creek Daily Moon, Art Souvenir Edition. 1900.

[xlviii] J.W. Bryce, “Goguac Lake.”  Battle Creek Daily Moon , Art Souvenir Edition, 1900.

[xlix] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 30 May, 6 June 1954, 1 January 1951.;  Battle Creek Record and News, 8 October 1955.; Lakeview News, 25 April 1957.

[l] Battle Creek Record and News, 8 October 1955.

[li] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 11 June 1911.; Battle Creek Sunday Journal, 7 May 1911.

[lii] Battle Creek Sunday Journal, 7 May 1911.

[liii] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 11 June 1911.

[liv] Battle Creek Journal, 20 May 1911.; Battle Creek Daily Moon, 23 July 1912.; Lowe, Tales of Battle Creek, 195-196.

[lv] Battle Creek Daily Moon, 23 July 1912.

[lvi] City of Battle Creek, Official Record of the Proceedings of the Common Council, 30 June 1913.

[lvii] Colon bacilli are the bacteria responsible for pyelitis (inflammation of the kidneys) or infantile diarrhea – both of which are potentially fatal.

[lviii] City of Battle Creek, Official Record of the Proceedings of the Common Council, 10 June 1912, 30 June 1913, 20 July 1914.

[lix] Private land and cottage owners did not object.  Steven Halbert, a local attorney, had challenged a similar ban in the 1890s.  The case, four years in litigation, was ultimately heard by the Supreme Court of Michigan.  In 1902 the court ruled in Halbert’s favor and supported the riparian rights of all lake property owners.

[lx] Battle Creek Daily Moon, 25 July 1912.

[lxi] When arraigned several days later, William McComb pleaded not guilty and “smilingly said that he was not near Goguac Lake Sunday.”  It was soon discovered that it was, in fact, his brother Robert who had been swimming and a new warrant was issued.  Robert, a waiter at the Sanitarium, was arrested and spent the night in jail for his crime.  Battle Creek Daily Moon, 29 July 1912, 9 August 1912.

[lxii] Battle Creek Daily Moon, 9 August 1912.

[lxiii] Battle Creek Daily Moon, 3 August 1912.

[lxiv] Battle Creek Daily Moon, 12, 13, 14 August 1912.

[lxv] City of Battle Creek, Official Record of the Proceedings of the Common Council, 10 January 1913.

[lxvi] The Verona plan was estimated at $40,000 and the Goguac expansion at over $75,000.  City of Battle Creek, Official Record of the Proceedings of the Common Council, 10 January 1913.

[lxvii] City of Battle Creek, Official Record of the Proceedings of the Common Council, 13 January 1913.

[lxviii] The standpipe for the Goguac pumping station was not dismantled until 1953.  City of Battle Creek, Official Record of the Proceedings of the Common Council, 4 June 1914.; Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 23 July 1953.

[lxix] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 6 June 1954.

[lxx] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 6 June 1954,; Battle Creek Record and News, 8 October 1955.

[lxxi] “Famous Fourths of July,” Scrapbook, Michigan History Room, Willard Public Library, Battle Creek, Michigan.; Battle Creek Record and News, 8 October 1955.

[lxxii] Battle Creek Sesquicentennial, 50-52.

[lxxiii] Battle Creek Enquirer and News, 4 October 1953.

[lxxiv] A new roller coaster replaced the original in 1930.