EDITOR’S NOTE–This is another article on Findlay-area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.
By R.L. HEMINGER
Indian Lake, located south and a little west of Findlay, not far from Bellefontaine, has been visited by many local residents over the years. Also in the area are other places of interest that also have been the mecca of local people, including Russell’s Point and Orchard Island.
The background of this area is exceedingly interesting. In a recent (1967) issue of “Ohio Cues,” published by the Maumee Valley Historical Society, Lillian M. Carroll, as associate editor of the monthly periodical, gives the history of Indian Lake and the surrounding area.
Indian Lake was constructed as a water feeder for the Cincinnati-Toledo canal, known as the Miami and Erie waterway, which ran north and south, transversing Putnam County to the west of Findlay and Hancock County. Motorists who enter and leave Toledo on the Anthony Wayne Trail are traveling over the bed of the old canal which was filled up and transformed into the present thoroughfare.
This canal meant much to the residents of Findlay and Hancock County because it became a route of travel that benefited them greatly. They utilized the Blanchard River for travel between Findlay and Ottawa and the canal for transportation between Toledo and Ottawa. Before the canal’s development, they had to follow the Blanchard to the Auglaize in western Putnam County and the Auglaize and Maumee rivers on to Toledo.
The canal was constructed about mid-way in the 19th century. As the canal opened, two lakes were developed along the route to help provide enough water. One was Lake St. Marys in Mercer County, adjoining Celina. The other was Lake Loramie in Shelby County. But this did not provide sufficient water, it soon appeared. Another source had to be developed. So 50 miles east of the canal, the Miami River was dammed near its source to form another body of water, known in canal days as the Lewistown Reservoir. It was this reservoir that later became known as Indian Lake.
There had always been three small lakes where Indian Lake now lies, according to the Carroll account in “Ohio Cues.” On oldest maps, the largest lake was called Miami Lake and two smaller ones were known as Bear Lake and Otter Lake.
“The land around these lakes was swampy, low and marshy even as the northern shore is today,” said the Carroll article. “The dam on the Miami River was built in Washington Township in Logan County, of which Bellefontaine is the county seat. The original bulkhead had been replaced with a concrete dam which can be seen as one drives along Route No. 366 of the south shore of the lake. The first dam was built by Irish laborers, using picks, shovels and carts. It was finished in 1860 and the waters of the Miami River backed up until by 1893 the lake covered 6,334 acres of land.”
Indian Lake fed the Miami and Erie Canal by sending water down the Miami River to the feeder canal that ran up from Sidney for about 14 miles. The lake fed the canal continuously until 1896.
The Indian Lake area is significant in history. Moundbuilders knew the area, for there are earthworks which were the work of these prehistoric people. There is a circular mound about 12 feet in diameter. It has never (1967) been opened.
The area was dotted with Indian towns. The Shawnees and the Senecas were in the region. To the south of the lake a town called Lewistown developed, named for the Indian chieftain, Col. John Lewis. The reservoir bore the name of the town and the Indian chief.
“It is thought that the Indians may have mined lead in the Indian Lake area,” says the “Ohio Cues” account. Thomas O’Connor who operates O’Connor’s Landing on the east shore of the lake says that many persons have made borings on his land with the hope of finding lead deposits. Since the Indians operated in this area before the river was dammed, it is possible that if there was a deposit of lead, that it now lies under the lake.”
White settlers came into the area as early as 1833. There was a trading post at Lakeview, which is still a town at the southwestern end of the lake. A blockhouse was built by the English located near Indian Lake.