Columnist: Eagle Lake and French’s resort memories recalled

Published 9:55 am Wednesday, July 29, 2009

After writing about Christiana Lake it is now time to turn to the other lakes of the Edwardsburg area. Lakeside Effect is the title of the new exhibit at the Edwardsburg museum and the 10 lakes highlighted are Pine, Pleasant, Spring, Davis, Eagle, Christiana, Juno, Painter, Garver and Covert or Bull Lake as it was known long ago.

But this week the focus is on Eagle Lake and French’s  Resort. The resort was on the hill on North Shore Drive across the road from the lake. Known by another name, French’s Hotel, it was a white clap board building with a grocery store, dining room, parlor and kitchen on the ground floor.  Twelve to 15 guest rooms were in the upper floor. A long porch graced the front of the hotel for guests to enjoy the lake breeze and a place to socialize and enjoy lazy afternoons. Slot machines were not illegal at the time and a penny machine was greatly used.

The hotel was built by Henry and Myrtle French in 1906. Their two sons Ford and Harry were given the responsibility to drive the horse and buggy to the railroad depot to pick up guests who were arriving on the train. Later they used their motorcar to deliver guests to the hotel.

The boys married the Barber sisters, Katie and Gertrude and they all worked at the hotel. Later the daughter of Harry and Gertrude, Barbara joined the family and worked in the grocery store. The store provided groceries for summer lake residents and they delivered them to their homes along with the two dairies, Wambaugh and Suabedissen who also delivered milk to the summer cottages.

The Frenchs raised much of the food used in the hotel kitchen and sausage was made from butchered hogs. Henry milked the cows and raised chickens for their meat and eggs.
Since there was no running water, indoor plumbing was not a part of the hotel. Two outhouses were out behind the hotel for each of the sexes with a low seat for children. Washbowls and chamber pots were in the rooms and baths were taken in the lake.
The beach across the lake was reached by a set of wooden steps and walkways. Swimming and fishing were vacation pastimes. Anchored offshore was a raft for all to use and boats were available for fishing.

The hotel was sold several times after 1943, with Vernon Stockbarger, Gerald Lane and Art Owe as owners. After the thrill of vacationing at the hotel wore off the building was turned into apartments and in 1987, the building burned.  There were several small fires from candles and the final end came with a big fire that was too difficult to put out. It was the end of an era that provided great memories for many.

This information came from a book written by Lenore Casually, Melba Freeman and Norma Lou Men entitled “Reflections of Eagle Lake.”

This book is available at the Museum along side the display “Lakeside Effect.”

Jo-Ann Boepple provides Reflections of the Past, a weekly feature from the Edwardsburg Museum Group and Historical Collection. She is a third generation Edwardsburg resident.