The following history of marine activity on Cedar Lake was written by James Hervey Ball and featured in the History of Lake County, 1884, by Rev. Timothy H. Ball, our most quoted pioneer historian of Lake County:
"Besides the fishing parties to the lake, came occasionally pleasure parties for a ride to see the lake and to row on it, if there was an opportunity; and so scarce were boats for a long time that from fifteen to twenty-five people would often wait on the shore to take turns in a single boat, carrying four of five, and that too so unseaworthy, that one person would be kept busy bailing with a tin basin or pail to keep it afloat." Many visitors went away disappointed when they found no boats available for a ride on the lake.
To meet that demand, pioneer Adelbert D. Palmer, who later lived in the village of Creston, contracted with Obadiah Taylor, who was a shipbuilder by trade, to build a double-masted schooner style sailboat, with a cabin, upper decks, and capable of carrying one hundred passengers! The new vessel, christened the "Young America," was built and launched during the summer of 1859 at a cost of over four hundred and fifty dollars.
A special celebration day was set aside for the official launching of the large craft, when long speeches were given and all present sat down to a fine dinner. To all present it seemed to be the opening of a new era for the pleasure seekers at Cedar Lake, and for three seasons the big vessel hosted many large parties. But the sailboat grew unseaworthy and finally was stranded off the shore of Cedar Point -- "and for a long while afterward, when the winds blew strong the distant notes of a brass horn could be imagined to be heard, as if the wreck was haunted by the brass horn that was once thrown from the deck, and still lies at the lake's bottom," said Ball.
In 1872 Samuel Love (who moved to Leroy in 1884) brought a smaller sailboat to Cedar Lake from Lake Michigan, a schooner-type called "The Lady of the Lake." It carried thirty passengers and was built at a cost of one hundred and thirty-five dollars. At that time a clubhouse was also built near the Cedar Creek outlet on the east side, and about fifteen row boats were soon available to rent. Nearby was the well- patronized Binyon Hotel.
Lakefront lots were going for high prices in 1881, when the railroad trains began to run along the west shore, and soon the owners were holding on to their property, hoping to get a better price later. The Stanley brothers of Chicago were finally able to buy twenty acres of fine lots at Cedar Point for $2,750. They soon had a fine boathouse erected, as well as a summer residence, built for $2,000. Rental boats were soon available there.
In April 1881 Captain Harper, experienced in sailing on Lake Michigan, brought to Cedar Lake another sailing vessel called the "Night Hawk." It was a trim sloop with a capacity of twenty passengers, built at a cost of $150. He hosted many sailing parties from the pier near his residence at Cedar Point.
In the spring of 1882 Dr. Hunter built a hotel at Meyer's Park (Meyer Manor) on the west side and soon was cruising the lake aboard a fine new steamboat worth $1,500, having a capacity of forty passengers. He also rented a large number of row boats from his inn.
The following year, 1883, the Stanley brothers launched another steamboat which they named "The Lady of the Lake" after the earlier craft. It had space for 15 passengers and cost about $700.
In 1884 Wardell and Hinkley of Chicago added to the fleet a steamboat called the "Jesse," built at a cost of $1,200 with room for 25.
Several other large sailboats were launched at Cedar Lake before 1884, and many new row boats were furnished by the Binyon Hotel, Sigler's Hotel, Hunter's Dock, and others, making a total of over 200 crafts.
Many families and individuals around the lake purchased boats for their personal use, and boathouses were built on the shores. Some new row boats owned by the Stanley family were elegant and costly and were worth $100 each.
Some readers will remember the old, canopied excursion boats that sailed from pier to pier, enticing pleasure seekers to take a tour of the lake. These were powered with gasoline engines (inboard) and looked a lot like the old pictures of the steamboats. Could it be that some of those boats were converted from steam?
The Old Timer enjoyed riding on those excursion boats, usually going aboard on Lassen's Pier, and he often begged his parents to let him sit "up forward." He sometimes was given the privilege of ringing the bell or blowing the horn. Much later he enjoyed being aboard his own sloop- type sailboat, and was always overwhelmed by the quiet speed of the craft as it "tacked" across the lake.
Boating on Cedar Lake had been a popular pastime ever since those pioneers launched their first boat. Sailboats, rowboats, canoes, fast speedboats, and all sorts of modern craft are seen each season, as well as speedy ice boats in the winter season. But it is hard to compare the modern vessels with the dug-out boats and the birch bark canoes of the Native Americans who were first to dip a paddle into the Lake of the Red Cedars.
The popular Cedar Lake Yacht Club began in the spring of 1934 at the Surprise Park waterfront, and since that time the group has launched many different styles of sailing craft. Many of the members were summer residents from Chicago and elsewhere who, in those earlier days, sailed "E" class "scows," sleek craft with a length of 28 feet. Then the "C" class "scows" were added, a smaller boat that was easier to maneuver. Several other styles of sailboats have raced in recent years, the competition beginning each year with the "Ice Breaker Regatta," sailing from their comfortable clubhouse on 137th St. at the lake.
Historian Ball wrote that the first white sail was used on Cedar Lake by himself and his Uncle H.H. Horton of New York. His uncle rigged a sail to a large row boat, fitted a rudder, and the two of them sailed "in either 1838 or 1844."
Now back to another quote from that item of 1884: "At the closing of 1884 and a half century of development, the outlook at the lake is bright and pleasant. Often during the day trains of cars wind along the beach, the several steamers ply its waters; the sail boats appear like great birds with white spread wings; the many row boats dot the waves, and tents adorn the coast line."
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