Pioneer History by Richard C. Schmal

Lake Dalecarlia

(from the Jan.29, 2002, Lowell Tribune, page 5)

__ Click on photo to enlarge it.

Many stories and tales have been written and told about the proud history of the pioneers who built their cabins and plowed the fields in the area that was later to become the site of Lake Dalecarlia.

E.W. (Wayne) Bryant and his family settled to the east in 1835, near the corner of what is now 161st Avenue and Hendricks Street, also the site of the early frame Jones schoolhouse where a brick school house still stands now as a private dwelling.

Pioneer Bryant called the area "Pleasant Grove," which became a community covering several square miles, including the site of an early grist mill operated by Israel Taylor and Benjamin McCarty near the site of the present dam.

To the north, pioneer John Foley used the waters of Foss Creek to operate his grist mill. Pioneer Peter Surprise staked out a claim of 600 acres to the south.

One half mile to the west, the early village of Tinkerville was settled in about 1850, with the name changed to Creston when the railroad came in the early 1880's. Nearby was the Stilson schoolhouse and several small family graveyards.

An early settler of the community of Pleasant Grove offered some recollections of his childhood for an 1873 history book: "As late perhaps as 1840, bands of Indians would frequently come into the settlements, erect their tents, and remain as long as the hunting was good. These companies consisted of from 20 to 50 men, women and children; Dogs and Indian ponies not included."

Many decades later David C. Hamacher, a "20th century pioneer" and prominent real estate agent in Hammond, realized the great potential of the terrain, and the "Wonder Lakes Development Corporation" was formed in 1927. Plans were made to form a new lake, using the waters of Cedar Creek and other nearby streams.

David Hamacher was elected president of the corporation, Albert Peters became vice president, and J.O. Dickson was named secretary-treasurer. The corporation included investors from both Lake County, Indiana, and Cook County, Illinois.

With the assistance of veteran Lowell realtor Herman Burnham, an option to buy was obtained for 3,100 acres of farm and swamp land, purchased from the Huebsch, Carstens, Pelton, Lawrence and Surprise families, with the final payment received in 1942.

The Lake Dalecarlia dam was built in 1928 at the site where a dam existed earlier to power the pioneer grist and saw mills. Carl Mahler of Lowell, well-known for repairing bridges and moving buildings, was the contractor.

A system of flood gates was also installed at the lagoon to the east of the dam. At a dinner meeting in 1929 at the Lowell Methodist Church, every stockholder and director pledged to sell five or more lots on the shores of the new lake.

Because there was already a "Wonder Lake" in the state of Indiana, the corporation sought another name, a vote was taken, and Swedish immigrants who outnumbered the rest of the stockholders (by 31 votes) insisted on naming the new lake after Dalecarlia County near Lake Siljan in the Province of Dalarna, Sweden.

As a 12-year-old lad in 1928, the Old Timer and his friends often hiked a few miles north of the Town of Lowell to swim and to watch the waters of the new lake slowly rise near the newly rebuilt dam. The young men followed the winding course of Cedar Creek or took an easier route along the newly constructed "concrete highway" now called Morse Street.

Before the lake filled up to the limit, the boys saw large, three-foot- high stumps from freshly cut trees in the center of the west lagoon.

As lots began to sell rapidly for both summer and year round homes, a Sunday School was formed by Vern R. Francis in 1930 at the real estate office leased from David Hamacher. Hamacher also donated several lots for the site of the present Dalecarlia Bible Church. The old real estate office was used as a community building, the Conservation Club, and for the Property Owners Association. The building was remodeled, burned in 1981, and was rebuilt. A large stone now stands nearby bearing a plaque -- "Lake Dalecarlia, 1929."

The Property Owners Association has been kept busy through the years with the care of the lake, fund-raising for the upkeep of the dam and spillways, weed control and dredging. The members each have a vote on the use of the private lake.

In 1950 the Lake Dalecarlia Volunteer Fire Department was formed, their first fire truck purchased for one dollar from the City of Gary. The unincorporated community has police protection from the Lake County Sheriff's Department.

Some residents will remember the sand beach north of the log house and the nearby rustic bridge to the picnic grove on the wooded island near the spillway.

On an old 1906 map of Lake County, Foss Creek is shown joining Cedar Creek several hundred feet south of the present 153rd Ave. The present Clark Street, 153rd Avenue, and 161st Avenue are all shown on the old map as country roads.

The following is from a story written by M.E. Burns for The Lowell Tribune in June 1933, a few years after the birth of the new lake: "Enough of the potential beauty was seen to convince the purchaser that this was the most inviting spot to erect a cottage and to spend the summer months of the year. However, as it was primarily for summer homes, many found that the lake was an ideal place for permanent dwelling, lying close to a fine trading center, Lowell, Indiana, which is but three-and-a-half miles away.

"Another feature has made for Lake Dalecarlia a permanent home place is the low rate of taxes imposed. The cost of lots has been greatly reduced this year, owing to the prevalent conditions [a depression], and this reduction has been the magnet that has, this early in the 1933 season, attracted many new lot buyers.

"The services of the best-known landscape architect was secured, plans were made, hundreds [of acres] of surrounding lands were purchased, the work of transformation was begun and thus was born Lake Dalecarlia, considered by thousands who have visited this charming and alluring place to assert that it is the most beautiful and ideal artificial lake in the West."

Last updated on October 26, 2005.

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