By Mark Knecht and Jamie Clemons
As the largest natural lake in Indiana, Lake Wawasee has become a popular playground for summer and winter recreation activities. But for history buffs, its attraction includes the prehistoric Native Americans that roamed the area thousands of years ago as well as the more familiar historic period Miami and Pottawatomi tribes. Of particular interest is the area of Papakeechie’s Reserve, named for a leader of the Miami tribe in this region, Chief Papakeecha, and his brother Wa-wa-aus-see, Lake Wawasee’s namesake. There is also historical interest for the period that followed the completion of the B&O Railroad in 1874, which transformed what had been a quiet fisherman’s paradise into an industrial presence and tourist destination. Pharmaceutical manufacturer Eli Lilly helped establish the first sailing club and Chicago-based mobsters in the Al Capone crime syndicate ran gambling operations. Cottages became summer residences for family gatherings and vacations.
Ann Garceau, co-author of the book Syracuse and Lake Wawasee, Images of America, will provide an educational and entertaining perspective of Lake Wawasee’s history during a May 23 boat cruise around the lake. This event is sponsored by Chautauqua-Wawasee in conjunction with the Syracuse-Wawasee Historical Museum. Garceau’s great-grandmother and grandparents first came to Wawasee around 1910 on the B&O Railroad and traveled by launch to Morrison Island. She is the fourth generation of her family to enjoy the Syracuse-Wawasee area.
As Garceau shares interesting stories about historic structures that stood around the lake, you will be able to better visualize them with the aid of a provided pamphlet, Then and Now, picturing what you are hearing about while enjoying what is built there now. Among places that Garceau highlights will be the numerous hotels, marinas, entertainment venues, neighborhoods and historic homes.
The historic cruise is from 2 to 4 p.m. May 23 on the S.S. Lilypad. Tickets are $15 per person and are available through Chautauqua-Wawasee by visiting www.chqw.org or by calling (574) 377-7543. eating is limited so early purchase of tickets is encouraged.
Chautauqua-Wawasee provides family events in support of four pillars: arts, education, religion and recreation. Based on the original Chautauqua Institution, founded in the town of the same name in southwestern New York State in 1874, Chautauqua-Wawasee is a non-profit organization dedicated to the exploration of the best in human values and the enrichment of life through a series of programs and events. Throughout the year, programs are held in the Syracuse-Wawasee area, with many held at Oakwood Resort.
The Syracuse-Wawasee Historical Museum is located in Syracuse, Indiana in the Syracuse Community Center across from Lakeside Park. The Museum has been offering a glimpse back in time for the Lakeland area since 1987. It was founded with funds gained from the Syracuse Sesquicentennial Celebration and occupied a room in the Syracuse Public Library until June 2002 when it moved to its current location in the Syracuse Community Center. he Museum serves as a public education resource and is developing engaging, informative displays that communicate and provide educational enrichment and research potential for the community.