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Lake Manitou, Indiana

Updated on March 8, 2015
Lake Manitou is located in Rochester, Indiana
Lake Manitou is located in Rochester, Indiana | Source

In an 1826 treaty with the Potawatomi Indians, the United States government agreed to operate a mill for grinding corn near present day Rochester, Indiana. To create the mill pond, a stream was dammed, which transformed five smaller lakes into Lake Manitou. The government also paid the miller's salary, maintained a blacksmith shop, and provided the tribe with 160 bushels of salt annually. The settlement around the mill was called Tiptonville, after John Tipton, the Indian agent who negotiated the treaty, When the Potawatomi were forcibly removed to Kansas in 18138, the settlement was abandoned.

Rochester & Lake Manitou

The Lake Monster

The Potawatomi cautioned the settlers not to build the mill, saying they would be killed by Meshekenabek, the lake monster. Workers surveying the lake in 1827 reported seeing the monster. They claimed that it was thirty feet long and had a horse like head. After reports of the monster spread, it became difficult to find workers to complete the mill.

An 1838 Logansport newspaper article included a report by two men who saw the monster. They said it looked like a big snake and was sixty feet long, George Winter, known for his paintings of Indians, sketched the monster based on their observations.

In 1849 another Logansport paper reported that a several hundred pound buffalo carp was caught in Lake Manitou. They said the thirty pound head was displayed in town.

In 1888 a 116 pound spoonbill catfish was caught and displayed in a watering trough near the Fulton County Courthouse. People were charged ten cents for a look at the giant. Eventually the meat was sold for ten cents a pound.

The Resort Era

Air conditioning wasn't available in the late 1800s and early 1900s. During the hot summers, people went lakeside to escape the heat. At its peak, there were four hotels, 200 cottages and an amusement park around Lake Manitou. Unfortunately, everything was wiped out by the Great Depression.

North Breeze Cottage on Lake Manitou in the 1920a
North Breeze Cottage on Lake Manitou in the 1920a | Source

Paul Spotts Emrick

Paul Spotts Emrick was a Rochester native who went to college at Purdue University in 1902. He came from a family of band directors and was elected president of the band as a sophomore. After graduation, he stayed at Purdue and taught engineering while also serving as band director. During his fifty years directing the band, he came up with numerous innovations. His biggest was forming letters with band members. He came up with the idea while watching geese fly over Lake Manitou in his hometown.

Canada geese flying over Lake Manitou inspired the idea of Purdue's block P
Canada geese flying over Lake Manitou inspired the idea of Purdue's block P | Source

The Lake Today

In 1987 Rochester annexed the Lake Manitou area extended city and water services to the region. The lake is over 700 acres in area and has a maximum depth of 50 feet. It is popular for fishing, and 17 different species were collected during a 2011 study, including:

  • Bluegill
  • Largemouth bass
  • Yellow perch
  • Channel catfish
  • Gizzard shad
  • Bowfin

There are no speed restrictions on the lake, which makes it a popular place for water skiing. There is a city park on the lake which has a swimming beach and other facilities.

Today Lake Manitou provides fishing and other types of recreation
Today Lake Manitou provides fishing and other types of recreation | Source

Lake Manitou Nature Preserves

There are three nature preserves in and around the south end of the lake:

  • Manitou Islands can be reached only by boat.
  • Bob Kern features a lot of marshland with aquatic plants. There are also a few forested islands. The higher ones have hickory and oak trees while the lower ones are covered with tamaracks.
  • Judy Burton has a walking trail that connects to the Nickel Plate Trail.

Manitou Island Wetlands
Manitou Island Wetlands | Source

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