Information on this page has been taken from the Oliver Lake Directory, "A Bit of the Past" by Bob Misselhorn. Published by LaGrange County Publications.®
A BIT OF THE PAST by Bob Misselhorn
Some of the oldest remembrances of Oliver Lake go back to the late 1700s and the early 1800s when Potawatomi Indian villages dotted the shores. It is said that the Indians favored the east shores near the Limberlost Camp during the summer, but moved to the western shores for the winter. Many Indian relics have been found over the years and an Indian burial ground was located.
Somewhere around 1850, the lake was named Oliver Lake after James Oliver, a local farmer, landowner and businessman. A brother later moved to South Bend where he started the Oliver Plow Company which later became the Oliver Tractor Company.
Around 1909 the first commercial enterprise was developed by a Frank Ruebottom who operated a beach/bath house - concession type of business. Also during this period a very successful semi-pro baseball team was in operation. Some present area residents had relatives on the team.
In the early 1920s, Clyde Walb built the first cottages and established Walb's Addition as one of the first plotted properties on the lake. He also owned and operated a summer resort which included concessions, a bath house and a slide. The same family still owns this property.
During 1925 a third resort was built by Eugene Darrow, father of resident Bill Darrow. It included a dance hall, bath house, concessions and a small grocery store. The property was called the Oliver Spring Heights Addition and encompassed a baseball field, presumable home for the local semi-pro team. Unfortunately, the resort burned down in 1932.
In 1927, the Limberlost Camp area was developed by Jack W. Wainwright who formed his band camp there. The camp was in existence through the early 1950s and was sold to Purdue University during the late 1950s. Mark and Myrna Peterman later bought the Limberlost Camp and have since donated a portion of the land adjacent to Oliver and Olin Lakes to the State of Indiana, Department of Nature Preserves.
During 1965, Bill Darrow aided further progress in the area by forming an airplane landing strip which was named the Oliver Lake Airpark. This property and the operation was purchased by Jay LaMarr in 1981.
Most of the property on the south side of the lake is now owned by "The Nature Conservancy" who guarantees that no houses, buildings, or commercial development will be allowed in the future. Olin Lake has been turned over to the State of Indiana by the Conservancy and will be maintained in accordance with strict guidelines agreed upon by both entities.
The publisher wishes to acknowledge the contributions of Bill Darrow, a previous resident of the lake, born in 1915, from whom most of the above information was obtained.
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