By Tim Ashley
Earlier this year there were many news articles concerning the ownership of the lake control structure in Syracuse. Prior to the town owning it, there was the Syracuse Water Power Company.
In the 1880s farmers owning swamp land around the lake attempted to get control of the dam in order to destroy it and increase the area of their tillable land. This project was eventually defeated by the Indiana Supreme Court.
Syracuse Water Power Company was organized in the mid to late 1890s. The objective was to maintain a fairly normal high level in Lake Wawasee so it would be a success as a summer resort. A dam was maintained and owned by the company.
George William Miles was a key person in organizing the water power company and J.P. Dolan helped him. News reports indicated the company was actually used very little for generating water power. Power was supplied to a local novelty company.
After the water plant was installed in Syracuse, which apparently occurred sometime after 1901 when the company was given a franchise to construct a waterworks, there was auxiliary use of the power for running pumps.
Ron Sharp, in his book “A History of Syracuse: The Golden Years, 1871-1920,” noted in 1904 the Syracuse Water Power Company was operating a mill. This likely would have been located just off Main Street near what is now Dolan Drive where a millrace was once located.
In about 1909, the company asked the town to repair the dam so water would be held in and go through the race. The company complained it could not generate electricity unless the dam was repaired. Then the following year, 1910, a new concrete dam replacing the old wooden one was constructed.
Beginning in 1902, the town of Syracuse leased the Syracuse Water Power Company facilities, including the millrace, and did so for the next 20 years. In 1921, the town agreed to purchase the property and facilities for $4,000 and the deed transfer took place in 1922 upon expiration of the lease.
As shown on the 1914 Kosciusko County Atlas, Syracuse Water Power Company owned several platted lots in the area near the millrace just off Main Street and also close to Turkey Creek.
Apparently this company ceased to exist sometime after selling its property and facilities to the town in 1922. Today there is really no visible evidence a millrace or water power company once existed other than probably a few of the houses on the platted lots.
A building that once was used for the water plant and may have had some connection to the water power company was removed. According to the Kosciusko County GIS it was built in 1919 and was located along Dolan Drive. Don Robinson, water foreman for the town of Syracuse, believes the building could have been part of the water power company at one time.
He recalled a time when the area around the building had to be dug up due to a leak. Evidence was found of a concrete wing wall and the millrace essentially followed the path of what is now Dolan Drive.
NOTES: Next I will write about the former Lakeview Drive-In restaurant on SR 13 near North Webster. If anyone has information about the former restaurant or old photos of it, please contact me at phone number (574) 658-4111, extension 2306, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.