An Eagle Eye View of the History of Wood Lake

An Eagle Eye View of the History of Wood Lake

by David Chapleau

     Today we enjoy the 50th Anniversary of Wood Lake Scout Reservation without any private homes or speedboats or jet skis on either Wood or Little Wood lake. How is it that this place is not crowded with vacation homes, but exits much as when the human’s first came to this land?

 

     During the 1940's my father bought 30 acres on Wood Lake. He had a cabin on the south side on the same site as the large scout lodge is now. The Chapleau family enjoyed many visits to Wood Lake during the 1940's, but my Dad knew that to preserve the lake in its natural beauty the whole lake had to be purchased and used as a camp by a not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization. Today we enjoy Wood Lake Scout Reservation without any private homes, speedboats or jet skis on either Wood or Little Wood Lake because of Dad's foresight and that of the local boy scout leadership at the time of the early 1950's/ Dad and his brother had been boy scouts (his brother Louis was the second Eagle Scout in St. Joseph County, Indiana), and had enjoyed the summer camp at Little Fish Lake. After Dad returned from serving as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps during WWII, he started to develop a plan for a camp. He had architects draft a layout of a camp, and started to quietly contact youth organizations. Dr. George Plain was the Boy Scout Council President at the time the South Bend Boy Scout council started to look at Wood Lake. They took aerial photographs and Dad led them around the lake and even suggested the name "Camp Tamarack" because of the many tamarack trees surrounding the lake. The first brochure for Camp Tamarack had one of the aerial photographs that showed the Chapleau Cabin, a copy is below with the cabin circled.

 

     But how could the Boy Scouts afford the cost of buying all that land? It could only be possible if the other landowners did not know that one organization was trying to purchase the whole property. A secret partnership was formed to acquire the land. My parents, who already owned thirty acres, agreed to visit all the other lake owners and ask for options to purchase their land and then assign the options to the local Boy Scout council. It had to be done quickly before the other owners realized there was an effort to acquire the entire property. One weekend my parents were able to purchase options to all but one parcel. My father made a trip to Chicago to close the last parcel and it was done. Dad and Mom then purchased the old farmhouse on Shavehead Lake road just to the west of the entrance to the south side of Wood Lake Scout Reservations. We lived there until 1958. I had the pleasure of serving on camp staff at Wood Lake the summers of 1969 - 1970, and earned my Eagle Scout badge while there. Our family is grateful that so many generations of scouts have enjoyed this preserved treasure.