Removal of the Wall      

By David Miller, resident of Wall Lake  (1956 – 1964)                                                                                

 

          It may very well be that Wall Lake got it’s name from a prominent stone Wall that once extended a hundred yards or so east-to-west in front of the cottages between Reahm’s Place on the west and McCreary’s on the east.  The Wall appeared even more prominent during those years of low rainfall when the stones became visible well above the waterline forming a rock jetty 30 yards off shore.  The residents behind the wall could then traverse a continuous wall of stone, walking with dry feet from one end to the other; even fishing perched upon any of a number of substantial rocks that rose above the waterline.

 

          Geologically speaking the Wall might best be described as a dense ridge of glacial till dominated by boulders, some the size of basketballs, others irregular shaped, and measuring a full four feet in diameter; all with smooth rounded edges,   The east-west orientation of the Wall lent further credence to it’s glacial origins, left behind some 9,000 to10,000 years ago.  The Great Lakes and most inland lakes of the Southern Peninsula of Michigan were carved out by the same scouring action of glacial meltwaters that advanced and receded over the millennia. A thorough investigation of Michigan soils further supports this glacial theory.

 

          This prominent Wall of stone was admittedly a genuine landmark, but presented a number of challenges.  During years of abundant rainfall the rock Wall lay just below water level and motorboats quite often bottomed-out on the rocks causing considerable damage to boat and motor.  Those years when the lake level was down residents behind the Wall had difficulty getting their boats beyond the Wall.  This was remedied one summer by clearing a narrow gap in the very middle of the Wall where boats could pass more freely from the encompassed cove to the open body of water.  During those drier years the shoreline in front of the 6 or 7 cottages receded leaving behind a diminished waterfront and a mass of rotting seaweed, which offered very little opportunity for swimming, unless you ventured beyond the Wall.

 

          It was during a three year span of record low rainfall that the residents behind the Wall (Ken Reahm, Ken Miller, Jesse Mack, Art Cook, Bill McCreary and others) hatched a plan to hire  “Baldwin Brother’s Excavating” from Hastings to remove the Wall which had become an undesirable earthen dam. In advance of the actual removal a team of visiting geologists from one of the State Universities came out to properly survey the Wall. They were shown the principle wall and told of our suspicion that the rocks extended even further out-of-sight below the surface. This peaked their interest, and they returned a couple days later with diving gear. We took them in our family rowboat to a point well beyond the shore and they dove down and just as predicted: found a continuous column of rocks that extended clear across the lake. Their final report stated that although the Indians may have used the Wall in front of our cottage, it most certainly was NOT manmade. It was in fact a glacial deposit ‑‑ extending eastward across the lake, and consisting of comparable granite boulders of considerable size.

 

          As the cottage owners made plans to remove the Wall it was rumored that nearby (unaffected) residents on the lake were seeking an injunction against removal of the Wall, on grounds that it should remain a landmark, but the Baldwin Brothers of Hastings arrived early one Saturday morning and began work unhindered, with only a few protesting onlookers.  They laid heavy wood planks atop the Wall so that their crane could creep into position and begin the tedious removal of rock. Once in place the crane operator removed truckload upon truckload of rock, which was then hauled away by truck drivers to a location on the north side of the lake.  I was about ten years old that summer and watched the entire project unfold in front of our cottage (now owned by the Deboer family).  I remember some of the rock being so large it practically over turned the crane. Once a truck was loaded it disappeared down Cortez Rd to the dumpsite.  By the end of that day, and many many truckloads later, the Wall was completely removed, and the residents were left with a bona fide waterfront, not unlike other residents on the lake.

 

          I can recall summers when weeds and cattails had grown on the Wall, so the unobstructed view after the removal of the Wall made the Lake even more beautiful to behold.  It took that summer and the next for the lake bottom to adjust to the excavation work of that summer (circa 1962).  I guess you could say my brothers and I were the last explorers of the Wall on Wall Lake.  We would miss pulling away boulders to hunt crayfish or catch a Rock Bass in the nooks and crannies of the Wall.  We swam in front of our cottage nearly every day and can attest to the gouges in the lake bottom where the Wall had once been.  What remained were large pockets of slippery gray clay that would squish between your toes. I’ve visited the lake in recent years and the current residents have beautiful lakefront properties. 

          As for legends of an Indian encampment behind the Wall: I can attest to that, for in the early 1950’s we found arrowheads and hand tools on the beach behind the Wall.  One can imagine the usefulness of the Wall 100 or 200 years ago, when the aboriginals used the shoreline for drinking, bathing, fishing, and basket weaving.   The absence of a small portion of glacial rock doesn’t diminish the rich lore that lies “asleep” on the shores of Wall Lake.  I envy today’s youth that have the lake as their idyllic wonderland, and would encourage them to explore the shorelines.  Surely we left behind a few undisturbed rocks with arrowheads yet to be found.

 

 

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