Six Generations of Summer People at Clark Lake
My family has been coming to Clark Lake from Toledo, in the summers since the 1890’s. I have a picture of my grandfather, Valentine Seeger, at about 14 years old, standing on a dock with two other young men. They all are wearing suits, and one is holding a two wheel bicycle. The back of the picture says “Clarks Lake, 1896”. I think the Seegers went to Eagle Point.
My grandmother’s family rented cottages starting at least as early as the 1890’s. Her parents, Albert and Elisabeth Neukom, rented several different ones, mostly in the area just east of Pleasant View. My grandma, Dorothy Neukom, told the story of sitting with her mother, on the edge of the dance floor of the pavilion at Pleasant View. She could watch her older sister, Elizabeth, dance with young men, but she was not allowed to dance until she was 16 years old. Valentine Seeger and Dorothy Neukom were married in Toledo in 1907.
In those days the docks were two wide planks stretching straight out from shore. When my dad, Valentine Seeger III, was a little boy visiting his grandparents at the lake, he ran out on the dock with bare feet and got lots of splinters in the bottoms of both feet. He remembered his kind Aunt Julia Neukom patiently removing all of the splinters.
At that time it took all day to get from Toledo to Clark Lake. They would take the train to Jackson, where they changed trains for one to Clark Lake. They got off the train at the depot at the end of Vining Street and walked down to the water and got on the little steam boat that went to Eagle Point and finally to Pleasant View where they got off and probably walked to their rental cottage. An ox cart brought their trunks to the cottage.
In 1920 or ’21, the Albert Neukoms bought two cottages on North Shore Drive, west of Pleasant View. They named one the Neukom Inn and the Neukom Annex next door was for their grown children and their families. One daughter, Helen, had married Errett Sala, and the Sala family owned a cottage on the south shore, east of Eagle Point. Dad remembered carrying the wash basins downstairs every morning and walking to the Hitt farm to get a pail of milk. When dad was a young man, he drove to the lake, but it still took all day. The roads were mostly two track dirt roads and they had lots of flat tires. Roaming chickens in the road were also a hazard.
The family almost lost the cottages in the depression, but Dorothy talked the bank in Brooklyn into loaning her some money and she and Val got to keep the cottages. After World War II, when my grandparents retired from business in Toledo, they made Clark Lake their home. In 1945 they bought three more cottages and started renting them in the summers. One of those families is still renting from our family more than fifty years later. The Seegers lived at the lake spring to fall, and wintered in California near where their two daughters lived. My grandfather liked to sail and fish, and they were always working on the cottages. In 1950 they built a “winter home” across the road.
Val and Dorothy became part of the community. They belonged to the Clark Lake Baptist Church and grandma joined the Brooklyn Artists Club, where she even had a one woman show. She was proud that she voted for every school levy because education was so important. (The family has been paying taxes in Columbia Township since the 1920’s, although we can’t vote because we are not permanent residents.)
We went to the lake just about every weekend in the summer and stayed in my grandparent’s cottage. As a little girl, I remember row boats, my father’s Rebel sailboat, and his speed boat with a 7½ horse power motor. It was a special treat to walk on the path in front of the cottages, down to the Pleasant View Hotel to buy popsicles in the coffee shop. By age twelve I was driving our motor boat with a 25 horse power engine and we all learned to water ski. I joined the Pine Riders ski club and drove the boat for Susie Brookhart to practice her trick skiing . When I was in college, the Rev. Loyal Wiemer became the pastor of the Clarklake Community Church, and I met his son, Douglas. Two years later we were married and Clark Lake is a big part of our lives.
In the late 70’s Doug and I bought my grandparent’s winter home and then our children got to spend more time at the lake. Water skiing, sailing and windsurfing were their favorite pastimes and both David and Elizabeth worked at Camp Storer during the summers when they were in college. My father and his two sisters, Doris St.Clair and Sue Donnell, had inherited the cottages around 1966.
Now my brother, Bruce Seeger owns the former Neukom Inn, Doug and I bought LeBelle Thayer’s cottage Uneedarest, next to the family cottages and my sister, Andrea Steible and her husband Dexter bought the other Thayer cottage.
Our grandchildren are part of the thirteen great, great, great, grandchildren of the Neukoms, the sixth generation to enjoy Clark Lake where it all started over one hundred years ago.
July 8, 2014