History

The lake was originally spelled Coguagiack, a Native American term used to describe
the “undulating” prairie surrounding the lake. This was an area which was home for the
Potawatomi tribe and Goguac Lake was said to be a gathering place for them from time to time.

Since being settled by the English in the early nineteenth century, Goguac Lake has provided
irrigation for crops, a ready supply of water and a focal point for community recreation.

Tall Tails

Goguac Lake has figured in a surprising number of stories: pure fiction, legends based on a
thread of fact and some fantasied logic.

George Willard guessed that La Salle had camped beside Goguac Lake; the story grew to La
Salle’s committing himself on the beauty of this particular body of water. After slogging through
swamps around hundreds of lakes in his hasty escape across southern Michigan. It is doubtful
if La Salle had bothered to look at Goguac, much less to comment on its superiority. Of course
he had to sleep someplace, Willard figured, so why not beside this lake? Willard also thought
the name Goguac meant Ancient Fort and was given to the lake by the Indians. A mound
of earth that cut across Waupakisco peninsula was designated Ancient Fort on early maps.
Indians seldom gave names to bodies of water and we now know that it was the prairie that
was ‘undulating’ — the meaning of the Indian word Coghwagiak.

The larger bay, in one place 66 feet (20 m) deep, is spring fed, but any number of stories arose as
to the cause of cold and warm water only a few feet apart. In the 1890s a few cottagers stocked
the lake with fish of desirable kinds for eating and one year brought in some choice eels. That
started stories comparable to those told about the Loch Ness Monster. But the stories disappeared
as did the eels. Only one catch, harmless enough, has been reported in the last quarter century.

In the 1850s the New York Mercury, a journal which sired the dime novel and our modern
mystery magazines, published a story whose setting was an island in Goguac Lake. The author
is unknown. Its main character was a two personality man. He didn’t have two personalities to
begin with, like the later Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but had stolen the ‘soul’ and appearance of a
man dying here and placed them in his own sturdy body. The story included plenty of suspense
and an evil cat.

Goguac Lake has no known natural outlets and its level changes according to season, going
down during dry spells, coming up when there is much rain. An artificial inlet from Minges
Brook controls this somewhat. Following a rumor that the lake has a hidden outlet into the
Kalamazoo River, a priceless ‘first person’ story was written for a local paper. Suspected as
author of the story, and perhaps of the rumor, is William Pease who was owner, editor and
possibly sole writer for The Jeffersonian, a short-lived newspaper in Battle Creek.

The autobiographical bit told that the author was a visitor, living at the Battle Creek House, and
that he was swimming in Goguac Lake when he was sucked into the outlet at the bottom of the
lake. he was swept all the way to the Kalamazoo River. Badly bruised but uninjured, he was not
only able to walk but to run back to the hotel and sneak unobserved in the back way. His suit was
shamefully torn. Just how he breathed all of that time in a tunnel of water he did not bother to
explain.