The early settler in Newton county, though deprived of any near source of supplies, found no difficulty in finding support for himself and family. A newcomer brought with him a limited supply of flour, coffee, tea and sugar. With this stock as a basis, he found it possible to furnish his table with all he needed. Deer were found in great abundance, as well as almost all other kinds of game, such as geese, brant, ducks, prairie chickens — in fact, in that early day this part of the country was a perfect Indian and hunter’s paradise. And for many years, even after this country was fairly well settled, hunting parties would come from long distances to enjoy the sport and supply themselves with luxuries so easily obtained. For many years Alexander Lanier, of Madison, Indiana, would come here for several weeks in each year to gratify his delight in this kind of sport and recreation.
There was another source of supplies and revenue — in fact, for many years it afforded the settler his only means of getting the little sums of actual money with which to supply himself with necessary articles not produced at home. The winter time was then the harvest time of the year, for in that season the fur-bearing animals were eagerly sought, captured and skinned, and the pelts sold to fur-buyers who had agents at convenient points supplied with ready money. Sometimes the competition between opposing buyers was quite brisk. The principal fur-bearing animals were the mink, raccoon, muskrat, deer once in a while, and, in a very early day, before the country was settled by the whites, some beaver. The quality of the fur captured here was said to be very fine and much superior to that taken no farther south than the Wabash river.
One of the localities famous among hunters and trappers was Beaver Lake, a body of water covering a large portion of township 30, range 9, now known as McClellan township. This body of water was about seven miles in length, east and west, and about five miles at its widest part, north and south, with a depth of not to exceed eight or nine feet in its deepest places. It was celebrated as a wonderful fishing resort, and amazing stories are told of the vast number caught sometimes by a single draw of the seine. At certain times of the year myriads of geese, ducks, swan and other game birds would be found there. As a spot for hunting and fishing it had no equal in any other portion of the state.
When the original survey of this part of the country was made, this lake itself was not included in the survey but was meandered and fractions all around the boundaries of same were purchased by John P. Dunn and Amzie B. Condit, who afterward deeded the same to Michael G. Bright, who claimed all inside of these fractions and extended the lines across the lake by platting the same in 1857, dividing it into forty-acre tracts and giving each lot a number, commencing at number i and running to number 427. About this time, through some kind of a settlement made with an outgoing state treasurer, he deeded to the state of Indiana each alternate forty-acre tract, the state getting the odd-numbered tracts, and Michael G. Bright retaining the even-numbered tracts. In 1865 the state authorized the selling of its lands so held, making the terms of sale one dollar and fifty cents an acre for one year, all remaining unsold at the expiration of the year to he held at one dollar per acre.
About 1853 the first effort was made to drain the lake by cutting a ditch from the northwest part of the lake to the Kankakee river. The contract to make this ditch was taken by Austin M. Puett, grandfather of William Darroch. This first ditch carried off enough water to cause the shore line to recede about a hundred yards — in other words, it reclaimed a very narrow strip all around the lake. As this ditch was enlarged and tributaries opened, the old bed of standing water gradually disappeared and Beaver Lake is now dry land at most seasons of the year. The name remains but the “lake” itself is now only a memory of the past.
Source: Ade, John. Newton County: a collection of historical facts and personal recollections concerning Newton County, Indiana, from 1853 to 1911. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., c1911.