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Magician Lake. . .the name holds an air of mystery. One envisions foggy evenings and a haunted island. But in truth, the only mystery about Magician Lake is how it has remained unknown to much of the Midwest. It wasn't always unknown, however. Originally named Silver Lake due to the appearance of the marl-rich lake bottom, Magician Lake has been a part of Michigan's history since well before the territory became a state. Several theories attempt to explain the name change, but no one is really sure why it became Magician Lake.
Located in southwestern Michigan, Cass County has a rich early history, including major activity on the Underground Railroad. Large numbers of Quakers moved to the area in the early 1830s bringing their abolitionist sentiments along with a number of African-American Freedmen. In the late 1700s, a number of Quakers living in the South owned slaves. When convinced that slavery was immoral, they were prevented from freeing them in North Carolina and Virginia without having them leave the state. So, they signed them over to their church, making the church the slaveholder of record and moved north, taking them to settle with them, first in Indiana then Cass County where they could live as free men and women.
The African-American settlement and its inhabitants grew and prospered, with many very successful African-American businessmen among the merchants of the county. At one point, Cass County's African-American population was larger than that of the City of Detroit. Because of the abolitionist beliefs of the Quakers, the area became a major stop on the Underground Railroad. No records exist of what happened to most of these early settlers and their descendants; today, the population of Cass County is 89% Caucasian.
Cass County not only welcomed African-Americans into their homes: in 1854, Dowagiac, Michigan was the first stop on the first Orphan Train from New York City. When it departed the station, 45 children had found a home.
The area lies in the orchard belt due to its proximity to Lake Michigan's moderating climate. The area also grew wheat and provided lumber once the railroad built a depot at Dowagiac. And with the railroad came the heyday of lake resorts. Magician Lake and its 'sister' lakes northwest of Dowagiac rapidly developed as resort destinations, with the first resort being built on Maple Island near the Magician Lake shore. The six lakes, including Big Crooked Lake, Little Crooked Lake, Cable Lake, Dewey Lake and Round Lake along with Magician became known as 'Sister Lakes,' and a small village sprang up including a port office.
Although most of the Sister Lakes are not connected, several of them are within a few feet of another's shore. Their relationship is a natural one as all are glacial pothole lakes. Local entrepreneurs made good use of their proximity, and resorts and cottages were built throughout the lakes. From the turn of the century until into the 1950's, touring cars arrived bringing lake visitors to the dance pavilions to hear the Big Band entertainers. Now, of course, the dance pavilions are gone, although some still stand, re-purposed to other needs such as a roller skating rink. And Magician Lake has settled into a maturity of year-round homes and summer cottages. Perhaps because the residents missed the excitement of the glorious resort past, in 1964 the area experienced a series of Bigfoot sightings that brought a bevy of law enforcement, newspaper reporters and self-styled Bigfoot hunters to the region. Local businessmen of course capitalized on the publicity and an occasional 'Bigfoot Crossing" sign is still encountered.
Summer visitors flock to the many rental cottages around the shore. All sorts of watercraft enthusiasts enjoy the lake in summer along with a number of fishermen. Magician Lake is considered a premier warm-water fishery and is regularly stocked by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Black Crappie, Bluegill, Bowfin, Brown Bullhead, Largemouth Bass, Longnose Gar, Northern Pike, Pumpkinseed, Rock Bass, Warmouth, Yellow Bullhead, and Yellow Perch are regularly caught. Although the shoreline is quite heavily developed, three of the four islands on the lake are not; their shorelines provide some excellent fishing.
The water is exceptionally clear and much of the lake is quite shallow, allowing for an enjoyable day on the water. In winter, ice fishing is a popular activity. A DNR public boat launch is located on the north shore.
Other recreational activities in the area include hiking, biking, golf, hunting, skiing, snowmobiling and sledding. The nearby town of Dowagiac is filled with beautiful Victorian architecture and has a vibrant downtown area for shopping, restaurants, theaters and museums.
St. Joseph, fifteen miles away, is a deep-water port town that has picturesque brick roads and many unique shops, art galleries, antique shops and cafes. Activities and events such as 'Antiques on the Bluff" are very popular places to look for a bargain.
Magician Lake is located just thirty miles north of South Bend, Indiana and one hour from Kalamazoo. Many residents are alumni of Notre Dame and enjoy the proximity during football season.
Whatever your passion, Magician Lake can help you indulge it.
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