Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, November 17, 2002, pg. 3
A year ago in this column we featured a two-part story about the village of Marengo (part 1, part 2), located five miles west of Albion. We conclude the story with this installment about Marengo’s most prominent citizen of the 20th century: Erie Lake.
A popular 20th century attraction and landmark in Marengo was the general store at 412 State St. operated by Erie Lake (1894-1983), who began his grocery career there in 1910 as a clerk for store owner Robert A. Raymond. This prominent structure (now used as a home) was built in 1898 and is still standing today just north of the railroad tracks. The south portion of the building was an addition that Erie erected in 1946.
Erie and his brothers ironically had helped their father Leman gather rocks and lay the foundation for the building in 1898. When Erie opened his own general store in 1922, it was located at 308 State St. (now a residence) just south of the railroad depot, where a general store had been operating since the 1890s. He subsequently purchased the former Raymond store and moved his business to the 412 address during the 1920s. It was in this store that Erie Lake served as the final postmaster of Marengo, before the U.S. Government closed the Marengo post office on October 31, 1933 as a cost-cutting move during the Great Depression.
The store carried not only groceries, but hardware goods, tires, batteries, gasoline, seeds, and other items as well. During the Great Depression, Erie took a side job with the Calhoun County Road Commission to pay for groceries that customers got on credit. The store was noted for the double-dip ice cream cones it served for a nickel. The ice cream was molded square in shape on account of a special scoop Erie had that formed the cones exactly the same, thus eliminating waste (does anyone have such a scoop?). Assisting Erie at the store for many years was his wife Margaret (Wilson), who passed away in 1958. He later married widow Lena (Lincoln) King in 1967. Erie was active in community affairs, serving as a supervisor of Marengo Township, and as president of the Marengo Cemetery Association
The store was a community center where neighbors, friends, and passersby would gather on the porch in the summer months, or by the pot-bellied stove in the winter and discuss a range of topics. Upstairs was a large ballroom where dances, banquets, and receptions were held for many years. Erie sold the store in 1960, but got it back and closed it permanently on August 9, 1961. He subsequently moved to Florida to retire in 1967 where he passed away in 1983.
Genealogically speaking, Erie’s great-grandfather was James Lake (1797-1867), one of Albion Township’s early settlers (1835) who gave his children unusual names: Rovno, Dessoles, Currell, Decoliar, Montholon, and Romondo. Erie’s father Leman Lake (1856-1925) was the son of Romondo Lake (1836-1910) who lived just outside Marengo. The first names of Erie’s ten siblings were: S. R. La Due, Zelon, Clune, Alwin, Elver, Erson, Iru, Essie, Naxos, and Erna. Several members of the Lake clan, including Erie, are buried in the Marengo Village Cemetery.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of Erie Lake, courtesy of a step-daughter, Joyce Maksimchuk of Homer. How many persons remember the Erie Lake General Store in Marengo? For all our Marengo readers: you might like to know that there is a photograph of the Marengo Post Office and Store on page 26 of my latest book “Albion in the 20th Century,” and a photograph of the Marengo railroad depot on page 28. Books are available from yours truly or at the Albion Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Erie Lake
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic