''This attractive body of water lies about two miles east of Galesburg, and the first house upon its banks was built about fifteen years ago by George W. Brown. It is three-fourths of a mile long with a width of from ten to thirty rods. It is fed by springs and its greatest depth is about twenty feet. A driveway runs around it, and there is a pleasant park here. A little steamer carries passengers on it, and row boats are kept for hire. There is also a natatorium and the street cars from Galesburg run close by. It is a favorite resort for Galesburgers. Soangetaha, the society club of Galesburg, has its house, open only to members, on the northwest side of the lake, and the clubhouse has been the rendezvous for most delightful picnic and dancing parties.''
Such descriptions fail to reflect the human stories of Lake George. The little steamer was known as Lady Washington, but I can only speculate on how she got her name. George W. Brown built two lakes. The first, and smaller, was named Lake Washington. The second, and larger lake, was named Lake George. Lady Washington was operated by Mr. Bobbit who kept her in service, fired up, and ready to give a ride to the end of the lake and back for a mere twenty-five cents. The Lady Washington could hold ten or twelve paying passengers. She was recorded to have been by far, the most beautiful lake steamer in Knox County. She was also recorded to have been the only lake steamer in Knox County at the time.
Mr. Bobbit was described as ''a man-sized man,'' having broad shoulders, a blond mustache, and keen eyes, known to twinkle. Mr. Bobbit was rumored to be English, with an earlier period of being a policeman sometime, someplace.
Besides the Lady Washington, rowboats were available to rent, and refreshments were available to be purchased. Ice cream, cakes, cookies, candies, and soft drinks were available. Winfield Scott Cowan ran these rental rowboats and the refreshment stand. He, in turn, would hire summer help.
One summer, Mr. Cowan hired a young Swedish lad to take care of selling the food and drinks and renting the rowboats out. He was a good lad, and an observant lad. In later life, he was to recall the Lady Washington leaving the dock one day, with but one paying passenger. She was a young and attractive woman, with fine features and a pale face, but tight, with an anxious look. The features were all the more set off, by the black hair.
When the Lady Washington returned, two men helped the woman off the little steamer. She was soaked from head to toe, with water dripping off her as she stepped onto the dock. She had jumped off the boat, seeking her end. But Mr. Bobbit would not have such an event occur from the Lady Washington and he dove into Lake George and retrieved the young woman. It was reported that it was a romance that drove her to the watery attempt. It was Mr. Bobbit's quick reflex that saved her from success. The young Swedish lad was to write years later that Mr. Bobbit remarked ''When they told me she had jumped overboard and I saw her in the water I couldn't think of anything to do but to jump in after her. She tried to fight me off but I brought her in. She won't thank me now, I guess, but I'll bet the time will come when she'll say I did the right thing.''
Mr. Bobbit was a hero to the Swedish lad. When the summer ended, the job ended and the lad went on to another seasonal job- harvesting ice from the lake. Mr. Bobbit and the lad said their ''goodbyes'' and their hopes to see each other again. But they never did.
The ice harvesting from Lake George helped to keep Galesburg a little cooler in the summer. This Swedish lad worked one January, harvesting the ice in zero to about 15-degree weather. He walked from his home to the streetcar that would take him to Lake George. He worked the night crew from 7 PM until 6 AM, with an hour off at midnight. He was a ''floater'' at first. This meant that he rode the cut blocks of ice that were about 15 feet long, 10 feet wide and about a foot and a half thick. Using a pole, he would direct the floating block of ice to the chutes at the icehouse. Here the raft would be cut up into smaller blocks and loaded up a belt to be stored, with sawdust, for summer's needs. He graduated from being a floater to working in the icehouse. In the icehouse, his job was to muscle the frozen Lake George water into proper storage locations. The man remembers the hard work for his former self. He remembers the foreman kindly encouraging him to do the work, and calling him by his name, saying, ''Better slide into it, Sandburg.'' He remembers the respect paid by the foreman to a young Swedish lad. He would remember it forever.
The road out to Lake George from Galesburg used to be steep and it was hard for the trolley-car motormen to keep control as they came down the hill. In the return trip, the climb was slow and difficult. So the hill was trimmed, inch by inch, yard by yard. Mule teams pulling road scrapers, lowered the hillside road, decreasing its slope. The work was hot and slow, and the men were thirsty. A young Swedish lad was hired as the water boy. He carried two buckets of water, each having two dippers to quench the thirst of these men who fought and reshaped Mother Earth. The source of the water was a well about a hundred yards distant. He also had to haul the water for the mules. A mule, he would recall, could drink nearly a whole bucket of water. In time, the peak of the hill found itself in the low stretch and Lake George became an easier place to reach from Galesburg. And the Swedish lad was out of another job.
I don't know what happened to Mr. Bobbit, nor to the young woman he saved. I don't know if she married, found happiness or threw herself in front of a train. I don't know what happened to the icehouse foreman. I do know that the ice company was the Glenwood Ice Company, and that it went the way of most ice companies.
I don't know what happened to Lady Washington. I would like to tell you, and I am tempted to tell you, that she is reported to be seen plying the calm waters of the lake on foggy early morns. The soft ''puff puff'' of the small steam piston barely discernible above the whispers of the fog, coming ''on little cats feet.'' But, I cannot. So, I won't.
As far as Lake George, well, George W. Brown tried to sell the lake and surrounding land, at a discount to Galesburg. He hoped that Galesburg would turn it into a public park, with a water supply for Galesburg. Galesburg refused the offer. Mr. Brown's heirs sold Lake George to the CB&Q that used it as a water supply and changed its name to Lake Rice.
As far as the Swedish lad, he came to no significant account. He went from job to job. He hopped a train and became a hobo for awhile. He later returned to Galesburg, went to school for awhile; went to war for awhile; dabbled in a little poetry; dabbled in a little historical research and a biography of a president. He became enamored with Chicago and ended up with a junior college and a shopping mall named for him.