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Beyond Shingle Diggin's

Published August 2, 1995

How would you like Lake Dickerville? Or Sa-bi-na-ge-na?

Shortly after the 1890 attempt on the part of Courier editor Frank Bryant to rename Paw Paw Lake to Lake Coloma, The Watervliet Record changed hands and E.F. Case and sons became owner/editors. But Mr. A.N. Woodruff couldn’t resist taking a few more literary potshots at Bryant’s presumption before he moved on to another field.

One issue challenged him, if he had any more knowledge of this imaginary lake to “favor us with a dissertation on ‘What I Know About Lake Coloma.’”

Another issue, June 13th, suggested that Coloma, since it had failed to become “the commercial metropolis of the North West,” was seeking renown by “annexing the gem of Michigan’s smaller lakes and changing its beautiful and significant name to that of their own city.” Then, with affable sarcasm, he continued, “Now we love our neighbors as in duty-bound we should and, if it will make them happy, are willing to let them have Paw Paw Lake with all the bullheads it contains ... but we would humbly suggest that they adopt for their new possession the ancient and classical name of their city and call it “Lake Dickerville.”

Woodruff went on to say that at least the sons of the red man as well as the white man of Coloma could appreciate when the baskets and rat skins of the one are traded for the whiskey and tobacco of the other. He implied, of course, that Dickerville would be a more appropriate name for these less cultured people of Coloma than Coloma (a California flower), which had been adopted as more dignified, when the Post Office became official in 1858.

Finally, he said, “We hope they will appreciate our generosity and not now ask for Paw Paw River too for that we cannot spare just now.”

The last comments were more conciliatory: “The ancient tribes who kindled their council fires on the banks of this enchanted lake heard the voice of the Great Spirit calling them from war and strife, and the modem white man who throngs its shores, for health, and rest and quiet, if he retains the fine sensibilities of his nature, translates that voice as he sits beside its tranquil waters in the glory of the setting sun unto Peace, Peace.”

That seemed to end the repartee, as I found no references to Lake Coloma after July, and Mr. Bryant continued at the Courier for another six years.

Mr. Ellis, in his county history of 1880, says that Paw Paw River was named by the Indians from the paw paw fruit growing thickly along its banks. Mrs. Stark (my mother), in her book Trails from Shingle Diggin’s, repeats this famous Indian legend of Paw Paw Lake’s origin and say; that Paw Paw Lake was originally called by the Indians: “Sa-bi-na-ge-na,” meaning “It swallows the river in storm and spews it out in sunshine.” Well, if you go way back before that legendary storm which built in one night, not only Paw Paw Lake but Rush, Van Auken and others along the valley of the Paw Paw River, you would find another name. Then, says the Indian legend, the whole valley of the Paw Paw was but a huge bay of Lake Michigan, which they called Ki-tchi-git-a-gan, meaning Earthly Paradise.

Imagine parking your canoe with others along the shores of Kitchigitagan one night and hearing a great rumble from your wigwam in the middle of the night. It’s too loud for thunder. Is it a cyclone? You venture to look outside and there’s no cloud in the sky. Some in the tribe brave the eerie night and follow the direction of the strange noise. They see, by

the feeble light of the moon, that the shoreline has given way and great rocks and trees are being swept by a raging river toward the larger lake (Michigan). This monstrous, snake-like stream pushes its way through slime and mud. Struggling fish are left along the sides to die. The canoes which had been neatly pulled up along the shore were now a bow’s shot back from the water in muddy disarray on land and debris left by the sudden slide. Where the bay had joined Lake Michigan was land filled in ... Hagar Township built on that land. Is it just a legend? Or an earthquake or a landslide long years ago? Perhaps that’s the true beginning of Paw Paw Lake.

Coloma Public

Library news

Memorial Day

The Coloma Public Library will be closed Saturday, May 25 through Monday, May 27 in observance of Memorial Day.

Family STEM Program

This grant funded educational and fun program series is designed for families with children ages 4 - 8. Dinner will be provided. Sign up for one session or all of them! Registration is required. Call 269-468-3431, email, or FB message the library. Remaining sessions are Thursdays June 13, July 11, and August 1.

Book Club

The public is invited to join the Book Club every other Thursday in the Community Room at 4 p.m. The selection for the meeting on May 30 is “How Lucky” by Will Leitch.

‘New Romantics’ Book Club

Adults who love reading romance will want to join the library’s New Romantics Book Club! Next session is Tuesday, June 11 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read is “The House on the Cerulean Sea” by T.J. Klune.

Program schedules are on the calendar at:


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