How Lake Freeman came to be
Back in 1923, after the Norway Dam was completed forming Lake Shafer, the Indiana Hydro-Electric Company decided to build a second generating station. Construction began about 12 miles south on the Oakdale Dam in the Fall of 1924.
Thank goodness for that decision because Lake Freeman was born.
Here’s something most people don’t know, It actually wasn’t called Lake Freeman in the beginning. It was referred to as Lake Delphi because of the proximity and access to the building-site from the town of Delphi. However, not everyone in the area thought that was a good idea. As Mark Smith, the historian at the Carroll County Historical Society, put it, ”There was some disagreement from the folks in Monticello on the name. They named it Lake Tioga.”
So where did the name Lake Freeman come from? It was actually in honor of the lead engineer on the project, Roger Freeman. Almost a year after the Dam was completed the lake was formally named Lake Freeman. Seems like a good compromise. Sure makes a great trivia question.
Building a dam is no small task and that was certainly the case in 1923. The job called for more than 250 men, fourteen months and two million dollars to complete. The men worked seven days a week with a night shift to keep on schedule. Approximately 230,000 cubic feet of earth were trucked in from nearby Yeoman to create the levy. The Dam itself is over 1200 feet wide and 58 feet tall.
The Dam was officially completed in November, 1925.
Because of the rigors of the job, the men were housed at the job site. Barracks were built as well as a commissary and mess hall. The original mess hall was moved and now serves as a building at the Carroll County Country Club. The area were the men lived and ate is now home to the Oakdale Dam Inn.
Photos courtesy of the Carroll County Historical Society.
The true story of how Lake Freeman got its name
Many have thought, including myself, that the name Lake Freeman came to be after the Chief Engineer, Roger Freeman intervened in a dispute between the towns of Delphi and Monticello. Delphi wanted to call the reservoir north of the newly built Oakdale Dam, Lake Delphi. In fact, there are early photos labeled with this name. Monticello thought Lake Monticello would be appropriate. When the two could not come to an agreement, they decided, because of the benevolent nature of Mr. Freeman, to call the reservoir Lake Freeman.
Here’s the true story.
I recently was contacted by Deborah Giraud (pronounced Girow). She is the granddaughter of Roger Freeman. I had the pleasure of speaking with her and her mother, Anne Freeman Giraud. The 102-year-old daughter of Roger Freeman! It was an honor to say the least. Two very sharp and well-informed ladies.
Roger Freeman designed both the Norway Dam (1923) and Oakdale Dam (1925). It was his insight and recommendation to the Indiana Hydro-Electric Company to harness the power of the Tippecanoe River and bring electricity to rural central Indiana and beyond. In fact, as early as 1856, two Norwegian immigrants, recognizing the power of the river, built a coffer dam to power a grist mill.
Mr. Freeman was not an absentee leader. He lived with the more than 500 laborers who physically built the dams. He was away from his family for months. He was just 32 when construction began on Norway. The conditions were difficult, keep in mind the crew lived at the site and worked through harsh winters.
During the winter of 1925, amid construction of the Oakdale Dam, Roger Freeman was in New York and fell ill from appendicitis and was rushed to surgery. Well, in those days an appendectomy was not a routine surgery. Mr. Freeman developed complications and passed away on January 21st, 1925. Six months before the completion of Oakdale Dam. The crew was shocked and saddened but pushed on.
In a petition by Indiana Senator Emery Sellers to the Conservation Commission of Indiana dated April 15th, 1925, he formally asked that the newly formed Lake be named, in the spirit of “ambitious effort”, Freeman Lake. Just five days later, the Commission unanimously formally approved.
The Oakdale Dam was completed on August 1st, 1925. Had it not been for the vision, ingenuity and drive of Roger Freeman, our beloved twin lakes and the power they produce, may not have every been realized. Thank you Mr. Freeman!
Roger Freeman passed at just 36 years of age
Born July 20th, 1892 • Died January 21st, 1925
Wife: Mary (Bradstreet) Freeman
Children: (1919) Anne Bradstreet Freeman Giraud, Roger Morse Freeman, Jr.
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