The North Bend Eagle

 


Kids play in a row boat on Scott's lake in the 1940s. The white fence on the left side is part of the bridge one had to cross to get from Scott's Lake Road to the resort.

Resort famous from Saunders Co. to Supreme Court

by Nathan Arneal
Published 8/17/22

In centuries past, the Platte River flowed a little farther south than it does now. Just downriver from Morse Bluff to the east, the river dipped south, flowing through what is now Wolf Lakes.

More on Scott's Lake:

See Nathan's notes on the history of Scott's Lake through contemporary newspapers (PDF).

See more pictures from Scott's Lake.

One channel of the river branched off even farther south into a stream, creating a large island on the south side of the river. Sometime in the latter half of the 19th century, that southern stream was separated from the river, forming a long, narrow lake that angled to the southeast. This lake a mile east of Morse Bluff would eventually become known as Scott’s Lake and serve as a hub of social activity that drew people from near and far and was the subject of a court battle that went all the way to the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Pleasurable Pastimes

The first recorded mention of the area came from Moravian missionaries Gottlieb Oehler and David Smith, who passed through on May 8, 1851. From clues left in their journal, it is believed they stopped for lunch on the south bank of the future Scott’s Lake when it was still a branch of the Platte.

John Garrett was the first individual owner of the land and the lake, acquiring them from the railroad. He eventually sold it to Elias Beasley, who in turn sold it to James P. Scott.

Scott was one of the early settlers of Saunders County, settling on a farm near Prague and serving in the Nebraska Legislature. Around 1882 he moved to North Bend, a small town two miles north of Morse Bluff. There he continued to be active in politics, serving as a delegate to state conventions, serving on the school board and as justice of the peace.

When North Bend and Morse Bluff were finally connected by a bridge over the Platte River 12 years earlier, Scott was there. At the Aug. 12, 1882, dedication ceremony, Scott offered up a toast to Saunders County, lauding its merits and great promise.

J.P. Scott dabbled as a real estate agent and ran a grocery store in North Bend. He sold off his grocery stock in August 1892 and turned his attention to a 250-acre parcel of land he bought a mile east of Morse Bluff which included a lake.

On that farm he raised cattle and sugar beets, but he was dreaming of bigger things.

In May 1894, J.P. Scott was 46 years old. The North Bend Argus newspaper reported that he was making “elaborate improvements” on his lake. He had six boats for boating and provided swings, croquet, hammocks and other “pleasurable pastimes” available to visitors. He was working on a hall and refreshment stand.

“Mr. Scott is confident that a place of this nature will receive a good patronage and will spare no pains and expense to make it a pleasure to visit his lake... Our picnic loving people should remember Scott’s Lake.”
The grand opening was set for June 15, 1894, when the North Bend chapter of the Modern Woodmen, a fraternal benefit society, would celebrate its fifth anniversary at Scott’s Lake.

The week before the big day, Scott went to Fremont to arrange a special train that would travel from there to the lake on the rail line that passed just south of his lake while traveling from Fremont to Morse Bluff.

Wrote the Fremont Tribune on June 9: “(Scott) has just fitted up a splendid pleasure resort with bath house [i.e. changing rooms], pavilion and restaurant. It is his purpose to boom the place for picnics and excursions, and he declares it to be one of the finest pleasure resorts in Nebraska.”

An estimated 1,000 people visited Scott’s Lake that opening day, partaking in boating, swimming, dancing, foot races and other games.

“The grounds are in very good condition and make a most excellent resort for a day’s outing and rest for the labor and turmoil of the world,” reported the North Bend Argus, a forerunner of the Eagle, the week after the event. “The dancing pavilion, bath house and other conveniences and necessaries are in excellent condition... Mr. Scott will still add other features to the grounds for attraction and pleasure, and we predict that in a short time it will be the most popular resort in Saunders or any of the surrounding counties.”

The Argus nailed that prediction.

Scott’s Lake hosted many picnics and outings for the rest of the 1894 summer. One report mentioned a bowling alley on the grounds. The Webster schools made the 13-mile trip from the north for a picnic to kick off the school year. Scott hosted a Labor Day party featuring free boat rides, a free dance and baseball between North Bend and Cedar Bluffs, the first known game on the Scott’s Lake diamond.

“The Cedar Bluffs nine can no more play ball than can nine spring chickens,” reported the Argus. “When it came to foot racing and horse racing, Cedar Bluffs put it all over the North Bend sports.”

In 1895, Scott’s Lake hosted its first Fourth of July festival, something that would become a tradition for decades to come. The first

Independence Day celebration featured speakers, singing, a baseball game and bicycle races on the newly build track. “A cordial invitation is extended to the people of northern Saunders County, southern Dodge County and the United States in general to attend,” proclaimed the Argus.

Picnics, outings, camp outs and retreats were frequently held at the lake in the coming years. “The place is getting quite a reputation as a summer resort,” wrote the North Bend Eagle in 1900.

In August 1900, tragedy was narrowly averted when Miss Getrude Gregg, a teacher at District 30 northwest of North Bend, fell into the lake while attempting to change seats in a boat. She was unconscious by the time her companions were able to get her back into the boat, but she survived.

In February 1907, the Platte River flooded, bringing much water and ice into Scott’s Lake, extending the lake by about 300 feet according to one report. The dance hall, restaurant and bath houses were badly damaged by the ice. “We are told the dance hall was about half full of ice when the water went down,” reported the Wahoo Wasp.

As a result, events at the lake were much fewer in the summer of 1907, though it did host a few picnics, and baseball games continued as normal.

1908 was also a slow year and ended in mourning. J.P. Scott, the visionary who turned Scott’s Lake into a destination resort, passed away October 14 after a brief illness of stomach trouble at the age of 60. He is buried in Fleming Cemetery three miles south of Scott’s Lake.
With the buildings damaged from the ‘07 flood and its owner and promoter gone, Scott’s Lake fell into several years of inactivity.

Rebirth

Scott’s Lake was sold in a referee’s sale in Wahoo in January 1917. The Eagle noted that Scott’s Lake was once a popular resort, but had not been used as a pleasure ground for the last eight or nine years.

Joseph F. Bauer bought Scott’s Lake for $16,300, and would bring new life to the resort and plenty of controversy, legally speaking.

Bauer’s version of Scott’s Lake had a grand opening Sunday, May 27, 1917, featuring dancing, boating and a baseball game between Morse Bluff and Wahoo as Scott’s Lake became the regular home field for the Morse Bluff town team.

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