Humphrey R. Wager, a capitalist from Ionia and
Saranac, developed Lake Odessa in 1887 after buying an 80 acre
farm through which the Detroit, Lansing & Northern Railway was
to build a new track to Grand Ledge and Grand Rapids. The
original town, known as Bonanza, was settled slightly north of
today's Lake Odessa --- and folded up and moved south when the
first train came through in 1888.
Prior to the construction of the new railroad
tracks, what is now Lake Odessa was a broad expanse of fertile
farm land, and the typical country cross-road was about a mile
north of Jordan Lake. Before the advent of the railway, no
one had ever dreamed of Lake Odessa. Bonanza was the big
settlement in this area, and, for that time period, was a
bustling industrial center. It was a strange twist of fate
and broadening civilization that in the space of a few years,
practically a whole town moved and a corporate village was
created in the midst of meadowlands, leaving the original
settlement to revert to corn fields. The principal
merchants of Bonanza simply moved buildings, inventory and all,
to the new location.
Lake Odessa's name was derived from the two
lakes, Tupper Lake and Jordan Lake, and the township within
which the Village was incorporated, Odessa Township. The
Township was named by a committee in 1846, hoping to be somewhat
exclusive while at the same time, honoring one of Russia's
cities. The committee, chaired by Elder Tupper,
undoubtedly endorsed the suggestion of young Myron Tupper, who
was a great reader of history and admired Russian lore.
The main street, 4th Avenue, was constructed
in 1887, and was nothing but a muddy lane until it was first
paved in 1916. The Lake Odessa Public School was build in
1888, put on an addition in 1896, and was demolished by fire in
1921, after which it was immediately rebuilt.
The Village paid $1,000 for the park property
on South Main Street in 1900. The park remains today in
its natural state, with more than two hundred towering maple and
beech trees, and a gigantic oak which shed its first leaves when
Abraham Lincoln was a young boy.
Over the years, Lake Odessians have always
been very proud of their beautiful park, and the public beach at
Jordan Lake. In 1991, over 400 volunteers worked
feverishly for five days building the very popular Swifty's
Place, in the park, a wooden playground superstructure
constructed with enough lumber to build five homes. The
beach at Jordan Lake underwent a quarter million dollar
renovation in 1994, using local funds and a DNR grant.
In 1967, the Page Memorial Building was built
as a village and township hall, with funds donated by the estate
of a successful Lake Odessa businessman, millionaire Frank Page,
who inherited the bulk of his fortune from a milk condensing
process developed by his father.
The Village of Lake Odessa celebrated its
100th birthday with a year-long centennial. The historic
train depot was moved to a new location to serve as a local
museum, and the Village built a 300,000 gallon water tower along
with a larger municipal well and iron removal plant.
And, this story ends with the community
excited about the new Lakewood Middle School, the Community
Library in its new home, and looking towards the street
renovations in progress.