Friday, August 01, 2014

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The Village of Lake Orion has a very historic past.  One of the first settlers to arrive from Detroit was Nathan Hemingway, who arrived in 1828.  He traveled on a road so rough it required two days journey to travel 26 miles.  A year later, Philip Bigler and Jesse Decker arrived and purchased a tract of land, where they erected a dam to unite several lakes into one large body of water: Lake Orion.  They also constructed a sawmill below the present dam site.  The waters of the Paint Creek  powered machines that cut logs into board lumber and ground wheat into flour that was critical to early settlers.  In 1832 the sawmill was burned by vengeful Indians, angry because they were refused whiskey. 

In 1844 the first schoolhouse was built on the corner of Church and Anderson Streets.  This building is still standing and is now a private residence.  In 1854 the name of the town was changed to Orion, though local wags continued to call it Dogway.  Some historians have stated that Dogway was a contraction of Canandaigua.  Others claim the town was overrun by a pack of stray dogs.  Orion was incorporated into a Village in 1859. 

When the railroad came in 1872, Orion took rapid strides forward.  Travelers discovered the rare beauty of the Village surrounded by lakes.  In 1874 a group of men purchased what was later to be called Park Island, constructing a bridge to the mainland, a dance hall, a viewing tower and an amphitheatre.  Trains made four daily trips to the Village, bringing thousands of people to the area.

In 1884 a pagoda was erected over the Orion Mineral Spring by Harold Emmons.  The water was claimed to be beneficial to the kidneys and the liver.  In 1891 the Orion Improvement Company bought Spencer Island (Bellevue), where a hotel was erected.

The Village had three major fires in its downtown: 1862, 1874 and 1899.  Each time, the town was almost completely destroyed.  Each time residents re-built the town.

In 1899 Orion had one and a half miles of sidewalk, a great feat for a small town.  This year saw the greatest boom the Village had ever seen.  Churches were attracted to the idea of a permanent spot for religious conventions.  The Assembly Resort Association was formed, purchasing Bellevue Island and much of the shore property. 

Park Island became an amusement center, complete with a roller coaster.  In 1909 the Marine Postal Center was established, with mail delivered to over three hundred cottages on the lake and islands.  Orion was the first town in the United States to have this service.

In 1919 Main Street was paved, and in 1927 a new school was built.  In 1928 the name of the Village was officially changed from Orion to Lake Orion.   A new well was added in 1930 to offset the dangers of fire, which had plagued the town so many times.

Present day Lake Orion is a mixture of the old and the new, conservative and progressive, fun and hard work.  It has truly become a place “Where living is a vacation.”