Geneva Lake History


A short history of Geneva Lake



Geneva Lake was formed some 10,000 years ago as a result of glacial action, which created the lake basin and sculpted the landscape.  The geological formation of Geneva Lake begins with the “melt off” of a glacial lobe known as the “Troy Valley”. Troy Valley was a depression running from Troy, Wisconsin through Lyons and then westward through Lake Geneva and toward Beloit.  The cascading water from the “Troy Valley’s” outlet formed connecting channels that evolved into the present lakes Geneva, Delavan and Como.


 Geneva Lake took its present shape with the “Late Wisconsin” glacial period when the sedimentary deposits of the “Delavan Lobe” divided Geneva and Delavan, which is three and one half miles to the west. Second sedimentary deposits separated Geneva and Como, which is a mile north of Williams Bay. Both Geneva Lake and Como Lake drain to the east.


The lake was first discovered in 1831 when an Army party, under the command of Major John Kinzie, was traveling along Indian Trails from Fort Dearborn in Chicago to Fort Winnebago near what is today Portage, Wisconsin. The trail led through the Pottawatomie Indian Village located on a plateau near the seven ceremonial pools at the western end of the lake. There is a bronze marker located on the south shore lake path just east of Fontana marking the location where the Kinzie party first observed the lake.


A government surveyor named John Brink began mapping the area in 1834 for the United States government in preparation to the area being opened for settlement. He was under instructions to give Indian names to the geographic features in the region, but the area reminded him of his hometown near Geneva, New York so he named it Geneva Lake. John Brink camped for a day at the eastern end of the lake and marked his claim by chopping down a number of trees and carving his name on the sight. This location was the outlet of the lake at the White River.


In 1836, Christopher Payne became the first settler. He chose the same location as John Brink and claimed he was unaware of Brinks prior claim. After an extended dispute, Brink sold his claim to Payne for $2000 in cash and material and moved to Crystal Lake, Illinios.


Settlers began to populate the area and in 1839 Robert Warren and six others purchased section 36 in Township #2 from the US government. Their land grant signed by President Harrison was recorded on June 17th, 1839. By 1844 Robert Warren had bought out the other owners and became the sole owner.


 Geneva Lake remained in this natural state until early settlers constructed a dam on the eastern end of the lake at the White River outlet in 1836. Beginning in 1897, the Lake Level Corporation Inc. controlled and maintained the lake level. In 2003 the dam was reconstructed with the cooperative efforts of the communities surrounding the lake.


Lake Facts


7.7 miles long

2 miles wide at the widest

½ mile wide at the Narrows

142 feet deep

8.6 square miles

5504 acres

20.1 miles of shoreline

© 2003 · South Bass Island Trading Co.