Conneaut Lake is the largest natural lake in Pennsylvania. It was created approximately twelve thousand years ago by glacial ice which geological experts believe may have been as much as a mile thick. Conneaut Lake spans 929 acres. The lake is 3 miles long and a mile across at its widest point and is as deep as 90 feet in some places.
The lake was named by the people of the Seneca Nation. The native word (kon-ne-ot) means "snow waters" reflecting what the Seneca witnessed as Winter was transitioning to Spring and the ice and snow on the lake remained after already melting on land.
The town was founded by Abner Evans in 1793 and was originally named Evansburg in 1796. Then in 1892 the town name was changed to Conneaut Lake to reflect the name most commonly used to describe the town and the area (Conneaut). Abner Evans began his gristmill business in 1795 and soon after, other sawmills and carding mills were established. In 1886 Channellock. Inc., a quality producer and global distributor of hand tools, began its operations in Conneaut Lake.
The lake provided a key natural resource contributing significantly to the economy of the area for a period of time spanning almost 5 decades. In 1880, the Conneaut Lake Ice Company was founded. During the early 1900s and until the 1930s, ice from the lake was harvested and stored in huge ice houses at the south end of the lake. From there, the ice was shipped regularly to many towns and cities, large and small. It is believed that in some years more than 100,000 tons were harvested.
The lake was not always at its current level. In 1834 when the Beaver and Erie Extension Canal was in operation, the French Creek canal was connected into Conneaut Lake. It raised the level of the lake by 11 feet. Business prospered as a result of the canal, but the higher water level was likely responsible for an outbreak of malaria in Evansburg resulting in many deaths. By the 1870s, the canal era was ending as railroad transportation was becoming the way of the future. By 1881 the Erie & Pittsburgh Railroad was servicing Evansburg.
In 1907, a trolley line began operation extending from Linesville, through Exposition Park, through Conneaut Lake, and connecting to Meadville. By the 1920s, the automobile had replaced the trolleys.
Today, Conneaut Lake is primarily a resort town providing annual residents, summer residents, and tourists, from near and far, an abundance of recreational activities ranging from swimming, fishing, boating, skiing, sailing, golfing and biking in the summer, to ice-fishing, snowmobiling, and 4-wheeling in the winter.
Interesting reading about Conneaut Lake can be found in the following publications:
"The Lake as it Was . . . . An Informal History and Memoir of Conneaut Lake"
By: Bronson B. Luty
Edited by: Jonathan E. Helmreich, Robert D. Ilisevich, and Robert S. Wycoff
Crawford County Historical Society
"Images of America . . . . Conneaut Lake"
By: Jane Smith on behalf of the Conneaut Lake Area Historical Society
Published by: Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC
"Conneaut Lake Park . . . . The First 100 Years of Fun"
A century spanned by: Lee O. Bush and Richard F. Hershey
Published by: Amusement Park Books, Inc., Fairview Park, OH