Lake James has drawn humans to it for centuries, a premium vacation spot for a hundred years and more recently a coveted place to live year around. Rest, recreation, gorgeous scenery, James has it all, and has had it all since the very beginning.
“In those days if you wanted to go across the lake you didn't take a motorboat, you rowed your boat,” says historian Jim Somers. “People rowed everywhere can you imagine how peaceful it was?”
Jim Somers and Flaim Cupp grew up on Lake James, spent summers swimming, fishing, exploring. Loved the lake so much they wrote a book about it, what it was and what it's become based mainly on their extensive collections of period Lake James postcards. In the 19th Century James was a fishing lake attracting anglers across the Midwest, so popular by the late 1800's resorts began to pop up to handle the crowds. Palty Town on the first basin was the first attracting 40-thousand visitors to its hotel in just one summer. Eventually those visitors began building summer cabins around the lake.
“There really weren't any roads,” says historian Flaim Cupp, “and so you'd have to get basically a water taxi which was a big launch and they would bring your trunk and all of grandma and aunt and whoever were coming for the week or two weeks or whole summer.”
As the crowds grew little stores and gas stations popped up to serve them. In 1916 folks at Bledsoe's Beach opened a dance hall, the first of several that became hot spots on warm summer nights.
“On Saturday night you would hear the bands across the lake,” recalls Flaim Cupp. “And I can remember as a girl hearing it starting and I had girlfriends up and it was 'hurry hurry we got to get down there it's starting'.”
In the 1970's I-69 and improved transportation brought year around residents, bulldozing the old cabins and putting up high end homes, changing the look and feel of Lake James. But also creating new memories that reach back in an unbroken line to generations that came before.
'Are you glad you wrote the book?' we ask. “Oh, yes,” says Cupp. “Because it preserves a time period that would have soon been forgotten and it preserves the stories of some of these older people that were absolutely thrilled that we were interested in their experience and many of them are gone now. l Knowing my children knowing my children's friends that are up here. They'll carry that on and they'll carry that on to their children.”