Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: The Legend of 'The Big Water God'

About fifty feet from the east shores of Fairport's Huntington Beach flows a bubbling gas that comes to the surface.  Fishermen know the spot.  Recreational boaters often pass by the spot and glance at this watery brew.  Many tales have been told regarding the origins of this anomoly.  Today we examine the legend of 'The Big Water God'.

A legend of the early Ohio Native Americans spoke of a bubbling flow of gas which came to the surface of Lake Erie about fifty feet off the shore of what is now Fairport.  Although the Indians were unfamiliar with the scientific cause for this site, they did know that this spot swarmed with fish and was an excellent location for the hunting of fish.  Thus, they attributed the bubbling waters to a God.  The harvest was therefore a gift of the Gods.

Fairport fishermen of the Eighties and Nineties, and again in 1910 reported a 'bubbling water-hole' where fish were plentiful.  The 1946 publication 'The Story of Fairport' contains excerpts from a 1796 journal entry of Mr. John Holley  (Surveyor - Connecticut Land Company).  The entry spoke to a site about 27 miles from Cuyahoga Creek near the Grand River.  He mentioned a navigable sandbar of twenty rods that graduates to a depth of one mile.  He also mentioned a burning spring in the lake about three rods from the shore.  Holley and his partners General M. Cleaveland and Mr. Porter even conducted rudimentary tests to see if the gas was flammable.  It was not.

The bubbling springs are still apparent today on the east shores of Fairport Harbor.  Founded by the Erie Indians over four hundred years ago, celebrated by the fishermen of Fairport nearly 110 years ago, the legend of "The Big Water God' remains today as part of the ongoing history of Lake County.  As you travel the roadways of Lake County in 2012, visit Fairport Harbor Huntington Beach. Once there rent a kayak or paddleboard from Lake Metroparks, it is just a short paddle to Lake Erie's bubbling waters.

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