Thursday, July 19, 2018

D. D. Lewis and the Alligator

Back in 2016, I did a four-part series about the history of Lake Breeze, the historic resort area of Sheffield Lake that dates back to the 1870s. It was located near the northern terminus of the road that still bears its name.

In the late 1890s, the resort property (including an old hotel) was owned by D. D. Lewis, a superintendent at the Johnson steel mill in Lorain. In November 1903, Mr. Lewis sold the land to a company that planned to build a modern resort there. (It was never built.)

Anyway, by July 1929, D. D. Lewis was still living in the area in a lakefront home. He had a rather unusual experience involving an alligator that made the front page of the Lorain Journal of Tuesday, July 23, 1929 – 90 years ago this month.

Here's the article as it appeared in the paper that day.


What would you do if you had a home on the shore of Lake Erie and went out into your backyard and found an alligator calmly sunning itself on your breakwall?

Possibly, you would go down into your cellar and throw out all the home brew, or else go to a specialist for an examination.

Yet that was the experience which D. D. Lewis, who has a home at Stop [illegible], on the east shore, underwent last Sunday.

Incidentally, he didn’t do either of the above mentioned things. Instead, he went right up to the alligator and found out for himself that it was real flesh and blood.

He could scarcely believe his eyes. He wouldn’t have been surprised had he been down in Florida where alligators are so common.

But to have one of the things come right out of Lake Erie and climb onto his breakwall – my word; and a lot of other expressions.

But there it was. He had made a great discovery. It was a real live alligator, evidently rather young, for it measured only about 30 inches.

He wondered how he could prove his discovery. He solved the matter by proceeding to catch the alligator and tieing it up in his yard where he could put it on exhibition. 

It was then that the mystery was cleared up. One of his neighbors saw the alligator and thanked Lewis for recovering it. It had been sent to him as a pet from a friend in Florida and broken away and got lost. 


Drew Penfield said...

Wow! I was skeptical while reading this how an alligator could end up in Lake Erie. Up until the very last sentence. Too bad the stop number of where Lewis lived is illegible.

Dan Brady said...

Hi Drew,
I'll check the city directories first chance I get and see if Mr. Lewis (and/or Wally Gator) is in one of the editions from that time.

-Alan D Hopewell said...

Reminds me of the story I heard from some of the Grone Folx When I was little, that someone found a live octopus in the lake.

Dan Brady said...

I went back and checked the microfilm again, this time zooming in as close as the machine would let me. The Stop Number is definitely 86. Using the list of Lake Shore Electric Stop numbers found on Drew Penfield’s Lake Shore Rail Maps website, we know that D.D. Lewis’ property was near Lake Breeze Road.