At a very early day in the settlement of this section of country, when highways were little better than “corduroys,” lumber tho’ cheap, was still an item of very great importance, and Hemlock Lake seemed to be the intermediate link between the pine and hemlock lands of the south, and the harder varieties of timber at the north, and the great demand for softer building material in the older settled regions at the north, and the bread stuffs of the north finding a ready market in the southern woods, made this a great commercial highway.
As early as 1809, Samuel Hines erected a saw mill, and very soon afterwards D. Goff and Samuel Story had erected others, on the inlet west of the present village of Springwater, and John Alger and Phineas Gilbert, in 1811, built one on the stream that comes tumbling down from the highlands at the present residence of Wm. H. Norton, and a road was cut to the head of the lake, and was surveyed as a public highway May 6th 1815. These men employed many hands in floating large quantities of lumber during the warm season, and when the ice was sufficiently strong oft times it had the appearance of a band of pilgrims to the shrine of some high worthy, and often during the winter of 1838 and ‘39 as many as two hundred teams could be seen at one time, drawing the productions of the southern mills. Within the memory of some now living the mills already spoken of, together with those of Patchinville, Perkinsville, Spaffords and other ones above the “Hemlock Valley” furnished lumber in almost unlimited quantities, while cedar form the swamps of Cohocton and Hemlock bark from the same vicinity, and sash, doors blinds, etc. from the factory of Chamberlin, Grover and Tyler were not very small items in the trade.
Flat boats or scows, as they were then called, were also placed upon the lake for safer transportation of lumber and such articles they did not desire to raft. Roswell and Charles Bliss were perhaps the fathers of scow commerce on the lake. Hiram Loomis for a number of years kept an extensive lumber yard at the foot of the lake with lumber furnished by Reuben Gilbert alone, and owned a scow which run in connection therewith; and hundreds of acres were cleared of the pine in the region of the head of the lake by the Gilberts and sold to other large dealers in the shape of frames ready for erection or otherwise. One who is now living says: “The whole foot of the lake in my recollection with piled up with lumber for sale. Teams from all parts of the country were there every hour of the day loading up with lumber.” This same Loomis had a brick yard in the vicinity of his lumber, which not only furnished brick for regions north, east and west, but also to the inhabitants living south of the head.
About 1829 a blacksmith shop, a Shoe shop etc. were doing a very lively business around the foot of the lake. At a much later date Ebenezer Lincoln and George Johnson, living and clearing at the head on the west shore, did considerable business with a scow transporting wood, rails, fence posts etc. to the foot.
The Higby mill was built at the foot on the outlet as early as 1795, and Philip Short, who settled below the foot in 1796, run an extensive saw mill where immense quantities of logs were sawed that were rafted or otherwise down the lake.
Since these mills have ceased to operate, the present one at the foot has done at times, considerable business in logs taken from the hills in the immediate vicinity of the lake.
The lake was also the highway over which the earliest settlers to the southwest corner of Canadice and western portion of Springwater took their families and all their worldly effects. Seth Knowles the first settler in the western part of the present town of Springwater, came up on the ice from the town of Livonia, with all his earthly possessions, both animate and inanimate, on the last day of March 1807; and David Badgro, accompanied by his brother-in-law, Reuben Gilbert, and his own wife and a large family of children, together with all the worldly gear he possessed, came up the lake in canoes, or Indian “dugouts”, in the spring of 1809, and settled on the present farm of Harlow Colegrove in Canadice.