The year was 1922, and advertisements of the time promised that the new Nimisilla Lake would be a “fisher’s paradise,” to be stocked with “tens of thousands of bluegills and bass,” that would be purchased from the state of Ohio and other sources. Within two years, promotional fliers stated, the club’s own fishery would “raise a million bluegills each year.”
Shares, sold at a cost at a cost of $300 each, entitled buyers to membership, including one building lot, in a family fishing lake that was being built in the northwest corner of Jackson Township.
The summer fishing, bathing and boating community, “and other clean, wholesome outdoor recreation and pastime” (as one advertisement read) was being developed by a Massillon real estate dealer, and was to be carved out of the 212-acre Brown farm on Wales Road in Jackson Township. An earthen dam was built across Nimisilla Creek to create the artificial lake. By 1924, the name of the development had been changed to Willowdale Club Company, and ever since, the community has been called Willowdale Lake.
When the lake was finished, all of the investors – about 250 people – came together to choose their building lots. To keep the process fair, all the lots were numbered and lot owners each drew a numbered ticket from a hat. The number on the ticket was the lot number.
Although the lake community was originally conceived as a summer getaway for those who lived in Massillon or as far away as Canton (advertised as a 30-minute trip), some cottage owners eventually winterized their summer homes in order to be able to live at Willowdale year-round.
After heavy rains washed out the earthen dam that formed the lakes, a concrete dam was built to replace it in 1925. Willowdale Lake, which is spring-fed, is really a group of three lakes. At the center is Big Lake, the deepest, which has the dam on the west end. The others are the Clubhouse Lake and South Lake.
A house at Willowdale Lake.
Building Willowdale Lake.
Jackson Township Historical Society