Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Lake Margaret: Peggy Campbell Community Icon

Lake Margaret

Margaret “Peggy” Campbell was an inspiration and a wonderful role model for me and, rest assured, for scores of many other youth in Lucasville, Ohio. After a long career at the phone company, Peggy dedicated her life to making Lake Margaret a wonderful recreational institution. The lake featured swimming, fishing, boating, plus playground and banquet facilities in a friendly, family atmosphere. For decades, it was the preferred gathering place for families in the area. Thanks to Peggy, young people like me grew up as her beloved “lake kids” who benefited so much from a home away from home. I have so many fond memories of Lake Margaret and its feisty owner, Peggy Campbell.

In the February 12, 1966 edition of the Portsmouth Times, Peggy addressed a request from the Ohio Department of Mental Hygiene and Correction to include Lake Margaret in the prison plans. Lake Margaret was not a part of the Schisler farm, which surrounded the lake area and was part of the land acquired by the state for the construction of a maximum security prison.

“I will do most anything to help my community,” Mrs. Campbell said, “But I do not believe I should be expected to surrender my livelihood.”

In fact, 1965 had been the best year for the lake. Peggy said, “ We are growing. Our membership is increasing. I enjoy entertaining children at the lake. We invite the children of Hillcrest Home and Boy and Girl Scouts to enjoy our facilities every year.” She continued to explain how she also had many improvements planned to enlarge the lake and to build an addition to the boat dock there. In addition, Campbell vowed she would continue to stock the lake with bass, crappies, bluegills, and perch for the delight of local fishermen.

Charlie Brown Swimming at the Lake

In 1954, Peggy Campbell and her husband, Ralph W. Campbell, purchased 45 acres including the 32 acres of the lake area from the late Frank W. Moulton. Then, they built the property for public recreation. After Ralph Campbell died, Peggy continued her dedicated work on the establishment as a memorial to her late husband.

The Schisler tract was the former big Acres farm. Many years before it was owned by the late James Bannon. John Gronninger later owned the farm and sold it to George Cook.

Frank and Arthur Moulton, Walter F. Gahm, Edward and Charles Appel organized a company and purchased the farm for around $100,000 around 1926. During the depression, the company surrendered the farm and Carl Schisler acquired it for about $45,000.

Schisler later added the Violet Farm which adjoined Big Bend Acres and subsequently sold off several tracts.

Anyone who knew Peggy understood her extreme devotion and unbelievable work commitment to the lake facility which bears her name. She continued to operate the lake for decades, always taking pride in her community involvement. Far more than just owner and manager of the club, Peggy was the chief cook, cleaner, and maintenance person in the enterprise. Through it all, she welcomed children and encouraged them to use and enjoy her beautiful facilities.

And excuse me, but damn the prison for nearly choking off the lake. Even when prison construction muddied the waters of Lake Margaret and caused Peggy's business to decline significantly (to put it mildly), she fought to maintain the lake as a focal point for Lucasville. I vividly remember how Peggy suffered through the damage caused by the state. It was a terrible blow to all that made the lake a precious site. It never fully recovered, not even close.

Though small in stature, Peggy Campbell was a giant force in molding character and industry in her community. I worked at the lake as lifeguard and waiter for many years. I know of no other person who taught me more about work ethic and responsibility than Peggy Campbell. I love her and miss her so much. How I wish children of today could benefit from being lake people like me and my friends. The lake is still there but no longer operates as a public recreational facility. If dreams were reality ...

Working at Lake Margaret

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