The following History of the Buckeye Lake Yacht Club was taken from the 1975 I-LYA Yearbook. This year, our own Commodore Gus Schell was the Commodore for I-LYA. The author of this history is not referenced in the yearbook.
The story of Buckeye Lake Yacht Club is linked inseparably with that of the waters whose name it bears.
The origins of Buckeye Lake Yacht Club stem from an Ohio-Erie Canal Reservoir. A group of men with foresight met in April 1906, under the leadership of George H. Watkins. B.L.Y.C. is presently located on Watkins Island. Mr. Watkins was a canal man, canal superintendent, and the President of the State Board of Public Works. The name was changed from Licking Reservoir to Buckeye Lake in 1894 after legislation. This did not make it a “lake.” Clearing of vegetation was not easily accomplished, but “Yachtsmen Meet And Form A Club” was the headline of an article in the Ohio State Journal. Similar articles popped up in the Columbus Dispatch, Columbus Citizen, Newark American Advocate, and even the Toledo Press! The “Inter-Urban” arrived at about 8:30 AM for the inaugural events on Memorial Day, 1906.
Certain men forged a Constitution/By-Laws with the purpose, emblem, pennant, and name. Buckeye Lake Yacht Club, on Sunday, May 6, 1906, began its historic venture into the future. The annual dues were set at $4.00 with an initiation fee of $2.00. Today, they are, of course, much higher. Available to any Active Member is a Perpetual Membership at slightly under $2,000.00. Charter members numbered 80 by July 1, 1906.
B.L.Y.C. in December 1906 applied for membership in I-LYA at the regular Fall Meeting in Toledo, Ohio. There was evidence of admiration from I-LYA member clubs for the spirit of B.L.Y.C. members against seemingly insurmountable odds. There was an I-LYA rule not to accept any club off the Great Lakes, so B.L.Y.C. was not eligible. I-LYA Commodore George Worthington (1896, 1905, 1908, and 1913) defended the “upstart” by displaying an Ohio map indicating Buckeye Lake was connected to Lake Erie by way of the Ohio and Erie Canal. Thus, B.L.Y.C. was admitted and Commodore Charles Lynch, B.L.Y.C. (1907-1908) was invited to serve as our representative on I-LYA’s Board of Directors. A first – inland club so honored.
The initial club house, boat houses and bridge (uncovered) were constructed in 1907 at a cost of $1,811.00. In 1908 additional construction was let out at a bid of $729.24.
Fifty-four members at the end of the first season showed a loss of 39%, but came back with a 31% gain.
1908 had everything going for B.L.Y.C. EXCEPT…. a real lake to sail on! Commodore George Wood (I-LYA) along with others argued with the State Legislators of Ohio for assistance to clear the water of navigational obstacles. George Watkins knew how to make a lake into a Lake. Stump removal, construction of a new concrete waste-weir and help from Henry Sayre (Grandfather to “Bud” Sayre, “Sayre Brothers Chris Craft” on B.L.) and a net cost to the club of $803.22 all helped. The late William Rosebraugh devoted much time to protect the island from erosion.
Rules were loosened in 1909 on restrictions applied to privileges of lady guests…. A tornado, May 15, 1909, left the property of the Club practically unscratched; almost immediately, wind insurance was placed on Club property. Another tornado caused slight damage on June 18, 1928.
Power-boat races were a big thing. The winner of one power-boat race had his name engraved on a Sterling Silver $500.00 trophy provided by the Ohio Electric Railway. At the Inaugural Race for this cup, 10,000 spectators gathered along the shore-line to witness this event of 1910!
B.L.Y.C. Commodore George D. Mooney (1911) set the still existing generally accepted precedent of “moving up the rat-lines”; elected Rear Commodore to Vice Commodore to Commodore.
Iceboat racing took an up-turn in 1912 at B.L.Y.C. Ten inches of ice January 12th brought between 300-400 people to watch the races in near-zero temperatures. What always happens? NO AIR. Activities consisted of ice-skating, hockey, and baseball!
The B.L.Y.C. treasury in 1912 indicated $19.87 in cash. In spite of this, plans were approved for construction of a new club house costing about $5,000.00. Almost complete in 1913, with a debt due in 1923, B.L.Y.C. moved on with confidence. Sleeping rooms on the second floor have now been converted to mostly meeting rooms and Steward’s Quarters.
“My wife won’t let me” brought B.L.Y.C. to the concept of a Family Club. This enabled B.L.Y.C. membership to be more stable. It remains so to this day.
157 members were dues-paying and bearing day-to-day financial burdens in November 1915. The membership today stands at 275. A Ladies Auxiliary was created in 1941. The entire facility has shown evidence of great improvement from the years 1906 to today. The Gob’s Mess is one example: the previous bar was completely removed and a new nautical-styled “wet” bar was completed at a cost of about $6,000.00 in 1973.
B.L.Y.C. was still the only “inland” club in I-LYA by 1916. President Woodrow Wilson declared war in 1917 between the United States and the Central Powers of Europe. The entire country suffered enormously, but to a young yacht club, the effect approached devastation. It was a long bitter winter in more ways than one … twenty inches of ice at Buckeye Lake. Some twenty months later the sun shone again over B.L.Y.C., the Nation, and the World.
Curtailment of “costly” events in 1920 were in effect due to declining general prosperity of the times. B.L.Y.C., in spite of this, was among the leaders of the I-LYA Bowling Tournaments of 1920-21. Commodore Robert E. Dye, currently serving as Commodore, is Secretary of the I-LYA Bowling Association. In 1924, after a day of bowling at Eddie Gettrost’s Alley, (Commodore 1925) many visitors went iceboating at Buckeye Lake.
1923 dues and initiation fees were boosted to $30.00. Junior Memberships have made B.L.Y.C. truly a “family club” over the years. More recently Sears Cup Quarter Finalists have brought the I-LYA Junior Symposium in its second and third annual year to our club (1973-1974).
Articles of Incorporation “not for profit” were signed by Commodores R. J. Woodward, G. O. Doyle, and Edgar T. Wolfe, Sr. on July 25, 1935.
Commodore Edgar T. Wolfe, Sr. was elevated to Commodore of I-LYA at their December 1936 Meeting to serve in 1937. Vice Commodore Robert Irwin (B.L.Y.C. Commodore 1938) was appointed his Secretary-Treasurer. The I-LYA Spring Meeting was held at the Deshler-Wallick Hotel on April 17, 1937, with a total of twenty-five member clubs.
Ohio passed legislation in 1938 ordering the end of power-boat racing. Sail-boating was now in dominance of nautical events.
With Commodore Chris Lambrecht at the helm, Vice Commodore C. E. Smith and Rear Commodore Paul W. Holstein, I-LYA watched B.L.Y.C. take home first and second place in the Bowling Tournament in Detroit on January 28 and 29th, 1939…. An Associate Membership was given to Governor John W. Bricker on June 11, 1940.
War Again! Vice Commodore Paul W. Holstein was interrupted in his advance to Commodore in 1941. He was asked by Uncle Sam to serve actively in the Navy. Capt. Paul W. Holstein eventually attained Commodore status for the year 1964. B.L.Y.C. had already gone through one big war, and merely placed restrictions on activities. It did not stop B.L.Y.C. from obtaining the charter for Lightning Fleet #43. Before the conflict ended, B.L.Y.C. Fleet #43 was the largest of the Club’s fleets.
One particular man made application for membership in October of 1941. He was admitted and ten years later, rose to the rank of Commodore. He was awarded the highly coveted Heber Yachtsman Certificate of Merit in 1963. This is awarded for outstanding achievement. It has been awarded on a very highly selective basis since the year 1942 (Initial recipient: Clark Beverly). It is highly regarded on an almost equal status of respect to that of Commodore. This award is granted to those men who excel in Seamanship, Sportsmanship and Character. It is our belief at Buckeye Lake Yacht Club that Gustav Schell fulfills all requirements.
On V-J Day, August 14, 1945 the surrender gave a moral boost to everyone. Things headed into an ever increasing era of growth and expansion. Snowball Regatta #1 was held October 1, 1946, sponsored by the Lightning Fleet, with the full cooperation and aid of the club.
Governor Gus Schell chaired the Entertainment Committee in 1947. He displayed an art of offering events which resulted in much enjoyment for the membership.
Governor Gus Schell was in charge of Membership for the 1948 season at B.L.Y.C. In 1949 Governor Gus Schell was elevated to Rear Commodore and was appointed Chairman of the Club’s docks and grounds. In 1950 Vice Commodore Schell was Chairman of the Grounds Committee. In 1951 he was Commodore of B.L.Y.C. in it’s 45th year.
Commodore Robert E. Dye served in the club for three consecutive years as Secretary-Treasurer (1954-55-56). Bob was elected Governor again in 1972 and worked his way to Commodore in 1975.
Commodore Arthur Schwoerer (who passed away this year) headed up the Golden Anniversary Year of 1956 for B.L.Y.C. He also received the Certificate of Merit, referred to earlier. Rear Commodore George Fisher (Commodore 1958; Certificate of Merit recipient 1955) active in many I-LYA activities, was appointed Fleet Captain: Sail. Commodore Gus Schell was still serving B.L.Y.C. as a Trustee.
B.L.Y.C. is justly proud of its 69 years. Enduring tornados, depressions, recessions, Wars, high water and low water to the present day status is an accomplishment. Financially sound, a strong membership, excellent docking facilities, a beautiful club house with a brand new Commodore’s Lounge with air conditioning, owner of the island on which it is located are some of the reasons for pride. The ultimate is to have among its members, men who can attain the rank of Commodore of I-LYA. For these reasons; B.L.Y.C. is highly pleased to claim two such members: Commodore Edgar T. Wolfe, Sr., in 1937 and Commodore Gustav Schell in 1975.