Blog: Cedar Lake's 'drunken orgies'

The big news on July 3, 1918, was the rampant prostitution in Cedar Lake, according to a story on the front page of The Lake County Times.

Perhaps you already knew that Cedar Lake was a popular resort town a century ago. Passenger trains frequently took riders on excursions to Cedar Lake resorts, where they would resort to — wait for it — "drunken orgies" at one site, according to a July 3, 1918, story in The Lake County Times.

It was a big news day, with Socialist Eugene V. Debs indicted by a federal grand jury for violating the federal espionage act. Debs had run for president repeatedly as the Socialist Party candidate.

There was a big auto crash involving a train and an auto, "when practically an entire family was wiped out."

And "Superintendent Carr of the Gary Screw and Bolt was painfully injured" when his auto crashed into an interurban car near Woodville Junction, north of Valparaiso.

But the biggest news of all was about hanky panky in Cedar Lake.

"CEDAR LAKE RESORTS DRUNKEN ORGIES," screamed the top headline on the front page that day.

"SHOCKING CONDITIONS REVEALED BY DOCTOR," one of the headlines proclaimed. "Near-Nude Women Revel In Woods, Immoral Creates Imported. Soldiers Victims of Theirs," the subhead below it teased.

It was quite a story. It told of "two drunken women, practically destitute of clothing," dancing in the woods at the east end of the lake.

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Dr. John Iddings, a Lowell surgeon and chairman of the Cedar Creek Township Defense Council, testified before the Lake County Defense Council that "any one who wanted whiskey at Cedar Lake could get it without trouble."

This was before Prohibition, mind you, but Indiana had passed a "dry" law, and the Indiana Supreme Court had just upheld it. That story appeared on the same page.

Iddings said 15 prostitutes in the past two weeks had been transported to the lake, "and the resort was being run wide open."

The doctor treated a number of soldiers for "loathsome disease contracted at the Cedar Lake resorts," the story said.

One innkeeper was jailed after an intoxicated motorist returning home drove into a ditch and another into a telephone pole.

The Lake County Defense Council was incensed.

"John Perry, chairman of the Center Township council, said that if Sheriff Barnes and Prosecutor Hunter didn't get busy he would lead torches to clean out the dumps," the story said. "The council sent out to find Sheriff Barnes, but he was reported to be in Gary. One of the most shameless of the resorts is what was known as Moriarty's place."

Today, Cedar Lake is a much quieter town. It still welcomes tourists, but not in the same way as 98 years ago, at least according to this July 3, 1918, story from The Times' archives.

Politics/History Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.