In 1827 on what now is the area south of the dam, the U.S. government constructed a grist mill to grind corn for the Potawatomi Indians under the terms of a 1826 treaty. To obtain water power, a dam was built near its present location. This flooded the area around five lakes and formed Lake Manitou of 775 acres. Near the mill were erected a blacksmith shop, trading post and house for miller and blacksmith. It was the first white settlement of the wilderness that became Fulton County in 1836. Samuel Milroy, builder, named the village Tiptonville in honor of General John Tipton, Indian agent for the region. The dam, mill, and village fell into disuse after the Potawatomi were removed to Kansas in 1838.
Lake Manitou, also known as Manatau or Manitau, derives its name from the Potawatomi word used both for "good spirit" and "evil spirit". The Indians, who fished and hunted in this area for 150 years, believed the lake's waters held a monster fish or serpent of supernatural powers. Early settlers knew the lake as Devil's Lake.
During the early and mid 1900's the lake was home to many resorts and hotels. They attracted thousands of people each year to swim, fish or dance under the stars to some nationally known big bands.
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