Winning Essay by Luke Dice for 2017 Lake Family Historical Association Scholarship Award

Luke Dice – Lake Family Historical Association Scholarship Essay

     I think of the Lake Family every week as I am employed because of them! The Lake Family founded the Tabernacle where I work each Tuesday and Thursday, after school, to help elementary students with their homework and life-skills at SonClub. While scrolling through the list of different scholarship opportunities, I immediately recognized the Lake Family name and knew then I had to apply and learn more about them.

According to William McMahon’s book South Jersey Towns, The Lake family has always been a sizable group. All were scattered throughout South Jersey, but Ocean City is the most notable place that they developed and which became “America’s Greatest Family Resort” that we know and love today. Originally named “New Brighton” on October 20, 1879, it was changed at the third board meeting of investors to “Ocean City”. Before the fame, rows of houses, and $100,000 investment, it was just an island with potential only few saw. Though other groups discovered and saw the island, only the William B. Wood and S.Wesley Lake could look into the future and see what it would become.

These men were attending a camp meeting at Ocean Grove. McMahon explains that they discussed the possibility of founding a Christian based resort that would provide special religious privileges. After Wesley showed his vision to his brothers Ezra and James, they then decided to consult their father, Simon Lake. Simon, like the rest of the Lake family, was a Jack-of-all-trades. He was a farmer, fruit grower, and inventor who not only saw the religious advantage, but also the financial benefits this island had to offer.

On September 10, 1879, Ezra, Wesley, and James Lake accompanied by William H Burrel rowed over from the known Pleasantville to the unknown island, eventually landing on the bay side. Following a cow path, they ended up on a high point of the island on the northern side and kneeled under a cedar tree asking for guidance from God. This tree is preserved inside the Tabernacle as a memorial to that day. I see it every day when I work at the Tabernacle and never knew what it meant. I can’t wait to tell my students!

Asking for guidance is a common action for me. My numerous questions are what led me to Liberty University where I will be attending this fall. I will be studying Mechanical Engineering in hopes to bring the knowledge I learn either to the Dominican Republic to continue working in the mission field, or to stay in the U.S. and spend time fixing things, innovating, and inventing new products that meet different needs.

Just like the Lake brothers with their many inventions, I too have a passion for problem- solving. Ever since I was five years old and decided to throw an old toaster out of my window to open it up to see the inner mechanics of it, I knew I had an urge to study and learn about how everything works and stays together. I decided to attend Ocean City High School to join the Engineering Program they have which is part of the STEM program. Only a few of the original Freshman students remain in the Senior class of this learning experience. Our final year is dedicated to addressing a problem, solving it, and creating your idea. I have dedicated countless hours to my project and will complete it within the month! By June, I should be ready for patent application and approval of my invention, a Bio-Filter that purifies the air using plants.

Unlike me, the Lake family already has many patents and inventions. In The Lake Family – Founders of Ocean City, NJ, James Steelman explains that the family was responsible for many things from being instrumental in constructing the first turnpike across the meadows to Atlantic City in 1853, to the first workable submarine made by Simon, grandson of the first Simon Lake, at the age of 28. This family clearly had a gift for molding the future. After reading the list of ideas and creations this family came up with, I don’t know if there is much more to invent! They have worked on steering gears, mechanisms for cars, machines to put the tops on metal cans, amusement park attractions, flying machines, shades for windows, and many more. Every person in America has seen or used one of their inventions or ideas. The invention that they created that has had the most impact in my life has to be the “mowing machine”. While living in the Dominican Republic for 5 months when I was in third grade, I used to see many people cutting the grass with a machete. The Lake brothers definitely improved upon this method! I am personally grateful for their invention as I am responsible to mowing the lawn at my house.

Since 3rd grade I have returned to the Dominican Republic every year with a Mission that helps to build homes for needy families in this developing nation. I enjoy participating in the Mission as it gives me many opportunities to think of the potential of the community of Los Cocos just like the Lake Family did for Ocean City. In addition to many activities in the DR, I have been on the basketball team and participated in FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) all four years at OCHS. I also work at Primo Hoagies in Ocean City on the weekends.

The Lake Family has had an immeasurable impact on the development and history of Ocean City and in the lives of many individuals, including me. After graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering I hope to follow in their footsteps by thinking outside the box and impacting future generations.

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