Few people on the elevated section of the Lloyd Expressway west of Pigeon Creek realize they are crossing a former lake. Fewer still know of the association of that lake to the enigmatic Nelly Sweezer or the reasons for its demise.
Early travelers in Evansville noted a roughly 15-acre lake alongside Pigeon Creek at its mouth. What made the lake distinctive was the large island in the center and an outlet into the nearby creek. These features gave the appearance of a capital letter Q. Although early maps of the area label it as Fish Lake, the more common name was Sweezer’s Pond.
Nelly Mother (also spelled Nellie) and the Widow Sweezer is a mysterious figure in early county history. The one fact we know about her comes from the County Commissioner’s record of November 1820, when she was appointed to keep a ferry at the mouth of Pigeon Creek. Before bridges, this often was the only means of crossing the creek. The mystery comes from the lack of further information about Nelly Sweezer.
Some stories attribute her as living on the island in the lake with her log cabin being used as a hotel and tavern, but the name Sweezer fails to appear in records, and we know her time as ferry operator was not long. In 1837, the area was included in the town of Lamasco. The pond became a sheltered spot for lumbermen to keep their logs for milling and ice regularly was cut from the pond for refrigeration.
Fishing and ice skating were major attractions. Summer stagnant water also made the pond a health nuisance, with calls to drain it. In 1906, the Big Four Railroad purchased the lake and over the next few years a wooden trestle was built and the lake was finally drained. By 1911, the railroad offered to let the city use it as a dump. As a result, and over the course of time, all traces of Sweezer’s Pond have disappeared.