Sugar Lake was discovered on the morning of July 4, 1803, by the Lewis and Clark Expedition who recorded this momentous event in their journal saying, “At one mile we reached the mouth of a bayeau or creek, coming from the large lake on the north side, which appears as if it had once been the bed for the river to which it runs parallel for several miles.  The water of it is clear and supplied by a small creek and several springs, and the number of Goslings which we saw on it induced us to call it Gosling Lake.  It is about three-quarters of a mile wide and sever or eight miles long.”   According to Dorothy Conner, the name of Sugar Lake comes from the sugar maples which grew in the area.


The second event of that momentous Fourth of July at Sugar Lake, as recorded in the journal of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was that “one of our men was bitten by a snake, but a poultice of bark and gunpowder was sufficient to cure the wound.”


In 1881, the first history of Buchanan County says of Sugar Lake that it “contains an abundance of fish”


The second history of Buchanan County said in 1898 “Sugar Lake….. Is a picturesque sheet of water…?  Contrary and Sugar Lakes are fruitful ice fields, the meat packing concerns of Kansas City and St. Joseph drawing their supplies largely from them.”




In the book “The Heritage of  Buchanan County, Missouri, by the Missouri River Heritage Association   on page 89 it states , “Sugar Lake was formed around 1851. It was a land grant given to John Patton by President Fillmore for the North side of the Lake, but it was not settled until around 1900.”     This statement is not true!   


I have a copy of court records for April 14, 1851.  On April 14th of 1851 Leroy Pate was granted a deed of land that he purchased from Thomas Patton.    The entry into the Buchanan County Circuit records is as follows:



This Indenture made and entered into this fourteenth day of April A.D. 1851 by and between Thomas Patton of the first part and Leroy Pate of the second part witnesseth that the said Thomas Patton has this day bargained, sold and conveyed and by these presents doth barging, sell and convey unto the said Leroy Pate and to his heirs forever the following described tract piece or parcel of land lying and being in Buchanan County and State of Missouri (to wit) the Northwest Quarter of the Southwest quarter of section Twenty eight in Township Fifty five of Range for Thirty seven also lots one-two and three of the above named township and the receipt whereof is herby acknowledged said tract or tracts  of land being in all one hundred and sixty one acres and 75/100.   Do Warrant and define the tight of said land to the said Pate against all other claim or claims in law or equity.  



Given under my hand and seal the day and date above written. 

Thomas Patton (Seal)    


Personally appeared before me the undersigned Justice of the Peach within and for said county Thomas Patton who is personally known to me to be the person whose name is subscribed to the foregoing instrument of _riting and acknowledges the same to be his act and deed for the purpose therein mentioned, this 14th day of April 1851.


William Green   J.P.

Filed for record in the office of the Recorder of Deeds of Buchanan County, Missouri. September 24th, 1851 and recorded in Book H at pages 93 & 94.


I have a cousin whom is living on this very land and it is located on the Northeast side of  Sugar Lake.   


Also in the books it states on page 89, “In 1904 Joe Connor, a prominent person around the lake bought the land from Bob Brananen who had purchased it from Patten earlier.   AGAIN this is not true.       Bob Branannen was the son-in-law of Leroy Pate.  He married Viola Pate.    They acquired the land in 1901 after a very nasty dispute over the land.   (See more about the court case the Courts Documents page.)



Joe Connor built a large dance hall out on the lake and also a large dinning room.  Boats could be rented for recreation also.    With the invention of the motor car, Joe Connor saw that Sugar Lake was close enough to Atchison, Kansas and St. Joseph to have possibilities as a resort.  About 1910 he began to build and rent cottages.  Early in the 1920’s he built a large dance hall over the Lake.  It had live music and a dining room that could accommodate 50 to 75 persons. Underneath he kept his rental boats and on the west side had a swimming area. Apparently it was very successful as many exflapper remembers dancing there.   (According to some long term residence of the area.)  


The hall burned down completely in 1930 and a smaller one replaced it but was less popular though on July 16, 1938 the Atchison Daily Globe quoted Joe Connor as saying that on the week end of July 10, there were 13,000 persons and 4,000 cars at Sugar Lake.


About 1930 Chris Dubach and others laid out the south shore as a development under the name of Case de Laga, but the depression ended that though several persons built summer cottages on their lots.  During the depression the W.P.A. and the C.C.C were active on the south shore.


The WPA built a fish hatchery, amount other things in 1938 on the south side and raised bass, blue gill and channel cat. During those years Lewis and Clark was developed on the south side and was maintained by the Missouri Conservation Commission.



Andy Cash started a grocery store at Armour and sold groceries and lilies from the lake to passengers on the train.  Later, about 1920 the Cash’s had a business at the Lake.  All the farmers drove their wagons to get their supplies from the Cash’s.  The grocery store operated until the passing of the family.  (Year unknown)


Sugar Lake had many sugar maple trees around the lake, and it was from these that it got its name.   In 1984 the south side of the lake had a state park known as the Lewis and Clark State Park and State fish Hatcheries.  The original area on the north shore has lost most of its buildings. 









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Source information:

The Heritage of Buchanan County, Missouri., by the Missouri River Heritage Association - 1984

Daily News History of Buchanan County and St. Joseph, Mo. 1898

History of Buchanan County, Missouri , Union Historical 1881

History of Buchanan County and St. Joseph, Mo. By Midland Printing 1915