In the summer of 1897, aquatic recreationists needed to be wary of the Grand River. A story from July 23 of that year reports a six-foot, amphibious, flesh-eating reptile haunting the upper Grand. The alligator, which ate in excess 10 pounds of raw meat a day, escaped from an amusement park. The State Republican wrote, â€œShould there be any mysterious disappearance of small boys in the next few weeks, while bathing in the waters of the Grand, it can be accepted as fact that one alligator has had a square meal.â€
For decades, Leadleyâ€™s Park, later Waverly Park, existed on the north eastern corner of where Waverly Road meets the river. There were rides, including a rollercoaster, and a hotel. Lansing residents sojourned there by way of steamer or Interurban. The dock to ferry vacationers was located at Logan Street (now known as Martin Luther King Boulevard). From the river, one can still see the cement landing at the park.
Resident to the park was a menagerie of exotic animals, including an American black bear named â€œTillieâ€ who also escaped that summer. Tillieâ€™s adventure was brief, and she was returned unharmed. The gator, no name given, was the property of park proprietor Irving Fogg. Fogg purchased the saurian that spring from Virgil A. Lott, who kept the beast for several summers on the sidewalk outside his saloon at 203 South Washington Avenue. History does not record the winter residence of the animal, nor its fate. There is no mention that it was ever captured.
David Votta – When not working as the Local History Librarian/Archivist for the Capital Area District Library, David serves on more committees, boards and commissions than he would like to think about.