HISTORY OF FOREST LAKE
Envision yourself on your dock at the end of the day enjoying the sunset, watching
the Kingfisher setting up for his evening plunge, or perhaps untying the boat from
your dock before your evening cruise. You may want to reflect at the events that
got you here. You may reflect on your day at work, or the next days events. But
it is more likely that you will choose not to reflect anything more than the tranquility
that comes with these surroundings.
Lee Daugherty, a Forest Lake resident
Welcome to Forest Lake! Here is a bit of our history.
In the early 1960’s several Florence County land owners including Young, Jeffords,
Parrott, Bateman, Ward, Hepburn and others got together and created a lake by damming
the flow of Middle Swamp –an un- navigatable stream running through . A name for
the lake was suggested by Ed Young and it was agreed to call it Forest Lake . The
property was about six miles outside the city limits and the dam flooded about 200
acres. This area was at that time considered more of a destination rather than a
home. It was very rural. It continued primarily as a sportsman’s retreat offering
excellent fishing and hunting opportunities. Very few homes existed in this part
of Florence County at the time. The few that were built in Forest Lake as permanent
residences had to negotiate primitive dirt roads and poor drainage.
The newly created lake was very rustic and barely navigable due to the forestation
that was left within the flooded area.The only property that was actively sold at
the time was west of Knollwood Road –the road that crosses the lake connecting Cashua
Drive > to Alligator Road . Property owners on the east side decided not to become
part of any Forest Lake subdivision and did not participate in the initial developing.
Mr. Jeffords and Mr. Young formed a development company called “Forest Lake of Florence,
Inc.” and began actively selling lots on the west side. Lots were sold at prices
ranging from $1,500 to $3,000. This is in sharp comparison to some recent sales
of lakefront lots in Forest Lakes Shores (on the east side) for $140,000!
the fishing became legendary thanks to stocking efforts and upkeep of the waters.
Trophy largemouth bass, bream, crappie and several other game fish soon multiplied.
Forest Lake actually holds claim to a world record recognized by the International
Game Fish Association. The record is for the American Bowfin landed by the late
Robert Harmon in 1980. >While Forest Lake can claim no further world records, it
consistently produces largemouth bass over ten pounds and breams over two pounds.
Anglers find success from boats and from docks alike.
While the fishing tradition has continued since the creation of the lake, the residents
decided that the waterfowl hunting posed a danger to residents and disturbed the
tranquility of the peaceful lake. The ecosystem was truly developing beyond expectations,
including nesting bald eagles and ospreys. It became clear that action was needed
to protect the habitat. Interested residents, led by Jeffords (wife of founder J.
Foster Jeffords) successfully campaigned to make Forest Lake a wildlife sanctuary.
A public law was passed in 1980 so declaring Forest Lake to be a sanctuary. The
discharging of firearms was no longer allowed.
Concerned residents later formed a homeowner’s association and further committed
to stewardship of the lake by building permanent boat ramps and prohibiting electric
motors on boats. The lake community also continued to mature as the city began swelling
westward. In the early 1970’s, single family homes emerged along both banks of the
lake. Interstate Highway 95 came through this end of Florence in the early 1980’s
further increasing interest in this area.Homes at this time ranged from resort—vacation
type structures to more conventional traditional building styles. By the early 1980’s
it became clear that the lake was headed towards more upscale construction and lifestyle.
Homes began to be built in size from 1800 square feet to over 5000 square feet.
A major dam break occurred in August 1991 draining the lake completely. The lake
remained dry for over six months. The needed funds for repair were obtained through
special assessments to the homeowners and through litigation with a negligent contractor.
An easement for permanent access to the dam was also obtained for making the necessary
repairs. Several photographs are available showing the almost totally dry lakebed.
The dam was repaired and the lake was re-stocked and gradually the lake began to
With the confidence of a safe dam, development took off once again. It spread to
areas surrounding the lake and various new communities were created. They are now
know as Forest Lake South, Forest Lake West, Waterford
, Mallard Pointe and more recently Forest Lake Pointe. These sub-divisions cemented
the direction of the lake community forever.
During the maturing process of the lake as an ecosystem it suffered through an issue
that plagues most every body of water in South Carolina –proliferation of aquatic
weeds and grasses. The Forest Lake Homeowner’s Association jumped into action and
rallied the support of members and residents and began a regular program of spraying
and moving mounds of vegetation. The problem was further remedied by the addition
of voracious grass carp were introduced with the assistance of the South Carolina
Department of Natural Resources. The effects
of these efforts were felt immediately as evidenced by the number of new recreational
boats that now pervade the lake. Most of
the boats on the lake now, in sharp contrast to forty years ago, rarely engage in
fishing. Instead, most of today’s boaters just enjoy the tranquility of sunset cruises
or visiting friend’s dockside.
The last piece of the lake’s history remained missing until the spring of 2003 when
the property on the southeast corner of the lake was sold. It was original property
owned by the Ratliff’s and was sold to a Forest Lake resident, Phillip Lowe for
development. This would write the last chapter of a story that began over forty
years ago. The southeast section of the lake
that remained undeveloped is now becoming a planned community with strict covenants
and restrictions and a unique “footprint”.
Much of the land was leveled off and three large canals were dug to provide for
even more waterfront property. The development
is named “ Forest Lake Shores ” and an additional 62 homes are planned --16 of which
are lakefront and 25 “canal-front”. The development has also chosen to annex itself
into the City of Florence to take advantage of additional amenities offered by the
Another “sister” community is planned by a local developer beginning sometime in
2005. It will be called “The Reserve at Forest Lake”. No lots border on the lake,
although storm water does run into the lake through several other lots on the lake
owned by the developer. Sixty-two (62) homes are planned with some commercial activity
planned for the Cashua Drive portion.
Forest Lake is obviously the “draw” for all of the communities that have chosen
to locate here. The serenity is appreciated by all who enter our space –one of the
most beautiful, unspoiled bodies of water in South Carolina
Frank M. McIntyre, FLHA Historian