The Day Four Youth Drowned in Round Lake
by Helen Nolden

September 20, 1995

I imagine, if a person were to talk to a lot of people about Round Lake, he would get a great number of different stories, especially from the people who live nearby. The lake has become a legend to the area people.

Round Lake is about ten miles northwest of Anamoose and about 14 miles northeast of Drake. Bud Peiler’s farm was right on the banks of the lake, and I think a man named Fred Nissen lives on the northwest side. I have been afraid to go out there myself. With my history of getting lost, it’s a bit scary for this old gal.

When I was a child, I remember our family going out to Round Lake on some of those blazing hot days of the dusty drought years of the 30s. Sometimes we would take a lunch along and spend most of the day out there. Mom always packed a big jug of water which she had wrapped in an old gunnysack to help keep it cool. She also had a job of fruit nectar, since we never had pop back then. Oh, it was in the stores, but it was much cheaper with the nectar and the water.

There were always things to do-wading, visiting with others who had the same idea, and swimming, or just running through the tall grass. My father was a very good swimmer-something he had learned as a young boy growing up near the Dniester River in Russia. I can remember the times when Jacob Heringer Sr. and my father would swim across the lake, and sometimes race. That was fun to see.

It was strange that none of the six Rice kids learned how to swim, even though we had such an able instructor in our midst. Tony and Casey learned to swim after they were adults and had left home, but at the lake, we had fun just wading around or going out so far that the water came to our mouths. We thought that quite daring! It really got exciting when someone pushed you over or you lost your balance. How I hated the taste of lake water!

We didn’t have bathing suits back then, so the boy’s wore old worn out cut-off jeans, while the girls wore old short cotton dresses. I recall building sand castles, getting as muddy as I could, then walking into the water to rinse it all off. I don’t remember seeing a lot of broke bottles or tin cans strewn all over the beach in those days.

It was on one of these outings at Round Lake that my father experienced the fright of his life. He was swimming out toward the middle of the lake when a whirlpool, or eddy, pulled him down. He said the water in the downward spout was icy cold and he had to struggle with all his strength to get out of its force.

When he reached shore, it was a shaken father who ordered us all to the car. On the way home, he explained to us what had happened to him. He said in all the years he had been swimming out there, he didn’t realize how dangerous the lake could be! Due to that frightening experience, my father never went swimming again-not in a lake, or river, or a pool. He just couldn’t shake the trauma of the lake.

On July 27, 1941 a group of people had gathered on the west side of Round Lake for a celebration of sorts. Suddenly, this happy occasion turned into a tragedy that stunned the communities of Anamoose, Drake, Funston and Norfolk.

The Anamoose Progress gave this report: “Sunday Tragedy Takes Lives of One Boy and Three Girls”. All met their deaths in the same manner, going out to the lake to wade and getting on one of the deep drop-offs near the center of the lake.

Old-timers say this body of water is very treacherous because they claim there is a huge burned-out coal bed under the lake. Rescuers said that near these drop-offs, there is a decided change in the water temperature. There is a very strong undercurrent, which evidently drew these four young people down into that deeper, colder, moving water.

Nanning Nissen, aged10, drowned on the west side of Round Lake. The water was said to be 40 feet deep in the spot where his body was found. He was buried through the Anamoose Lutheran Church.

The three girls had been wading on the east side of the lake when their parents went to the west side to see why there was so much confusion. Suddenly, there were a lot of cars and boats, etc. When the parents came back to tell the girls of their finding, the girls were gone. Only their shoes and a hat were there on the shore.

The girls-Hulda Bromley, 17; Dorothy Ganske, 17; and Delores Ganske, 15- were found the next two days, drowned. Joint funeral services were held in Funston for the girls, who had been very close friends. There were three white caskets and wreaths of flowers-symbols of a lake gone wild and claiming the lives of four young people in one day!

It seemed that many years passed before people went out to Round Lake for swimming or boating again.

People I have talked to said they remember seeing several water shows out there in the late 60s and early 70s. One man who lived near the lake said there are very few people who go swimming there today.

I’ve seen pictures taken out at the lake this spring. It has really run over its banks and in some places, had run over the road nearby.

I hope the young people who go out there today for swimming take all the precautions necessary for a lake that has such power. I guess a person has to respect a lake like that. Maybe I will be able to go out there before winter shows its frosty head!


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