Mustin Lake Outing Association: A Brief History
The Mustin Lake Outing Association was born March 8, 1897 in the offices of Gaughan and Gifford in downtown Camden. The original members gathered that Monday evening for the purpose of "arranging the purchase of Mustin Lake and organizing a fishing camp". One can find a list of those first members in the minutes taken that night, minutes carefully penned in the flowing calligraphy of the day and fastened into the now tattered and oft-taped book with paper cover. The handwriting is still readable, through the pages are fragile and worn. In fact, in this book one can learn much about the history of this beautiful lake nine miles from Camden, its cool, spring-fed waters ringed with graceful cypress trees. Much, that is, except where the name came from. Apparently no one thought to record that fact, so the origin of the name remains a mystery.
Those 26 original members? The list shows the following:
J.T. Gifford, J.A. Freeman, H.S. Parnell, Ed Harper, W.W. Brown, J.B. McCaughey, W.D. Askin, J.W. Holleman, A.L. Morgan, B.C. Powell, W.W. Watts, W.E. McRae, C.W. Smith, W.K. Ramsey, C.K. Sithin, H.P. Smead, T.J. Gaughan, C.D. Gee, W.F. Avery, C.N. Beauchamp, C.R. Benson, J.M. Agee, Ina Hickey, T.J. Walls, J.C. Ritchie, and T.L. Rumph.
The first officers, elected by the members, were Ina Gifford, chairman, and W.W. Brown, secretary. The stock was purchased for $25.00 a share. Less than three weeks later, at the March 28 meeting, the name officially became "The Mustin Lake Outing Association". A constitution was approved and a petition made to the Circuit Court of Ouachita County for a certificate of incorporation. Five directors were elected to manage it. Mustin Lake Outing Association was on its way.
A perusal of minutes reveals that picnics were quite popular in the early years. There are several references to them in the minutes of the 1898 -- picnic parties composed, of course, of "Ladies and Gentlemen".
By April 3, 1901, the number of available shares stood at forty. A revision of the by-laws stated that "The purpose for which it is formed is the promotion of bodily and mental health". Apparently, our predecessors were as much into wellness as any health-conscious group of the 1990's!
By the turn of the century, a bathhouse had been built, and in 1901, plans were being made for a "substantial hog-proof fence" to be constructed. A private telephone line from the lake to town was run in 1908 by W.P. Ritchie and R.H. Terrell.
Many current members refer to "the old Boy Scout Camp" at Mustin Lake. A look at the minute shows just how old the camp spot really is on February 7, 1924, a motion was "duly carried authorizing the directors to allot a plot of ground to The Boy Scouts for the purpose of building a Scout House." That same meeting saw a motion to borrow all or part of $1000 to build a new clubhouse.
These days one hears talk about having a gate with a lock on it. Members may be surprised to learn that there was a "driveway gate" that was locked at one time, with "members in good standing entitled to a key and a membership card". (From a letter to members, May 23, 1924)
In May of 1939, the members voted to drill a "good well", and to contribute $2.50 apiece for this project. Electricity came to Lake in 1940, with the REA Electrification program and "proper telephones" were requested of Southwestern Bell that same year.
January, 1937, some motor boats came to the lake, with a 5 horsepower limit. A decision was made in January of 1955 to remodel one of the club houses into a pavilion.
Minutes through the years reveal that the stockholders' meetings dealt with many of the same matters the current ones do -- fish, boats, guests, keepers, timber, gates, dues, but the tone of those annual meetings always seems civil, with a focus being on what is best for Mustin Lake and it's members. This is understandable, because we all share an appreciation for the lake and its welfare.
In truth, Mustin Lake doesn't mean business meetings to the members; rather, it means the love for so many wonderful things -- family and friends, fishing and swimming, good food and laughter, lazy days and quiet evenings, sunrises and sunsets over rippling waves.
Today the Mustin Lake Outing Association has 60 members and over 40 houses, many comfortable enough to live in all year 'round. The original number the five board members have grown to nine.