Anchor Inn ~ Itasca County Resorts with a History

7.18.2021 [archived ~ originally published 8.31.2017]

Top: Resort sign with anchor for the steamboat Eliah Price, found on the property in 1921; Original Anchor Inn Lodge with screened porch; An original building still on site. Bottom: Successful fishing for Bud Kitterman’s high school coach from Earl Park, IN and other guests; Lodge and docks from the water.

Like many of the early resorts, Anchor Inn started as a hunting lodge in about 1921.  It is located on Sand Lake in the heart of the Chippewa National Forest.  Sand Lake is a part of the Bowstring River system which also includes Bowstring, Little Sand, and Rice Lakes. The Oscar Osufsen family bought the land about 1920 and built the lodge, which is still the hub of the resort.  During the 96 years of its existence, Anchor Inn has grown but has been owned by only three families.

The Name

With so many of the resorts in the north woods named after flora and fauna of the area, how did the lodge get the name Anchor Inn?  Back in 1939 when L.A. Rossman, publisher, was writing the “Up in this Neck of the Woods” column for the Grand Rapids Herald Review, he answered this question.  “Mr. Osufsen bought a tract of land between Little Sand Lake and Rice Lake, on the upper waters of the Bigfork River, intending to establish a hunting lodge there.

As he looked over his property, Mr. Osufsen found a huge anchor, one which had been used by a logging company to anchor their steamboats used on Bowstring and Sand lakes for towing logs. The anchor, weighing several hundred pounds, had been abandoned when the biggest steamboat, the “Elijah Price” had been pulled out on the bank and left to fall into decay. This was after most of the big pine in that part of the county had been cut and floated down the Bigfork River to mills along the Rainy River. Struck by the possibilities of the anchor, Mr. Osufsen hauled it home, erected a handsome scaffold to hold the anchor clear of the ground, and attached a sign “Anchor Inn,” which has since remained the name of his place.”

The Osufsens

In the above quote, Rossman is referring to William Osufsen, but according to the 1926 obituary of Oscar Osufsen, the two were both proprietors of the resort. Regardless of whether it was father or son who found the anchor, the unique relic is still hanging from the resort sign.

Oscar Osufsen was born in Norway in 1865, immigrated in 1881, and settled in the Red River Valley. He married Ida in 1889 and by then was an accomplished butcher.  Perhaps he planned to raise cattle when in 1904, he moved his family and filed a homestead on 160 acres in township 148-27 (now Max) in Itasca County. Six years later, when William was the required age to file, he did so on 80 acres adjacent to his father. 

The 1910 United States census lists William and his wife Caroline living with Oscar and Ida. William is working in his father’s butcher shop west of the twin cities.  By 1915 they have established Osufsen & Son Meats on Lake Street in Minneapolis.

Ten years later, William and Caroline are the parents of two daughters and two sons.  Both families have returned to the Max community where they had homesteaded.  William is a farmer and Oscar a cattle buyer.  The area, with lakes, rivers, and marshlands were recognized as an excellent location for duck hunting, and a few small lodges had been established.  Oscar, and perhaps William bought the land as described by Rossman, and built a lodge.  Upstairs there were half a dozen rooms for guests.  The family quarters, kitchen, dining room and parlor area were on the main floor.  Meals were served, and hunters were alerted by the clang of the dinner bell.

By 1925 several cabins were added, and it was advertised as a summer resort with excellent fishing opportunities.  In the summer of 1926, Oscar had a heart attack and died in his boat, as he was returning from visiting a Norwegian bachelor friend across the lake.  William and Caroline continued to help Ida run the resort.  In later years Ida managed a grocery, possible the Oslund store, and distributed mail.

According to the 1940 census, William’s sons, Harry and Will worked as hunting and fishing guides.  Ida died in the fall of 1945, and in 1946 the resort was sold to the Chaplins.

The Chaplins

Raymond Marcellus Chaplinski was born in Iowa in 1908.  His father had immigrated from Poland and settled in Wright County, IA.  Nellie Richardson was also born in 1908, and according to a 1937 Minneapolis city directory, the young married couple was going by the names Ray and Nellie Chaplin.  Ray and one or two other brothers and cousins had decided to “Americanize their names.” His parents, and even his younger brother Carlton, who was living with them in 1940, kept the surname Chaplinski.

When the Chaplin’s bought the resort, they were 48 years of age with two young children.  Lana was five, and Raymond John was three.  Before moving to Sand Lake, Ray had worked at a dry cleaner and Nellie had been a waitress.  I could not find any more information on Nellie and Ray, but they must have enjoyed the resort life as they had it for over 20 years.

Their brochure describes the cabins: “We have modern and semi-modern housekeeping cabins that will accommodate from 2 to 6 persons.  Extra cots are available if needed.  The Modern cabins are equipped with running water, flush toilets, gas plates, refrigerators, innerspring mattresses on the beds, and cooking utensils.”

The Chaplin’s had been running the resort for a few years when three generations of the Kitterman family from Earl Park, Indiana came up to fish.  Bud Kitterman (current patriarch of the resort) explained, “my wife Gin and three children, my dad, my brother and Gin’s sister came up for vacation on the advice of my high school basketball coach who came up for a month every summer.” None of the Kitterman’s had been to a resort before.  They liked the Anchor Inn and came back off and on through the years. “Never went to another resort.  Same with our guests, they come here and keep coming, no reason to go anywhere else.”

Bud’s parents, Howard “Kitty” and Naomi Kitterman told Ray and Nellie Chaplin if they were ever ready to sell the resort they would be interested.

After Nellie’s death in March 1967, Ray managed to get through the resort season, but it wasn’t the same without his wife beside him.  He sold the resort to long time guests, Kitty and Naomi Kitterman, knowing that it was in good hands.

The Kittermans

After they married in 1929, Howard “Kitty” and Naomi Kitterman had lived in Earl Park, Indiana, where they raised two boys, Charles “Bud” and Jim.  When they bought the resort, they were both on one side or the other of 60 years of age, so it was a career change that kept them active and young at heart.  They were friendly resort owners and developed a loyal clientele.  Their sons had enjoyed the resort as much as they had when they began coming up in the late 1950s, so Kitty and Naomi hoped it would become a family endeavor. 

In late June 1981, during their 14th season, Naomi died and a few short weeks her husband of over fifty years joined her.  The brothers rallied, and Jim ran the resort for a couple of years until Bud and Gin took over the day to day management in 1984.

This summer is Bud and Gin’s thirty-third season, and next year marks the fiftieth year of ownership by the Kitterman family.  Which is now quite extended!  All four of the Bud and Gin’s children and their spouses are now retired, live on the grounds, and are a part of the Anchor Inn crew.  The ten individuals had added their expertise to the various remodeling, new builds and nature decor.  The resort now has eight cottages, including a new one that can accommodate ten people. The oldest building still being used is cabin number six.  It was originally the Oslund store where I believe Ida Osufsen, one of the original owners, distributed the mail.

Bud had many stories to share about resort guests, which included Skip Humphrey, well known Minnesota politician and son of former vice president Hubert Humphrey, and many, many folks in law enforcement.  In fact, part of a wall in the lodge is dedicated to badges, hats and other relics of sheriff, police, and state highway patrol who have called the Anchor Inn home for a week or two. 

The resort has a healthy 85% return rate, of which the Kitterman’s are very proud.   “Hoosier hospitality” is what the brochure says, which Bud explained means, “going out of your way.  That and word of mouth.  That’s your best advertisement.”

And of course, there are a few more generations of Kittermans whose love of the outdoors and people will extend for many more years at the Anchor Inn.

1 Comment

  1. youngv2015 says:

    I’m amazed by the stories of the families who come and run resorts like the Anchor Inn. The beauty of the land and the fun of meeting new people who come back to “visit” each year must keep people interested being resort owners.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s