9.5.2021 [archived ~ previously published 8.16.2018]
Cedarwild Resort was initially named Cedarwild Lodge and owned by Frank Voigt Jr. This was common for the oldest resorts because the cabins were not set up for cooking and meals were provided by the owners. Later, Lodge was replaced by Resort, but Cedarwild has remained the name through the nearly 100 years. Located on the shore of Moose Lake it is called Cedarwild for a very good reason. All of the original buildings were constructed of cedar trees harvested on the property.
As a young man, Frank Jr. moved with his parents and siblings from northern Wisconsin to the Deer River area in 1895. The Voigts came to Itasca County to cut timber, and it is estimated that Frank Sr. and his crew of ten, including Frank Jr, and other sons, logged about 1,000,000 board feet between 1896-1899. Not long after the logging endeavor, Frank Sr. established Voigt’s Lodge on Deer Lake.
It was also at this time that Frank Jr. filed on a homestead that bordered the shores of both Moose and Little Moose Lakes. He married, built a log home, and as his children got older, decided the tourist trade looked promising and would be a good family business. It is believed he built the six original log cabins and the lodge of Cedarwild. According to records, it appears that there have been five owners between Voigt’s and Steve and Paulie Kutschat, owners for the past eleven years.
Voigts & Others ~ 1923-1962
Rose Voigt, daughter of Frank Jr. and Irene, thought that Cedarwild Lodge started in 1925, but the local newspaper noted it was ready in 1923. “Frank Voigt last week received from a factory at Rice Lake, Wis., two fine cedar clinker built row boats for his place at Moose lake. Mr. Voigt is catering to the summer boarder trade having built a splendid house and other buildings and is fitted geographically for the trade in his fine location between Little Moose, Big Moose, and Deer lakes.” Itasca News 6-6-1923. [Note ~ Clinker built, also known as lapstrake, is a method of boat building where the edges of hull planks overlap, called a ‘land’ or ‘landing.’ Wikipedia]
“My dad built a log cabin, and I was born in it, and all the children were born in it except two of my older brothers. The swimming pool is in the place where the log cabin used to be.” [Rose (Voigt) Brisset ~ 1980 Interview Itasca County Historical Society Archives] Rose didn’t elaborate on the resort layout, but vividly recalled a shooting star on the night of January 18, 1927, when she was nine years old. “There was a big star that fell from the sky that lit up the whole living room, and it was a big living room because we used it for the dining room in the summertime when we had guests at Cedarwild. It fell right into Moose Lake.”
Another memory Rose shared was of the musical ability of her father and Uncle Charlie. “My dad wrote two songs, and one was ‘On the Bank of the Big Moose Lake,’ and the other was ‘The Little Brown Bulls.’ He used to sing them for the tourists. Uncle Charlie was a great whistler. He would whistle, and dad would sing, and tourists really enjoyed it.”
Rose explained that the resort changed hands several times. “Dad had Cedarwild until 1929, and he sold it to a bunch of business people from Hibbing, and they hired my brother Lester and his wife to run it for them. In 1932 it was sold to Herman Seege, and he sold it to a Gun man. Then Joe and Elsie Fischer had it from 1947 to 1962 and sold it to Allan Peterson.” [Note ~ ‘Gun man’ may have referred to a member of the Gunn family from Grand Rapids, or perhaps a man who represented a gun manufacturer or dealer.]
The Seege’s bought the Deer Lake Schoolhouse when it closed and moved it onto the resort in the late 1930s as cabin number 7. When electricity became available in the late 1940s, the cabins were remodeled to include kitchen and bathroom facilities, and a few additional cabins have been constructed through the years to meet the growing needs.
Al & Kate ~ 1962-2006
Rose was a CB radio enthusiast, and when she visited Allan Peterson in July 1980, learned that he was too. Her handle was Nosey-Rosey, and Allan’s was BRO which stood for Big Resort Owner.
Kathie Nelson, who has been a guest at Cedarwild since she was 4 years old, remembers the BRO well, “Al had BRO on his chair, his hat and at least a couple of shirts. He also had an old-fashioned neon pink and green swimsuit that he wore at the weekly pool party.”
“My dad had been to a few resorts in Wisconsin, but when he met Al Peterson at a Sports Show in Des Moines, in 1964, he decided to come to Northern Minnesota. We came up that summer, and it became a family tradition. My grandparents, my folks, my family and our children, were now in our 4th generation.”
From these memories and other snippets, it is evident that Al and Kate were meant to be resort owners. The Petersons lived at the resort year-round, raised two daughters and were involved in the Deer River community. Somewhere along the way, the slogan “A friendly sort of place” was given to Cedarwild and it has stuck.
In the late 1960s, a pool with a nine-foot-deep end was added, and a short golf course built on the Little Moose Lake side. Kathie and her childhood friend DeAnn shared vacations at Cedarwild and enjoyed seeing the same kids year after year. “As teenagers, we’d play volleyball, water polo, spend hours in the water, either the pool or the lake. I have lots of good memories – seeing the stars are night, hearing the loons and feeding the ducks. I loved the smell of the smoked fish my dad always had going and waking up to a blue sky.” Kathie spent her 54th summer visit at Cedarwild last month, happily declaring: “I haven’t missed a single year! We always come up the same week and stay in the same cabin – number 7.”
Al and Kate shared the responsibilities of running Cedarwild until Kate passed away in 2002. Al continued managing the resort for another five years with help from his daughters, his commitment totaling 44 summers! In early 2007, Al sold it to guests Steve and Paulie Kutschat and graciously spent time transitioning with the new owners in their first year, before his death in Nov. 2007.
Steve & Paulie ~ 2007
The Kutschat’s were appreciative of the time Al spent at Cedarwild their first summer, as he could reconnect with the Cedarwild guests, and help the new owners with some tips Steve’s first trip to Cedarwild was when he came with his folks in 1955 at age 13. Steve’s family had stayed at Pinehurst in previous years. “After our first summer at Cedarwild,” he said, “we always came here. We stayed for a week, always in cabin eight, and I spent all my time fishing.”
Fishing is still a big part of the resort for some guests, as indicated by the annual fish species length contest. The resort is on two lakes; Moose Lake where the cabins and docks are, and Little Moose where there are also two docks. Paulie explained, “That really is one of the specialties of the resort. The two lakes are entirely different from one another. If the weather is rough and wild on Moose, people know to go to Little Moose where it is calmer because it is smaller.”
Because there is a channel between the two lakes, there are Muskie, Walleye, Northern Pike, Bass and panfish in both. Little Moose is sometimes friendlier for children to find fish, but is also home to Big Bertha, a Muskie that has been caught over the years but manages to evade capture. An avid fisherman and Cedarwild guest, Tony Lucas, has had the fish on his line more than once. He estimates Bertha to be about 65 lbs. and 6′ 5″ in length.
In the early 1990s, Steve told Al and Kate that he wanted to buy the resort when they were ready to sell. In the intervening years he and Paulie married, traveled to Tanzania, and started Bookfriends International, a non-profit, that is a story in its own right – just google to learn more.
Since becoming owners, the Kutschuts replaced logs where required; indeed, they have made many improvements to all the cabins, and to the docks and grounds, focusing on the safety and enhanced space for guests to enjoy. “By request of the guests, we have left most of the cabin spatial arrangements and furnishings the way they are,” Paulie said, “as the rustic nature of the cabins is one of the things our guests like about Cedarwild.”
Cedarwild guests are especially delighted with the heated pool and enjoy it as a happy gathering place. Steve promises: “We have one of the best in Minnesota, as it is a very clean and healthy saltwater pool.” Not far from the pool is a wood-heated sauna.
The biggest challenge since having the resort was the straight-line windstorm of July 2012. Paulie explained, “the resort was full, and thankfully no one was physically hurt, but we were heavily damaged. The worst damage was a tree that came down on a cabin. Several porches were damaged and huge trees uprooted. We had a generator running part of the day for the well, and the guests just pitched right in. Men were sawing up trees with chainsaws, the kids were gathering branches – Steve made about 100 loads to the dump – and the ladies set up three grills and cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner for all of us. That kind of community effort will never be forgotten.”
Steve and Paulie have clearly cultivated lifelong friends with many of the guests who have been making memories at Cedarwild for generations. They keep in touch during the offseason and look forward to each week, and of course, those over July 4th, always reminisce about the post-storm comradery. “This is kind of a magical place. It’s great to be here and help people enjoy it. I’ve done several things in my life, but this has been the best.”