Itasca County Resorts with a History ~ Cut Foot Sioux

6.19.2022 [archived ~ originally published 7.12.2018]

The Cut Foot Sioux Inn, first established in 1916, is nestled in the heart of the Chippewa National Forest on Little Cut Foot Sioux Lake.  Little Cut Foot is connected to Big Cut Foot Sioux and Winnibigoshish offering 70,000 acres of water and plenty of fish of many species.  Walleyes are a favorite, and the Cut Foot Sioux walleye spawning site is within 450 feet of the main lodge.  Since the 1920s, eggs have been collected from female fish in April, raised in protected environments, and then placed in lakes through Minnesota.

According to a history compiled by Dori Stanek (owner 1975-1992), before being a resort, the location served as a trading post established by William Fairbanks in about 1892.  At that time there was no bridge, so Fairbanks built a ferry and charged a fee to shuttle homesteader to land across the channel.  The Hudson Bay Fur Company had a steamship built which traveled the waterways and docked for the winter at the trading post.

George Perry acquired the property in about 1916, and it is believed that the log trading post became part of the resort’s lodge.  The 1920 United States census shows that he was the owner and proprietor of a hotel on that location.  Very shortly after that, Perry sold the business to Mr. Herbert Bowen and his wife, Jessie, from Hibbing.

Early Years ~ Establishing Resort

The Bowens, along with their daughter Stella and her husband Albert Christie, did a brisk summer business, and by the close of the 1923 season, it was evident that more cabins were needed to accommodate guests.  Before the fishing opener, a six-room cottage, ice house, and storage building were added, as well as renovations to the main lodge.  A Delco lighting system was installed, ten new rowboats (bringing the total to 32) and five Evinrude motors purchased.

A favored site for the fishing opener, the May 21, 1924 issue of the Grand Rapids Herald-Review stated, “some idea of the size of the crowds that went fishing is gained when Herb Bowen reports that at the Cut Foot Inn, they fed 102 people for breakfast on Sunday morning.” Before that summer was over, Bowen had obtained a lease on the additional property on the north bay of Big Cut Foot Lake, two miles from the Inn, from the government, and several buildings were put for the fall hunters.

In March 1925, Bowen sold his interests in the Inn to his son-in-law, Albert Christie.  The Deer River News stated: “Mr. Christie needs no introduction to local people or the tourist public.  He has been associated with Mr. Bowen ever since the latter bought Cut Foot Inn and has been a large factor in the popularity the resort has developed.  Mr. Christie is one of the most accommodating men connected with any of our resorts and has always been popular with patrons.  Cut Foot Sioux Inn will take no backward steps under his management.

Mr. Christie is hard at work getting things ready for the opening of the resort season, and when fishing season opens May 15, will have his hostelry spick and span and ready for business.  We predict that it will grow in popularity.  The new proprietor is a hustler of first quality.” 3-12-1925

The Christies advertised the sale of the resort that same summer, perhaps hoping to cash in on the popularity, but I haven’t determined whether it sold, or to whom.

Middle Years ~ New Buildings

Sometime after 1930, Fred and Emma Willman bought the resort.  The Willman’s had moved from North Dakota, and no doubt appreciated the woods and lakes of northern Itasca County. Willman’s son Alexander and wife Enid helped run things, then Enid’s mother Bernice joined them.  After the 1944 summer season, Willman sold the resort to Jack and Lena Majerus with a unique ‘deal.’  “The transaction provides that Mr. Majerus bought the property and will operate it, but Mr. Willman will remain there, have the use of a cabin as the quarters for himself and Mrs. Willman, and will help out when times are busy, or help is short. Willman said, ‘it will give me a chance to live here, where I have lived so long, have something to do with helping to make the guests comfortable, and when I want to, I can go fishing with my old friends, and really enjoy myself.’” Mr. Willman died in 1947.

The Majerus’s were instrumental in replacing the main lodge and many of the cabins. According to the Forest Service, most of the buildings now on the resort property were built in the 1950s.  It was probably at this time that some of the cabins were insulated and could be used in the late fall and winter.  I did not find when the Majerus’ sold, or who other owners were, but do know Kenneth and Arvella Clay were the owners from about 1968-1975. Marv and Dori Stanek followed them, 1975-1992.

The first time I stopped at the Cut Foot Inn in the late 1980s, it was Dori Stanek who greeted me. She and her husband Marvin had considered many resort opportunities over a year or two, before purchasing from the Clays. During the nearly 20 years Staneks were owners, many interesting things happened, but one story she shared with me was especially entertaining. 

“It was an August morning when there was a knock on our door at 5:00 a.m.  I opened it, and there stood Virgil, from cabin 11, in his boxer shorts.  Behind him was his wife in her nightgown, and the couple they shared the cabin with, in similar attire. They were locked out of their cabin.  Virgil explained that they had heard an animal in the trash, and went outside, hoping to see a bear.  It ran away, but they climbed in their car, to watch, in case it returned.  It did, and they enjoyed watching the ‘wildlife.’ Returning to the cabin, they realized the door had locked in their haste and not wanting to wake us in the middle of the night, they slept in the car.”  

Other owners included: Bob and Ruth Mohrman, and Matt and Kris Lind.

Today ~ Fishing AND Families

This may be only the second summer as owners of Cut Foot Sioux Resort, but Jake and Amy Perrington’s combined experience of 20+ years working at other local resorts is very evident. With two boys, Jack and Lee, their vision has been to encourage more families to spend their vacation fishing.  Jack and Lee love to fish, and they’re starting to guide for guests this summer.

Amy stated, “Our location is perfect for family fishing because we are protected from the wind and foul weather – more chances for kids to have a fun fishing experience. We are establishing traditions like a potluck early in the week so guest can get to know each other, and s’mores around the campfire.  Of course, some families have their own traditions as well – fishing contests and such.”

No one can remember any famous people coming to Cut Foot. “But,” Amy said, “we have a lot of guests who have been here forever. Since they have been children, a lot of families, lots of memories.  Last summer group staying here and at the campground that celebrated 75th anniversary coming here, over 100 people for their reunion.”  The machine shed, outfitted for barbeques, music, etc. is available to guests for large group activities.

Jake works for Minnesota Power but spends his time at the resort fully engaged with guests and in the winter months with cabin and equipment upkeep.  Amy oversees the day to day operations with the assistance of competent staff, and of course, the boys are eager to help in any way they can. 

Amy is energetic and has a great outgoing personality – perfect for a resort owner!  The Cut Foot staff have a comfortable comradery and obviously enjoy working together.  Guests come from all over the United States.  “Each state has its own personality and each week has its own personality. People who get to know each other come back same time year after year and some even see each other outside of resort at other times during the year.”

The Perrington’s plan on a long career as resort owners, and it may even become a 2nd generation endeavor. “It has been a good decision for us,” Amy said, “Jake and I love the opportunity to raise our family here.”

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