7.10.2022 [archived ~ originally published 7.6.2017]
Lakewood Lodge is in a quiet, protected 80-acre bay on the south end of Sand Lake. William Schultz and his sons built a two-story lodge during the years of 1917-1919, and it is believed the first sportsmen stayed with them in1917, making this the Lodge’s 100th year. Though it is one of the first resorts to be built north of Deer River, it was an afterthought. It was the Schultz farm for years before it became a resort.
Schultz Family History
Wilhelm Johann Schultz was born in Germany in August 1873. At the age of four, he immigrated to a small German community near Eau Claire with his aunt and uncle. By necessity, Schultz was industrious from an early age and was employed in a barrel factory making staves when he was only eleven.
In June 1898, William married Mary Sophia Luebstorf, also of German heritage, and while living in Wisconsin, the young couple had three sons, Herman, William Jr. “Bill” and Henry “Hank.” Striving to improve life for his family, the Schultz’s moved to Newport, WA in 1904 for the good-paying jobs. Indeed, the weather was milder than in the Midwest, but the jobs were not exactly what they had hoped for, so they headed back east with another son, Harold “Buck” in tow.
Learning that land was available for homesteading in northern Itasca County, Schultz filed on 80 acres in unorganized township147-26, twenty miles north of Deer River. During the winter of 1906-1907, William and his cousin Charlie built a two-room homestead cabin near the south bay of Sand Lake while Mary and the children lived at Shady Rest Resort in a small house with the owners.
Darlene Vobejda, daughter of Buck, relates the following story: “By April, Mary had had enough of being in the cramped quarters and decided to hike to the homestead. She carried a pistol for safety and pulled a hand sled with the smallest boys. They walked across the bay because it was quite a shortcut, but when they got close, the ice had melted and receded so they could not get to the shore. Mary couldn’t see anyone, so she fired the pistol a few times to get the men’s attention. They came out and cut down a couple of trees, and helped them get to shore.
Mary was disappointed that there was still a dirt floor in the cabin and stated she couldn’t stay in a building with a dirt floor. So, after the children were put to bed, the three adults spent the night laying a wood floor.”
The Schultz’s farmed for ten years, and the family grew to include another son, Levi, and two daughters Lenora and Orletta. According to Bureau of Land Management records, by 1915 Schultz had acquired to additional 80 acres. Now three of the four lots bordered Sand Lake, and since Mary had helped her parents run a boarding house in Wisconsin, they decided that operating a lodge for sports enthusiasts would be a clever idea.
As Proprietors of Lakewood Lodge
The large log building which served as the main lodge for many years was believed to be one of largest cabins in Itasca County at the time. It consisted of a lobby, a dining room, kitchen and two screened porches on the main floor, and six sleeping rooms in the upper level. All the furniture in the communal areas and bedrooms was hand-made, except the springs and mattresses.
In 1921 the first cabin was built, which rented for $5 a week! (In 2005, it was moved from the property and is now used as a private hunting camp a short distance from the resort). The Schultz’s built five more cabins and outhouses, as there was no electricity or running water.
One of the most interesting artifacts from the Schultz years is the guest register. It indicates that people came from as far away as the Twin Cities, Chicago, and Ohio, to stay at Lakewood Lodge, as well as locals from Deer River or Grand Rapids who might come for a day of fishing and a sumptuous meal. The overnight guests generally stayed at least two weeks; after all the train trip to Deer River took several days, and then there was a 2-day trip by horse and buggy along the rutted logging roads to the Lodge.
Herman, Bill, and Hank Schultz were fishing guides. Their days began at first light because they caught minnows for bait, then rowed the boats two miles up the lake to the narrows which let them into the big part of Sand Lake, and by the end of the day had rowed 10-15 miles. After the guides cleaning the fish caught that day, Mary would fry them up for their guests.
The In-Between Years
In 1938, William and Mary sold Lakewood Lodge, and it changed hands a couple of times before it was sold to the Sieferts, who added cabins number 7 and 8, and in 1950 had the log lodge torn down. They built a new lodge and a house where they lived. (The second lodge was used until fall 2006)
~ Sieferts sold Panekas but kept some acreage, built a cabin and still spend their summers at the lake.
~ Panekas sold to Don and Terry Cook who moved north from a resort they had owned on Leech Lake. Don and Terry raised their boys here while making many improvements to the resort.
~ The Cooks sold Lakewood Lodge to Naylors. Roger Naylor was a teacher for the Deer River Schools and author of Black Rock Bay. The espionage novel is set at a resort in Black Rock Bay and depicts Lakewood Lodge and Sand Lake in a fictional setting.
~ Naylors then sold to the Beahn family from Las Vegas who continued improvements to the resort and still vacation with fellow resort owners from their time in the area. In the 1990s cabins 2 and 3 were built by the Beahns
~ The Beahns then sold to the Nelsons who owned and operated Lakewood Lodge for 9 seasons while making many improvements to the resort until 2001. [excerpts from the Lakewood Lodge website lakewoodlodge.com]
Steve and Danielle “Dani” Casselman decided to give up the corporate life when their boys were young and started looking for a resort to purchase in Minnesota. For nearly two years they traveled weekends from their home in Nebraska to inspect options in the Brainerd area. Eventually, their realtor suggested a resort a bit further north, so they packed the boys, diapers and all, for yet another trip. It took only one visit to Lakewood Lodge for them to decide. “I sat in the swing overlooking the lake and said, ‘I feel at home.’” Dani explained. Steve agreed wholeheartedly, so in 2001, they became the new owners.
In 2006 the Casselman’s made a substantial investment, purchasing additional acreage, building a new lodge and eight cabins, and remodeling several others. It was at this time that several old cabins were sold and moved. In addition to #1 moving just down the road, cabins #2, #3 and #4 found a second home as a bed and breakfast near the Effie Rodeo grounds. One of the legacies of the Schultz reign is the plum trees they planted when they first settled on the property 110 years ago.
Now in their 17th season, the Casselman’s shared that their greatest accomplishment has been the lifelong friendships they have made with so many of their guests. “We have seen their kids or grandkids grow up, and they have seen ours.” Steve, Dani, and sons Stevie and Cole, have enjoyed vacationing with a few families, and recognize milestones such as graduations, weddings, births and anniversaries, etc. Every week of the resort season they look forward to familiar faces from all over the United States and as far away as Puerto Rico.
As far as interesting guests, they had been told by Ruth (wife of son Buck Schultz), that Al Capone might have stayed here during Prohibition…I wonder how many places Scarface turns up during this special series? A well-known guest during the Casselman’s time is Carlos Silva.
“Carlos Silva, he pitched for the Twins 2003-2007, was a guest for some years.” Steve said, “One summer when we had an appetizer potluck contest, Silva, a native of Venezuela, made empanadas.” I asked if he won, and they laughed, explaining that he did, but “it might have been rigged – he had a lot of family here, and let them get whatever they wanted from the Lodge store. I was totally out of t-shirts and sweatshirts – had to place a rush order after the weekend!” Dani said.
The Casselman’s have established a few traditions, but you’ll need to stop in to see what the ‘Bucket of Fun’ is all about!
In November 2020, Preston and Aimee (Beahn) Osborne bought Lakewood Lodge. Aimee’s family owned the resort during the 1980s.