10.17.2021 ~ archived

[originally published 10.8.2015]

LAW & ORDER: “A bullet whizzed through his bushy eyebrow”

Advertisement in the Itasca News ~ Circa 1900

We have all heard that Deer River was a very rough and tumble town at the turn of the century.  Main Street referred to as Whiskey Row had nearly twenty saloons and there was at least one house of “ill repute” in the vicinity. 

The story of the murder of Charley Grant reads more like a dime novel than a newspaper article, but based on the subsequent trial testimony appears to have been true. The headline I used for the column comes from the testimony of the bartender, Alexander “Sandy” Phair.  He stated there were four shots fired in all and “that the third one passed close to Tom Murray’s head who was reclining against the bar asleep.  The whiz of the ball through his bushy eye brow awoke him.”  Murray was not the intended target and is lucky he did not become a casualty in the saloon skirmish.

The articles are rather lengthy so here is the abbreviated version with enough excerpts to give you an idea of what happened on November 30, 1900 through the trial verdict on January 18, 1901.

After folks had eaten their Thanksgiving dinner, many of the young people or those without families, went to Deer River.  It was rumored that there was a clandestine boxing match, where bets were readily made by all men present.  In the early evening there was a dance at the Hotel Deer River.  Most of the saloons were open, and laughter or conversation could be heard spilling out of the doors and windows.

Sandy, the bartender of the saloon in the Northern Hotel said that the men were a bit more rowdy than usual, in part because the band at the Hotel Deer River next door was quite loud. The city marshal, Mike McClusky had been making the rounds, or perhaps had been summoned and was present at the time the melee began.   The main characters were Patrick Burke, a 40- year-old single man from Grand Rapids; and recently married 35-year-old Charley Grant.  Both men were known in the Deer River community and neither had a honorable past..  Burke had been in prison for manslaughter and Grant had just gotten off parole following a sentence at the Stillwater Prison for robbing a woman.

The men were acquainted with each other and though it is not clear if they were together that night, all agreed that Grant and Burke were drinking and began arguing.  Grant succeeded in knocking Burke to the floor and was leaning against the bar and smiling in victory.  Suddenly Burke stood up and whipped a revolver out of his hip pocket and aiming at Grant exclaimed: ‘Grant I won’t take a licking from you!’

With these words he fired, and though he was only ten feet away the ball missed Grant, and whizzing past the bar tender’s ear, bored into the lower part of the mirror frame behind the bar.  Mike McClusky, the village marshal, then jumped in and tried to wrest the weapon from Burke.  While in this tussle McClusky says he pleaded to the ten or twelve men present to take the gun away, but none attempted to do so. 

Grant, it appears, was too drunk to know enough to move out of the room, and Burke in the hands of the marshal, got a second shot at him and Grant began moving toward the back door when a third shot came.  It was then thought the second shot killed Grant because he suddenly scrunched his shoulders and moved sidewise toward the back door, but as he was still facing the gun it may be that it was the third shot which hit him.  The bullet entered the left breast about two inches above the heart, and passed out of his back under the right shoulder.  As Grant was nearing the door the fourth shot came but went wild and the ball went in the wall over the door. [Itasca News 12-1-1900]

Grant fell through the side door into the washroom and died within a few minutes.  Burke was arrested and spent the remainder of the night behind the bars.  Sheriff Tyndall arrived and took the prisoner to Grand Rapids on the afternoon train.  The county coroner was also in town and removed the remains to Grand Rapids. 

The jury in the coroner’s inquest over the remains of Charles Grant returned the verdict Tuesday that Grant was killed by a bullet from a gun discharged by Patrick Burke.

Burke’s preliminary hearing in justice court was set for Thursday December 6th, but he waived examination and his case came before the grand jury in January.  He was indicted for first degree murder by the grand jury, and trial was set to begin on January 11, 1901.

About ninety jurors were subpoenaed before the following jury of twelve men was secured: Edward Bergin, H.E. Graffam, R.A. McAllister, E. Keabie, M. Hagen, Jas. Patterson, David Cochran, George Lemrod, A.M. Sisler, Frank Voight, Irving A Martin and James Affleck.  Other names you might recognize from your own family history include these witnesses: Sandy Phair, W.C. Robbyn; C.W. Robinson, Frank Caldwell, Tom Murray, John Hawley, John O’Reilly, Harry Oakes, Charles Porter, and Joseph Girard.

Burke’s defense was that he considered his life was in danger and drew the revolver in self-defense when he saw Grant’s hand in his hip pocket.  The jury was out about twenty-four hours.  “Yesterday forenoon at 9 o’clock the jury reported that they were unable to agree and it was understood that eight voted not guilty while four favoured a verdict of manslaughter in the first degree.  Judge McClanahan asked them to try again and at 3:30 the foreman announced to the bailiff that an agreement had been reached. 

The word soon spread through the village and the court room was well filled when the twelve men filed in and handed their findings to Clerk King.  In just one week to the hour from the time the case was opened and the work of securing a jury begun Patrick Burke was pronounced ‘not guilty’ of the crime of murdering Charles Grant.” [Grand Rapids Herald Review 1-19-1901]

Law and Order is a special interest feature of Reminisce. During the coming months I will share some of the burglaries, murders and other crimes that occurred in our communities years ago.  If you have any such events you would like to see me research and write about, please email chris@reminisce.gmail or call 218-244-2127


Resort Note: Due to circumstances beyond my control (and yes technology has played havoc with my historical data) the other two resort articles will be postponed until spring 2022. Also, I still can write a few more if you have a suggestion.  The criteria are that they were started before 1935 and have operated from the time they opened until the present.  Names, of course, may have changed! reminiscewithchris@gmail.com ~ 218-244-2127 ~ blog chrismarcottewrites.com

Law & Order ~ County Treasurer Embezzled Funds part 1

In October 1909, citizens of Itasca County were shocked to learn that Arthur Kremer, the man they had elected as treasurer several times since 1894, had been arrested for taking money from the county coffers.

Brief Family History

In the early 1890s three Kremer brothers moved from their homes in Saginaw, Michigan, to the prosperous village of Grand Rapids, Minnesota.  Edward (preferred to be called by his initials, E.A.), the oldest, came in 1891.  A registrar of deeds in Saginaw, E.A. and his long-time friend Fred A. King formed a business partnership, Kremer & King Abstract Company located in the Itasca County Courthouse. Twenty-five-year-old Arthur followed in July 1892.  George is the one most of us know because of the Geo. F. Kremer store which occupied a city block in Grand Rapids from 1893 until it closed its doors in1991.  He came in 1894 to build a house for E.A. and returned the following spring with his family. One of their sisters, Minnie Marie and her husband Werner Groening, also lived in Grand Rapids by 1910.

Arthur August Kremer

Arthur was one of nine children born to William and Sophia. They had both immigrated from Germany in 1852, then married and settled in Saginaw. Kremer had been employed as a clerk in a real estate office, a bank, and then as a bookkeeper in the City Treasurer’s office in Saginaw.  In Grand Rapids, he was first employed as assistant cashier at the Lumberman’s State Bank.  When he was offered a more lucrative position with Tuller Brothers, Arthur felt he could now marry.  He returned to Saginaw and married Mary Elizabeth “Birdie” Thompson on October 6, 1892.  The couple lived on Kindred Ave. in Grand Rapids.

Arthur was elected County Treasurer in 1894 and re-elected in 1896.  In 1898 he lost to C.C. Miller. The 1900 U.S. Census shows Arthur, Birdie and son Russell living in a home on 7th St. Grand Rapids that they owned.  Arthur was employed as a bookkeeper for a lumber company. Kremer ran unsuccessfully against Miller in 1904 but was elected in 1906 and re-elected in 1908.


During the first week of October 1909, it was brought to the attention of “Attorney General Simpson of shortages in the treasury of Itasca County, and last Saturday [Oct 9] he took up the matter with Anton Schafer, public examiner, who sent Mr. Kain to Grand Rapids to make an examination.” [Bemidji Daily Pioneer 10-13-1909]

Michael Kain immediately began going through the books of the County Treasurer’s Office and by noon on Monday had enough evidence to take control of the office. In a telegram to his superiors, he stated that Kremer had confessed to the embezzlement of county funds.  It is believed he took about $8,000, and that he has about $6,000 in his personal bank accounts towards restitution.

The telegram, along with a formal recommendation that Kremer be suspended, was brought to the Governor, Adolph Ebenhart, who that afternoon ordered the suspension. By law no official can be removed by the governor without a hearing, but the county auditor was also sent a copy of the order.  Kremer resigned and, on Tuesday, the County Board elected Glen Strader to serve as County Treasurer.

By the time Kremer was arrested, the financial discrepancies continued to climb, and were near $20,000.  He was released on $10,000 bail provided by his brothers.

Two questions that were on the minds of the county citizens were how he embezzled the money and why.  It was alleged that he wrote incorrect totals on the duplicate tax receipts.  For instance, when several items on a tax receipt totaled $324, he would mark that total as $224 on the duplicate he gave the county auditor and keep the remainder.  It is believed that at first, he started with $100 at a time, then $500 and possibly even more substantial amounts.  Based on dates, this had been going on some months when the discrepancies were discovered.

The question of why will not be resolved until perhaps the trial, but there was still speculation.

County Gives Ample Bonds ~ Duluth Evening News 10-14-1909

Grand Rapids, Minn., Oct 14. – (Special to the Herald.)—The National Surety company furnished ex-County Treasurer Kremer’s bonds in the sum of $75,000, so the county is believed to be amply protected against loss resulting from the deposed official’s misconduct.

Deputy Public Examiner Kain continues his probe of the books of the county and is quoted as saying that the shortage will not exceed $40,000 if it reaches such a large figure.

Kremer has securities including mortgages and other property, amounting to $34,000, all of which will be turned over to the county.  Mr. Kremer has on deposit in various banks, $6,240.43 which he has turned over.  The public examiner found $1,545.77 in the treasurer’s vaults.

Kremer’s hearing may develop more sensations.  The public appears to be at a loss to explain where all of the money went, large family expenses being one of the explanations offered.

Although Kremer is said to have made a confession of his shortage to the public examiner, it is reported he has retained counsel and will fight prosecution, but this is not verified.”

Friends of Kremer Attribute His Trouble to Mental Defect ~ Duluth Evening News 10-18-1909

“A friend who has known him for twenty years stated that twelve years ago Kremer had an attack of brain fever and that during this spell of sickness morphine was given to him to relieve him.

Recently Kremer spent some time at a sanitorium, telling his friends here, that he was compelled to take treatment for his nerves.  Since his return from this hospital, he has apparently been somewhat improved in health.

The news of his defalcation, while an absolute surprise to most of the residents of this county, was not unexpected by many who have been close observers of events here.

When Kremer was elected treasurer about five years ago, he is said to have been a poor man.  Almost at once he bought land and built a handsome home, which was elegantly fitted up.  He took pleasure trips with his family to the Pacific coast, Niagara Falls and other places, sent his children away to school and lived in an expensive manner.

He also began to lend money, and a list of notes and mortgages totaling many thousands of dollars is now in the hands of Assistant Public Examiner M.F. Kain.  Most of these were registered here under his own name and the apparent lack of ordinary prudence in covering his tracks is pointed to by his many friends as one strong evidence of his mental incapacity.

The entire list of securities belonging to Kremer and now in the hands of Mr. Kain totals more than $37,000, all of which is believed to be good.  It includes deeds to various lots, mortgages, bank stock, building and loan and mining stock. 

If, as now appears probable, the shortage in his accounts proves to be in the neighborhood of $50,000, these securities will come within a few thousand dollars of covering it.  It will be at least a month, however, before an accurate statement of the deficiency can be made.”

As the sum of misappropriated funds continued to climb, the county residents were impatient for the court process to continue in a timely manner.

Kremer Shortage May be $60,000 ~ Duluth News Tribune 10-24-1909

“Grand Rapids. Oct 23. —The board of audit is still at work on the books of the ex-county treasurer Kremer, and up to tonight had found discrepancies, indicating an apparent shortage of about $60,000.  Quite a good many securities have been uncovered in the vault and others are not in the vault but have been accounted for.  The ex-treasurer’s investments were so good that it is regarded as probable that sufficient funds may be realized upon them to cover the shortage within a few thousand dollars.  It is the aim of the board of audit to complete the investigation by Oct. 29 when Kremer’s hearing will be held.  The hearings will be held before Justice Walker of Grand Rapids.”


Kremer Indicted on Five Counts ~ Duluth Evening News 11-5-1909

“The grand jury has completed its labors and reported to the court. The court thanked the jury and dismissed it.

Arthur A. Kremer, ex-county treasurer was indicted on five counts. In three of these cases, Kremer is alleged to have taken certain portions of tax payments of the Great Western Mining Company.  In one of the cases, it is charged that the company made a payment of $16,342.54 and that the sum taken out by Kremer and appropriated to his own use was $2500.  In another case, the company paid $28,045.17 and the sum of $2000 was held out.  In another instance, an entire payment of $3583.10 was entirely held out.  In the other two instances, personal property taxes were never entered on the county books, the amounts being $265.45 and $370.34, respectively.” 

Kremer was arraigned on the five counts but entered no plea.  Judge Stanton fixed his bond at $25,000, which was furnished.”

At first it was thought that the trial would not happen during the present term of court, but County Attorney Price was adamant that the case would be scheduled for early December.

Look for the trial and decision on Sunday October 24, 2021, in Part 2 of County Treasurer Embezzled Funds.


Resorts with a History ~ Bowen Lodge

Resorts with a History ~ Bowen Lodge

In 1925, the Commercial Club in Deer River took out a full-page advertisement in the June 4th issue of the Deer River News.  It included a listing of twenty-four resorts as well as the name and address of the proprietors. Remarkably, nine of those resorts are still in operation today, so last summer I began to highlight them in this special series, Resorts with a HistoryThis article is the last one in the series.  The lodge wasn’t in that 1925 advertisement, but since Herb and Jessie Bowen were instrumental in starting several resorts, it seemed appropriate to finish the series with an article about the resort they established in 1931.   

Property History

The first recorded owners on the abstract were John and Jane Jackson.  John’s 1926 obituary states “he has lived on the farm 16 miles west of Deer River, on the road through the National Forest. Mr. Jackson’s home has probably been the stopping place for more settlers than any other in the county.  Emigrants traveling into the territory northwest of here stopped at Jackson’s for food and shelter. The sturdy pioneer was most hospitable.  He welcomed the traveler to his home and cheered him on his way.  For many years Mr. Jackson has been known as a substantial citizen of this section. About forty-one years ago, Mr. Jackson was married to Jane Fairbanks, who, with three children, Mrs. Henry [Hattie] Peters of Minneapolis, Mrs. George [Catherine] Tibbetts of Deer River, and William Jackson of Deer River, survives him.” [Itasca News 5-6-1926]

After John’s death, Jane sold the property to the Thorpe Bros., a land company from Minneapolis.  Thorpe Bros. had bought up lake property in Itasca County in the early 1920s, parceled it off, and sold it to those wanting to build lake homes at a considerable profit.  One of their most successful ventures was the land around Deer and Moose Lake just north of Deer River.  


Cut Foot Sioux Lodge

Howard Vincent Shull, a resort owner from the Marcell area, bought the property from Thorpe Bros in 1928.  He built the lodge, several cabins and named it Cut Foot Sioux Lodge. Mr. Shull and his family lived in St. Louis County, so he hired Fred Tibbetts to manage the resort. Fred was also a fishing guide, and it is possible the Shull and Tibbetts families were both there during the busy summer season.  Cut Foot Sioux Lodge was prominently marked on a1931 Itasca County map showing fishing resorts.

Bowen Lodge

Jessie Bowen had sold Eagle Nest Resort after Herb died in 1931.  Her son-in-law and daughter, Al and Stella Christie sold the Cut Foot Sioux Inn about the same time. (This resort with such as similar name, was also clearly marked on the 1931 map!)  Al was interested in buying a service station, with a large home behind it, for his family and his mother-in-law.  They spent the summer looking, and in the end, decided to purchase Cutfoot Sioux Lodge.

The transaction was finalized by deer hunting season.  After about a year of running the resort, they decided to rename it, Bowen Lodge.  Jessie, called “Ma” as long as anyone can remember, Al, and Stella had the resort until 1946.  Jessie was 64 years old and had been running a boarding house or resort for about 47 years when it was sold to George and Rose Goodwin.  Imagine the amount of fish she fried (as that was her specialty) in the 25 years of feeding guest all the fish they could eat!


George and Rose Goodwin bought Bowen Lodge in 1946.  They, and later their son Bob and his wife Shirley owned the resort until 1974.  The Goodwin family lived in the same cabin that the Christie’s did.  In the previous Reminisce article, Joy (Christie) Tervo shared that her parents and siblings lived in their own cabin, away from the main lodge and cabins, because her grandmother, Ma Bowen, didn’t want children around the resort guests.

At the time the Goodwin’s bought the resort, only a few of the cabins had cooking facilities.  They changed over the rest of the cabins to include kitchens, and meals were no longer served in the main lodge.  This was a fairly common modification during the 1940s and 1950s.  It made the cost of staying at a resort more feasible for a family.

Sven and Joan Olin owned the resort from 1974-1979.  It was then purchased by Larry and Althea Miller.  Robert Heig, Sr. bought it from the Millers in late 1982.


In his retirement, Robert Heig, a businessman from Minneapolis, decided to invest in a resort.  He and his family had spent annual vacations at resorts on Pelican Lake near Brainerd, and those memories fueled this decision.  He and his oldest son, Robert Jr. began looking at property in northern Minnesota in early 1982.

By the end of the year, they bought Bowen Lodge, and the father-son duo welcomed their first guests at the 1983 fishing opener.

After a couple of years, there was a shift in who was managing the resort. Bob Jr. decided to dedicate more time to his career, and Bill, the other son of Robert, joined his father.  Funding for Bill’s position in wildlife management in Washington state was no longer available.  Gail had known Bill for years, and when the resort opened in 1986, she was part of the team. 

It was a good fit, so Bill and Gail married at Bowen Lodge in 1987, 46 years after Joy Christie (granddaughter of Ma Bowen) and Hjalmer Tervo held their wedding ceremony at the resort.  Bob Sr., Bill, and Gail Heig shared the responsibilities of managing the resort for twenty years. “We got along really good, and we made good decisions,” Gail explained. “Bob was here until he was 90, and we worked really well together. He was always involved in the major decision making but gave us the freedom to make other decisions on our own.  Then he passed the torch.”

Some of those decisions included changing the accommodations. “When started,” Gail said, “there were 21 rental units. Some did not have running water, some only cold water, and only one had a toilet. So, we tore them down. There was also tent camping, and RV camping.”  Now they have 12 cabins, the largest with five bedrooms, 26 seasonal RV and six short-term RV.  

The original lodge built in 1928, has undergone some transformation with probably every owner.  When the Heig’s remodeled, they found that linoleum used in the lodge was the same print used at Cut Foot Sioux Inn.  The oldest part of the lodge is identified by the original timbers and rock foundation. And the front door is still in the same place.  In 1992 a gorgeous 30×36 great room was added overlooking the lake.  It is timber-framed and entirely pegged together by Bill.

Bowen started as a fishing resort, as most of the resorts in Itasca County. “But it is so much more than fishing,” Gail said.  “It’s about the whole experience.  It’s about being on this beautiful lake. A lot of people enjoying sitting and just looking at the lake.  It’s a part of it, but not a major part of it.  So, we put the emphasis not so much on fishing, it’s about being on vacation with your family.  It’s about reconnecting.  Watching the eagles.

“We’ve had people coming to this resort for 60+ years, many years before us. Same cabin, same time, same place, because they grow up with the people of that week as well.  So, their kids grow up together.  We have families here right now that are three generations.”

Gail shared a delightful story that occurred in their early days as resort owners, and before they had a computer. 

“Quite a few years ago we had first timers arrive who were staying in the cabin which was then called cabin 14.  We showed them the cabin, and they settled in.  About 11 p.m. that night, we get a knock on the door. It was people here for cabin 14. We said, your party has already checked in, and they said, no it’s just us.

“So, we had to go over and ask the other people, what their name again, and we discovered they were to be staying in cabin 14 at William’s Narrows! Those poor people had to pack up and go to William’s Narrows. Bill and I had to clean the cabin, change bedding, etc., and the folks had to wait while we did all that. Those guests have become fantastic customers of ours and in fact, had five cabins this year now because their family has grown.” 

Incidentally, cabin 14, is now called Ma Bowen “after the matriarch of Bowen Lodge, Jessie Bowen was a lively woman who once ran the resort with a capable hand.”  The descendants of George and Rose Goodwin, who grew up in the cabin when they owned it, stay in that cabin on their annual vacations. In the thirty-six years, the Heig’s have owned the resort, they have raised two sons, Jens and Dane helped to sponsor a Make-A-Wish dream come true for a nine-year-old boy with leukemia from Iowa, and hosted a group of International Tree Climbers.  Gail and Bill are described as gracious hosts with a vast knowledge of the wildlife and history of the area. They go out of their way to make each guest’s stay special and have many who are now lifelong friends.  The Heig’s love the resort life and plan on continuing for years to come.


“Tremain Leading Babe Ruth by Safe Margin”

This headline was on the front page of the Itasca News on September 1, 1927.  It is evident that the editor was caught up in the exhilarating challenge between Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig for the home run championship, but who was John Tremain and what did he have on Ruth and Gehrig?

John Tremain

John Tremain (April 1857-December 1929) was a well-known local muskie fisherman.  At the age of seventy-two, he had been catching trophy fish on the lakes of northern Itasca County for nearly thirty years.  He and his family moved from Michigan in the spring of 1903.  By mid-summer his fishing success was recorded in the local papers, where it was noted at least once a season thereafter. 

He was most famous for muskies, and if his name sounds familiar, I did mention him in the May 23, 2021, Reminisce column “Mother-in-law Saved the Fish.”  In that column Tremain is lauded for several typical catches of the fishermen he guided. 

Another newspaper article from early in the 1927 fishing season, describes Tremain’s success. “Shortly after his return from Minneapolis last Sunday, George Herreid yielded to the lure of the fishing rod, and after securing John Tremain, who has been responsible for hooking more Muskies than any other man in Northern Minnesota, went out on Moose Lake in search of the big fellows.

“And John made good again, piloting George right across the path of a fine specimen.  They hooked him early in the evening.  The muskie weighed twenty-four (we had to write it out, “figures won’t lie”) pounds and measured 43 inches in length.  It was much admired by a large number of people here Monday morning.  George is having it mounted.” [Itasca News 6-23-1927]

The Itasca News editor has not yet (publicly anyway) compared Tremain’s fishing prowess with Babe Ruth’s home run record.

Babe Ruth

George Herman “Babe” Ruth Jr. (February 2, 1895-August 16, 1948) was an American baseball player whose Major League career spanned 22 seasons from 1914 through 1935.  He began his career as a left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, but he achieved his greatest fame as a slugging outfielder for the New York Yankees.  He was one of the first five inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.

Lou Gehrig

Henry Louis Gehrig (June 19, 1903 – June 2, 1941), was an American baseball player who played 17 seasons for the New York Yankees from 1923 through 1939.  In 1939, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and was the first Major League Baseball player to have his uniform number retired.

The Convergence

The September 1, 1927, article in the Itasca News stated, “John says he can get a muskie oftener than Babe Ruth can hit a home run, and just at the present time John has a lead of nine on Babe.” This statement is absolutely true.  On August 31, Babe Ruth hit his forty-third home run against the Boston Red Sox and John Tremain hauled in his fifty-second muskie while guiding for Mr. Freidmann of Chicago. 

Tremain proudly proclaimed that, of his total of 52 muskies, twenty-five of them have been over thirty inches long and two were 48 inches each.  According to the Minnesota DNR, the oldest official record fish for the state was in 1929.  Had trophy fish been documented earlier, no doubt, John Tremain would be listed in a category or two.  As it stands, the record for the largest muskie was caught on Lake Winnibigoshish in Itasca County in 1957.  It was 54 pounds with a length of 56 inches and girth of 27¾ inches.

A month later the season had ended for Babe Ruth, but Tremain has one more fishing excursion.

Congressman Carss and Guide Capture Muskie Laurels ~ Itasca News 10-6-1927

“With the veteran John Tremain as guide, Mr. Carss spent Monday afternoon and Tuesday on Deer Lake in quest of muskies.  They fished from 3:00 to 6:00 Monday afternoon and from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. Tuesday.  In this time, they landed five muskies ranging from 34 to 45 inches in length, two Monday and three Tuesday.  The record surpassed any other made here in years and is likely to stand for some time.

“The work of the two days brought John Tremain’s total of muskies for the season up to 64. John says he bests Babe Ruth out by four and started a month after the Babe did.

“Now let Bob Becker and Robert Page Lincoln be fully informed that this IS a muskie region!”

Bob Becker of the Chicago Tribune and Robert Page Lincoln fishing editor of various national sports magazines at different times were sportswriters who were known to have doubted the fishing in Itasca County.

One Summer America 1927, a book writtenby Bill Bryson, was the inspiration for this Reminisce column, and one of the most enjoyable books I have read in a long time. It is hefty, a 562 pages, but chock full of fascinating information about a forgotten summer when America came of age, took center stage, and changed the world forever.

I have extracted some of the information Bryson has gathered on Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and the remarkable season. “Ruth in 1927 was the best paid player in baseball and proud of the fact.  He had a three-year contract at $70,000 a year…On his pay, newsmen calculated, Ruth could buy a new car every week or a new house every month.

“All the fans in all the cities were drawn by the same thing – a chance to see Babe Ruth in the flesh, and ideally to watch him swat a ball into the firmament.  That Ruth was locked in a seesaw battle with the youthful upstart Lou Gehrig for the home run championship brought the kind of excitement that made people crush their hats in distraction.  There had really never been anything like it.  At mid-August, Gehrig – impossibly, unprecedentedly – led Ruth by 38 homeruns to 36.  But Ruth came back with towering clouts in Chicago on August 16 and 17, to draw level.   Gehrig went one up again on August 19, against the White Sox, but Ruth matched that the next day in Cleveland to put them even again at 39. 

“By now people were practically having heart attacks.  On August 22, Babe hit his fortieth, Gehrig tied him two days later.  Ruth hit his forty-first and forty-second on home runs on August 27 and 28, in St. Louis.  Gehrig came back with a three-run shot in St. Louis on August 29.  Two days later, back in New York against the Red Sox, Ruth hit the last home run of the month for either player.  Ruth had 43 home runs and Gehrig had 41.”

I also learned that in 1927, Babe Ruth starred in the movie Babe Comes Home with Anna Q. Nilsson. It was a silent, black and white baseball comedy produced by the First National Film Company. The film is considered a lost film, which means that it “is no longer known to exist in any studio archives, private collections, or public archives.” I did locate a short clip of Babe Ruth’s 60th home run in 1927. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOt0Tmwc2Rk)

Baby Ruth Candy Bar

While researching, I decided to check out the “Baby Ruth” candy bar.  It was not named for Babe Ruth and has a controversy all its own.  I can’t effectively condense the explanation from Wikipedia, so here is exactly what I found:

“Although the name of the candy bar sounds like the name of the famous baseball player Babe Ruth, the Curtiss Candy Company traditionally claimed that it was named after President Grover Cleveland’s daughter, Ruth Cleveland. The candy maker, located on the same street as Wrigley Field, named the bar ‘Baby Ruth’ in 1921, as Babe Ruth’s fame was on the rise, over 30 years after Cleveland had left the White House, and 17 years after his daughter, Ruth, had died. The company did not negotiate an endorsement deal with Ruth, and many saw the company’s story about the origin of the name to be a devious way to avoid having to pay the baseball player any royalties. Curtiss successfully shut down a rival [candy] bar that was approved by, and named for, Ruth, on the grounds that the names were too similar.

“In the trivia book series Imponderables, David Feldman reports the standard story about the bar being named for Grover Cleveland’s daughter, with additional information that ties it to the President: ‘The trademark was patterned exactly after the engraved lettering of the name used on a medallion struck for the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, and picturing the President, his wife, and daughter Baby Ruth.’ He also cites More Misinformation, by Tom Burnam: ‘Burnam concluded that the candy bar was named … after the granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Williamson, candy makers who developed the original formula and sold it to Curtiss.’ (Williamson had also sold the ‘Oh Henry!’ formula to Curtiss around that time.) The write up goes on to note that marketing the product as being named for a company executive’s granddaughter would likely have been less successful, hence their ‘official’ story.”

I am constantly amazed at the unique connection Itasca County has with famous and influential people back during a time when mass travel was limited to the Model T and its contenders, and communication with the outside world was limited to newspapers and magazines.

The final two stories of the resort series for 2021 will appear in the October 10, and October 24 issues of the Grand Rapids Herald-Review. To see archived Resorts with a History, check out my blog chrismarcottewrites.com.

9.19.2021 ~ archived

[originally published 6.14.2018]

Resorts with a Story ~ Northland Lodge

Neil King has been coming to Northland Lodge from southern Minnesota for 80 of his 83 years. Northland was strictly a fishing and hunting camp when he first accompanied his folks in 1938, so like or not, a lot of time was spent in the boat.  Neil took to fishing just fine, and in fact, there have been four generations of Kings spending at least a part of every summer on the northeast shore of Winnibigoshish Lake.

Besides good fishing, and experienced proprietors (the O’Reilleys are in their 35th season), the resort is known for the beautiful Norway pine log lodge, constructed by many men and great teams of horses back in 1919.  At that time, the resort was named Camp A-Be-We-Ning, said to mean “Resting Place” in Ojibwe, and was being built for a hunting club from the Twin Cities. 

The ridge-pole of the lodge is massive – it is 60 feet long, 61inches in circumference at one end, and 53 inches at the other – and it hasn’t budged an inch!  Pat O’Reilley, the current owner, along with his father Mike, explained. “This is because the log was set in place with the rise of the ‘crown’ (the slight natural bend) facing up.” Ray Callaway and his wife Lynda were the prior owners, and he added, “I used to keep a pole that was the exact height of the log, and every spring I would use it to check the distance between the floor and ridge-pole.  I was amazed that it never moved.”

The lodge is indeed impressive, and its uniqueness adds to the charm of the resort. Today it is one large room, 60×48, though the components of its 1919 construction are still in the same locations, there are no partitions separating the dining area from the living room. The walls are adorned with trophy fish, bird and animal mounts, including a moose from the 1920s in remarkable shape. There are photographs, treasures of woodland scavenging and the art of inspired resort guests.  A beautiful brick fireplace, the focal point of the living room was no doubt host to many lively discussions through the years.  “If these walls could talk,” Pat said, “I’m sure they’d have plenty to say.”

Thank goodness the walls are still here.  Ray stated that when he approached Louie Usher about buying the resort, Louie told him that if it didn’t sell that year (1978), he had planned to tear it down. One of the first projects Ray did was to replace some rotting logs. “I went to Russ Vickerman, he had a sawmill, and he told me they had been saving a log for that very project.  It had been cut two years previous, so it was dried and ready to go.  Vickerman and his son knew exactly what they were doing, we had an old time ‘log raising’ and two logs were replaced in no time.”

The History

According to an article in a 1922 publication highlighting the successes of Itasca County, in addition to the lodge (which they described as a log hotel), nineteen cabins had been constructed.  The officials of the Northland Camps, Inc. were businessmen from the Twin Cities.  Falvey Williams was designated the secretary and general manager. Falvey is the same man who several years later established the Williams Narrows Resort, also located on Lake Winnie.

It is unclear how long the group from the Twin Cities had the resort, but 1925 advertising listed A.L. Lee as the proprietor, and the Itasca News ran a good-sized ad announcing a Sunday Dinner on July 19, at The Northland Camps, Inc. “The Big Log Cabin Just a Step Across Winnibigoshish Dam.” The menu included: celery, olives, cream of tomato soup, one-half baked chicken, giblet sauce, sage dressing, garden spinach, whipped potatoes, pie ala mode, fruit salad, coffee, milk, and iced tea.

By 1927, the name of the resort was changed to Northland Lodge.  C.H. Rawson, the proprietor at the time, began having occasional ‘dancing parties’ open to the public, in the lodge during the weekday evenings.  The floor, constructed of long even planks, perfect for dancing.  Musicians mentioned include Swede Hedstrom and his Hot Points, and Gene’s Hot Rocks.

Neil explained that when his dad, Henry started coming up here, the new dam hadn’t been built yet, so one of the best places to fish was over in the bay by the Sunset.  “Northland would haul the fishermen in a 24-foot launch and drop them off, one by one on old cedar stumps that stuck out of the lake,” Neil said. “They’d have a sack lunch, their fishing stuff and a gunny sack for their catch.  At the end of the day, they come back and pick them up.”

There was a succession of short-term owners, but by the time Neil began coming up as a toddler, Lucille Woodroff and her daughter Margie were well established as owners.  They provided two home-cooked meals each day and sack lunches to the fishing or hunting parties.  The pair were extremely hard workers with a good sense of humor, and the resort flourished. 

Earl and Paula Mosgaard were the last owners to serve food on a daily basis, and unfortunately, no old recipes have been found, but Lucy King, Neil’s wife, recalls that she was a very good cook.  “I remember one meal in particular when she made a baked northern stuffed with wild rice and seasoning.  It was excellent!”

All told there have probably been a dozen owners, but a fire in the 1960’s destroyed the records, including guest registry books that went back to the beginning of Northland as a privately own resort. The names of owners located between 1924-1983 were: A.L. Lee, C.H. Rawson, Lucille & Margie Woodroff, Walter Beinke, Earl & Paula Mosgaard, Louis & Diane Usher, and Ray & Lynda Callaway.

The O’Reilley’s 1983 – Now

Mike and Mary O’Reilley bought the resort in 1983.  Mike had worked for the Minneapolis, Northfield and Southern Railroad for about 20 years when they decided they would like to own a resort in northern Minnesota.  It was another eight years before everything fell into place, he retired, and they were the very proud owners of Northland Lodge.

From the very beginning, they knew they had made the right decision, and their dedication is indeed evident by the improvements.  Their genuine enthusiasm turned guests into lifelong friends.  Though Pat was working in the cities and had a family of his own, he came up to help his folks get ready for the opener every year.  He jokes “I have been doing dock work for 35 years, even my dad can’t say that!”

The fishing opener has always been a big deal at Northland, and Mike always invited Ralph John Fritz, a sports announcer for WCCO radio to come up.  “Ralph would bring an unfolding antenna and dish and broadcast a fishing report during the opener.”   The O’Reilleys started a tradition of a fish fry on the Sunday of the opener, and also continued the ‘get to know your neighbor’ potluck near the beginning of each week, started by the Callaways. “One time,” Mike said, “we ended up lots of potato salad! Now we have a sign-up sheet.” And families have their traditions, not just fishing contests and campfires.  “One family brings frozen pizzas to the potluck, as a joke because that’s what their parents did, but it is always the first to go!”

Mary died in 1998, but by then the die was cast.  There was nowhere Mike wanted to be but at the resort.  Pat continued to help out when he could, and in 2006 he moved north to become a partner in the operation. The father and son duo work well together, and plans are to continue the O’Reilley ownership for years to come.  The lodge received a new roof to prevent deterioration from the Minnesota winters, and the floor is still as solid as it was when people were dancing to the ‘Hot Rock’ and ‘Hot Points’ ninety years ago.  In fact, last summer, Ray celebrated his 70th birthday with the live music of Steve Pratt, and the floor undulated with the nearly one hundred dancing feet.

Neil and Lucy now have a camper in the Northland Lodge camping area and like to visit as much as they do fishing.  Neil has contributed to the wildlife art with his intricate scenes carved in antler, bone, and wood.  They know a lot about the resort and have many stories to tell, and though some may be unbelievable, there are also photographs.

If These Walls Could Talk

“Al Capone did not stay at Northland,” Mike O’Reilley explained, “but when I bought the place there was a ‘hood’ here from Chicago, and the only name I knew him by was Blackie. He’d come with two or three others, and they all wear suitcoats because they were packing all the time. He’d go into cabin 5, it was the only one he would stay in.  You’d never see him come out of the cabin until he was going to go fishing, then it would be with the guys in suits, and they’d go with him. The last year he was here being in1984.”

Ray recalled a story told him by Louie, of a guest he had in the early 1970s. “Louie was behind the bar one day, and Bugsy Matthews came in.  He was a bank robber from the 1950s.  He sat down and had one beer, looked around the lodge and left.  Louie’s theory was that maybe Bugsy hid money or other valuables here from his last heist, and was returning now, after getting out of jail to claim it, but because so much of the resort had changed, he didn’t even know where to look.”

Pat and Mike have updated cabins, removed the ice house and old storage buildings, and installed a swimming pool, but have not come across Bugsy Matthews hidden cache yet.  There is a ghost who haunts the lodge occasionally makes himself known. I am still attempting to discover his identity and will save that for another column. Next year Northland Lodge will be 100 years old, a significant achievement for any northern Minnesota resort.


Resorts with a History ~ Little Bass Camp/Resort

It is probable that when Jesse and Ell Dora Jellison brought their family from Minneapolis to Bass Lake on the train in 1894, they had no idea that within thirty years, four of their children would be engaged in the blossoming resort business within Itasca County.  It was in 1917, that Clyde and Clarence built several cabins on the family property on Bass Lake as a way to bring in money to support their widowed mother. This later became Wildwood Resort.

Mabel Jellison married Christopher Baker, and in 1925, after their children were grown, they welcomed fishermen and their families to Baker’s Shady Nook on Bass Lake. Clarence Jellison married Orva Jones in the spring of 1927 and within a couple years they had established Jellison’s Log Cabin Campon Big Bass. 

Clyde Jellison had inherited land just across the road, on Little Bass Lake, and when he married Dorothy Jones, the younger sister of Orva in the fall of 1927, it was with the intent that they too could run a resort if she wanted. She did, and they named it Little Bass Lake Camp.

This is the first time in my Resorts with a History series that I had the opportunity to interview all of the owners of one resort. Little Bass Lake Camp has had only four owners, and I had the privilege to visit with the last three and also the original owner’s daughter, Ruth (Jellison) Dickie. Ruth has become a resource to me on several Reminisce articles.

Clyde & Dorothy Jellison 1930-1970

Clyde built three modern housekeeping cabins and Dorothy ran the resort. “My mother was a very good businesswoman,” Ruth Dickie explained. “She kept careful records, was known for her hospitality, and was a member of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.” These were all important attributes of a successful resort owner. 

It is rare that guest registration survives the years of long-standing resorts, but Dorothy’s have. Pages from the well-worn 1938 volume of a Guest Register for Cabin Camp and Resorts produced by the Blackbourn Company show that the resort was filled from the fishing opener until the end of summer.  Guests came from Chicago, IL, Des Moines, IA, Omaha NE, Fort Wayne IN, Kansas City, KS as well as Minneapolis, St. Paul and Milaca, MN.

“Mother’s goal was to make $2000-$2500 in a summer.  She made extra money by selling dairy products, garden veggies and chickens to resort guests. She used some of the money to get us kids what we needed for school.”  Dorothy took great pride in the cabins, and even though they were always spotless for the new arrivals, she would say, “oh, so and so is coming, we’ve got to have their cabin super nice.” That might mean the patchwork quilts were swapped for the new ones Dorothy had made over the winter.  In addition to the homemade quilts and curtains, the Little Bass Camp cabins were all adorned with handmade rugs. Ruth recalls, “I used Mother’s treadle sewing machine to sew strips of old sheets, curtains and clothing together for the rag rugs. I’d roll them in balls and then Mom took them to a woman who lived on Horseshoe Lake Road, who wove them into rectangle rugs with fringe on the ends.  Mom would have me sort out some of the brighter colors and roll them separately so they could be used for a stripe of color on some of them.”

Clyde’s primary employment was building bridges and houses in Itasca County. He expected his four children to help their mother with the resort as much as they could, often until 9:30 at night. “Dad taught us how to use the old-fashioned rotary style push mower and sharpen the blades. And it seems like we were mowing and raking all the time.  His philosophy was ’keep the kids busy and they’ll stay out of trouble.’ It seemed to work!  We never used propane on the property, all the cabins used wood stoves. It was Wayne’s job to bring in wood.  On Saturdays it was my job to take clean sheets and rugs to the cabins for guests who were here for more than a week. As soon as the younger kids were old enough to push a wheelbarrow, they collected the trash cans from the cabins.”

But it wasn’t all work, there was time for fun.  “The lake was my playground. It was a great place to grow up.

I’m still friends with a family that came from Missouri.” Ruth also remembers a nearby resort, Catch n Fish, that is no longer operating.  “We’d ride our bikes down there because they had a nice swing, and we could get a popsicle for a nickel!”

Clyde and Dorothy owned the Little Bass Lake Camp for forty years and never regretted their decision to build it. Ruth and her family have continued to spend part of their summers on one of the lakes in the area, sometimes staying at Little Bass and other times at Wildwood. As often as they can, they enjoy sharing the family and local history of Bass Lake with a boat tour and explaining of how things used to be.

John & Ginger Anderson 1970-1992

When John Anderson bought the resort there were three cabins and the house that the Jellison’s had lived in.  His plan was to remodel the cabins, build a couple more that were wheelchair accessible, and install sidewalk trails from cabins to the dock and other communal sites on the resort.  John was able to do most of the work himself as he was a contractor. With a total of six housekeeping cabins, he changed the name from Little Bass Lake Camp to Little Bass Lake Resort.

John attracted guests from the Sister Kenny Institute in Minneapolis and explained, “We received an award from the Multiple Sclerosis Society of MN because we were handicapped accessible before it was required.” Although John never saw the article, he was told that their resort was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal for their initiative. It was important to the Anderson family that everyone had an opportunity to experience the wonders of a northern Minnesota resort. 

“It was good for us.  My five kids had a chance to interact with people they would have never seen otherwise. They helped the handicapped guests with things so many others took for granted. They would run the motorboats so guests could fish out on the lake, assist with cleaning fish, and help those who requested it to roast hotdogs or marshmallows at the fire pit.”

One of the celebrities to stay at Little Bass was the musical band, Asleep at the Wheel. “They were playing at the Itasca County Fair back when hardly anyone had heard of them. They gave us a T-shirt and an album. I think it was their first one.”

A brief overview of Asleep at the Wheel ~ The band started in 1969, made their debut album, Comin’ Right at Ya, in 1973, and has accrued 10 Grammy Awards. “The long running and influential western swing band will mark fifty years together with a new album, Half a Hundred Years, to be released in October 2021.

The best memory John has of the resort is the people.  “The friendships we made were very special. We’ve had people from Alaska, Russia, Australia, and France.”

The Andersons had the resort for twenty-two years. In 1992, Jerry Angst came to Little Bass Lake and explained that he was looking to buy a resort in the area. “We hadn’t talked about selling,” John said, “but it was to be the first summer Ginger would have had to run it on her own as the kids were gone.  We thought it over and decided to accept his offer.”

Jerry Angst 1992-2017

When Jerry had a chance to leave the corporate world of IBM, he decided to buy a resort even though his experience was minimal. But, he craved the solitude that two of his friends who owned resorts had in the winter. Learning that John Anderson might be interested in selling, Jerry knocked on his door.  “The first thing John said to me was, ‘Are you in it for the money or are you in it for the lifestyle?’ I replied, the lifestyle and he said, okay, we’ll talk.”

Jerry quickly learned the ropes of running a six cabin resort thanks to his friends at Back O’ the Moon and his kids helping out when they could. Once he had the day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year responsibilities figured out, he started the Little Bass Lake Resort Chronicles.  Inspired by a guest, he kept in touch by having a countdown until fishing opener and sharing snippets and photographs during the off season. 

By the late 1990s he was recording something nearly every day which was always accessible to guests via his webpage. Some guests began writing their own snippets, and as an offshoot, Northland Stories, Poems and Anecdotes, was launched on his webpage. I have had many resort owners tell me they wish they had recorded what happened at their resort. However, this was the first time I have known anyone to follow through – recording for over 20 years. If it was printed and bound, I’m sure it would be a hefty book!

“The guests have been the most rewarding part of being a resort owner,” Jerry said. “And one I didn’t even anticipate because I had never spent time at a resort. I have watched young children grow up and bring their families. That’s what I found memorable.”  

Tim & Monica Bluhm 2017-current

The first time Tim came to Little Bass Lake Resort was in 1978.  He was seventeen years old and came up from Iowa to go fishing with friends who had a cabin at the resort. After he married Monica, and their children were old enough to fish, Tim brought them to his favorite northern Minnesota lake.  The Bluhms kept coming back until there were also grandchildren in tow. Eventually, Tim and Monica told Jerry they were interested in the resort when he was ready to retire.

In late 2017, the Bluhms purchased the resort, and 2018 was their first season. “We are so glad to have this place,” Tim said. “We have always loved the fishing and the beauty of this lake. It’s small enough where we don’t get the big boats and jet skis, and we can still hear the loons.” The couple lives in Iowa for part of the year, but plan to be at the resort year-around before too long.

Jerry had shared that when he sold the property to Bluhms, the cabins were in worse shape than when he bought it from John Anderson. Tim and Monica knew this and started repairs right away.  They gutted several cabins, replaced a couple roofs, and updated the water/septic system. “This last winter we did a lot of work inside cabin 3 and built a large deck onto the house, where we will soon have our office.”

During the remodeling of cabin 3, one of the original Jellison cabins, two matchbook covers were found in the wall. One, from the Terrace Motor Court in Nashville, TN, had the date August 30, 1947, written in pencil.  The other, from Nate’s Open Pit in Aurora, CO, was dated July 30, 1948. Knowing how fond guests are of a particular cabin, it can be assumed the same individual tucked the matchbook covers away to mark their vacation.

Little Bass Lake Resort has most of the amenities of the larger resorts but maintains its rustic charm. Three of the cabins are within twenty-five feet of the lake. The main dock is a magnet for morning coffee drinkers, and the sidewalks allow for easy wheelchair and stroller use.  The bookings are going well. They have had room for some new guests, many which are now repeat customers. “Currently we are summer only, however, we do plan to be open in the winter before long.  The house and several cabins are winterized, and we are amazed at what Itasca County has to offer guests in the winter.”

Tim and Monica may be new resort owners, but they have spent most of the previous thirty summers as guests and know just how special Little Bass Lake Resort is.  They have plans to be here for a very long time.

9.5.2021 ~ archived

[previously published 8.16.2018]

Resorts with a History ~ Cedarwild

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.”

8.29.2021 ~ archived

[originally published 7.21.2019]

Resorts with a History ~ Pine Grove Lodge

Pine Grove Lodge, located on the south end of Sand Lake, was the third resort to be built on the lake known as an exceptional place to hunt duck. It was started by Rees Williams, aka “Steamboat Williams” a professional baseball player. His career in baseball had come to a natural end, and at the relatively young age of thirty-three, Rees wasn’t ready to retire.

On September 5, 1925, he leased a plot of land from the Forest Service. “They would lease you a lot, 100 feet each way – 100 feet of shore and 100 feet back – well that isn’t much room to build on, but we were going to build something somewhere.” [All quotes from Rees are from an interview with Stan Johnson 3-13-1976.] The Williams borrowed money and had a frame cabin built.  They also erected two tents, one for themselves and one to rent, and were ready for duck hunters that year.   After leasing additional land, a lodge and more cabins were added.

Pine Grove Lodge has been in continuous operation for ninety-four years and can proudly boast that the lodge and three of the cabins are original log structures built in 1926.

It has been owned by eight entities. Rees and Peg had it for the first twenty years, the Wahlstrom family has owned it for the last thirty-three years and a handful of others had it in the intervening years.

Rees and Peg Williams 1925-1945

Rees Gephardt Williams was born in Cascade, Montana on January 31, 1892.  Rees found his way to Minnesota because he was a good baseball player, and in 1915 he started with the St. Paul Saints.

It was while Rees was in Minnesota that he met Percy Augustus “Peg” Fulton, daughter of James and Martha.  Rees and Peg were married in St. Paul, on December 20, 1915.  He continued to play for various teams until 1925, when he decided it was time to end his baseball career.  “I got so I couldn’t throw a baseball so good anymore.”  The Williams sold their cabin in Cass County and bought some camping equipment with the plan to start a resort in Itasca County. “We didn’t have any money, but we were going to do something.”

In the spring of 1926 Emil Haataja, who lived in the area and was known for his Finnish log cabins, built the lodge.  First we built a little cellar.  We dug the frozen ground out, about 8 feet deep. There’s a lot of logs in that main building, I’ll tell you that.  With those two partitions running through it.” 

Rees admitted he was not a cabin builder and needed the expertise of Haataja and his sons.  “We had the two main logs in, the two long ones, and we put one across to start at the end.  I was on one end and he was on the other end.  I cut my notch out and he cut his out and we finally got it down to where it was supposed to fit pretty good and he’d come over and look at mine, and I’d say how does it look, and he says it looks like hell!  He went ahead and finished it up and got it to fit.”

Working ten-hour days, they usually completed a row all the way around in one day.  The roof was on by the 4th of July, and by fall, Peg was cooking and serving meals to the duck hunters in the lodge instead of in the tent she used the year before.

Three more log cabins were constructed by Haataja and ready to rent for the fishing season in 1927.  At some point, Rees had vertical slab wood added to the outside of the cabin built the first year to make it look more like a cabin.  A dock and duck boats were added to the amenities. We charged them $3.50 a day per person and they had a cabin and a boat and all they could eat.” Later, the buildings were updated and rented as housekeeping cabins at a rate of $15 a week. 

The lore that passed from one resort owner to another is that Rees lost the resort to Leonard Hultman in a poker game in 1945, and it changed hands on September 5 exactly 20 years after he signed the original lease. A few years earlier, Rees and Peg had purchased 68 acres of land on the point about a mile to the east.  This is where the Williams later built another resort, Sand Lake Lodge, which opened in 1951.

*Note: There is so much to tell about “Steamboat” Williams that the July 28, 2019 Reminisce column is dedicated to him.


Leonard Hultman was an electrician from St. Paul. He and his wife Hazel kept the resort through duck season, and then sold it to Don and Marian Duell who were also from the Twin Cities.  The Duells sold it after just one year, bought a summer place on Pokegama, and eventually moved to the area year around.  Cliff Anderson owned it from 1947-1954, and then a man by the name of Ellis sold it to Bill and Dee Berdt in 1956.

Bill Berdt was born in Russia and immigrated to the US in 1913 when he was five years old.  His father, a bookkeeper, settled in St. Paul where Bill later met and married Delores.  The 1940 census shows Bill and Dee in St. Paul with their young daughter Jean.  Bill was employed as a truck driver and though it is not known what brought him to Pine Grove, Rees shared that Berdt did a lot of work on the cabins.

In a brochure circa 1965, the Berdts boast catering to families as well as sportsmen. “Playgrounds…shuffleboard, badminton, horseshoe, basketball, swings, slides and teeter totters.  Safe sand bathing beach. Beautiful grounds and no steep hills.” Their rates for a two-bedroom cabin with “well equipped kitchen, sunporch, modern bathroom with tubs and a16 foot boat were $70 a week for 2 persons, add $5 a week for each additional adult and $2.50 a week for youngsters.”

As Bill and Dee approached their seventies, they sold the resort to Bob and Valerie Burge in 1978.  The Burges advertised the sale of Pine Grove Lodge in Twin Cities newspapers in 1986 and sold it to Wayne and Sue Wahlstrom in October of that year.

Wahlstrom Family 1986

Wayne and Sue Wahlstrom were in their early thirties when they decided they wanted to move away from the Twin Cities.  Wayne had worked at a resort in Wisconsin when he was a kid and had also spent time in Marcell.  Both he and Sue loved the outdoors, so when Wayne saw the advertisement for the resort, he had no problem talking Sue into packing the kids and heading up north to take a look.  Sue said, “When we rolled down the driveway, we were sold!”

There were six cabins by then.  One of the original log cabins had been destroyed by a fire and three others had been built. Wayne and Sue felt it was the right size for them to manage. For the first couple years the Wahlstroms came north on a seasonal basis, but in about 1989 they moved to Pine Grove permanently, lived in part of the lodge, and rented the six cabins.

In 2015, Wayne and Sue sold the resort to their son Shawn and his wife Megan.  Although Megan, an RN, had limited knowledge with resorts when she met Shawn, she enjoyed camping and easily adapted to the lifestyle.   Their children Sabryn and Caleb have been coming up since they were young and now enjoy the year around experience.  Part of the lodge is still open to guests who are encouraged to visit Ben the Bear and look at the artifacts that have been collected from resort owners and guests since Rees and Peg started the display.

Ben the Bear is a fun photo opportunity.  He is a real bear who was encouraged to leave the Pine Grove property repeatedly in the summer of 1988. When the bruin didn’t heed warnings, and instead stood ready to charge with snapping jaws, he was shot, professionally stuffed, and now guards the enclosed porch of the lodge.

Shawn and Megan continue to manage and maintain the resort with no outside help.  The weekly potluck tradition with guests started by Wayne and Sue is truly ingrained in the resort experience of their longtime guests.  Sue’s contribution was often wild rice hotdish, which before long became an expectation.  Megan said, “I knew I didn’t want to be expected to make the same thing every Monday all summer long, so I purposely decided to do something different each time.”  Shawn is quick to add that the culinary specialties of the guests are eagerly anticipated. “We have one family who does homemade pies and now they also make homemade ice cream!” Pine Grove Lodge has an established clientele who love the rustic log cabins and family atmosphere.  One family has been coming for over fifty years, covering multiple generations, and another family with over thirty years of Pine Grove Lodge memories is taking over the entire resort at the end of July! Shawn and Megan love that their guest have become their friends and they look forward to many long-term relationships

My Email was Hacked

And therefore I am changing the address I have had for 14 years…Please DELETE lunariaspirit@yahoo.com (if you did get a suspicious email from me within the last 10 days it probably had a a number ‘1’ after lunariaspirit. If so that was the hack. I’m so sorry and hope it didn’t do anything to your system. All was reported to Yahoo and local law enforcement.

The new address is: chrismarcottewrites@gmail


Resorts with a History ~ Little Winnie Resort

Little Winnibigoshish Lake is home to only one resort. “When you are out on the water, it’s like you are going into Canada.” This is the sentiment of Shannon Graupmann whose family has owned the resort for more than twenty years. I agree. Other than the resort dock, there is not a structure anywhere to mar the beautifully wooded lakeshore.  The resort is, and always has been, situated on higher land above the lake and near a road that was created in the very early years.

Charlie Pogue 1925-1930

In the following article, both Charlie Pogue and Ed Clinite are mentioned, though I found no further reference to Clinite. By the mid-1920s there were numerous resorts on Big Winnibigoshish. The Mississippi River flows between Big Winnie (at the dam) and Little Winnie.  From Little Winnie it continues into Big Ball Club Lake and then White Oak Lake.

Build New Resort on Road to Lake ~ Grand Rapids Herald Review 5-13-1925

“Another resort will open its doors to the tourists and to the people who take to fishing, even though they live in the district where there are many fish.  Chas. Pogue of Grand Rapids and Ed Clinite of Warba are the men who are building this new resort and they have selected as their location the Jack Tuttle farm, a mile east of Winnibigoshish Dam, and on the main road to the dam.

“The site selected is about two blocks from the shore of Little Winnie Lake, and the land extends in a gentle slope to the sandy beach of the lake, where there are unexcelled bathing facilities.  A number of boats will be provided, and a space cleared for a tourist camp for the traveler. A building, 20×32 feet in size, is being constructed, where lunches, soft drinks, hot coffee, bait, and other needed supplies will be sold.  The proprietors expect to be ready for the opening of the pike fishing season on May 15, and to have a rapidly increasing trade through the season.

“Three places where fishermen may secure minnows have been arranged by Pogue and Clinite.  One is at the Pogue Corner in Grand Rapids, one at the place where the main highway west crosses the brook at the foot of Little Ball Club Lake, and the other at the new resort on Little Winnie.  Attendants will be on duty night and day to supply bait to the eager pike fishermen.”

It is probable that the building referred to above was built near the shore as that is where the tourist camp would have been. A tourist camp was a place where you could park your car and set up a tent.  It came into being about the same time automobile owners were encouraged to take road trips.

I was not able to find a name for this resort, nor any advertising, but I think this is probably because it was actually more of a tourist camp than a resort under Pogue’s ownership. I found that in 1927, the Minnesota Arrowhead Association had attempted to compile a complete list of tourist camp sites in the Arrowhead region, but the returns were not sufficiently adequate to justify a publication. “We can say, however, that every city and village has one or more camps, while many of the resorts offered campsites either free or at a very nominal charge.”

Olson Family 1930-1969

Melvin “Mel” Olson was born in Polk County, Minnesota in 1897. By the 1920 United States Census he was employed by the Cleveland Cliff Iron Mining Company in Greenway as a fireman.  He met Vera MacAdams at the Shady Rest resort and dance pavilion on Little Ball Club Lake. Vera’s mother had been married to Curly Bendwell, the owner, at the time. Mel and Vera were married in November 1923.

In an interview conducted in 1975, Mel explained how he and Vera came to be resort owners through a man he had worked with in the mines. “In 1930, I knew a guy who owned this place, Charlie Pogue. I always wanted to get into the resort business, and I thought it would be a good place to start. Bought it outright from Charlie Pogue.  This was an Indian allotment.  He had it recorded so he was paying taxes on it, and I was eligible to buy it.  There were two shacks on it when I came and two flat bottom boats.”  [Stan Johnson conducted they oral history interview with Melvin Olson for the Chippewa National Forest 12-30-1975]

According to Winnie (Nesvig) Olson, daughter-in-law of Mel and Vera, one of those original shacks, named Trailing Arbutus, the one that Vera had, had been used by Charlie Pogue for the distillation of moonshine during Prohibition. It is likely the other was rented out to deer hunters.

Mel and Vera worked hard the first year to build and furnish a couple cabins and the main lodge.  The lodge had a lobby, small store, and dining room to accommodate guests. There were also rooms where the Olson family lived and a large kitchen where Vera prepared meals for all. A 1931 Resort Directory for the Grand Rapids Area lists Little Winnie as having housekeeping cabins, a dining room and campground.  Within a few years, Mel and Vera were catering to guests in the thirteen cabins named for flowers.  Winnie, who had cleaned those cabins for ten years, could easily recite them all – Bluebell, Columbine, Daisy, Forget-me-not, Honeysuckle, Iris, Ivy, Lilac, Morning Glory, Shamrock, Trailing Arbutus, Violet, and Wild Rose.

In 1936 Mel had a custom launch built and christened Vera. “It was 36 feet long, was 10’6” wide at the beam and had a set up over the water about 11 feet. Built by Arnold Larson in Cass Lake, built all my fishing boats too.” The Vera left daily from the Olson’s dock on Big Winnibigoshish for $2.50 per person including live bait and sandwiches prepared by Vera.

Mel also enjoyed guiding fishermen. “When I guided, I had a 12 horse [motor], that was the biggest they had for a while. I had a pet place to fish over to Third River. Back then the limit was 20 northerns, and there was no trouble getting 20 if you wanted. Of course, we always fished for walleye.  If I had somebody out fishing and we caught the walleyes in a hurry and they wanted to go fishing northerns, I says I’m not fishing northerns for you – I’m telling you I’m getting you walleyes and when we get them, if I’m lucky enough to get you the walleyes, I’m not going to start running after the northerns.

Vera was a good cook, and most well known for her blueberry pies and doughnuts.  Her secret to the doughnuts soft texture was mashed potatoes! She worked as hard as Mel to make the resort a viable business for their family.  Vera took great pride in her dining room and served family style.  The tablecloth was always snowy white, with cloth napkins, china plates and glasses. Their children, Maurice and Myron helped as soon as they were old enough to carry bait to the fisherman and food to the table.

When Myron and Winnie got married in 1958, they lived in the original lodge.  Mel and Vera moved into the Lilac cabin, which at one time had been the boathouse.  In 1959, the year Sonja was born, Myron and Winnie took over the resort. In the early 1960s, after Sandy was born, a new lodge was built on the same side of the road where the cabins were, and the old lodge was torn down. Meals were no longer being served (except to a group of loyal deer hunters from Alexandria and Brainerd), so instead of a dining room, there was a game room and lounge for guests. Sonja who lived at the resort until she was eight remembered what fun it was to play with the children who came with their parents.

During the school year, Winnie taught at King School and Myron drove bus. After ten years, they sold the resort.  At that time there were thirteen white cabins with dark green trim and nine sites for trailer houses. Mel and Vera continued to live in the home they had made for themselves across the road. 

Various Owners ~ 1969-1999

During the next thirty years, there were five owners. In 1969, Myron and Winnie sold the thirty-five acres on the south side of the road, where most all of the resort cabins and lodge were, to Russell “Pete” and Inez Kopp.

Bob and Bea Theide, along with daughter and son-in-law Linda and Dale Peterson, bought and managed the resort from 1973-1978. Dale recalled that the major improvements they did during that time were replacing the oil furnaces with propane and putting showers in some of the cabins.  Even after they sold it, he and Linda continued to come up to the resort. When they retired, bought the house that Vera and Mel had lived in.

A brochure from the time Jack and Marlene Zigas were owners’ states: “we have 13 cabins, an apartment and 9 campsites with full hook-ups which are separate from the cabin area…We are on a blacktop highway and are open all year around.” It was then sold to Jim and Ellie Billington, who managed it with the help of Ellie’s parents, Bill and Bonnie Miller. In about 1993, Bruce and Kris Santolin, from Chicago took over the resort until Kris’ health prevented them from fully managing it.

Graupmann Family ~ 2000-present

Shannon Graupmann knew it was time to seriously think about her husband Doug’s desire to sell their electrical contracting business and buy a resort.  One day she came home and found him and their four kids lying on their backs on the ground and flying a kite from a fishing pole.  After looking at Little Winnie, Doug and Shannon brought their two sons and daughters, ages 7-12 in on the family meeting and each had a vote on whether to move north or remain in southern Minnesota.  Little Winnie won them all with its potential and, in early 2000, they relocated to the resort.

“We put a lot of money, blood, sweat and tears in it.” Shannon said.  “It was mostly a fishing resort and really wasn’t up to most people’s standards anymore.  The thirteen cabins were old, quaint, and charming, but they didn’t have TV or air conditioning. We took two without adequate plumbing down (Iris and Ivy) and remodeled the others as quickly as we could and had our doors open for fishing opener in May 2000.”

All of the cabins were built using tree trunks as the foundation so that was replaced with block.  When they were working on the Trailing Arbutus cabin (now named Wolf Den) Shannon said they found many old liquor bottles under it. Even though Charlie Pogue seemed to be a well-known bootlegger in this area, his name never came up in the research I did for the Prohibition in Itasca County series I wrote in 2020. Perhaps he was under law enforcement radar or knew officials who liked to imbibe!

After the cabins were remodeled, the focus was on the lodge and the adjacent living quarters for the Graupmann family. Then they added a swimming pool and developed Winnie Estates, on the north side of the road.  Currently there are 133 generous seasonal sites in that location. The guests take great pride in their summer homes, and many have elaborate gardens and creative fire pits. Guests are from all over the United States as well as Grand Rapids, Hibbing and Duluth. There are family clusters and mini communities. “Some are not even fisher people, but they enjoy the peace and quiet in the north woods. We are always full and have a waiting list.”

“Our kids got to grow up here. They all learned to work hard, make a dollar, make friends with resort guests. Each has had a chance to manage the resort, and it is now in the hands of our youngest, Cody.” Cody and his fiancée Cassandra Holmbeck will be married on August 28th.  They and their dog Winnie have been the resort hosts for the past two years and look forward to meeting the needs of the nearly 700 annual guests who make Little Winnie Resort part of their outdoor getaway for many, many years to come.