8.15.2021 ~ archived

[originally published 8.25.2019]

Resorts with a History ~ Hide-Away Inn

The Hide-Away Inn is a small family run resort in the very northern part of Itasca County.  In fact, as the crow flies, it is just 40 miles from the Canadian border.  Charles Blackmer was on a trapping expedition in about 1918 when he canoed across Deer Lake and saw a beautiful expanse of sandy beach. 

For nearly 100 years, the Hide-Away Inn has been owned and operated by three families with Blackmer blood running through their veins.  Charlie and Vega Blackmer started the resort in 1921.  Their eldest son Charles “Sonny” and his wife Mary ran it from 1945 until 1963. It was then sold to the oldest grandchild of Charlie and Vega, Dennis “Denny” and Sue Carlson.  This summer marks the 56th year the Carlsons have had the resort, and the 98th year since the resort opened.

Based on the research I have done over the past three years, I believe that this is the oldest resort in Itasca County that has remained with the same family. 

In the Beginning

Charlie Blackmer was born in Vanderbilt, Michigan in November 1886.  There is a Blackmer family from Michigan listed as living in Itasca County on the 1895 Minnesota census.  Perhaps this was a relative who told of the virtues of the area.  According to the June 1917 WWI registration papers, Charlie is a famer in Spring Lake.  He is married and has a dependent.  Besides farming, Charlie hunted, fished and trapped to support his wife, Vega, and daughter Lorraine. He traveled the waterways up to the Bigfork River, to Deer Creek, and into Deer Lake in the northeast corner of the county. 

When WWI was over, and there was an interest in developing tourism in northern Minnesota, the Blackmers decided to invest in land for a resort which included the sandy beach Charlie admired on his first trip into Deer Lake. Charlie built a lodge and a few cabins.  In 1921, Hide-Away Inn was established and became the first available resort on Deer Lake for fishermen and hunters who were eager to be in the remote wilderness.  And it was remote.  “Grandpa would have to row all the way across this lake, up Deer Creek to Pinnette Lake,” Denny explained. “They would come into Effie on the train, then someone would take them by horse to Pinnette Lake.”

The log lodge was spacious with the front half of the building used for feeding guests and socializing.  The lodge and cabins were constructed of log, using the palisade (vertical) method – the 6”-8” logs were easy to handle. Vega cooked and Charlie guided the fishermen and the deer and duck hunters.

One thing that makes this resort interesting are some of the individuals who patronized Hide-Away during the 1920s and 1930s.  No mobsters that they know of, although it is rumored they might have been at another resort on the lake!

Guests of Notoriety                                                                                                 

Andrew “Andy” Tribble was a Harvard graduate and real estate entrepreneur from Kansas City, Missouri.  Andy thoroughly enjoyed traveling to the remote resort and did so for so many years that he became a family friend.  Charlie named one of the lakes in the Deer Lake chain Tribble Lake, and when a cabin was added in the late 1920s it was known as the Tribble Cabin.  Andy knew a lot of people and enjoyed introducing them to his favorite vacation get away.  During the 1920s and 1930s the following guests, who later in life attained notoriety, are featured in the photo albums of the Hide-Away Inn.

Dr. Charles Wm. Mayo, whose father and uncle were co-founders of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.  He was born in 1898, graduated from Princeton in 1921, and received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1926.  Most of his fishing, trapping and hunting vacations at the resort were during his college years, before he married in 1927.  Mayo had a very distinguished 31-year career in which he established a name for himself as a surgeon, statesman, author, and United Nations alternative delegate. Dr. Mayo was influential in getting an amendment passed in 1964 to revitalize mining on the Iron Range and also had a hand in the eventual legislation creating the Voyagers National Park.

Joseph “Joe” Brooks was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1901.  A 2018 documentary describes him as “a man who was the epitome of the word ‘sportsman.’ Joe Brooks could have been a standout in multiple sports on a professional level. He was a great baseball player who played for a short time for the Baltimore Orioles. He was a bruising boxer, a scratch golfer and a hulking football player. Yet Joe, more than anything, was a legendary fly fisherman.”

Brooks had some tough years during his early adult life. Prohibition didn’t keep him from drinking, and he partook in many of the risky, salacious behaviors that went along with alcohol.  He married in 1926 and was divorced within four years. The Brooks family lost track of him, but this seems to be the time when he visited the Hide-Away Inn on vacation.  He loved to fish and hunt and enjoyed the company of others at the resort. Fishing became not only a pastime, but a career. 

It is said that Brooks did more to popularize and expand fly fishing than any other individual.  He wrote for various national magazines and in 1953 began writing for Outdoor Life, one of the most prestigious sporting magazines of the time. In 1968 he became the publication’s fishing editor.  In 1964, Brooks was featured in a segment about fly fishing on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Before his death he had authored ten books about fly fishing.

Lewis Hyde Brereton was born in 1890, graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1911, and was appointed a second lieutenant in the Coast Artillery Corps shortly after his 21st birthday. Following his involvement in WWI, Brereton became a commanding officer at Kelly Field, Texas.  He was responsible for the advanced flying training of pilot candidates and considered a pioneer in aviation. His time vacationing at the resort was in the later 1930s. 

Brereton continued his illustrious military career into WWII as one of the few senior U.S. commanders who served in combat theaters continuously from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the German surrender.  He saw action in more theaters than any other senior officer. When he retired it was with the rank of Lieutenant General.

Families for Five Generations

It became popular among resorts to occasionally offer an activity that would bring the locals or those from another resort to visit.

Dinner and Dance at Hide-Away Inn ~ 7-11-1930 Bigfork Times

“Charles Blackmer, the genial proprietor of Hide-Away Inn on Big Deer Lake is giving a fish dinner and dance at his resort next Sunday, the 20th.

The guests will drive to Pickerel Landing from where Mr. Blackmer will take them to Hide-Away Inn by motorboat.  The motorboat ride through the Pickerel Lake thoroughfare and across Big Deer Lake is in itself worth going out there for.  The road to Pickerel Landing is good at all times and there will be plenty of motorboats to accommodate everyone.  This service will begin at 10:30 a.m. and continue throughout the day.

Dinner will be served from 12 o’clock noon on, until everyone is taken care of.  If you are unable to go in the afternoon, come anytime and Mr. Blackmer promises you will be taken care of.  An excellent three-piece orchestra has been arranged for which will furnish music for the dance in the evening.”

When the CCC camp was built across the lake, the dances were much more frequent.  “In fact, that’s how my mother met my dad,” Denny said. “Dad was from Argyle and in 1934 he was sent to the Deer Lake Camp.” 

Myron Carlson and Lorraine Blackmer married in 1936 and established their own small resort, Evergreen Inn on nearby Pickerel Lake. Denny was born in 1938, and as the oldest grandchild, he had an opportunity to spend nearly twenty years learning to fish, hunt and trap from a man of great experience, his grandfather.  Denny began guiding fishermen into the remote lakes about the time he started high school.  He continued to help his dad at Evergreen and his Uncle Sonny, who had taken over the Hide-Away, during the summers through his college years.

Denny married high school sweetheart Sue (Pederson) in 1959. They were both teachers and taught in Hibbing.  When the opportunity to purchase the resort came up, the Carlsons were thrilled to be able to spend their summers at the resort and to keep the Hide-Away Inn in the family. 

The resort has ebbed and flowed with the needs of the guests. There have never been more than 5 cabins, which was just enough for the family to maintain on their own.  For a time, there were also a dozen campsites.  Hide-Away currently has two modern cabins, one that was built in the late 1930s, and two campsites.  Since Sue’s passing in 2015, Denny manages the resort with help from his youngest daughter Libby and her husband Greg, who are also teachers. Denny is in charge of cabin reservations. He proudly shared his reservation system – a large poster board divided by columns and rows – “over 90% filled for next year,” he says.

“We have guests who have been coming for five generations.” Denny said. “And we have families that take the entire resort.  We love having them here.  Our beach is a favorite place for families, and one cabin is only 25 feet from the water.” 

No wonder the Hide-Away is booked well into next year, the unique blend of remoteness and intimacy make it seem like it is solely yours while you are there! Hide-Away will be 100 years old in May 2021 and the Carlson family is already thinking about how to celebrate.

8.8.2021

Cemetery Headstones like Tree Trunks

Woodmen Fraternal Organizations

The first time I heard of the Woodmen was when I researched the1897 axe murder of my third great-grandfather Thomas Boxell which is an unsolved crime. Joe Boxell, who was tried for the murder of his father belonged to the Modern Woodmen of America (MWA) in Howard Lake, MN. At the time of the trial, the newspapers speculated that the fellow Woodmen members, who were to be called as witnesses, might withhold incriminating information on Joe’s behalf.

It also came out during the trial that Joe’s father-in-law paid Joe’s annual MWA dues while he was being held in jail. He did this in the event that Joe was found guilty and was hung for the crime. Joe’s wife would then receive the $1500 payout to support herself and their two young children.

Joe was acquitted as the evidence was circumstantial and there were no witnesses or confession.  I did scrutinize the testimony of the witnesses who were MWA members, and the results added to the plot of my novel.

It was at the cemetery in Howard Lake where I saw my first Woodmen headstone. I didn’t know that’s what it was until I learned more about the Woodmen organizations started by Joseph Cullen Root of Lyons, IA.  In 1883, Root founded the Modern Woodmen of America. “He had operated a number of businesses, including a mercantile establishment, a grain elevator and two flour mills, sold insurance and real estate, taught bookkeeping classes, managed a lecture bureau, and practiced law. He wanted to create an organization that would protect families following the death of a breadwinner.

“During a Sunday sermon, Root heard the pastor tell a parable about pioneer woodmen clearing away forests to build homes, communities and security for their families. He adopted the term ‘woodmen’ for his organization. To complete the name, he added ‘modern’ to reflect the need to stay current and change with the times, and ‘of America’ to symbolize patriotism.” [Wikipedia ~ Modern Woodmen of America]

Less than a decade later Root was dissatisfied with MWA.  He left to organize the Woodmen of the World (WOW) in Omaha, NE. WOW offered grave monuments, “usually in the form of a tree stump, to families of deceased members. Sometimes these monuments have the motto Dum Tacet Clamat, which means ‘Though silent, he speaks,’ etched on the stone.” [www.usgennet.org/usa/ar/county/greene/historywood.html] Following suit, the MWA made “small aluminum stake-type gravemarkers featuring the MWA working tools—axe, beetle and wedge, and the motto Pur Autre Vie, ‘for the life of another,’ that families could purchase.” [Allamakee co. IAGenWeb – Misc. History] Both the MWA and WOW are still in existence.

MWA in Deer River

I do not know when the Modern Woodsmen of America camp was organized in Deer River, but by January 1902, they were recognized by the headquarters in Iowa and in February held their first Mask Ball.  The dance was at the Robinson Hall with tickets at fifty cents per person.

A Grand Success ~ Itasca News 2-28-1903

“The Modern Woodmen’s mask ball last Saturday night was without exception the grandest success in town for a year.  There were over a hundred tickets sold, and after paying all expenses the lodge has a gain of almost $40.00.

“The costumes worn were all homemade and some of them quite expensive.  Among some of the most attractive in fancy costumes were the Murphy sisters, Mrs. W.A. Everton, Miss Ida Maher, Miss Mayme Utigan, Misses Lena and Treacy Dosser and Mrs. A. Morrisey. Mrs. Morrisey took first prize for ladies’ fancy dress.  The prize was a fancy dish highly ornamented by hand.  The first prize among the male attire was awarded for a ‘cedar savage’ representative, whose suit was made entirely of cedar boughs laid and tacked as close as feathers on a bird, and a cap of dunce shape, which was made of cedar bark and totally overlaid with twigs.  This man also carried a little cedar saw made from cedar wood.  The prize was a silk handkerchief neatly hand worked.  The booby prize, a little rubber doll, was voted to Matt Jones, the fat man padded on stomach, breast, and stern with three pillows.

“The Foresters of the Woodmen headed by Chief Will Taylor, in their uniforms with shouldered axes made a very good showing in the Grand March. The Woodmen thank the community for liberal patronage, and the people who participated in turn thank the camp for the good enjoyment rendered. The supper provided by the Northern Hotel was a toothsome spread—63 people were served.”

The masked ball became an annual event and, when there were more families in the area, a summer picnic was also a great success. I also found evidence that the Woodmen aided members in challenging circumstances, such as illness.

Woodmen in “Bee” for Sick Brother ~ Itasca News 10-15-1921

“On Saturday, the word was passed around for a ‘bee’ to be held Sunday on the new farm of Joe Venne. 5 miles out on the Cohasset Road, and at 7 o’clock in the morning a crew of 25 MWA men and eight teams of horses started out for the brotherly act.  A full day was put in faithfully and as the sun slanted the tree shadows across the opening two acres of the new farm which Mr. Venne had cleared through the summer laid with its seed under beautifully plowed, and three more acres shone smooth and clean where before was brush amd stumps. 

“One hundred pounds of dynamite was used in the stumping, which together with the fuse and caps, was furnished by Woodmen members who could not be present at the ‘bee.’ As the visit was a surprise, and not to create any extra work in the Venne household, the men all brought lunch with them.”

MWA Picnic Day was Town Holiday ~ Itasca News 6-23-1923

“The annual picnic of the local lodge of Modern Woodmen held Wednesday at Deer Lake was the greatest success from the point of attendance and patronage ever recorded by a like event in this section of the state.  Nearly every person in town was out to the lake at some time of the day, and every business place in the town except the post office was closed part or all of the day. 

“Hundreds of autos lined the road between town and the lake all day and most of the night and throngs of the vehicles were parked on the lake shore all day.  The six-piece Grand Rapids orchestra playing for the dance in the evening was pronounced one of the finest of this section and the dance was a big feature of the program.  The Woodmen is a pioneer unit of Deer River and is now receiving due recognition.”

MWA in Bigfork

Beginning in March 1905, several events were held in Bigfork in hopes of starting a Modern Woodmen of America camp. However, it wasn’t until October that a local MWA organized. “Last Saturday night the Woodmen boys got together and commenced organization proceedings. There were sixteen all told who entered – a very creditable start and considering the timber the Camp is sure to be pushed forward with vigor and become a success as it certainly should be and will be.  As it was a late hour before business could be commenced the meeting was cut short – but while it lasted, under the able management of Messrs. C.M. King and Levi Cochran it was both interesting and instructive.  Next Saturday evening it is desired that all new members and others who intend entering should be present.  We should also welcome all other Woodmen to this meeting.  You should all make it a point to be there at 8 o’clock sharp when business will commence.  At 12 o’clock a supper will be spread.  Remember the date, Saturday, Oct. 28.” [Bigfork Settler 10-10-1905]

The Bigfork camp, impressed by the success of Deer River’s annual Mask Ball, decided to have a New Year’s Eve dance in 1907.

Woodmen Dance a Grand Success ~ Bigfork Settler 1-2-1908

“A rare treat was given the lovers of dancing at the Woodland Hotel last Tuesday night when one hundred guests gathered there and commenced dancing at nine o’clock.  The evening was an ideal one for such an occasion, and this, in connection with the good sleighing, afforded an excellent opportunity for visitors from neighboring towns to be present and our north neighbor, Effie, was well represented, there being about fifteen couples from that town.  Sixty-five tickets were sold and the spacious dining room in the hotel was the scene of a moving mass of humanity when the music started, and the merry throng glided over the floor in accord to the hilarious strains from the violin and piano.  The best of order prevailed throughout the entire evening and the floor manager, Joseph Rahier, also the committeemen, deserved much credit for the satisfactory manner in which the affair was conducted.  At 4:30 a.m. the ‘Home Sweet Home,’ waltz concluded the evening’s entertainment and as the crowd separated each and all declared that the Woodmen of this place might well feel proud of the occasion as it was the most pleasant social event in the history of Bigfork.”

The Bigfork newspapers were sometimes hit and miss, but it appears that the MWA did not take hold or did not last long in that community.  In February 1925, C.R. Skiff, an active member from Little Fork, was in town for the purpose of reorganizing the Woodmen Lodge. “The State Deputy’s attention was attracted to such a movement here and it is under his direction that Mr. Skiff is acting in this capacity.  Anyone desiring information will find him ready and willing to answer their inquiries.” [Bigfork Settler 2-19-1925]

Final Notes

Most of my research ends about 1930, and I do not have information as to whether a WMA was re-established in Bigfork, but I do know that the Deer River WMA continued to have the Mask Ball through 1929.

Woodmen Mask Ball was Well Attended ~ Deer River News 2-28-1929

“The annual mask ball given by the Deer River Camp No. 8616, Modern Woodmen of America, at the school gymnasium last Friday evening drew a splendid crowd and was a very enjoyable affair.  The floor was filled with dancers and the gallery packed with spectators. Gross receipts were approximately $270. Over $200 was received from the sale of tickets, nearly $40 from the lunch and the remainder from rentals of costumes.

Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Harstad won the prize waltz, with Mr. and Mrs. H.H. Parameter their opponents in the final elimination.  Prize for best lady’s costume was awarded Miss Signa Suomalainen, on an impersonation of Martha Washington.  H.J. DeWitt of Jesse Lake won first on gentlemen’s costume, with a ‘King of Hearts,’ regalia.  The most comic costume was awarded Wm. Truempler on a clever impersonation of Farmer Corntasseled.”

8.1.2021 ~ archived

[originally published 9.22.2019]

Resorts with a History ~ Wildwood 

There are nine lakes in Itasca County named Bass Lake.  The smallest is less than 20 acres and the largest, where Wildwood Resort is located is nearly 3000 acres!  According to the 1930 Itasca County Booster Fishing Contest the following fishermen from Wildwood Lodge had winning entries:

2nd Prize for Black Bass ~ Harland Wells 4 lb, 10 oz

1st Prize for Blue Gill ~ Allen Heddle 1lb, 9 oz

2nd Prize for Blue Gill ~ O.A. Johnson 1lb, 8 oz

1st Prize for the best string of three Blue Gill ~ O.A. Johnson

Based on historical research, Wildwood Lodge, owned by the Jesse Jellison family, was one of the first resorts on Bass Lake in Cohasset.  Another early resort, across from Wildwood called Baker’s Shady Nook, was owned by Christopher and Mabel (Jellison) Baker.   At one time Jesse Jellison owned considerable acreage around the lake.

In the Beginning

Jesse Jellison, a Civil War veteran and his wife Ell Dora homesteaded 160 acres on the west side of Bass Lake in 1894.  Clyde Jellison was only three years old when he and the rest of the family took the train from Duluth not long after the birth of the youngest child, Melvin.

In the early1980s, Clyde’s daughters Shirley and Ruth compiled his memories into a family history entitled This is Where I Belong. One of his first memories at the homestead was ‘the well incident.’  The well was up off the ground about two feet and partially covered with wood. “I was laying on that deck, on my stomach sailing a toy boat in the water.  All the sudden I fell in!  I started yelling and hollering.  My sister Mabel and brother Clarence came and pulled me out!”

Jesse was always looking at land as he hunted and fished to feed the family. After ‘proving up’ on his homestead, he bought acreage further north on a point of land (now called Shoemaker Point).  He built a second home and moved the family. In the fall of 1903, the entire household was very sick with typhoid fever and the oldest son Bryon died. Jesse and Ell Dora decided to move closer to Cohasset so they could see a doctor if needed.  In the spring Jesse purchased 450 acres from T.B. Walker on the south end of the lake.

The Jellison belongings were moved on an 8’ x 20’ flatboat barge that Jesse devised and ‘sailed’ down the lake.  He built their third home on Bass Lake from timbers that had been replaced on the government dam on the Mississippi River. 

In 1908, at the age of 63, Jesse died of cancer.  His two oldest sons, Clarence 19, and Clyde 17 did what their father had hoped to do with them – they set up a steam engine sawmill and named the enterprise Wildwood.  “We would ask questions from fellows who knew, and they would give us information on how to do this and that until we got it running. After a year or so, we bought a planer.  We never had any trouble selling the lumber.”

Tragedy struck the family again in the winter of 1914 when the Jellison house was destroyed by a fire. Ell Dora and Clarence were the only ones home at the time, and very little was saved. With plenty of lumber from the sawmill, Clarence and Clyde constructed a new two-story home.  This structure has remained the residence for all the owners of Wildwood Lodge and a gathering place for resort guests.

Ruth (Jellison) Dickie is a granddaughter of Jesse and Ell Dora.  Her father is Clyde.  Ruth was born years after Wildwood Lodge had been sold but offered her thoughts on the beginnings of that family resort. “My Dad and uncle Clarence would have built the original few cabins at Wildwood. I remember dad telling that he and his brother were guides for people for hunting and fishing. I don’t think they had many cabins at that time and Uncle Clarence ran the place when dad went into WWI, 1918-1919.”

A lengthy article in the 6-13-1925 issue of the Itasca Independent newspaper focused on the advancement of resorts in the Grand Rapids area, specifically referencing Bass Lake. Baker’s Shady Nook, operated by C.W. Baker adjoining his farm home there.  Mr. Baker has several cottages and they hope to have several cabins soon.  They have quite a fleet of good boats, camping grounds and other accommodations.

Farther up the lake Jellison Bros. have a number of cottages at the Jellison home place, and they have boats, bait, camping grounds, etc., and take care of good crowds. Aside from being a good fishing lake, Bass Lake is the haunt of ducks and in season these resorts take care of hunting parties as well as fishing parties.”

In the late 1920s, Wildwood Lodge was sold to Albert and Ella Nusbaum.  The Nusbaums had been guests at the resort and moved up from Waterville, Minnesota.  Clarence and Clyde continued in construction and resorting.

On September 21, 1927 Clyde married Dorothy Jones and they started the Little Bass Camp on Little Bass Lake.  A month later Clarence married Dorothy’s sister, Orva and they established the Jellison Log Cabin Camp on Bass Lake. 

In Between Years 1929-1999

So often the details of the owners between a resort’s initial development and the current owners is hard to come by.  I believe this list includes but is not limited to the owners from about 1929-1999:  Albert and Ella Nusbaum, Charley and Peg Keller, Harold and Eleanora ‘Jan’ Bemis, Martin and Shirley Van Hout, Steve and Jane Mueske, and Mike and Marilyn Whiteis.

A postcard from September 1950, during the Nusbaum ownership reads, “Our good friends, greetings from land of lakes and pines.  This is a picture of lodge where we are, have had wonderful summer and we are real well.  Quite cool nights, but lovely.  Lots of fish and vegetables having fresh strawberries to use.  Had wild blueberries too.”

Ruth shared a bear story from the Bemis ownership. “Mr. and Mrs. Bemis came up early each spring to get the resort ready.  One morning, before we left for school in about 1955, Harold called our place and asked if my brother Wayne could come help him hang and skin the bear he had just shot. My mom also went and filmed the whole thing.  Then Mrs. Bemis baked a couple big bear roasts and fed a meal to everyone in the area that evening.”

Doug Van Arkel is a guest who stayed during this span of  years.  He came to Wildwood from Iowa every summer from the age of one to sixteen.  He treasured the one-on-one time with his dad, especially in the fishing boat, and being with his cousins.  He and his wife, Linda brought their own children up in the 1970s thru the 1990s.  And because Bass Lake holds so many positive memories for them, the Van Arkels built a home on the lake in 2000.  “One thing that hasn’t changed,” Doug says, “is the narrows. This channel that connects the north and south basin is the same as when my dad and I traveled it in a wooden boat with a 3 or 4 hp motor.  There are no homes or cabins. It’s thick with wild rice and other vegetation. Navigating the narrows is challenging but that’s the beauty of it – you are forced to slow down, look around and enjoy undisturbed nature.”

Jay and Kim Jamtgaard 1999

“Jay and I spent our honeymoon on Lake Vermillion and that’s when we got the bug,” Kim Jamtgaard said.  She and Jay had business degrees and enjoyed managing a restaurant but still yearned for the woods. They started looking in earnest in late 1998. “We came up on our days off, talked to realtors and looked at resorts. There was a purchase agreement already on the table, but we liked what was written about Wildwood and we went to see it anyway.  We knew we wanted it the minute we drove down the driveway.” It truly was meant for Jay and Kim.  The deal fell through for the other purchaser and everything came together for the Jamtgaards.

The summer of 1999 was their first year as resort owners. “It was literally trial by fire,” Kim explained.  “We had a good business background and people skills, but we hadn’t even owned a home – the guys at Burgraf’s Ace hardware taught us a lot! And thank goodness Wildwood had been well maintained for decades before us.”

One of the things that appealed to Jay and Kim was that the resort had a strong family vacation emphasis.  Bass Lake is known for its fishing, but the sandy beach provides swimming and other water activities for all ages. Jay and Kim are grateful they have raised their two daughters in such a beautiful environment.

“We have generations of families that come together and have their own traditions.” Kim said. “There are many guests who have had the same cabin and same week for as far back as they can remember. One of our earliest guests our first season is still the oldest to return to Wildwood. John McCaw is 102 years wise and grew up on a farm in Cohasset. He and his wife, Maxine, raised their family in Des Moines, IA.  When we met them John and Maxine, had been coming to Bass Lake resorts for decades. He is full of stories and would often tear up while telling them. My favorite story was about a time during the polio scare that they were staying at Baker’s resort.

“John tells of being out fishing one afternoon and was dozing in the boat.  He had a dream about Maxine standing on shore and calling to him to come back to the resort. He immediately returned to the resort to find out that their youngest child had spiked a fever. Maxine had been praying for him to return from fishing. John and Maxine stopped coming to the resort in early 2000s because the trip had become too difficult at their age.  A few years ago, we were surprised by a call from John who booked a cabin for a week in September.  He told us his kids didn’t want him to come up but he was coming up with or without them!  He was 99 that year. He just left last week after another week with us. He (and now his children) is a gift to us.

“Our relationship with our guests is the real blessing of this life. Each week brings back longtime guests who we look forward to seeing.  Most weeks also bring new guests who bring the fun of new acquaintance. Every week is a bit of a neighborhood reunion since most guests haven’t seen their ‘neighbors’ since their visit at Wildwood the year before.” 

The potluck is popular among many of the resorts which focus on family.  At Wildwood, the tradition included a recipe. “I was given the goulash recipe and was told it was an expected as part of the weekly potluck,” Kim said. “So, I have been making goulash about ten times a summer for twenty years!” 

In 2004 the Jamtgaards made the decision to begin taking down cabins and rebuilding them with more modern and energy efficient structures.  They wanted to operate the resort year around.  By 2014 all of the cabins had been replaced.  “We saved the old windows and a lot of the furnishings,” Kim said, “and if a guest requested something that was meaningful to them, we let them have it.”

The windows were an inspiration for Carol and Dale Niska. Their family at one time took up nearly the entire resort with their eleven adult children and families. Carol painted some of the original cabins, and Dale framed them using the window as a frame. “They are really lovely and are hanging in cabins by their original number,” Kim said. “I still have more windows and will find a way to use them. Carol passed away in 2009 so the windows are precious to us.”

The Jamtgaards are very happy with the decision they made twenty years ago and plan to continue at Wildwood. Kim enthusiastically says, “We love our life. The relationships we have with guests are priceless. We get second degree joy by seeing families happy and having fun.”

7.25.2021

Resorts with a History ~ Sunset Point

What is the most common name of a lake in Itasca County? If you guessed Bass Lake, you are correct.  If you guessed Spring Lake, you are also correct. They are tied for first place with nine lakes each.  The smallest Bass Lake is 18 acres, and the largest is 2,713.

Sunset Point Resort has been owned by the Schumacher family for 52 years. It is one of a dozen resorts that have surrounded the largest Bass Lake, about two miles north of Cohasset, since the early 1920s. Presently there are five resorts, and this is the second one featured in my series “Resorts with a History.” The other is Wildwood Lodge. [9-22-2019 Grand Rapids Herald-Review]

Rockels 1930-mid 1940s

Emil Otto Rockel was born in 1886 in Minneapolis shortly after his parents immigrated from Germany to Minnesota. He married Ethel Hamlin in 1908, and somehow the couple became acquainted with the Jellison family of Bass Lake.  When the Rockels hunting and fishing trips north became more frequent, they decided to purchase some land near their friends. They purchased the land that is now Sunset Point in the late 1920s. The two parcels had originally been homesteaded by lumbermen W.W. Hale and John Martin.

It is believed that before the Rockels bought the property, a house, a barn, and a bunkhouse for hired help had been constructed. It was an industrious farm which at various times had produced potatoes, grains, hay, and Christmas trees.  Emil put up a house and had one or two cabins available for the 1930 summer season. The following spring, the resort is listed in a Grand Rapids Directory as having housekeeping cabins and a campground. Sunset Point was also highlighted in an article about Bass Lake resorts in the Grand Rapids Herald-Review along with four others – Baker’s Shady Nook, Camp Kerr, Whispering Pines, and Wildwood Lodge.

“Sunset Point is one of the newer resorts of the county but is rapidly gaining a reputation as a pleasant place for an outing.  E.O. Rockel is the owner and manager, and he has done a great deal of work since acquiring this place some two or three years ago. Timber has been cut out, brush cut and burned, cottages erected and furnished, the beach improved, and changes made to the road leading to the resort.   This has taken time and cost money, but results are now apparent.  This resort is just a short distance away from the shoal where the famous big blue gills averaging a pound each, are caught.”

An advertisement from 1932 states the following about Sunset Point. “6 housekeeping cabins with ice, bedding linen, silver, boat, heat, and oil at $5 a day, $22 a week, $60 a month. Guides, $5 a day. Season, May 15th to December 15th.”

The documentation is vague, but it is believed that a man by the name of Russ Haberkorn, from Minneapolis, either owned or managed the resort in 1945-1946.

Fishers 1947-1969

Kurt Fisher was born in Germany as was his wife, Louise.  They both immigrated in 1926, but I do not know if they knew each other before they arrived in the United States. Kurt and Louise married in 1929 and according to the 1930 and 1940 United States Census they were living in Cincinnati, Ohio where Kurt was employed as a machinist.

The Fishers might have been guests at Sunset Point or other resorts in the area, or perhaps they saw an advertisement that the property was for sale. They bought the resort from Haberkorn (or Rockel) in about 1947. It was during this time that the Fuller Fishing Contest, which had started in Grand Rapids in 1930, was in full swing. A wall in the resort garage was once covered with completed entry forms from this time.

The contest sponsored by Fuller’s Tackle Shop, annually published Fuller’s Blue Book, in which they registered

fish weight. Resorts and local businesses contributed money for prizes and advertising. They also served as weigh stations, and the details were documented and displayed on a poster board form. Each entry noted the type of fish, its official weight, where it was caught, bait used, who caught it, their home address, the resort where they were staying, the date caught, and any local guide’s name.

Bass Lake is known for large bluegills, sometimes referred to as dinner plate bluegills.  One of the entries from the late 1940s that is still posted at the resort is for a two-pound, 9 oz. bluegill caught by a man from Creve Coeur, IL, using worms for bait.

The Fishers described the 14 cottages in their brochure. “They are completely modern with hot and cold running water, inside flush toilets, and some units with private showers. Central showers for cottages without shower facilities. Each cottage has an apartment size gas stove with oven for cooking, gas heat, electric refrigerators, good innerspring mattresses, blankets, and linens. Everything is furnished except towels.  The cottage porches are glassed in. Rates: 1 bedroom $45/week; 2 bedroom $65; 3 bedroom $90-$100; rollaway $5.”

Jean Graul, started coming to Sunset Point Resort from Indiana in 1960 when she was eight. “My father’s sister had been to Wildwood and recommended it, but when we were ready for our vacation, they had no openings there. We got a cabin at Sunset and just kept coming back!” Jean remembers the Fishers as strict, but kind. “Mr. Fisher made sure there were plenty of large inner tubes for us to play on. Mrs. Fisher had a big garden and for the weekly potluck that the resort offered, she served fresh produce and homemade wiener schnitzel.” 

Schumacher Family ~ 1969-present

Wayne Schumacher lived on Bass Lake from the age six. In 1937 his family moved to the paternal grandfather’s dairy farm on the west side of the lake. Wayne grew up fishing, hunting, trapping, and harvesting wild rice. He loved everything the lake had to offer and couldn’t imagine living very far from it. In 1969, when Wayne learned that the Fishers wanted to sell their resort, he and his wife Katy figured out a way to make it happen. The young couple moved into the old farmhouse with sons Dale and Dave, and six-year-old daughter Gayle.

The original cabins built by Rockel were one room.  The Fishers added the enclosed porches and bedrooms. “My dad added on showers,” Gayle (Schumacher) Anderson explained. “He also combined two cabins so we have one with four bedrooms. All of the cabins are sided with shiplap and painted white with red trim. ‘Just the way they are supposed to be,’ many of our guests have said.”

Wayne enjoyed entertaining the kids with his Donald Duck impression and spending time with guests. He was the fishing guide, fishhook remover, fish deboner, and fish fryer extraordinaire of Sunset Point for forty-two years. After his wife Katy died, Wayne met and married Dianna. Though catering to guests was a new experience, she adjusted to the resort life and assisted Wayne until his death in 2011.

He wanted everyone’s fishing experience to be memorable. Dianna explained, “We took people out and he’d teach beginners how to fish, how to put the bait on, how to catch them, and how to clean and debone them. Wayne loved to visit with guests and spent a lot of time helping them in the fish house.”

“My dad knew how to take the bones out of every kind of fish in this lake,” Gayle said.  “No matter what guests caught (including bullheads and the occasional dogfish), Dad prepared them at the weekly fish fry. He encouraged guests to try fish they were not familiar with. One of the ways he encouraged guests to try northern pike was as pickled fish. He shared his pickled fish recipe with many guests over the years.”

A July 2021 guest reflected on the many years his life overlapped with Wayne’s. “He had a passion for the outdoors and was very much an environmentalist. He incorporated stories about nature in everyday conversation, and he included the beauty of the woods in his prayers.”  Gayle added, “a guest said to me recently, ‘you know if I were to list the five people in my life that I am glad to have met, your dad would be one of them.  He forgot more than I know!’”

Like her father, Gayle loved growing up on the lake. “I got out of my pajamas and into my swimsuit and at the end of the day back into my pajamas.”  When she was a kid, she got to be a kid.  “At night the resort kids and I would fish for bullheads at the end of the dock. We’d lay on our bellies, let the worm drop to the bottom, no bobber, and just pull them up. In the morning Dad would ask, ‘How many fish do I have to clean today?’ I spent time with the resort kids during the day, too.  We loved those big inner tubes and had so much fun on them, though they were only to be used on the grounds, never in the water.” But she spent plenty of time in the water – swimming and boating.

As she got older Gayle helped clean cabins, boats and maintain the grounds.  “We always washed the rugs with the wringer washer and still do today.” Gayle and her kids Jake and Katie spent part of every summer at the resort. Gayle returned to the resort when her dad became ill and manages it now with help from family and friends who also have rich histories with the resort. Her husband David, who is a pastor at St. Andrews Lutheran Church assists as needed and when he can.

Sunset Point has always been a seasonal resort which works well for Gayle as she is an RN for the Invest Early Project and has reduced hours in the summer.  “I love the resort,” Gayle said. “It’s not a business, it’s a family reunion!  We have guests, like Jean’s family that have been coming for more than sixty years and bringing several generations with them.” Gayle grew up with some of the guests who were at the resort when I visited, and who remembered catching bullheads with her at night.

A tradition started by the Fishers, or maybe even earlier, is the potluck. “Every Wednesday we provide beverages, and we fry the fish, that guests bring to us.”  Guest also bring a dish to share, and some of those dishes have become summer favorites. “There’s a taco salad that must come one week, a wild rice hotdish another, and a sour cream raisin pie another. Jean’s family always brings a delicious custard pie.”

Most families have their own traditions, starting with their preferred time slot and preferred cabin. Fishing contests among or between families are always a favorite, especially when it isn’t just about how many or how big, but how many different species can we catch and release in a given period of time. “Some family traditions start when they leave and begin their countdown of the number of days until they come here again!”

“Everybody gets excited when they hit the dirt road to the resort.” The windows are rolled down as the car slowly drives the last ½ mile under the poplar and sugar maple canopy. Around the last corner is the resort. The doors fly open, and the Sunset Point memories begin again.

Note: The previously published Wildwood Lodge article will be on the blog chrismarcottewrites.com on Sunday August 8.

7.18.2021 ~ archived

[originally published 8.31.2017]

Resorts with a History ~ Anchor Inn

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

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

The Name

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

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

The Osufsens

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Chaplins

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Kittermans

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.11.2021

Resorts with a History ~ Dixon Lake

This is the fourth summer I have written about resorts that were started early in Itasca County’s tourist industry and are still in business today.  Two of them, Anchor Inn on Sand Lake, and Hide-Away on Deer Lake northeast of Effie, are celebrating 100 years this summer!

The resorts showcased in 2021 were established in the early 1930s. Over the next several months I will be highlighting Sunset Point, Little Bass, Little Winnie, Big Timber (formerly Pine Crest Camp), and several owned by the Christie family on Bowstring Lake. If you have any memories of these resorts, please contact me 218-244-2127, reminiscewithchris@yahoo.com or at my blog chrismarcottewrites.com

The Beginning of Dixon Lake Resort

Dixon Lake Resort may be the oldest resort in Itasca County that is still in operation. It is rumored that in 1912, Henry Greene’s guests were Mr. and Mrs. William “Schmitty” Schmitz, prosperous grocers from Chicago. Though it is unclear how they knew Greene, Schmitty and Helen came for a couple weeks, spent their days on the lake fishing, and their nights in a chicken coop that Greene had converted into a cabin!

Greene, a farmer from Granite Falls, Minnesota, filed on a homestead on 160 acres in Alvwood Township in about 1899. Sometime before 1902, Greene acquired the Dixon Lake property from Frank Reardon and had decided to build a stopping place for newly arriving immigrants and settlers. Like many of the other stopping places in northern Itasca County, word of mouth was all the advertising that was needed.

The Arnt Jamtaas family moved from Minneapolis to their homestead property in 1902, and their son Oliver recalls where they went after they got off the train in Bena. “The third day brought us to our destination for the winter, the Henry Green[e] place that is now [was until 1969] the Weisert Resort on Dixon Lake. Henry was a bachelor and had a large log house in the side of a hill with both the first and second floor on ground level.  He lived on the first floor and our family consisting of Mother, Father and us twins on the second floor.  Henry was an expert at making baking powder biscuits, a standby in the homestead days to stir up quickly when unexpected company dropped in for dinner.” [Oliver Jamtaas (1897-1983) wrote, The Memories of a Pioneer, a history of his family when he was in his seventies.]

There is nothing documented about when Greene made the transition from a stopping place to a lodge for fishermen and hunters, but resort folklore does give the year 1912, as the time he had guests who were there to fish. Others with large lodge type structures began catering to outdoor enthusiasts about this same time.  It is not known how many people Greene could accommodate in the lodge or how often the chicken coop was used as a cabin.  It wasn’t long before Greene built a few one room cabins for guests coming from as far away as Indiana and Nebraska. He supplied a kerosene light in the middle of the room, a wood stove, and a bucket for water.

Weisert Family ~ 1919-1969

In 1919, when Greene was 76 years old, he sold the Dixon Lake property to Charles Weisert for $3000. Weisert and Greene were both born in New York, so there is a possibility that they knew each other. I did not find an advertisement that it was for sale, and the Weiserts had resided in North Dakota until at least September 12, 1918, when Charles registered for the draft. At any rate, Weisert, his wife Margaret, and their ten children were living in a home they owned, but is mortgaged, (at Dixon Lake) on the 1920 United States Census.

It is believed that the Weiserts arrived early enough in 1919 to get a vegetable garden planted and construct a two-story framed house with a large porch for their family.  After building the house Weisert and his sons began constructing additional cabins.

According to Ginger Gabrelcik (she and husband Dick were the third owners), the Greene Lodge had burned down before the Weiserts bought the property.  Ginger explained that cabin number 1, had been the old Dixon Schoolhouse. The records of the school district indicate that Dixon School was in operation from 1906-1922. School buildings that were no longer needed were often sold to the highest bidder. Dixon School was hauled across the lake to the Weisert property in the winter as it was much easier to move buildings on ice and snow than by the crude roads through the woods.

In 1960, when he was in his eighties, Charlie Weisert sold the property to his son William and his wife Myrtle for $3800. Nine years later, they sold the resort.

Gabrelcik Family ~ 1969-1980

Dick and Ginger Gabrelcik had been coming up to Lake Winnibigoshish to camp since the early 1960s. “We loved the area and decided on a whim let’s make a change,” said Ginger. “Buy a small resort and raise our boys, Rick, Todd and Troy in the northland. Give ourselves a couple years and if we found it wasn’t for us just go back home to Delano.” Dixon Resort had seven cabins and an old house with a few issues (one of them being bats!), but the Gabrelcik family were excited about their decision.

Ginger provided an overview of their resort experiences. “We made part of the old house into a lodge when we built our earth home into the hill where Greene’s place once stood.” The fireplace in their home was constructed by local stone mason Robert Goltz. The rock was all handpicked from a nearby pit and it was chipped by hand.

“There was no water to the cabins, only the bathhouse had water for showers and toilets and there were outhouses of course. I guess you could say we had real hardy folks for guests. Our first 3-4 years were spent in improvements. We renovated and upgraded one cabin at a time and built a fish cleaning house. The lodge was the first project. We sold beer, lots of it over the bar, plus pizzas, sandwiches, and soup.” Everyone enjoyed potluck meals, so they facilitated those in the lodge on a regular basis.

“Our time at the resort was a great adventure. Our guests over the years, mostly farmers from southern Minnesota, Iowa and Indiana, became good friends and close like family. We learned so much from them. Life on Dixon Lake in a smaller resort business of the 1970s was a simpler time. No comparison to the Dixon Lake resort of the 2000s. Yet some things never change – good fellowship, making new friends and happy times, along with lots of hard work.”

Many Owners ~ 1980-2007

As is often the case, when a resort doesn’t remain in a family, there are multiple owners. Many folks dream of owning a resort but don’t have a clear understanding of how much work it can be. After the Gabrelciks, there was a succession of owners, Tom and Bonnie Hendricks, Steve and Connie Vesey, Ron Crapser, and Lyle and Kathryn Wallentine.

The Wallentines bought the Dixon Lake property in 1995, with the goal of taking the old fishing resort, which had catered to men for eighty years and creating a family destination.  Thus, they made significant changes – starting with the main house and lodge. They re-sided the cabins with cedar siding, built two new cabins, and brought in some mobile homes for rentals. More bedrooms, a playground, and improved beach became a focal point for families, and Kathryn started up a variety of children’s activities.  The Wallentines were successful in their goal to include families and had Dixon Resort for twelve years.

Christensen Family ~ 2007-present

For Roger and Sharon, and their son Todd and his wife Karen, it was the ten miles of forest-lined gravel road that convinced them this was the resort.

The two couples had successfully started and owned a punch press business affiliated with poured wall construction for more than 10 years. “We always said running a resort would be our next adventure,” Karen explained. When an opportunity to sell presented itself, the Christensens started looking at resorts. They explored twelve in Wisconsin and Minnesota, but “it was the towering pine trees that sealed the deal,” Karen said. “We wanted a resort with the real up north feeling and an emphasis on families. In early 2007 we found Dixon Lake Resort. Both families, along with our young daughters, Samantha and Emily, moved from the sticks to the boonies.”  

When the Christensen’s bought the resort, there were nine cabins and 39 seasonal campsites. They made plans for improvements and worked together to accomplish them. They winterized a few of the cabins, put the power lines underground, and added cable TV. They refinished the lodge floor, built a roof over the front deck, and put steel roofing on the lodge. They also put a steel roof on the oldest building still standing – a storage shed which probably goes back to the early 1920s since part of it was used as the icehouse.  Now there are 12 cabins and 47 seasonal RV spots.

“We had heard that there had been a still in the basement of the Weisert house, and that some guests appreciated this.  One of the guests liked to go up to the barn to see the horses, but really so he could drink,” Karen shared with a laugh. “We found evidence of the still when we were putting in new water lines.  Part of the basement foundation and the pipes from the still laying against the concrete.”

The Christensens are now into their 14th year and are as happy as the day they moved in. “Guests have become family and we look forward to seeing them. It’s been a wonderful place for our daughters to grow up.  They have helped us since they were young and are an important part of our family business. Sammy and Emily grew up cleaning cabins, serving meals, launching boats, running craft time and being one of the attractions as all their little friends showed up on Friday.”

Most folks come for the same week each year, some go right to their cabin and stop to visit later. There are family reunions with one group now needing most of the cabins. A handful of guests and campers have been coming to the area for over fifty years.

A recent 74-year-old guest requested his old cabin – number 3.  He shared that he had first come to the resort at least seventy years ago, when he was still in diapers during the Weisert ownership. He recalled that when he was about ten, he and his dad would go out fishing every day and catch lots of sunfish. They would fry them for supper and for dessert they’d have fresh berry pies his mom loved to make. That was their vacation.   

The Christensens have added a few more family activities, one of the favorites with young and old is arts and crafts. “I always have to make sure I have enough supplies for the moms or grandmothers who join their kids, as they don’t just come to help, but to make their own!” The projects are unique and always use elements in nature. Projects through the years adorn the walls of the lodge. Karen is very artistic as evidenced throughout the lodge, including the elaborate murals on the walls and in the bait room.

The 4th of July is always a big event at the resort. “We roast a pig and have a potluck which includes our neighbors around the lake.  There are games and races, a bocce ball competition and of course a boat parade on the water, and a bicycle and 4-wheeler parade on land.”

As far as the future, Karen says, “We always planned on at least 20 years as we would like to travel, but who knows, we could be here until we are 82!”

4TH OF JULY CELEBRATIONS 1900-1904

7.4.2021 [archived ~ originally published 7.2.2015]

The Fourth of July celebrations in the community of Deer River had started with picnics at various farms.  In 1900 the Itasca Lumber Company brought passengers from the village, five miles north to the farm of Mr. and Mrs. James Woodward, and back in time for a dance at Churchill’s Hall. 

“At the long table in the grove about one hundred persons, comprising stalwart men and blushing maids, tanned and grey tillers of the soil and matronly mothers, businessmen and their wives, the town chaps and the fresh girls, amid the cheering chatter of the sunny-faced offspring, touched elbows and broke bread in merriment and drank to the continued success of the thriving people in a new land.  The enjoyment, to say the least, was beyond anything ever attempted by Deer River’s farming element and it goes a long way toward showing what it will amount to in a few years hence.  Too much praise cannot be sounded in Mr. and Mrs. Woodward’s behalf for their diligence in setting a pace so successfully for future occasions.” [Itasca News 7-7-1900]

Another year a gathering was held at the Sullivan farm, which included a supper furnished by the ladies of the village, proceeds of which were to benefit the church.  There were organized committees for this celebration, but as pointed out by the Itasca News, “We have not learned that any oratory, nor recitations have been provided for, the management evidently believing that such features would be odious for Deer River anyhow.  But in the main will be a good old-fashioned time with lots of fun and friendliness, good cheer, and good crowd.”

By 1903 Deer River did have definite plans “The day will open with a salute of thirteen guns at sunrise, followed by a call-champion parade at 10 o’clock.  In the afternoon there will be races of all kinds – horse, pony, foot, sack, hurdle, potato races for boys and girls and races for fat men.  The gun club will have a grand sweepstake shoot, open to all comers.  In the evening there will be a display of fireworks, and a grand ball will be given in the Robinson Hall.  Come out and come all and have one of the best times of your life in this neck of the woods.” [Itasca News 6-27-1903]

A torrential downpour prevented many of the planned activities, but by late afternoon the horses raced on slippery mud.  They didn’t make good time but made plenty of excitement.  “Jake Reiglesberger and young Tibbetts, going opposite directions on horses, had a collision which was very liable to be a fatality as both were under good speed.  The riders were both thrown to the ground.  Tibbets was unhurt, but Reiglesberger was confined to his bed several days.  He is now able to walk a little but has a badly swollen leg which will lay him up for a couple weeks yet.” [Itasca News 7-11-1903] The Tibbetts horseman took second place and a cash prize of $10.

The fireworks display was also curtailed, but the dance was well attended.  The crowd was large, the music good and it was 3 a.m. when the dancing stopped.  “Enough enjoyment was had to convince Deer River she can furnish her own celebrations to complete satisfaction every Fourth hereafter.” [Itasca News 7-11-1903]

So, in 1904 the Deer River community solicited funds from citizens and businessmen, and organized an impressive program as detailed in the Itasca News 6-25-1904.

“GRAND SALUTE 3:00 A.M.

Opening Address by Village President Murry J. Taylor, at Grandstand in school ground at 10:00 A.M.

Reading – “Declaration of Independence,” by Miss Opal Skallerud

Song – “America,” by the people

Oration – “American Patriotism” by Rev. William G. Fritz

11:20 – Grand Parade, Calithumpian Band

11:40 – 50 yard dash, Ladies Running Race.  Prizes: first $3, second $2, third $1

Noon – Lunch all day at the church

1:00 – Gun Club, trap shooting contest. Prize, gold medal

2:00 – Log rolling contest. Prize $5

3:00 – Ball Game, Deer River vs Deer Lake.  Prize $20

4:30 – Fat Man’s Race.  First prize $5; second, $3

there were many running, jumping, and sack races for children, prizes $3, $2, $1

5:30 – Horse Race, $15 and $5; Pony Race, $7 and $3

8:30 – Fireworks

9:00 – Woodsman’s Grand Ball, Music by Tony’s Orchestra 

Reports after the celebration stated that the guns and cannons started at 1 a.m. and did not cease until well after daylight. The community singing was expanded to include the “Star Spangled Banner”and “Three Cheers for the Red White and Blue.”“…There was no friction or disorderly conduct noticed throughout the day and it was remarked by everybody that the celebration was a great success. To the general public thanks are due for the liberal donations.”  [Itasca News 7-9-1904]

1904 was a big year for other smaller communities as well.  At Bow String Lake Commissioner-candidate Vance was the speaker, followed by a baseball game.   In Walley, about fifty people gathered at the old Harrison claim on the Big Fork River and enjoyed speeches, games and contests,

In Bigfork plans were made in late May for the Fourth. “Pete Peterson, the saloon man, is making preparations to erect a large pavilion near his place of business for the Fourth.  There will be a good floor to dance on; refreshments of all kinds; there will also be an ice cream and lunch counter, superintended by Mrs. John Peterson.  Henry Vogel, the celebrated comedian and captain of the Bigfork Baseball Nine, will act as floor manager.  Two concerts will be given during the afternoon.  The very best of music that can be had will be there and all those who have musical instruments are requested to bring them along – the more the merrier. Special invitation is given to our neighbor 62-26.” [Bigfork Settler 5-16-1904]

One of the adventures I would surely like to know more about was reported in the Bigfork Settler7-7-1904.

“A party of four consisting of Mrs. O. Wenaus and daughter Effie, Miss Katherine Costello and Orin Patrow left for Big Falls last Thursday evening by boat down the Big Fork River, a distance of over one hundred miles by this route.  They will spend the Fourth at that place and return the same way – how long they will be in getting back we may only conjecture.”

The group left on June 30th, and if they arrived in Big Falls on July 3rd, would have gone 30-40 miles a day traveling with the current.  I concur with the editor of the Bigfork Settler. Just how long did it take them to return to Effie and Bigfork?

6.27.2021

A Bear in the Berry Patch

Blueberries and Raspberries

My great-grandfather Edward Scheer, homesteaded just outside of Bigfork and, because he had a wagon and a team of horses in the early 1900s, was often called upon during blueberry picking season.  He would haul folks to Cameron Lake or Coon Creek, both favorite locations, and pick them up days or even a week later. These ambitious berry pickers would bring everything they needed to can the fruit while they camped.

Lots of Blueberry Picking Parties ~ Bigfork Settler 8-10-1905

“Blueberry picking is one of the chief industries in this section of the country at this time, the crop is fair but the plum and cranberry crops are poor, much poorer than common.

“This year will long be remembered by the Bigfork country people as yielding an exceptionally large crop of mosquitoes and they are as plentiful now, the 10th of August, as they have been any time during the season.  No one who does not live in this country and suffer the pests can imagine what a terror they are.

“The Misses Effie and Emogene Wenus came up from Effie yesterday to join the berry pickers. Messers. Patrow and Ed. Saunders and their wives and Miss Elsie Dakin came up Tuesday bound for the blueberry grounds near Cameron Lake.

“Many blueberry parties are seen going out for a week or so picking excursions these days.  Cameron Lake seems to be the most objective point.”

Clara (Nelson) Stiener was born in 1905, and she remembers picking blueberries and raspberries with family not for fun, but so they would have fruit to eat in the winter. Her parents, John and Emma, homesteaded 77 acres on the northwest side of Deer Lake, and she would help pick berries.

“Now the two kinds which were very good and could be canned readily were the raspberries and blueberries.  The reason we had so many of those two kinds was that the area was burned over often. The settlers didn’t worry about fires starting in the area if it got dry and then fires would travel, leave a large, burned acreage and on this acreage in two years you would find the berries ripening in both blueberry and raspberry areas.  Mother and dad and my sister and I went picking blueberries together. Almost across the lake from our cabin was an open area on which grew beautiful blueberries. In fact, people from Grand Rapids would come out in a bus and stay overnight and pick them.  But we would go across the lake in the morning and come back in the afternoon.  We would have as much as 25-35 quarts of berries with us.  And then, of course, we had to spend time after that cleaning them and picking them over and canning them.  We would have as many as 50 quarts of blueberries canned before the season was over.

“The raspberry patch was over land, so mother and Edna and I walked there.  It was about a mile and a half.    And that also was in a burned over area and our berry picking would last maybe three weeks. We’d start when they started to ripen and then if there was a good amount of rain, they’d carry on for quite a while.  And I remember that we had over 100 quarts of wild red raspberries canned in one season, one particularly good season. On two occasions my mother didn’t mention it to us, but told us afterwards, that when we were in the berry patch, she looked up and she saw a bear eating some berries. Mother said to us, “Get up here and stay right close to me.”  We didn’t know why she said it, but, of course, we did it.  Then later she said she didn’t want us very far from her because she didn’t know how close he would come.  But he disappeared.” [Steiner Family book is in the Itasca County Historical Society Archives] 

I also remember a time when my brothers and sisters and I were picking blueberries with my Grama at great-grampa Scheer’s when a bear was spotted in our berry patch.  Like Clara’s mother, my mom and Grama urged us kids to come closer to them to pick.  It wasn’t until the next morning, when we were eating blueberry pancakes, that they told us there’d been a bear in our midst. I don’t remember if I read the book “Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McCloskey before or after that summer, but I have always thought of one with the other.

Wolfe’s 1920 Blueberry Endeavor

In July 1920, after his duties as superintendent ended for the school year, Professor Horace Wolfe decided to try his hand in an entirely different occupation.  Since wild blueberries had become plentiful in the region, Wolfe decided to procure them to be sold in Minneapolis and southern Minnesota.  He signed on with the Minnetonka Fruit Package Company as a local manager.  The company made crates and shipped blueberries by railroad as far away as orders came from.

Based on the bumper crop of 1919, Wolfe was anticipating this would be a lucrative enterprise. He received a sizeable shipment of crates and put a substantial advertisement in the Itasca News. He explained that six dollars a bushel would be paid for blueberries, and that he would pick up full crates at Deer River, Mack, Jesse Lake and Spring Lake

Unfortunately, 1920 did not yield anything like the previous year. The blueberry crop is very light and picking is hard.  At $6 per bushel there is no profit in picking and very few berries are coming into the market.  There seems no hope of a revival of the crop; there are many berries yet green but lack of rain stunts them.” [Itasca News 8-7-1920]

Wolfe did not try again in 1921, and neither did any other Deer River businessmen.

Record Years

1903

~ “The only requisite needed to have plenty of ‘burries’ put up for the winter is the price of the sugar.  There never was a better crop of berries than this year’s.” [Itasca News 8-1-1903]

1919

~ “Blueberries are a whopper crop and are selling at 10 and 12 cents per quart.  W.J. Gibbs of Inger shipped out 38 cases yesterday.  Raspberries are also a large crop and will be ripe in a week.” [Itasca News 7-12-1919]

~ “The blueberry crop, the largest known to the Indians in this section, is now about at its fullest.  Everywhere blueberries may be seen or smelled.  Indians are bringing them in by the wagon load daily and shipments run from fifty to a hundred bushels a day.  The price paid pickers is $4 per bushel.” [Itasca News 8-2-1919]

1927

~ “Reports from every section of this area are to the effect that all berry crops are the heaviest in years.  The strawberry season is in full swing and producing a large yield.  The blueberry crop also promises heavy. In another ten days their harvest will be general.  Another crop of equal promise is the raspberry.  The late spring held the vines back until all the danger of frost passed.  During the next month thousands of dollars’ worth of blueberries and raspberries will be picked here.  The blueberries are the heaviest crop since 1919.” [Deer River News 7-14-1927]

Fresh Berries

According to Minnesota Grown (https://minnesotagrown.com) and their Facebook page, berries are getting ripe, so wherever you travel in Minnesota, you can find farmer’s markets, roadside stands. and places to pick your own.

Since I do not need to can quarts and quarts of fresh fruit for winter use, I prefer to use fresh blueberries and raspberries right away, often just eating them with granola and yogurt. But how could I say no to Cream Raspberry Pie, especially the version with chocolate ice cream. And it was very good!

Cream Raspberry Pie

From Rural New-Yorker Journal, August 1926

“Line a pie plate with a rich pastry; fill with sweetened raspberries, cover with an upper crust, but do not pinch down.  When cooked, cool the pie, then lift the top crust and pour upon the fruit the following mixture: One cup whole milk, one tablespoon granulated sugar, one-half tablespoon cornstarch, made smooth with a little of the cold milk, and the whites of two eggs beaten stiff.  Scald the milk, add cornstarch and sugar and cook three minutes (until thickened). Add egg whites and chill.  Pour into the pie, place the top crust back in place and set aside to chill.”

Barbara Swell, who included this recipe in her collection, “Old-Time Farmhouse Cooking” (2003), stated that “the suggested cream filling is not good…an insult to fresh summer raspberries.  Fill the cooled pie with softened vanilla or chocolate ice cream instead, and freeze until serving time.”

The Rural New-Yorker was a weekly periodical founded in 1850 and was published for over one hundred years. Its tagline in 1926 was “A journal for the suburban and country home.

I will take my four-year-old grandson to pick berries this summer, though it will be at a berry garden as the patches of my childhood are long gone. He loves all berries, so it won’t matter what we get. He loves muffins, pancakes and ice cream, so whatever we make will be happily eaten. And I think we’ll look for “Blueberries for Sal” on our next trip to the library, after we pick berries!

6.20.2021 ~ archived

[previously posted 6.25.2017 * New Resorts with a History articles begin on 6.27.2021!!]

Resorts With a History ~ An Introduction

Advertisement in June 4, 1925 Itasca News

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. The center of the advertisement displayed a map detailing the location of each listed resort, with the caption “The great resort region of Western Itasca County.  Pick your place.  You can’t choose wrong in ‘Minnesota’s Wonderland.’” Twelve photographs of resort grounds and evidence of successful fishing excursions surround the map.

Remarkably, nine of those resorts are still in operation today, so I decided to highlight them in this special series, Resorts with a History. Anchor Inn, Arcadia Park, Lakewood Lodge, Northland Camps, and Williams Narrows will be featured this summer, and next year I will highlight Cedarwild Lodge, Cut Foot Sioux Inn, Eagles Nest and Pines Resort.

Resort History 1900 – 1925

After the dense forests were opened by lumber companies and loggers, the northern woods became recognized as a desirable place for hunting and fishing.  Small lodging establishments sprung up, offering guide services to those wanting to travel the waterways and traipse the woods in search of fish and game.  The sportsmen also appreciated the serene beauty and restful atmosphere, and encouraged the hunting and fishing lodges to consider options for families.

One of the oldest resorts north of Grand Rapids was built on Wabana Lake by Dave Cochrane in 1902.  It was open for business the following summer and according to a local paper, “the Wabana Lake Resort is by far the most elaborate in Itasca county and it is fitted up in first class style for the accommodation of guests.  The large seventeen-room house is neatly finished throughout and everything about the place is calculated to make the sojourn of visitors in every way enjoyable.  And the hunting and fishing is always good in season.” Grand Rapids Herald Review 7-23-1903

By 1915, summer resorts were considered a true industry in Itasca County and in 1918, the Ten Thousand Lakes Association was formed.  Its purpose was to advertise the virtues of the county’s outdoors, specifically summer resorts.  A few years later Deer River was recognized for the efforts of its commercial club to this end.  The club had made and erected 400 signs on “highways surrounding Deer River to aid tourists.  On the signs, which will be put up on the highways leading from Duluth, the Twin Cities, and the towns in the Red River valley, will be printed the name of Deer River in large type, and the mileage to the junction town…this will be an aid to tourists who will be traveling into this part of the state during the summer.” Itasca News 5-17-1922

A Glimpse at the 2017 Featured Resorts

Anchor Inn: 1921 ~ Little Sand and Rice Lake

Anchor Inn Resort got its start in 1921 as a hunting lodge owned by William Osufsen, who had bought a tract of land between Little Sand lake and Rice lake, on the upper waters of the Bigfork river.  Osufsen found a large anchor of the steamboat Elijah Price on the property and decide that would be the name of the hunting lodge.

In 1946 the resort was purchased by Ray and Nellie Chaplain. Not long after, the Kitterman family from Earl Park, Indiana, became regular customers at the Anchor Inn. Howard “Kitty” Kitterman told Chaplains, if they were ever ready to sell the resort he would be interested. In 1968 that offer became a reality.  Kitty and Naomi were the first generation of the Kitterman family to own Anchor Inn Resort. Today, their son Bud, his wife Gin, and their children continue the family tradition of providing great Minnesota vacations Hoosier-style.

Arcadia Park (now Arcadia Lodge): 1922 ~ Big Turtle Lake

A group of doctors from Missouri traveled throughout northern Minnesota in search a suitable place to develop a summer community.  They were impressed with the view from the seventy-five foot bluff overlooking Big Turtle Lake, and bought a ninety acre parcel and had the main lodge built on the bluff.  It was christened Arcadia Lodge, because arcadia means peace and serenity in Latin. Thirty individual lots were sold in this unique community known as Arcadia Park.  Houses were built and families lived and entertained during the summer.  The lodge provided meals, electricity, water and caretaking. 

Eventually Arcadia Lodge grew into a resort complex of fourteen cabins, and more than a few noted individuals, including gangsters have been known to have visited the resort.  Another claim to fame for Arcadia is the filming of a Hamm’s Beer commercial.

Lakewood Lodge: 1917 ~ Sand Lake

In late 1906, German immigrant William Schultz settled his young family on land he had filed a homestead on.  They farmed for ten years, and then realizing the beauty of the lakeshore they had on Sand Lake, Schultz and his sons decided to establish a resort, the new industry of the county.  During the years 1917-1919 a large log lodge was built with a lobby, six sleeping rooms, a dining room, kitchen and two screened porches.  It was certainly one of the biggest in the county.

The Schultz family worked hard and developed long-term relationships with visitors from places such as Minneapolis and Chicago.  Sons Herman, William Jr., and Henry were fishing guides. They caught minnows for bait and rowed the fishing parties to the narrows, into Sand Lake and often to the islands to ensure a good catch.  At the end of the day the boys would row back to the lodge to clean the day’s catch which Mary would then fry up for the hungry guests.  This summer Lakewood is celebrating 100 years!

Northland Camps (now Northland Lodge): 1919 ~ Lake Winnibigoshish

The resort was started in 1919 by F.M. Williams and originally built for the Minneapolis Hunting Club.  The log lodge was built from huge Norway pines cut from area forest.  The spacious log lodge, a tribute to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of previous generations is still the center of activity at Northland Lodge.

Additional early history highlights include:

* Traveling the one lane roads and bridges

* Using flat-bottom boats to fish for walleye and big northern

* Paying less than $15 per week for cabin rental

Williams Narrows: 1920 ~ Big Cut Foot Sioux Lake

Falvy M. Williams, who moved to the area in 1919 to promote the Northland Camps (above), liked what he represented in northern Minnesota, and decided to go into the resort business himself.  He purchased a small resort in 1924, with plans to name it “Cut Foot Sioux Narrows Lodge” and make it “second to none” according to the Itasca News 1-19-1924.  A true entrepreneur, one of Williams’ endeavors was to start a zoo.  He acquired bear cubs in 1925, and two years later touted the largest privately-owned zoo in the state!

Early on, the resort was changed to Williams Narrows, which is appropriate as it has remained in the Williams-Karau family for four generations.

~*~*~

An in-depth article on each of these resorts will be featured in Reminisce during the summer months. As noted, all share the characteristic of a legacy of longevity, but it takes more than just time to make a resort successful. 

We’ll see how each resort survived through the ups and downs in the economy and how they got to where they are today. Lakewood is 100 years old, but the others aren’t far behind.  And most have a few unique stories about guest and adventures.

6.13.2021

Escape is a Miracle

I, like many others, enjoy watching a lightning storm across the lake on a hot summer night. The flashes, bolts and flickers are mesmerizing much like the northern lights. Nature’s fireworks.  And, given the record hot weather we are having so early in the summer, there may be a lot of lightning displays in the coming months.

Homes Hit

My dad recently shared with me a memory he has of seeing a flash of fire shoot out of the family’s crank style wall telephone. Fortunately, that was it, though he cannot recall whether the phone was damaged.

The following three stories illustrate how lightning traveled through homes during the first quarter of the twentieth century. Later, materials and construction changes improved to help prevent destruction. Most amazing is the erratic and unpredictable way in which the electricity wreaked havoc.

Escape is a Miracle ~ Itasca News8-13-1904

“Thursday night at 11:15 o’clock during a brief thunderstorm in which terrific bolts struck close to the village, one shaft of lightning struck the new residence of Percy Brooks, the largest in the village, and breaks resulting are the strangest that have ever been heard of in the north half of Minnesota.

“There were several witnesses to the shot and the stories of all agree.  It appears the shaft just reached the building, split in several branches and two of the main bolts made each a hole in the house, one on the northeast corner about eight by ten feet, and the other about four by ten on the east end of the roof, about three feet from the peak on the south slope.  From that this bolt made an ‘s’ shaped tear under the shingles and darted through into the garret, leaving a hole about six inches square.  It then passed east into Mr. Brooks room.  The bolt which came through the corner and north side of the building tore out the whole side of a vacant bedroom, passed into the hallway, then to the south extremity of the hall and there forced in the door of Asa Brooks [Percy’s father’s] bedroom, the door fell upon him in bed and passed out through the window in the south side of his room.  The other bolt or branch came into Asa’s room from the northeast corner and passing out tore away about eight feet of the partition in which the door came from and passed out the south window from the hallway.

“Asa was dazed for half a minute after he threw the door off him, but finally realized that a ball of fire was on the floor near the foot of his bed, and he grabbed that with his bare hands and threw it out of the window.  It was discovered the next morning that the ball of fire was a bouquet of cloth flowers interwoven with wire, to which the electricity clung.  Besides these main wreckages there are several small holes in the east end of the house on the upper floor which look like a huge knife had been punched through. The windows in the east end were not cracked, while two on the south and two on the north, on the upper floors were cleaned out close to the sashes.

“Downstairs, Percy Brooks, Mrs. Brooks and son Clyde, age three, slept in a bed close to the northeast corner where the wall was smashed in and covered them with lath and plaster and pieces of a large picture and frame which hung over their heads.  Bernie aged seven, who slept in a bed ten feet south of them, was uninjured, as were the rest.

“After all recovered from the shock the two men went up in the garret to investigate and found quite a fire there.  With two pails of water, however, they soon had the flame extinguished.  Meantime, Mrs. Brooks stood on the back porch trying to revive the baby who appeared to be in a stupor, and by throwing water in his face he was awakened. Mrs. Brook’s screams alarmed the neighbors and plenty of assistance was soon at hand.

“J.M. Holdridge saw the lightning strike and sounded the fire alarm.  In five minutes, the fire team and apparatus were on the spot but were not needed. The east end of the house was badly wrecked while the west half of it wholly unmolested and has not a break or crack.

“It is a truly miraculous thing that none of the family was hurt or killed, and after the fright was over Asa Brooks said he and all were most thankful but “he’d be d— if he’d go to bed so early again.”

“The darts took strange maneuvers.  One struck a piece of china in a small closet off from the lower bed chamber, broke it to pieces and touched nothing near it.  Another broke a wash pitcher on the commode in Mr. Brooks’ room and other things near it were not moved.  The bolt in the family bedroom passed to the kitchen, cut the wires above the stove pipe, staining a few spots on the ceiling, smashed the woodbox, passed out of the back door and killed two chickens which were in a box on the step.

“By stepping on nails which were in the shingles torn from the roof Mrs. Brooks’ feet will be sore for a few days.  Percy has an abrasion on the head caused by pieces of lumber or plaster hitting him. The building is insured for fifteen hundred dollars, and it is thought the damage will be about one thousand dollars.”

Lightning Hits Chimney ~ Itasca News 8-17-1907

“A brief electrical storm visited this immediate section last Wednesday afternoon, lasting only half an hour, but lightning struck several places nearby and great damage was feared.  The only damage done, however, was to the house of K. Johtonen, in the north part of the village.  The chimney was hit and cut off at the peak of the roof.  From this point the bolt followed down a tamarack rafter splitting it into toothpicks but leaving the heart of the timber whole.  From the foot of the rafter the exit of the bolt could not be traced.  Mr. Johtonen, his wife and daughter were in the house at the time and were not hurt beyond a shock from fright.  Both stove pipes were knocked down, but the chimney was not cracked below the peak of the roof.  The damage will amount to about a hundred dollars, fully covered by lightning insurance.”

Narrow Escape from Lightning ~ Grand Rapids Herald-Review 7-27-1927

“Carl Nelson, head pressman at the Grand Rapids Herald-Review, had a very narrow escape from being killed by lightning last Monday evening.  He was knocked unconscious and his cottage at Pokegama Lake was badly damaged by the bolt.

“When the storm arose, Mr. Nelson started to shut some windows.  He was alone in the house, which is on Stony Point.  A blinding flash of lightning came, and Mr. Nelson recovered himself a few seconds later on the floor.  The windows were smashed, walls ripped out, wall board torn from the ceiling and walls, clothing singed and torn as though by powerful gears, waste papers from the basket driven into the ceiling, and a piece broken out of the concrete wall around his well.  A bottle of cream, hung down into the well by a string on a basket, was smashed to pieces as the electricity entered the earth by this channel.  Mr. Nelson considers himself fortunate that he was able to tell of the accident afterward.

“The rain, which fell for some time on Monday evening, was accompanied by a brilliant electrical display, but this is the only report of damage being done.”

Caught Outside

Lightning Kills Lars Hope ~ Itasca News 8-31-1907

“People here were shocked Wednesday to learn through the newspapers of the horrible death meted Lars Hope by lightning near Crookston.  Hope, in the company of another man, was driving on the road each in separate wagons and near Dugdale lightning struck Hope’s wagon which was ahead.  The man in the wagon behind was slightly dazed, and after recovering noticed a blaze of fire ahead of his team and going to make investigation found Hope in the wagon stark naked and fire was burning around his head.  His body was not marred and only his hair was slightly singed.  Fragments of his clothing were found strewn hundreds of feet away; his pocketbook containing $300 was found one hundred and fifty feet from the spot and his watch was thrown a hundred feet.  He was stone dead when his friend reached him.

“Lars Hope was a single man and an old settler of Wirt, forty miles north of here.  He has a good claim at Wirt, upon which he has made final proof.  Crookston authorities have notified relatives of the man in Iowa.”    

Nine-year-old James Clark, son of Robert and Margaret was standing on a hay wagon in front of a barn in June 1916, when a bolt of lightning struck.  There were two horses in the barn, one was killed instantly and the other uninjured.  The shock knocked James from the wagon, and he fell on the ground, but was uninjured.

In August 1928, Jesse Cartwright and two of his sons of Morse township were returning from the potato field. They had been using a one-horse hiller when they got caught in a storm. Just as they reached home, a bolt struck nearby.  Jesse was carrying a hoe over his shoulder and felt the shock on the top of his head.  One boy, riding the horse, fell to the ground and was ill for some time.   All three congratulated themselves on their narrow escape. The sons living at home at the time were Floyd 20, Ernest 18, and Everett 9.

This last story about lightening started in the house and ended on the outside porch where the family was gathered.

Lightning Bolt Kills Jack Daley ~ Deer River News 7-31-1941

“Jack Daley, 55 years of age, was instantly killed by a bolt of lightning about 7:30 o’clock last Friday evening as he sat in a chair on the front porch of his home at Squaw Lake, watching the fury of a storm that raged over a wide area of western Itasca County.

“Ed Leiti, sitting near him, felt a partial force of the bolt and suffered burns on one leg. Mrs. Daley and daughter, Eunice, were thrown from their chairs, but were unhurt except for minor bruises and shock.

“The bolt crashed the west side of the residence, breaking windows, followed a light wire to the front porch and down the door casing against which Daley was leaning.”

Let’s hope that the lightning strikes are few and far between this summer!