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?

A Bear in the Berry Patch

Blueberries and Raspberries

6.27.2021

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!

Itasca County Resorts with a History ~ An Introduction

6.20.2021 [archived ~ previously posted 6.25.2017

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.

Escape is a Miracle

6.13.2021

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! 

Tremain Leading Babe Ruth by Safe Margin

6.6.2021 [archived ~ originally published 8.27.2015]

Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig at West Point, 1927

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the most enjoyable books I have read in a long time was One Summer America 1927 by Bill Bryson. It is hefty, 562 pages before the epilogue, bibliography and index, but  chock full of fascinating information about a forgotten summer when America came of age, took center stage and changed the world forever.

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

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

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

I also learned that Babe Ruth made a movie in 1927.  It was a silent, black and white baseball comedy called Babe Comes Home.  Produced by the First National Film Company, there are no known copies of the film in existence.  I did locate a short clip of Babe Ruth’s 60th home run in 1927 at www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOt0Tmwc2Rk.

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

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

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

Deer River and Charles Lindbergh, Deer River and Babe Ruth.  I wonder what other famous connections our community might have.  There are rumors of Al Capone, Judy Garland and Teddy Roosevelt.  If you know something about them, or anyone else please contact me at reminiscewithchris@gmail or 218-244-2127.  I’d love to research your mystery!

A Really Big Fish Story…and It’s True!

5.30.2021 [archived ~ originally published 8.18.2019]

Last Sunday’s Reminisce column touched on the story about Minnesota’s current record muskellunge, caught in 1957. Fishing guide Art Lyons caught it just off the shores of High Banks Resort. It took nearly two hours to land the muskie, which officially weighed 54 pounds. And it took nearly twenty years for it to be recognized as the record fish. This is how the story unfolded.

Arthur George “Art” Lyons was born in the second week of May in 1900.  Perhaps his love of fishing and skill in guiding was because he was born in May when the fish are jumping.  Art’s parents, William and Annie lived along the shore of Lake Winnibigoshish.  The Lyons family, like generations before them, lived off the land by hunting, trapping and fishing.

Art married Elizabeth Hyde and according to early census records and later obituaries, their children included Thelma, Stella, Edward, Dorothy, Mary Alma, Kenneth, Alfred, Theodore, Lorraine, and Eleanor.  By about 1945, Art was guiding for the High Banks and Tamarack Resorts on the east side of Winnibigoshish. 

Lyons Big Muskie 1957

In the late afternoon of August 28, 1957, Art was out with two couples from the Twin Cities, Don and Betty Hanson and George and Theresa Ross.  Art was in one boat and the others in another, staying about thirty feet apart.  When Art got hits he would signal to the others and they would cast their line accordingly.  After about a half an hour on the water, Art had hooked a fish that took nearly two hours to land.  When they got it to shore and on to the High Banks’ scale, it weighed 57.5 pounds!

Bill and Ann Molzen, the owners of High Banks, thought it was probably a record muskie. Bill and Art quickly loaded the fish and drove to Deer River stopping first in Bena to show off the trophy.  By the time they arrived in Deer River, the fish had been out of the water a couple hours.  It weighed 55 pounds and measured 56 inches. The Deer River News snapped a photograph in front of the Sportsmen’s Cafe.

It was decided that the fish should be taken to Minneapolis and entered into a fishing contest sponsored by the Corrie’s Sporting Goods Store.  Bill drove directly to the store located on Marquette Avenue.  There the official weight was declared as 54 pounds.  The Minneapolis Morning Tribune, Aug. 30 1957, printed a large photograph with this story.

You Should Have Seen the One That Got Away!

The Minnesota season’s biggest muskellunge – 54 pounds heavy, 56 inches long – was caught by accident.  The lucky angler was Art Lyons, Indian guide from Bena, Minn., who caught the record fish Wednesday night while trying for a northern pike off High Banks Resort on Lake Winnibigoshish.  Bill Molzen of High Banks brought the fish to Minneapolis for a sporting goods contest and told the tale of Lyons’ luck, Lyons had taken a fishing party out on ‘Big Winni’ to show the anglers where to catch northerns.  He made a few experimental casts with 20-pound test line and a red and white spoon.  The monster hit.  One hour and 48 minutes later, Lyons was able to bring the fish close enough to stun it with a piece of pipe. ‘I lost a big muskie before,’ Lyons said, ‘so I played this one until he is tired out.’ The world record for a muskie is 69 pounds, eight ounces.  Lyons’ fish is the largest taken in Minnesota in several seasons.”

Art’s fish was just six ounces less than the muskie that had held the state record since 1931.  That fish was caught by John William Collins of Baudette in Lake of the Woods.  The recent catch was still considered a trophy and was displayed at Corrie’s Sporting Goods Store for several weeks according to George Ross, one of the fishermen with Art when the muskie was caught. “Art won the contest that included a diamond ring, a bunch of tackle and a new rod and reel. The ring was worth about $250 back then. But Art sold the ring and the tackle as soon as he got it.” [Interviewed by Terry Hagstrom date unknown, but prior to Ross death 2007.]

Molzen had the largest muskie caught in Winnibigoshish mounted, and it was proudly displayed at the Bena Bar.

Big Muskie Revisited 1976

In January 1976, Joe Fellegy, a writer for Fins and Feathers magazine, requested from readers reliable information about Minnesota record fish.  This prompted a review of the muskie caught by Collins, which still held the record.  The MN DNR looked at the evidence and declared that the Collins fish had been taken from Sabaskong Bay of Lake of the Woods, which was actually in Ontario!  Art Lyons’ muskie, caught nineteen years earlier, was proclaimed the new state record holder. 

The big fish was cleaned up, and a plaque proclaimed its status at the Bena Bar until a fire destroyed the building in 1979.

In the early 1980s, Fellegy was compiling a book of Minnesota fish stories and he contacted Art, who was in his early eighties.  Art suggested he talk to the fishermen who were with him at the time, Don Hanson and George Ross.  Fellegy did and included their memories in Classic Minnesota Fishing Stories: A Rare Collection of First-Hand Accounts, Anecdotes, and Reports.  The book was published in 1982 and is no longer in print, although copies are for sale on Ebay and Amazon.

Terry Hagstrom, a Minnesota muskie fishing guide, tracked George Ross down a few years ago and shared Ross’ recollections of that day in 1957 on his website.  One of the comments Ross made, that hadn’t appeared in other research, was about the fish just before they got it in the boat.  “Well, when the five of us saw this fish come to the top between the two boats, the women jumped. Don and I actually felt a little scared at the sight of it. The size of the eyes alone was enough to scare anyone. They were huge. It looked like a big log. The length! Its head was just huge!” [Interviewed by Terry Hagstrom]

In less than two weeks, Art Lyons’ state muskellunge record of 54 pounds, 56 inches, will have stood for 62 years. 

Art Lyons died in March 1983, so he was aware that his fish was indeed a record.  John Collins died in 1950, so he had no knowledge of how close Art’s muskie was to his own.  He was 66 years old at the time he caught his fish…did he know he was in Canadian waters or was it only his fishing companions who knew?  If he did know, and had still been living when Art caught the muskie, would he have given up the secret he’d harbored for years?  Hmm, an intriguing possibility for a book!

A beautiful replica of Art’s muskie is at The Minnesota Fishing Museum in Little Falls, MN.

“Mother-in-law Saved the Fish”

5.23.2021

This week’s column is dedicated to stories about the muskellunge. In the early years, the newspapers spelled it muskalonge but is often just called muskie. According to the Minnesota State Record Fish Guide, Itasca County has held the record muskie since 1957. That muskie, weighing 54-pounds, was caught by Art Lyons in Lake Winnibigoshish. [Reminisce column A Really Big Fish Story…and It’s True! Grand Rapids Herald-Review 8-18-2019]

The youngest fisherman to catch a muskie was Glenn L. Fadden, Jr. In July 1933, he landed a 20-pound muskie at the end of the dock at his grandparents, Walter and Edith Fadden on Big Moose Lake. “Glenn attempted to land the fish by pulling him up on the shore, but when he had his prize nearly to dry land the line broke. Grabbing a spear which was nearby, Glen completed the task.  His achievement is a very creditable one and here’s our congratulations.” [Deer River News 8-3-1933]

Unusual Fishing Techniques

In a time before fancy fishing gear, creativity and quick thinking was sometimes used to land a muskie. These are three entertaining examples.

Editor’s Mother Brings Home Dinner ~ Itasca News 8-10-1901

“Our wife was out with her mother on Deer Lake, and they caught a 25 pound muskalonge.  The good wife appreciating the several meals in sight, immediately sat herself upon the ‘Jim Hill’ as he spit the hook out landing inside the gunwale. One simple flop he gave and our better half went sailing through space.  The mother-in-law saved the fish owing to her heavier weight, and the guide saved the wife – but this is no surprising story here, where so much fishing is done; you fellows should tell a ‘stronger’ one or come up here for your fishing this summer.”

Catches ‘Em New Way ~ Itasca News 7-14-1927

“Alex Steenson, a swimming instructor at Camp Minnesota on Deer Lake, has set a new pace for local muskie fishermen.

“While taking a canoe ride last Saturday evening, Mr. Steenson saw a muskie in the clear water near him.  He had no line nor bait, didn’t need any.  Mr. Steenson made a grab for Mr. Muskie with bare hands, and after quite a tussle landed him in the canoe.

“The fish weighed 14 pounds and was quite a prize.  We hand the palm to Mr. Steenson.  His feat sets a new pace in local waters. Now someone please page Mr. Robert Page Lincoln and tell him there is real muskie fishing in Deer Lake, where they catch them with bare hands.”

Robert Page Lincoln was a sportsman who wrote a column on the Outdoors for the Minneapolis Tribune newspaper.  Lincoln became well known after writing a four-part article on bass fishing in the May through August issues of National Sportsman Magazine in 1912.  His two most famous books are Black Bass Fishing (1952) and The Pike Family (1953).  The editor for the Deer River News, brings his name up on more than one occasion.

Boy Goes In, Grab, Ride Big Muskie ~ Deer River News 5-18-1933

“Richard Peck and Edward ‘Bud’ King turned in a fish story Tuesday that takes the prize!

“The boys were spearing for minnows in the river below Winnie dam, when they discovered a big muskie in shallow water.  Richard had a line with which he snagged the gray warrior, and watching his chance, Bud stunned him with a rock.

“Then there was plenty of action.  Fearing their prize might get away, Bud jumped into the water and grabbed it.  Right there, Mr. Muskie took Bud for a ride, but he stuck to his hold and shortly the boys had the big fellow on the bank.  The incident furnished a lot of amusement for a group of spectators.

“The boys brought their muskie to Deer River, where it was found to weigh thirty pounds.  It was 52 inches long. Some prize!”

Muskies in Deer and Moose Lake

Deer and Moose Lakes became known as good muskie lakes early on. The following are examples that were reported in the local newspapers.

~1904 – Frank Peterson caught a 47-pound muskie.  “It broke his pole; he had no reel and he had to coax his greatness to shore, where he fought him into the brush with a spear.  Mr. Peterson shipped the prize to friends in Minneapolis.” [Itasca News 5-28-1904]  

~ 1910 – “Last Tuesday George Metke caught a fine one in front of the Metke home on the north shore of Moose Lake.  It measured 54 inches and weighed 26 pounds.  The boys shipped it to their uncle, R. Schmerler, in Minneapolis. This specimen excited P.R. Brooks, who is a “profesh” at the game, and he went out on Thursday to try his luck.  Dr. Fairall accompanied him, and in a few hours’ trolling from the motorboat they landed one near Brooks’ summer home on the north shore of Deer Lake.  It weighed 17 pounds and made fine eating, as a number of friends can testify.” [Itasca News 10-1-1910]

~ 1920 – “In the past week six muskalonge have been caught in Deer and Moose Lakes, each weighing from 25 to 50 pounds.  During the last three days the weather has been hot, and the big fellows are again averse to tasting a hook.” [Itasca News 8-28-1920]

~ 1926 – Prize muskie of the season will be mounted. The fish measured 50 inches in length and has a girth of 24½ inches.  The weight given was 40-pounds.  

~ 1927 -Two fisherman guided by C.A. Voigt, caught a nice muskie. It weighed 30-pounds and was 48 inches in length.

~ 1927 – George Herreid caught a 24-pound muskie.  It measured 43 inches in length, and is one he is having mounted

These next two stories include Deer River fishing guide John Tremain.  In August 2015, my Reminisce column was titled, Tremain Leading Babe Ruth by Safe Margin, which was also the frontpage headlines of the September 1, 1927 issue of the Itasca News.

The article states, “John says he can get a muskie oftener than Babe Ruth can hit a home run, and just at the present time John has a lead of nine on Babe.” This statement is absolutely true.  On August 31, Babe Ruth hit his forty-third home run against the Boston Red Sox and John Tremain hauled in his fifty-second muskie while guiding for Mr. Freidmann of Chicago.  And as you will see, by the end of the season, Tremain’s count was at 64.

Landed a Big One ~ Deer River News 8-4-1927

“A party composed of I. Freimuth and Chas. Williamson of Duluth, and Victor Kohn and Hiram Scott of Chicago, spent the latter part of the week here in quest of muskies in Moose Lake. Every day they hooked one or more of the big fellows but failed to get them in their boat.

“As they left Cedarwild Lodge Sunday morning, John Tremain, veteran guide and muskie fisherman extraordinaire, was hopping mad at their going sans a muskie.  John’s parting shot was, ‘Now I’m going out and get that fish.’ And he made good.  Before the party had time to reach the Miller Hotel in Deer River, Tremain had Mr. Muskie on dry land and phoned in for them to come back and get him.  Mr. Freimuth, veteran Duluth businessman, broke all speed records getting back to the lake where Tremain handed him a whopping 32 pounder.  It was a fine specimen, one of the largest caught here this year.

“Somebody send for Bob Becker and Robt. Page Lincoln! We want to convince them we have muskies here.”

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

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

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

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

1930 was the first year of the Fuller Tackle Shops Fishing Contest.  One hundred and seventy entries were made, with fish being caught from thirty-four different lakes in Itasca County. Both first and second prize for muskies were caught on Moose Lake. First prize went to W.O. Hare, Rock Island, Ill. For his 35-pound 7-oz. fish. He won $10.00 and a South Bend Split Bamboo Rod.

“C.E. Okey of Corning, Ia., and O.W. Compton of Independence, Kans., both made enviable catches in Deer and Moose Lakes the first of this week.  Monday Mr. Okey landed a 33 pound muskie that was one of the finest specimens caught here this year.  Mr. Okey also caught another muskie weighing 18 pounds, and a 7¾ pound wall-eyed pike.  Tuesday Mr. Compton captured a muskie weighing 31 pounds.  The muskies were taken in Moose Lake, with C.A. Voigt serving as guide.” [Deer River News 8-28-1930]  Okey’s second prize was $8.00 and a South Bend Split Bamboo Rod.

Muskies in the Big Fork River

The news of Bigfork didn’t always find its way to Deer River, but when the Bigfork Times was in business, a few fishing stories were covered.

Catches Big Fish ~ Bigfork Times 8-1-1930

“The biggest fish reported yet this season was caught by Harold Welte in the Big Fork River at this place on Wednesday evening.  The fish weighed 26 and one-half pounds and was caught at the Welte bridge on a bass-oreno.  It was necessary to spear the fish in order to land it. The fish was entered in the Fuller Big Fish contest and the entrant was assured that it was by far the biggest fish entered so far this season.  This is by no means an exceptionally large fish for the Big Fork River as the catching of a fish ranging from 20 to 25 pounds is an everyday occurrence.”

More Big Fish ~ Bigfork Times 8-8-1930

“Another fine specimen of muskie or northern pike, whichever it is, was taken this week in the Bigfork River and was on display at the Evensen & Beck store last Saturday.

“Jerry Knight, son of Mr. and Mrs. James Knight, caught a 17 pound—let’s call it a muskie, in the river close to his home.  This was caught on a troller but was gaffed in order to land it.  The fish weighed 17 pounds and while not as large as the one caught in the same river last week by Harold Welte, was a fine specimen.

“Argument has been rife lately as to when a muskie is a muskie and when a muskie is a northern pike. There seems to be no generally accepted authority on the question.  It is a great deal like arguing on religion. You don’t have to accept the other fellow’s argument without proof, and he has to die to prove his point, so there you go.”

I will post the two Reminisce columns mentioned here on my blog chrismarcottewrites next Sunday, May 30.

Hamm’s Fishing Derby 1959

5.16.2021 [archived ~ originally published 5.26.2016]

Hamm’s Fishing Derby”
This is banner of the full page advertisement which appeared in a May 1959 issue of the Grand Rapids Herald Review.

$25,000 in Prizes

In early May, 1959, Hamm’s Brewery located in Minneapolis, announced a summer-long fishing derby for anglers in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.  Dubbed Hamm’s Land of Sky Blue Waters Fishing Derby, there were seventeen weekly contests in which 113 winners received a $100 Fishing Package.  There were also Sweepstakes Prizes for those who didn’t win the weekly contest, but had submitted a sweepstakes ticket with their entry.  The Grand Sweepstakes prize selected by a random drawing was billed as “your own private fishing retreat – lot, lake home, boat and motor.”

There were 22 official weigh-in stations designated in 22 cities; the closest to Itasca County were Grand Rapids, Bemidji and Walker.  The highlights of the full page newspaper advertisement stated:

Hamm’s Land of Sky Blue Waters Fishing Derby

“Here’s a fisherman’s dream contest.  If you catch a sunfish, crappie, walleye, northern, small mouth bass, large mouth bass or any other large freshwater fish, be sure to enter it in Hamm’s Fishing Derby.

Every week $100 Fishing Outfits will be awarded on TV, (WCCO-TV [4], Minneapolis and KCMT-TV [7], Alexandria, 10:30 p.m., CDT, Thursdays) to entrants of the biggest fish in each category. (Fish must be in season, of course.) 

And whether your entry wins a weekly prize or not, you’re still eligible to win a fabulous prize in the Sweepstake TV Drawing on September 10, provided your entry is accompanied by a Sweepstake Ticket.

Get your Sweepstake Ticket at any Hamm’s retail dealer now and start fishing for fun and prizes in the Hamm’s Fishing Derby.   Derby runs May 16 through September 7, 1959. Good Luck!

17 Weekly Big Fish Contests

The Fishing Outfit consisted of the following: Phillipson Casting Rod, Langley Streamlite Reel, Umco Tackle Box, Cortland Line, Knife-Lighter Combination, Weber Portable Cooler, De-Liar Scale and Measure, Assorted lures by: Arbogast, Buck Perry Spoonplugs, Creek Chub, Heddon, Hi Sport Lures, Mille Lacs, Kautzky, Louis Johnson Bait Co. and National Expert Bait Co.

Plus Giant Sweepstakes!

1st Prize: Private Fishing Retreat in the Land of Sky Blue Waters; Sussel Lake Home – New Shoreline Model 24’ x 32’ constructed on a private lot; Aluma-Craft Car-Top Fishing Boat and Scott Outboard, 7½ HP.

2nd Prize: Kayot Voyager – 28-foot pontoon boat, complete family playground afloat.

3rd Prize: Scott Outboard, size your choice (3.6 HP to 60 HP)

4th Prize:  Aluma-Craft Flying D Run-about Boat

5th Prize: All-expense paid one-week vacation for 2 on a Northernaire Floating Lodge at Rainy Lake, good in 1959 or 1960. 

Hamm’s Fishing Derby Rules

  1. Hamm’s Fishing Derby is open to everyone.  Fish must be registered, however, by a person of legal age.
  2. Weigh-in Stations reserve the right to open and examine any fish that is entered and to mark entries.
  3. To be eligible for Hamm’s Sweepstakes Drawing, registration must be accompanied by a Hamm’s Sweepstakes Ticket obtained free from any retailer of Hamm’s Beer.
  4. All registered fish are eligible for Hamm’s Television Fishing Derby Prizes. Fish must be available for display at Corrie’s, “Winning Fish Headquarters,” 820 Marquette Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  5. Weekly contests, May 16, 1959 through September 7, 1959.  Each contest ends Monday night.
  6. In case of ties, the entry bearing the earliest date and time wins.
  7. Employees and families of the Theo. Hamm Brewing Co. and its distributors, WCCO-TV, their advertising agencies and official Fishing Derby Weigh-in Stations are not eligible.

I wish I could write about the recipients of some of the prizes, but could not locate any details about the winners.  Instead, I decided to see what I could find out about a few of the prizes. 

For instance what would be the value today of the fifth sweepstake prize of an All-expense paid one-week vacation for 2 on a Northernaire Floating Lodge at Rainy Lake?  Northernaire Houseboats still operate on Rainy Lake and offer quite a variety of houseboats.  The smallest boat listed which slept 2, is $1,400 for one week. Assuming Hamm’s covered gas and food (and beer!) it would probably be closer to $2,000 if awarded this summer.

I cannot imagine what the value of the Giant Sweepstakes Prize would be today.  But wouldn’t it be fun to know what lake the Sussel home was built on? And who has lived in it and whether or not it is still standing?  Maybe it is actually a part of YOUR family’s current get away!

I did uncover tidbits of information on almost each of the items listed in the $100 Fishing Outfit, all of which were made in the USA and many which are currently listed on e-bay.  As a non-fishing person, I found the history of lures to be most interesting, but the rod was definitely one item that has increased substantially in value.

Phillipson Casting Rod ~ The 6’4″ Scout was crafted between 1957 and 1958, so perhaps it is the one in fishing package.  It is described as featuring “detachable handle of colorful cast aluminum, redesigned to accommodate all the new “Push-Button” reels, with positive reel locking device. Spin cast rods have 5 chrome-plated guides wrapped in blue thread tipped with red painted rings.” On the Phillipson webpage it lists for $495.

Nine companies supplied lures, and the information I got on them was enough to fill an entire column, so for now, I will focus on a few I found most interesting. 

Heddon Lures ~ established in 1898 is the oldest lure company still producing quality fishing products.  In the late 1890s James Heddon launched a hand-made lure into a Dowagiac, Mich., pond and the ripples are still expanding. It marked the beginning of a new era – the artificial-lure fishing era – for all anglers. Heddon is the manufacturer of legendary lures, including the Spook, Torpedo, Lucky 13 and many more, and these lures follow the same innovative vision James Heddon captured long years ago.

Louis Johnson Bait Co. ~came to be with the 1923 patent of the Johnson Silver Minnow, by Louis Johnson, a retired Chicago foundry operator. The lake where Louis and his son fished was full of fish, but it was also weedy. So, with the practical style of many creative Midwesterners, he set out to develop a fishing lure that would not catch weeds but still catch fish. The result was the first spoon lure with a weed guard, stiff enough to keep weeds away from the hook, but flexible enough for bass and pike to get hooked. In fact, his experimental spoon lures were made from silver table spoons with the handles cut off and a hook and weed guard soldered to the concave underside.

Mille Lacs Mfg Co. ~was started by Joe and Evelyn Fladebo at their Mille Lacs Lake home in 1937.  In 1944 the business was moved to a larger building at Isle.  Their son Jim joined the business in 1955. This lure company made many lures, mainly spinners, and used the trade-mark of “Little Joe” an old time picture of a boy holding a large fish. They also bought the rights to the Slo-Poke, made in Mahnomen, MN, and the Lazy Dazy from Preston, MN. I can’t help but to wonder if I should have looked in the tackle box that I found in the cabin we bought years ago, before I gave it away!  Jon, if there’s anything of value, we split it 50-50, right?

In Honor of Mothers Who Left Us Too Soon

5.9.2021

Two years ago, I wrote about my grandmother Hellen Scheer’s first Mother’s Day in 1939, after the birth of her daughter, my mother Marie. Last year, Mom died just days before Mother’s Day. It was unexpected and sent my siblings and myself reeling. She left us too soon.

Since 2014, when I started writing Reminisce, I have been intrigued by newspaper articles about families where the mother died leaving young children. What happened to them? Was an aunt, grandmother, or young neighbor able to step in and care for them? Were the siblings divided among various extended family or neighbors? Or, was there no option but to relinquish them to a state-run facility? After a brief look at the history of this holiday, I’ll share what I have learned.

Mother’s Day History

Celebrations of mothers and motherhood are traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. Mother’s Day became an official U.S. holiday through the efforts of Anna M. Jarvis.

When Jarvis was a young child, her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis had cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the field during the Civil War. In 1868, Ann Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” the goal of which was to foster reconciliation between former Union and Confederate soldiers by having them come together along with mothers from both sides.

Jarvis was proud of her mom and, after her death in 1906, wanted to celebrate all mothers and the sacrifices they made for their children.  She organized the first celebration of this holiday in 1908 in their hometown of Grafton, West Virginia. Over the next few years, Jarvis pushed to have the holiday officially recognized, and it was celebrated increasingly in more and more states around the U.S.   In fact, it was celebrated in Deer River. “In honor of dear old mother, the state of Minnesota has set aside a day when the nation can sing and speak praises to her loving life and revered soul. The day is tomorrow May 14.”  [Itasca News 5-13-1911]

Finally in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation making Mother’s Day an official holiday to take place the second Sunday of May. In it Wilson declared the first national Mother’s Day as a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.” [Mother’s Day: Topics in Chronicling America, Library of Congress]

For those of you wondering why Mother’s Day has the apostrophe where it does, Grammarly, the grammar application I use, has the answer. “Anna Jarvis put Mother’s Day on the calendar as a day dedicated to expressing love and gratitude to mothers, acknowledging the sacrifices women make for their children. That’s why Ann Jarvis was determined to keep ‘Mother’s’ a singular possessive, as marked by the apostrophe before ‘s.’ Each family should celebrate its own mother, so that individual women across the country could feel the love, even in the midst of a broad celebration of motherhood.” [grammarlyblog]

Jarvis was pleased with her efforts until Mother’s Day became more commercialized.  She had envisioned it as a day of celebration between mothers and families. “Her personal version of the day involved wearing a white carnation as a badge and visiting one’s mother or attending church services. But once Mother’s Day became a national holiday, it was not long before florists, card companies and other merchants capitalized on its popularity. Jarvis, who died in 1948, had since the 1930s actively lobbied the government to remove it from the U.S. holiday calendar.”  [History.com]

A Dozen White Carnations

“Tomorrow, May 11th is Mother’s Day.  A pink carnation in respect to the living mothers, and a white carnation for the memory of those departed.” [Itasca News 5-10-1919]

The file I began in 2014 now contains exactly a dozen local stories about children who lost their mothers when they were young. This is what I know of each situation.

1902 ~ Mrs. John (Anna) Nyberg died. It is hard to determine who raised the six daughters, Hulda 13, Anna 11, Jennie 9, Agnes 9, Helmar 5, and Selma 2. It appears they remained in the community.

1903 ~ Mrs. Charles (Mary Olson) Sterling died and left behind a 15-month-old child. Charlie Sterling married a widow with two children 2½ months later.

1909 ~ Mrs. John (Rosina) Tremain died from blood poisoning that she had suffered since the birth of her last baby two months earlier. Sons are Valentine, John, William, L.J. and Arthur. Daughters are Evaline and Goldie. [These names were found in their father’s 1929 obituary.] Shortly after Rosina’s death, the three youngest were taken to Minneapolis by Agent E.P. Savage of the State Children’s Home Society.

1910 ~ Mrs. John (Karolina Nyberg) Hedquist died of typhoid fever. Her four children, Emma 6, Alton 4, Della 2, and Myrtle, an infant were raised by their father.

1911 ~ Mrs. Sereno (Ina) White died giving birth to her seventh child, Rueben Asa.  The other children were, Lesley 12, Lloyd 11, Gladys 9, Alice 7, Clifford 3, and Earl 2. The baby and Earl were raised by relatives. The five other children were placed in state run facilities.

1912 ~ Mrs. Charles (Mary Olsen) Lind died of tuberculosis. She is the mother of six children, Ida 17, Elmer 15, Frank 12, Clara 12, Ellen 5, and Emma 5.  The two sets of twins were placed in state run facilities.

1916 ~ Mrs. Hilmer (Karen Nelson) Hanson died during the birth of twin daughters Hildur and Karen Marie. Hilmer and daughter Clara 14, raised them and the boys, Guy 5 and Perry 2.

1921 ~ Mrs. Simon (Marian Root) Pettit died of tuberculosis, leaving James 16, Ethel 15, Dora 10 and Myrtle 9. It appears that the children moved to Todd County where their Root relatives lived.

1922 ~ Mrs. Carl (Signa) Carlsberg died of heart disease.  Ray 15, Freida 13, Alford 10, Gustav 9, Elvin 6, Glen 5, Earl 4, and Eunice 2. The family remained together with Freida taking responsibility for the children.

1922 ~ Mrs. Ed (Irene Vance) Voigt is believed to have died from heart disease.  Ed’s sister Rose took the baby, Grace, to raise as her own. Margaret 5, and Alice 3, went with their father and his family to Polson, Montana.

1927 ~ Mrs. William (Mary Peterson) Murphy died of peritonitis. Her children were Vera 17, William 9, James 6, Della 3, and George 21 months.  The four youngest lived with neighbors Ed and Hattie Sargent until they were old enough to return to their father.

1927 ~ Mrs. Thomas Jones died of diphtheria, leaving eight children. Because her husband was in prison, the care of the children’s welfare was placed in the hands of the Judge of Probate, Mrs. Rhoda McCullough. All of the children were placed in the state school at Owatonna.

There were sixty-six children in the dozen families. About a third, those who were sent to state facilities such as the Minnesota State Public School for Neglected and Dependent Children in Owatonna, never had the love of a mother figure again and in many cases, they were the youngest children. I do hope they were able to form relationships with some caregivers and were able to provide a nurturing home for their own children. 

I do know that the White siblings, whose mother died in 1911, did reunite in the 1940s. I posted their story, first published in April 2017, on my blog last Sunday. If you know the “rest of the story,” for any of the other individuals, please share ~ reminiscewithchris@gmail.com 218-244-2127 or leave a message on my blog chrismarcottewrites. 

We grieve in many ways.  This past year, when I finally could write again, I wrote about Mom.  Mostly for myself, but occasionally I’d share a piece with a friend.  My sisters are not quite ready yet to read anything about Mom, and I understand that.  I found out just last week that Talking Stick, a respected Minnesota literary journal has selected an essay I wrote about my mom for publication in September. On Mother’s Day I will share a bouquet of white carnations with grieving sons and daughters.

White House of the North

5.2.2021 [archived ~ previously published 4.13.17]

Leslie, Lloyd, Gladys, Cliff, Earl, and Donald White standing in front of the homeplace ~ 1940

About ten years ago, we drove in the northern part of the county when I saw what looked to be an abandoned boarding house or a large family home down a long gravel driveway off County Road 29. I photograph old buildings, schools mostly whenever I get a chance. I take them partly because I love how they look and also because someday they will be gone. It was a sunny day, so I grabbed my camera and photographed it from all sides.

I had no idea who owned the structure or the story behind it until I started visiting the Itasca County Historical Society. I found a small booklet in the research library with a hand-drawn illustration of that very building on the cover!  The title was “The Log White House,” a compilation of history and stories about the Sereno and Ina (Delap) White family from Alvwood. Mabel White, the compiler, was the wife of Earl. Earl was one of seven children born to Sereno and Ina.

Mabel dedicated the history of the Sereno White family, as follows: “Earl Delap White who at this time September 1, 1985, is the only living member of the original S.C. White family and to a herd of relatives and to Margie (Donald White’s wife) who asked me to write up a White Report.”  Mabel collected stories and information from various family members. I have filled in the blanks of a few details by looking at state and federal census records. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from “The Log White House.”

Sereno Centennial White

Sereno and Ina were both born and raised in Waushara County in central Wisconsin. Sereno’s middle name is Centennial, and he was born on September 30, 1876. His father, Asa, chose his name. “Asa Bradley White, being a proper person and aware of historical events, named that baby boy born to them on September 30, 1876, Sereno ‘Centennial.’  He was born in Waushara County, Wisconsin. The country was 100 years old then, and what better way to commemorate it than to name a son in its honor.”

Both of my maternal great-grandfathers were born in 1876, and neither one of them had that patriotic middle name, but I suspected Asa wasn’t the only one in the country to name their child Centennial. I checked the 1880 federal census and found 89 children born in 1876 with the first name of Centennial. There were 49 girls and 40 boys from 25 of the 38 states that were part of the United States. The top four states were Indiana -7, Ohio – 6, Illinois – 5, and tied for fourth place were Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kansas, and Louisiana.

Alvwood

Sereno and Ina married when she was fifteen, and their first child was born with a year. By 1910 they had six healthy children but needed more space. In April of that year, the Whites and a few other families from Wisconsin moved to Alvwood, Itasca County.

The group traveled as far as Blackduck by train. “Dad said Grampa (Otis Vandervort) and Uncle Reno (Sereno White) rode in the boxcar with the livestock – a horse, a cow and a dog.”

The Whites occupied a building too small for them while a new home was being constructed and was very excited to move in before winter. “The new 24×24 house was built of hewed logs, with walls high enough for three bedrooms upstairs. It was built by ‘Scandinavian and expert builder and hewer, Pete Berg.’  When the family of eight moved into the new house, the old one became the chicken coop.”

Separation of the Family

In March 1911, Ina delivered her seventh child, and although a doctor was sent for, she died before anything could be done. With the help of neighbors, Sereno managed for a couple of months. The baby was healthy, and Ina’s brother Lugene and new wife Goldie took the child, who they called Donald, back to live with them in Wisconsin. His actual, registered name was Ruben Asa, but he only used that name when he enlisted in the Navy during WWII.

Two-year-old Earl “was given a home and loving care by Charlie Bedore and his wife, Mathilda. He lived with them until he was nine years old and then went back to the family.”

By about Christmas, it was evident to Sereno he could not care for the other five children himself, so he placed them in the temporary custody of the state. The boys were placed in an orphanage in Owatonna and the girls in Sauk Center. Sereno wanted them to return home as soon as his situation changed, but it ended up being three years, and for some too long.

Leslie and Lloyd, the two oldest boys, ran away within a year and Clifford felt abandoned because he was only six and couldn’t accompany them. “He was later put on a farm in Waseca. The boy of this farmer always blamed Cliff for all his wrongdoings, and Cliff got punished for it. He got tired of this and ran away to a neighbor’s farm, where they gave Cliff money to help him leave. He came to Horicon, Wisconsin, and found himself a job on a farm. When he ran away, he changed his name to Weise. He was married in that name. Later he changed it back to White.”

Reuniting

The 1920 U.S. census shows the five oldest children, Leslie, Lloyd, Gladys, Alice, and Earl, were living in the family home with their father. Donald was still with his aunt and uncle Delap. No one knew what had become of Clifford after he left the farm in Waseca. It wasn’t long before Gladys married, which meant Alice was the only female at home. She was in charge of the household and missed her sister. Her mental health and general thought processes began to deteriorate when she was about 25. Eventually, her father had no choice but to have her committed to the Fergus Falls Hospital for the Insane, where she died of pneumonia in 1932.

One by one, the White brothers married and established a farm in Alvwood. Imagine their surprise when Clifford came up to visit! He had married and with a family of his own realized he wanted to find his brothers and sisters. Cliff was only five when he and his brothers went to the orphanage. He didn’t remember where his family was from, so he sought the answers at Owatonna and ventured north.

By 1930, Cliff had returned with his family to the community where his mother and father had settled. Donald had always maintained a relationship with his brothers and sisters and was glad to meet the brother he had never known.

At the time of his death in 1941, four of Sereno Centennial White’s children were within walking distance of his home place, and he had over a dozen grandchildren whom he saw daily. Donald remained in Wisconsin, and Gladys was near Crookston. And at least sixty-six years after his death, the house stood for me to photograph. I expect it is still standing, and perhaps it is time for another photo-shoot.