My thanks to Cathy Brugger who contributed the following 1950s photos of Pine Cone Resort located on Kabekona Bay on Leech Lake.
According to a 2006 Woodland Resort Newsletter, Pine Cone Resort was built about 1951. Owners in the 1950s were Margaret & J. W. Bunten, believed to be from from Kansas City. A 1956 mimeographed letter stated: “Pine Cone Resort is the newest in the vicinity, and one of the largest and most modern, with a lodge, store, and 16 modern cabins.” According to a 2006 Woodland Resort newsletter, Pine Cone may have been the last resort built on Kabekona Bay.
There were few accommodations available at Walker, Minnesota in 1896 when white travelers began to arrive on its first railroad. Camping was the main option for visitors, and a community of tents dotted a peninsula on the Leech Lake shoreline. Walker was still a small settlement composed of a rough and tumble mix of white lumberjacks, fur traders, and trappers.
The first significant hotel, the Pamida, was built by Patrick H. McGarry in 1897. The following year, a conflict occurred at Leech Lake between U. S. Army soldiers and the Ojibwe from the nearby Leech Lake Reservation. Six soldiers were killed in the Battle of Sugar Point. It is considered the last official battle of the Indian Wars. Walker became known as “the last frontier” and curious tourists arrived by train to visit the site.
Walker needed another hotel to handle a surge of visitors, hunters, and fishermen. McGarry capitalized on the event and in 1901 opened his second hotel, with cabins, on the peninsula that once contained campsites. He named it “Glengarry.” The hotel and cabins, were a success and hosted many dignitaries. It is considered the first resort on Leech Lake, and was the top resort on the lake until 1922 when Chase on the Lake was built.
Glengarry, Walker, MN, Leech Lake, ca 1912
A photo postcard mailed in 1912 to Oak Park, Illinois describes Glengarry and reflects a new, more refined image of Walker: “Dear Adelaide—I am having a fine time. There is a building next to us called the grand opera house . . . at present they are having moving pictures.” (click on image to the right to enlarge)
After the Glengarry closed it was abandoned and eventually succumbed to decay. It gradually disappeared, blending into the natural surroundings. In 2009, after 100 years under one family’s ownership, the 33 acre estate was subdivided into large lots. Only stone remnants of steps and chimneys remain to remind us of this historic era.
Please see more photos, history, and brochures of the Glengarry Hotel that were graciously donated to this website by Melanie Rice of Rice Creative Services, LLC in Walker. Click here to view them, or find them under “Shared Photos” tab, then select the “Leech Lake collection #2,” or use the “Search” tab on this website. More information about Glengarry can also be found in my book, The Early Resorts of Minnesota.
Fuller’s Fishing Contest in Park Rapids, Minnesota was probably the first major fishing contest in the state. It was certainly the longest running fishing contest, beginning in 1916 and lasting until 1985. The contest was sponsored by Fuller’s Tackle Shops with local resort support within a 25 mile area around Park Rapids and Grand Rapids, Minnesota.The video below, Catch a Memory, gives us a visual sample of the thousands of individuals who registered fish for this contest.
Most of the photos in Catch a Memory were taken by the contest’s founder Earl Fuller, or his son Jerome (Jerry). Their store was often the first place tourists would stop on their arrival to the Park Rapids area. Many of the largest contest fish were displayed daily on ice behind a large window on Main Avenue.
Fuller’s Tackle Shop front window
Walleye contest entry from Hurds Acres Resort
In midwinter, contest entrants were mailed the highly anticipated Fuller’s Golden Book which listed each entrant’s name, prize, etc. (In Grand Rapids it was the Fuller’s Blue Book.) Of course, the books offered an opportunity to study resort advertising and plan for the next vacation. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources still uses the Golden Book and Blue Book data for studying fish populations.
Fishing contests have changed considerably since the days of Fuller’s Tackle Shops. Instead of a summer long contest, most of the contests today are one-day events. There are now over 400 fishing contests in Minnesota each year, with roughly three-fourths scheduled in summer and one-fourth in winter. Prize money can reach over $100,000, with the highest amounts in winter contests. Brainerd, Minnesota is recognized as having the world’s largest ice fishing contest, raising $1-million in revenue for area businesses and donating over $150,000 to area charities each year.
Shady Rest Resort, Ball Club Lake, MN, ca 1949 (Fuller Collection)
Today, attitudes and rules have changed toward catching large fish. Contests too, have changed. We no longer see huge fish displayed in sidewalk windows. Contests last only a day. Catch and release photos and tape measures are emphasized, with slot limits regulating the size we keep. We return the big ones to the water. Duplicates are made of fiberglass, as found in the state record fish on the walls of the Minnesota Fishing Museum at Little Falls, Minnesota.
Fishing contests and fishing rules have changed. Our attitudes have changed. But we all can still have a dream of catching that monster fish, or at least having something for the frying pan.
To read my earlier blogpost about Fuller’s Tackle Shop, click here.
My thanks to Wayne Ostlie, who has donated the following photos related to early logging around Minnesota’s Lake Itasca. These historic photos (ca 1910) reflect the hardships early loggers faced in cutting the timber that was floated on the Mississippi River to downstream sawmills.
Wayne, along with Odell Bjerkness and Paul Ostlie, have published Montevideo: 1860 to 1930 Through Their Eyes and In Their Words. This photo-packed book presents the visual history of early Montevideo, with narratives of this prairie village and the citizens who fueled its early growth. For a summary of the book’s chapters go to:
Last year I entered my book The Early Resorts of Minnesota in a writing contest sponsored by Writer’s Digest Magazine. Over 2,300 books were entered in “The 26th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.” My book was published in 2012, just making the timeline for entries. While it was not selected as a prize winner, I was pleased with the high ratings and a judges’ positive commentary.
Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding.” My book’s scores were as follows:
Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5
Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5
Production Quality and Cover Design: 5
Voice and Writing Style: 5
Plot and Story and Character Appeal and Development were not applicable in the Nonfiction category for judging my book.
The Judge’s Commentary:
The Early Resorts of Minnesota
by Ren Holland
Congratulations on writing and publishing your book! The packaging is extremely professional, and I appreciate the care and expense you have taken to make this a hardcover keepsake and reference with so many historical photographs that are so clearly reproduced. The cover design is eye-catching and does a great job of highlighting the book’s purpose and potential audience. This book will have a wide potential audience, from Minnesotans in general to those in the tourist industry, historians, and others looking for a reference guide to find specific information. You have clearly done a great deal of research and you have presented the information in a reader friendly manner. Your writing style is conversational and enjoyable without taking focus away from the historical details. The book is well organized and easy to navigate. I appreciate the inclusion of your detailed Index as well. The many photographs you included help to bring these places to life. Good job with grammar and proofreading. The formatting of the text and layout of the pages are quite effective. You have an excellent web site to market your book, speaking engagements, etc.
Recently I had two opportunities to take pleasant steps into the past. One was by visiting my favorite sites at Itasca State Park; the other was to look for the site of an early resort near Park Rapids. The occasion developed when my wife’s high school classmate and longtime friend Kay visited us for an annual get-together in Little Falls. Kay’s brother Dave acted as her chauffeur since health reasons prevented Kay from driving. With nothing specific to do, Dave had hoped to visit Itasca State Park, as well as to possibly find “Erve’s,” a former resort on Little Sand Lake, near Dorset. As a young boy, he had spent several summer vacations at the resort with his family.
Dave taught architecture at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, and is now retired. I had not met him before, but we got along immediately and shared similar interests. I knew he would be especially interested in the rustic and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) era architecture at Itasca State Park. I looked forward to showing him Itasca’s historical architectural showpieces, including Douglas Lodge, Forest Inn, and The Old Timer’s Cabin. And of course, he wanted to cross the Source of the Mississippi on the slippery rocks.
Douglas Lodge, built in 1905, has a rustic log style adapted from the buildings of the National Park Service (photo below). It is always exciting for me to visit it as well as to see the old growth red pines that I played under as a young boy. We followed a path from the lodge down to Lake Itasca, then along the shoreline over a walkway until we reached one of the most unique cabins you will ever find: The Old Timer’s Cabin. It was the first one constructed by the CCC in 1934, with logs so huge, only four were needed to reach the eaves (photo below).
Douglas Lodge, Itasca State Park, ca. 1914 (click to enlarge)
Old Timer’s Cabin (2018)
Forest Inn, Itasca State Park
Forest Inn, across the road from Douglas Lodge, is probably one of the best examples of 1930’s Depression Era architecture (photo on left). It is worth your time to go inside to shop (my books are sold there) and to examine the beautiful and unique way wood, stone, and iron can be combined to blend with the natural environment. It was built between 1939 and 1941 by the Veterans Civilian Conservation Corps, who were highly skilled in working with logs and stone.
Dave crossing the Mississippi Headwaters, July 2018
The well-worn path winding from the Mary Gibbs Headwaters Center down to the Source of Mississippi is always rewarding. Just watching those nearing the end of their quest of crossing the stream is fun. Someone is always getting wet trying to step from stone to stone to “walk across the Mississippi.” (This year, the stones and banks will be readjusted for the first time in 80 years to keep the river from expanding around the ends of the boulders and to help prevent injuries from slipping.) (Photo on right.)
After returning to Douglas Lodge for a delicious dinner of Red Lake Walleye, we made our way to Little Sand Lake in an attempt to find “Erve’s Resort.” By chance, we chose one of the many similar driveways leading down to the hidden lake. As we approached a steep grade, Dave began to recognize what had once been the site of his summer fun as a boy. Only one of the original log buildings remained. We parked the car, then trespassed a little to get to the shoreline. We visited with a young couple, one of several who vacationed in summer homes. Their school-age children and friends were at the dock, enjoying the water, said to be the cleanest and clearest in Minnesota. The scene, on the site that had once been Erve’s Resort, brought back many fond memories for Dave.
What about the other eight Little Sand resorts of the 1950s–Norton’s (Greendale Resort), Shoreham, Camp Mirimichi, Wingard’s, Anglers Wood, Northern Star, Paulette’s (now Zorbaz Restaurant), and Little Sand Lake Resort? Not a single resort is advertised for Little Sand Lake. None. Their demise is likely attributed to the spike in real estate values, fueled by demand for the lake’s high-quality water and sandy shoreline.
Those of us who would like to visit the family resort that we enjoyed as a child or as a new parent, might prepare for a disappointment: The resort may no longer exist. There are less than 800 remaining of the nearly four thousand resorts that existed in the peak years of the 1950s and 1960s. We would be lucky to find one of the few that has persisted, flourished, and perhaps even retained some of their characteristic historical structures.
Fortunately, our country has state and national parks, as well as historic and natural landmark recognition. They can provide stability and an enlightening step into the past by preserving natural features and architecture that will likely be there whenever we return.
ca 1930s, Mississippi Headwaters
ca 1930s, Mississippi Headwaters marker
ca 1940s, Mississippi Headwaters
ca 1940s, Native American Pageant, Chief Odawa Littlecreek at Mississippi Headwaters
2016 My wife Ida Mae (right) and sister-in-law Ann (left) at Mississippi Headwaters
Mississippi Headwaters in winter, courtesy of Itasca State Park
For more history on Itasca State Park’s historic buildings and sites, click here to visit the Minnesota Historical Society.
I want to thank Tim Donohue for sending photos taken at Big Whitefish Bay Resort during the summers of 1963-64, when he was a young boy. Tim’s sister, Jane, worked at the resort and they both share fond memories and images of the resort and the people they met. It was operated at that time by Audrey Ternus (1908-1991). Tim has also included a detailed description of the resort.
(H) The Mailboat
One of Tim’s memories describe a man in an old wooden inboard who delivered mail and gave free rides to kids along his route. Although Tim may not have known it at the time, this would have been the legendary mailman, Ben Knebel, who delivered mail to Whitefish Lake residents from 1930 to 1969. If you look at Figure H, you will see the mailboat docked at Big Whitefish Bay in 1963. In 1992, over twenty years after Ben died, his 1949 mahogany 22 foot Chris Craft Sportsman boat was discovered after a long search. It was extremely deteriorated, but with personal affection, it was meticulously restored by two Whitefish Lake Resorters, Joe Ruttger and Ron Schultz.
I have not seen this historic boat, but look forward to finding it next summer. Information may be available at the Crosslake Historical Society.
We can all appreciate that Tim and Jane donated these photos and information, which give us a historic glimpse of Big Whitefish Bay Resort and Ben Knebel’s cherished mailboat.
To read Tim’s writeup and view all of Tim and Jane’s donated photos, click here.
On March 10, 2018, I spoke to the Brainerd, Minnesota chapter of the Captain Robert Orr National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Before my slide presentation, I brushed up on the goals of the DAR on their website and found that the chapter is one of 3,000 nationally and internationally. Any woman 18 years or older, regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background, who can prove lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution is eligible for membership in the DAR. Its broad goals include historical preservation, promotion of education, and encouragement of patriotic endeavor. Members participate in a variety of projects to help preserve our cultural heritage.
I was invited by member Kathy Brown, who, with her husband Russ, traveled from Park Rapids to attend the chapter’s luncheon meeting at the Sawmill Inn at Brainerd. My slide presentation was titled “Early Central Minnesota Resorts and Tourism.” I’ll touch on a few of the subjects covered, some of which are in my book, The Early Resorts of Minnesota.
Brainerd Area Lakes tourism blossomed with the advancement of automobiles and highways in the 1920s. However, the city of Brainerd owes its existence to a decision made back in 1870 by the Northern Pacific Railroad when it surveyed the first east-west transcontinental route across the northern states. At that time, just about everyone expected the tracks to cross the Mississippi River at the village of Crow Wing, a traditional crossing point and the largest village along the northern Mississippi. However, the decision was made to cross seven miles north of Crow Wing! This spelled doom to the village’s future, as everyone migrated to seek opportunities in the brand new village of Brainerd, named after Ann Eliza Brainerd’s family. She was an American author, Civil War patriot, and wife of the railroad’s president, former Vermont Governor, J. Gregory Smith.
Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge, ca 1953
Travel and curiosity followed the newly constructed railroad tracks, which started near Duluth (completed in 1883). Fishing the new lakes along the route drew national travelers to Bay Lake, near Deerwood. The Ruttger family had settled there, and what began as a homestead, developed into a long history of resorts. As many as five resorts had the Ruttger name at one time. Ruttger’s at Bay Lake may be the earliest resort in northern Minnesota (1894), with the exception of Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior. Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge certainly must be the oldest resort operated by relatives of one family.
Names of resorts in Minnesota were not recorded until about 1915. Hotels were mixed in the count. Below are the first resorts in Crow Wing County (Hotels are not included.)
At Brainerd: Hough’s Resort on Gull (C. M. Hough), Hubert Cottages (C. M. Palek), Parkerville Cottages (F. S. Parker), South Long Lake Resort (Wm. McCall).
At Deerwood: Highland Resort, Miller’s (A. A. Miller), Ruttger’s Tourist’s Home at Bay Lake (Joseph Ruttger).
At Hubert: Heals Cottages (B. C. Heals), Minnewawa Lodge (B.C. Heald), Osborne Cottages (L. L.Osborne), Pukwana Lodge (W. D. Curtis), Wasena Camp (Sol Marquis & Son) on Pelican Lake.
At Jenkins: Hardy Camp on Whitefish (Dave Hardy), Lakeside Camp, Piney Ridge (F. W. Palmer), Shady Rest Camp.
At Merrifield: Velvet Beach on Big Pelican (Ike Miller).
Rocky Point Resort, Gull Lake, Brainerd, ca 1915
At Nisswa: Grand View on Gull (Baker-Seaton Co. of Mpls.), Ozonite Resort on Gull (S. V.Long), Rocky Point Resort on Gull.
At Pequot: Kamberling Resort (Chas. Kamberling) on Whitefish, Shady Nest Camp (O. L. Thomas), Silver Peak Lodge ( J. A. McEwen) on Whitefish.
Grand View Lodge, ca 1929
Of those mentioned above, only two have retained their original names—Ruttger’s on Bay Lake, and Grand View, on Gull (click here to read my “Blue Ribbon Resort” write-up on Grand View). These, and later resorts in the Brainerd Lakes Area, have become nationally and internationally known for their broad range of deluxe facilities for convention guests and tourists.
I want to thank the Brainerd DAR chapter for the opportunity to speak about early resort history in the Brainerd Lakes Area.