Crane Lake Stories: Five Generations of Stories with Brenda King – Part 1

Published On: July 26, 202111.6 min read
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Episode 6 – Memories and Tales from Old Crane Lake

Stories and Sentiments from Crane Lake Visitors

Pastor Brenda King joins us for a 2 part interview exploring her roots in the Crane Lake area and the adventures and memories that keep her coming back for more. In this episode, Pastor King share’s childhood memories of building a cabin, and the trials and joys that come along with a mix of hard work and pleasant scenery. Whether you’re curious about a little personal Crane Lake history from the perspective of a resident, or just looking to enjoy tales of another time, this episode is for you!

Look for part two of this episode in the near future for more great stories and beautiful memories, and visit Crane Lake to begin making wonderful memories of your own!



What You’ll Learn In This Episode

  • How folks got around Crane Lake in times past.
  • What Crane Lake was like years ago.
  • Memories that you make at Crane Lake last a lifetime!


Episode Transcript;

Matt Addington: Hey, welcome back this week to another episode of Crane Lake Stories. We’ve been just so excited about hearing stories from near and far. Young visitors and older visitors, and, long-time and lifetime residents and first-time visitors, Crane Lake Stories has really evolved into a really fun project personally for me to do these interviews, but this week we’re really excited to have Brenda King along with us, who has quite a history with the Crane Lake area through her family, and through generations. Two years ago she finally settled into, I don’t know if it’s her dream job, but it seems like it would be, and she is the pastor at Crane Lake Chapel and the Kabetogama Chapel. So Brenda, thanks for coming on and joining us today!

Brenda King: Well thanks for the invitation! It’s great to be here and get to share this wonderful space!

Matt: It is, and a wonderful place in the world. That’s, you know, kind of been the thing with the common theme, even with people who have been first-time visitors that we’ve talked to, either on camera or just in person, there’s something magical and something that pulls people into this place in the world that is just so attractive and kind of magical. You will have a lot of stories and experience to share with us I’m sure. Tell us just a little bit about your family’s history. I know that it goes it goes back almost 100 years to your grandfather and great uncles and people coming up to hunt, but tell us a little bit about what your history looks like.

Brenda: Well, in 1928 my uncle was going to Hamline University, and he heard about this place called Green Lake and that it had good deer hunting. So that was the year that the railroad was pulled out and in 29 they were using the railroad bed as a road, and my grandfather and my uncles went up hunting and they stayed at Nelson’s Resort. From then on, they’ve always, from then until into the 80s, they went hunting in that area or in Superior National Forest, and so that began the family going up. My dad wasn’t old enough to go that year, but wasn’t too many years before he got to go, too.

In the 1930s there was a log cabin at what’s now the Mukooda Campgrounds, and they leased that for several years to hunt out of. My dad told the story that one year, it got so cold that he sent the rest of the family home because they had to get back to work. My uncle Ford and uncle Billy and grandpa and my dad stayed with a shirttail relative up at that log cabin and they had to get two more deer. They did it Thursday. He knew his folks were coming back up on Saturday. Thursday, he walked across Crane Lake to see how the ice was, he hauled all the deer down to Northwest Bay and hung them up down there. Got down to Condon’s for a cup of coffee and  here were some guys there and they said “Hey, you’ve got those deer down on Northwest Portage, I want that doe. I’ll pay you for it.

That was grandpa’s deer, so he thought about whether he should sell his dad’s deer or not, but he sold it because the guy said he was going to take it anyhow, so might as well get the money for it. This was the 30s, naturally we’ll take money. He went back up and told the guy that was still up there with him they had to go out and get another deer, and they did. Saturday morning they started across Crane Lake with the old wooden boat full of deer, pulling it because it was iced over and about halfway across they met up with his brothers and his dad. Grandpa walked around the boat several times and said “Where’s my doe?” and the other guy, Grandpa Sonnenberg, who was this relative, said it grew horns. Grandpa was okay with it, especially when he got money for it, and so they just kept going.

In the 40s, Uncle Billy bought some property right there by the Mukooda Portage on the Sand Point side and built the old cabin. I’ve seen the pictures when it was the old cabin. I remember I’m calling it the bunk house. By the time I could go up there, they built a cabin and the family went fishing and hunting and even grandma, they said they got her up a couple times. She’d only go across the lake and stay. She would not get back in the boat until it was time to go home, but grandma even came up. Grandma was 80 when I was born, so she was probably in her 60s when she was going up, and that was as far as they could get her.

Matt: Was all of the family coming from the Twin Cities? Is that kind of where they were?

Brenda: Just to the north of the cities, Princeton area, Anoka area, yeah. So that’s where they all were and, it was a long trip when you think about 1929, to come up from a farm, I don’t know how they did it and I’m not sure but probably in the 50s they built the new cabin. And my aunt and uncle lived up there pretty much. The first week of the month with Federal Cartridge in Anoka but otherwise they were up there all the time. That cabin is now the Park Ranger’s cabin at the Mukooda portage.

So in 1961, my parents decided they needed a cabin up there, and that was the first time we were ever left with a babysitter overnight as they went up to find that lot. At deer hunting that year, the guys came up, started cutting the place for the cabin, built to shack and in 1962 we went up as a family for Memorial Day. Built the outhouse, put in the dock, continued to clear the lot and we all helped. I’m the oldest of three, so we were five, four, and two, helping.

Matt: Wow. Obviously that’s probably one of your first personal memories, then, of coming up, and obviously very indelible in your mind.

Brenda: Yeah, you know I remember going across in that boat and both of my sisters fell asleep on the 10 mile boat ride, and so I’m the one left carrying the stuff. This is a couple docks down, somebody said we could use their dock, and asking my dad part way, across these four lots, “Are you sure you’re not lost?” I mean, we had been in the car since midnight, no 35w going up, right? So it was a slow trip up, and then across the lake, “You sure you’re not lost?” I asked him that. I remember he says “No, no, we’re almost there,” as we were walking. We got there and found this shack that the guys had built for deer hunting and continued to work. 

We went up for Fourth of July for 16 days, dad stopped at the Fire Ranger to say hey we need a burning permit because we’re going to keep burning brush to clear the lot, and the guy told him that the bear had broke into the shack. So my dad had to think of a good story to tell. There were two little windows in the shack, bear broke both of them and pulled off a four by eight sheet of the shack and broke in. Stepped on the table, so my dad had to make it so we’d all think it was safe in there. It worked. Mom wasn’t very happy. The bear dragged out our sleeping bags and they were wet when we got there, but we spent 16 days in that shack. 

The second day the barge brought up all the lumber for the cabin. Dad had ordered everything, it was the same design as my aunt and uncle’s cabin down on the Mukooda Portage. A mirror image, sure of it. So he started building, and if he needed two by fours he’d tell my mom how many to bring from the shoreline up to the cabin, and if it was a number of them then I got to help, because I was five, to haul those logs. Well, she could carry one or two two by fours by herself, but if i’d help then we could do three to four together. So then my four-year-old sister is having to watch the two-year-old and two-year-old only fell in the lake once during that week and that was about the time my uncle was trying to bring the boat in. Uncle Ford and another friend had brought the stove and refrigerator. At that point, you got to get things lined up correctly, by the end of 16 days my dad had the roof on, the shingles on, and he had stuffed all the eaves with insulation so no animals or bugs could get in. I think there were a couple windows at that point, and so when we came up in August we brought up the big windows and I don’t think the porch windows got put in until the next year, but we just kept working on it. Went up for deer hunting, he brought sheetrock so the guys could help. It was a family cabin and we used it continuously. 

In the late 60s, my dad built a snowmobile, it was a heavy bugger, and four of us could ride on it so you know it was a big thing. He also had bought a small Ski-Doo, it was a racing Ski-Doo with a burnt out engine. He put a new engine in it, and we started going up in the winter. There was no insulation on the floor of that cabin, that wasn’t what they built it for to start with. And so we started going up every year, December 26, for the rest of Christmas vacation. My dad wasn’t too concerned if we missed a day or two with school, so, you know it’s okay. We all got good enough grades.

Matt: So that cabin was obviously a part of your whole childhood, is that cabin still standing?

Brenda: No, it was taken by the Park Service. We used it, we used it for mid-winter recess, our school had the first week of February off because it was supposed to be the coldest of the winter. They could turn off the heat in the school or turn it down and thought they’d save energy, so we were up there at least two weeks every winter. 

Matt: In through your childhood into adulthood, at some point kind of the cabin disappeared, but you continued this affinity in this visiting to Crane Lake all the way through adulthood.

Brenda: Yes, family continues to go up. We’ve had family reunions up there, oh my goodness, you don’t want to be around for that! There’s 17 of us, of my Uncle Billy’s family and our family, so yeah, the family’s been going up. Last summer, one of my cousins went up, he’s the fourth generation, and his son barely remembers the last time they went up. He was only three or four years old and he’s now 17. So the family continues to go up.

Matt: You said four generations-

Brenda: Five generations now.

Matt: Wow.

Brenda: So I think Crane Lake is very much, I asked on Sunday yesterday at church to introduce yourselves and tell where you’re staying, how long you’ve been coming, and it’s such a generational place. I mean, almost everybody was saying “Well, we’re the third or we’re the fourth generation up here.” There were the new folks, but a lot of generations have been a long time in that area.

Matt: So we had such a great conversation with Pastor Brenda King that went on and on with all of these great stories, and we decided to split this into two episodes. This is going to be the end of this episode, but be sure and join us next time as we pick up where we left off with Pastor King talking about some of the new upcoming things that are happening in the Crane Lake area currently!



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