(History of Minnesota's Resort Industry - article by resort owner Kim Bowen May 2016)
The lakeside lodge here at Crow Wing Crest Lodge was built as part of the Red River Logging Company in 1898 (one of approximately 25-30 camps in the area). Akeley was named after the co-founder of the logging company, H.C. Akeley. The town boasted the largest sawmill in the nation until it burned down in 1916.
Logging then headed out west (taking with 'em their Paul Bunyan stories. Believe it or not, the first published marketing campaign with Paul Bunyan & Babe the Blue Ox was created by the Red River Logging Company, a nephew of the other co-founder T.B. Walker, and was meant to sell lumber. Hence, Akeley's boast of the birthplace of Paul Bunyan - as it was their #1 lumber mill when the advertisements started).
<Kim catches Big John mentioning to guests that Paul Bunyan was born here at CWC. It's all about the spring fed waters, he says. When he first arrived 15 years ago he was only 6' 2" - now look at him: he's 6' 7". *sigh* Kim apologizes in advance for any tall tales told here . . . . . >
Crow Wing Crest went through several owners until the gas shortage during WWII prevented leisure traveling.
We have some indication that the resort was a chicken farm in the 1920's.
(In fact, when remodeling Cabin #6 in 2011, we found a vintage flap-out window in the living room area that had been boarded up several times over with three different eras of paneling. Once uncovered, we noticed chicken feathers and poo in the old sill, which we promptly cleaned and sanitized. I guess we took a page from ex-owners and then left that 'ole window in the wall, covered in fresh drywall.)
Another interesting phase of the resort: Aunt Polly's Girls Camp 1931-1939. Can you believe girls were sent here from all over the country to learn etiquette here in the northwoods??!
The railway systems the logging boom left behind came in handy for moving people into the northwoods. We have one historic photo of a couple of these girls in pinafores and kerchiefs in the driveway of resort. (One modern guest had to show us his GPS screen. Never having been here before, he had plugged in our resort address and the name popped up as Aunt Polly's. Why in heck would a business name almost 50 years old defunct now show up in a 2003 navigation system? No one since has mentioned it. Must have updated, let's hope. 🙂
1946 is when CWC first became a summer vacation resort with the lodge taking a role as restaurant and home to the owners, Marv & Edna Richmond (who owned it 24 years). In the beginning, a cabin on the American Plan (supper each evening) cost $70 for one week. Each cabin got their own outhouse - woo hoo!
The Richmond's modernized the original eight cabins with electric and indoor bathrooms, then built cabins #5, #11, #12 and a recreation/pool table/game room overlooking the beach (which eventually became cabin #15). Edna taught art classes (oil painting on the lawn, pottery) and Marv was some kind of national horse shoe tossing champ (likely the reason why the resort still sports two horse shoe pits.)
When the modernization plan included refrigerators and ovens in the 1960's, the demand for a full restaurant diminished.
Now the lodge offers a snack bar, game room and laundramat, and is used as office, marina, and central social gathering place; the hub and heart of activity for the resort.
Historic photos of Crow Wing Crest Lodge
We do not know much about the history of Crow Wing Crest Lodge, or this land prior to 1898 when the Red River Logging Company built our historic lodge. In fact, on the abstract, the first entry starts . . .
Patent Oct. 5, 1883, " United States of America under act of Congress approved 24th of April 1820 and the acts supplemental thereto. TO T.B. Walker Gov. lot 1. Sec 15-141-32 -- et al lands-this lot contains according to the Government plat ----43.60 acres."
The next couple of entries give a Quit Claim Deed from Thomas B. Walker and Harriet G. Walker, his wife, to Healey C. Akeley and undivided 1/2 interest in property, on July 19th, 1893. Then the next entry is a Special Warranty Deed from Healy C. Akeley and Hettie E. Akeley back to Thomas B. Walker on May 1, 1903. (No idea what the heck these guys were doing . . . . . feel free to enlighten us, those of you who are attorneys 🙂 )
Native American history at CWC: During a session with Akashic Records practitioner, Suzette in 2009, (she is a frequent guest at our Spring Healer's Retreat), I asked if she could tap into any history prior to 1898; knowing I wouldn't be able to validate anything, but just wanting stories to play with and "try on". Well, interestingly enough, after Suzette did her prep prayer, she immediately started talking very quickly as she said that she was hearing the words "Lakota! Lakota! Lakota!" being urgently "yelled" at her from several different spirit guides and entities. According to these guides, she said that the land upon which this resort is standing, was a gathering place for Lakota Native American peoples for a very, very long time. She went on to talk about the fact that there were numerous boundary skirmishes around the property and that we could do a "cleansing" to help dissipate any lingering negative/stagnant energy. Honestly, I didn't quite know what to think about this session, but in the end I figured "OK . . . .sure, why not? I'll only be out my time and it might be fun". So, I enlisted Big John and a couple of very good friends (Gus is the guy who creates all our native american style drums in the lodge -- including the big buffalo drum) into doing this cleansing in a rather respectful and serious manner. It took us a couple of hours, and I'm not sure, but we actually may have experienced some unexpected positive results from doing this task. Ask me about it sometime when you're here vacationing next!
Again, we do not claim to have any knowledge of peoples who have lived on this land prior to the late 1800's, however, we do have approximately one guest a year who will find an arrowhead somewhere on the property. We have also found the below two possible artifacts:
tomahawk artifact (?)
fire-making twirl stick stone artifact (?)
Anyway, these are just notes and stories to hand to the next owners years from now. Yes, I have been told a couple of ghost stories from guests and past owners who actually believe they experienced something* up here at CWC (nothing too serious). At some point, I should write down the stories to pass along, also, shouldn't I? *sigh* Nag me enough, and I will. 🙂
In the meantime, we have many, many first time guests spontaneously tell us "you know, there's just a really good vibe here, isn't there?" and I tell 'em "Yep, it does feel good here." Many of our long-time repeat guests use the word "magical" when describing the resort, which I find interesting. It just feels like HOME to me. 🙂
Below is one of Big John's all-time favorite Robbie Robertson's tunes, courtesy of
*Stories to flesh out
- native american ghost sightings during new construction of Cabin #16 (from Terry Heller, ex-owner) 1999
- native american ghost sighting Cabin #19 (from Kris, current co-owner) 2004
- February 2010 native american ghost sighting from house-sitter of Kim & Big John's home
- ghost sighting of Marv Richmond (owner of CWC 1946-1971) in Cabin #3 from a guest 2005
- random comments from mainstream summer guests spontaneously talking about "vibe" of resort after cleansing in spring 2009. Very odd.
- cold spots, drum circle spirit energy, practical jokes, and Kris' "ghost story" of the well-house next to the A-Frame, Cabin #3
HERE's a story I heard from a repeat guest of many, many years. I asked her recently to recount it in her own words and here it is:
"Cabin 4 August 2009:
While taking a nap in the room on the right as you walk in the cabin my husband experienced someone come in and sit down on the corner of the bed. He said he could feel the weight of the mattress compress as though someone was actually sitting there. He thought it was me. He also heard someone say his name clear as day in the room. When he got up from his nap he came and found me to see what I needed. I had been out swimming and then in my parents cabin. No one had been the the cabin all afternoon while he was taking his nap.
Also, while staying in that cabin. I experienced a paralyzing moment of terror one night. I woke up in the middle of the night, wide awake and had an immense feeling of terror and doom. I was so scared to move I didn't even wake up my husband. What was really odd was that the room was darker than dark. Normally and every other night since that night you can always make out things in the darkness either from the moonlight shinning in or just your eyes adjusting to the darkness. This was not the case that night, it was darker than dark, I could see nothing and the air was so thick and heavy. Nothing changed until the sun FINALLY came up.
Cabin 1 July 1996ish:
My mom woke up in the middle of the night the bedroom on the left side of the cabin (if you're facing it). When she woke up the was a large dark mass floating over the top of her. She was scared by it but was able to fall back to sleep.
Also, by our very first year, Terry and Connie sent up us to Cabin 6, we by mistake went to Cabin 7 (the old cabin 7 which no longer exists). When we walked into Cabin 7 it had a super creep-out factor to it. There was just something about that cabin that just wasn't right. At the time (early 90's) the movie Hook had just come out. In our family it was always and still is called the "You're dead jolly man"-cabin. It's a line out of the movie, but my brother who was only 6 at the time said that whenever he went by it. It spooked him too. LOL!!!
Anyway, those are our "ghost" stories of CWC past in our household. :)"