In 1905, my grandparents John and Henrietta Ullstrom homesteaded property about 25 miles south of the Canadian border in a community known as Rako, in Lake of the Woods County. In 1936, a few years before I was born, my grandfather died, possibly after being struck by lightning while working in his field. We are not sure exactly how he died because he wasn’t examined by a doctor.
After Grandpa’s death, Grandma was never successful trying to sell the property. It is swampy, and not good farmland. When I was 18, Grandma gave the property to me. She knew I loved it. The house they built, which was starting to deteriorate, was removed from the property and rebuilt about five miles away. I was in my 30s with a wife and three small children. I did not have the money to fix it up. Even though I was sad to see the house go, I was glad it could be brought back by someone who also treasured it.
In the 1980s, when I did have more time and money, I moved a former log schoolhouse, built in 1911, onto the homestead property. It was getting used as a barn at the time. My father had moved it onto his farm. When I was in high school I put in a haymow. While doing so, I fell in love with the building and its beautiful squared logs. I consider it a true work of art.
I and my family began to fix up the structure. First, we built a porch on the front and north side. That gave us a place to work. Over the years we removed siding, cleaned the logs, replaced the floor with pine boards, and custom-built all new doors and windows. Two sleeping lofts were added.
We haven’t actually spent much time relaxing in our new/old log cabin. We know the day will come. My children, who have spent many hours working on it, have said they want to keep the property in the family.
I have loved this very remote area of the state my whole life. It made me the person I am. The property has been in the family 100 years this year. Wildlife, not people, abound. The cabin has no electricity, no indoor plumbing or working well. The cabin sits on 240 acres adjacent to hundreds of acres of state land.
I am so happy this property will stay in the family for at least another generation. Along with my grandparents and parents, I am part of the land. My spirit will remain there forever. I hope my grandchildren will have happy memories of sharing cookies and milk and conversation around the kitchen table. Just like I had with Grandma.
Gene (and Dolores) Ullstrom, Rockford