In 1895, my great-grandfather James, who emigrated from Nova Scotia, received a land patent for 175 acres adjacent to Lake Mille Lacs. Logging was big, and he eventually sold some of the land to a developer and the area was platted for a new town. He wisely retained prime land on the lake and, with his wife, Grace, built a house there in 1910.
It was a simple house: One bedroom, kitchen, screen porch and a large, open second floor. No indoor plumbing, but there was electricity. His five children enjoyed many a summer on the lake, and three of them also built summer homes (which are still owned by my cousins). The previous generations told numerous — and sometimes outrageous — stories.
The house has had few upgrades over its 104 years. A beautiful 30-foot fieldstone fireplace was added. A new, small kitchen added to the rear of the house, and a real bathroom was added in the ’40s. July 2012 saw a major storm come through and drop a clump of oaks on the house. We reluctantly had to demolish the porch where our grandparents were married and try to rebuild it to maintain the character the porch held for more than a century.
Memories of time at the house are almost too many to list: going out on the pontoon; learning to swim and water skiing; driving the boats; fishing; trading comics; having my uncle push us on the merry-go-round; reading or playing games on rainy days. At night we were still outside, playing Capture the Flag or Kick the Can … now replaced with having a glass of wine or s’mores by the fire pit.
Dad kept trying to take the perfect sunset picture; I continued that tradition. We probably have hundreds of photos, and they are all perfect.
I guess you could say we have a compound. Of the seven original cabins, five still are owned and lovingly enjoyed by the descendants of that brave man, James, who emigrated to make a life for himself.
Now, we are seeing the sixth generation enjoy the cabin. The house is crowded if we are all there simultaneously: 10 adults, five children under 10 and two dogs. But we manage because we all love it so much.
My father passed in 2008, but I know he is watching his family continue his grandfather’s legacy by creating memories at what he always called “the cottage.”