My grandfather, the Rev. Frank A. Spong of St. Paul, along with the skilled help of his father, a Swedish immigrant with a gift for carpentry, built our family cabin in 1926 on Lake Koronis in Paynesville, in central Minnesota. At the time, my grandfather was an ordained pastor in the Evangelical United Brethren Church — a predecessor to the United Methodist Church.
In the early 1920s, the Evangelical United bought 200 acres of pristine, wooded lakeshore property along Lake Koronis for hosting summer camps and gatherings. In addition to building a chapel, dormitories, a dining hall and massive tabernacle, the church offered its pastors the chance to build their own cabins on parcels of adjoining property for personal retreat and recreation.
Ninety-two years later, the summer-only cabin built by my great-grandfather, owned by my grandfather and passed down to my dad is lovingly owned by my wife and me. It’s been updated a few times over the nine decades. When my dad took it over in the mid-1970s he added a master bedroom, garage, and indoor bathroom with a shower and hot water. My wife and I have remodeled and refurnished it, including restoring the original fur-wood floors installed by my great-grandfather.
Along with our two children, five generations of Spongs have swallowed part of Lake Koronis learning to water ski and wakeboard. We have caught and released thousands of walleye, northern pike, frogs and turtles over the years. We have worn ourselves out doing “spacey” dives off the boat. And we have played countless hands of Uno, Hearts, Farkle, solitaire and poker.
And, yes, Koronis Ministries, as it’s branded today, is still owned by the United Methodist Church. The camp has served tens of thousands of Minnesotans, including all denominations of Christians in addition to Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist faiths, and family reunions and weddings. And it’s been heaven on earth for five generations of Spongs.
Doug Spong, Orono