This article appears courtesy of the Voyageur Press of McGregor.
Shamrock Township, population 1,172, is located approximately six miles north of McGregor, and features Sandy Lake and Lake Minnewawa. It is known as a recreationer’s paradise. The area is great for the outdoorsman, and many people enjoy fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, or just about any type of water sport.
Shamrock Township celebrated their Centennial on Saturday, July 12, 2003. The township is now 100 years old and the memories are still vivid. The McGregor American Legion Post 23 held a flag raising ceremony, special recognitions went out to former board members, and special guests shared a memory or two.
The event was coordinated by Gayleen Touhey, Helen Edwards, Barb Greifzu, Mary Streeter and Candace Bartel and about 125 people turned out. The current board, which consists of Ron Smith, chairman; Nancy Karjalahti, supervisor; Chuck Quale, supervisor; Candace Bartel, clerk; and Jack Brula, Treasurer, were also on hand. A display of old photographs and memorabilia were set up in the hall, as well as Shamrock Township t-shirts and caps.
Shamrock Township early years
Professional historian, Larry Luukonen, was the first guest speaker, sharing the very beginning of Shamrock Township, which dates back to the year 1873. “This was the time when the Northern Pacific Railroad had obtained huge land grants,” said Larry. “Many current landowners can trace their property back to the NPR.”
Larry reminded everyone in the audience that there is one constant in history. “We try to recreate what we tried to escape from.” Thus, the evolution of Shamrock Township began. At first, settlers arrived in about 1903, the same time the township was organized. According to Larry, many were subsistence farmers. Basically they could just live off the land. Later, people came just to visit the area, to camp. That spurred the creation of the resorts and cabin rentals. It was reported that there were as many as 40 resorts in the area at one time. Later on, renting a cabin became owning a cabin and, now, a cabin has become a lake home. Larry concluded by saying, “I was looking at all the pictures of resorts on display. Where did they go?”
Twins, Herman and Harry Ekelund, have memories that are too numerous to share, so they spoke about a few instances in the past. Their grandfather, Charles Ekelund, was a grocer in Northeast Minneapolis before purchasing 400 acres on Sandy Lake between Davis and Bellhorn Bay. Between 1910 and 1940, sons Rick and Phil built 38 cabins and sold lots in the area. Phil also started a resort and their uncle, Con, started a grocery store that was located where the Cajun Queen stands today.
Herman also shared the story of how their dad got the saw mill in 1931. Rick was looking for a brake plow and the gentleman said that if he bought the plow, he would also have to take the mill. It was the year the twins were born, and the family has been running it ever since.The one Shamrock Township controversy they could remember involved a supervisor by the name of Fred Boelter. He and another gentleman, by the name of Maury Gustafson, were arguing over whether the township should get an Austin Western or a Caterpillar road grater. The argument continued down to the corner bar and, according to Harry, blows were exchanged. “They bought the Caterpillar, so you can figure out who won the fight,” said Herman.
Ekelund family ties to the board go way back. Herman and Harry’s oldest brother, Wally, was a member of the township board for more than 30 years. Herman was the also the last constable for Shamrock Township. He retired his badge, handcuffs and billy club in 1960. Rick was the last assessor for the township, his tenure ending in 1965.
Bud Johnson also shared a few memories. His story actually involved another Ekelund, Uncle Walter. It was winter time and Walter heard a noise. “It sounded like help,” said Bud. “As it turned out, a sled and a team of horses had fallen through the ice on Sandy Lake. They tried to pull them out, but everytime they got them to the edge of the ice, their legs shot straight out and got caught.”
“There was an older gentleman on the scene and he suggested that they choke ’em. Just enough to cut off the wind. They tried this and those horses just rolled right over and out they came.”
Bud owns Pine Haven Resort, located on the Sandy River. The resort has been in the family since 1930. Bud also recalls building the store and cafe, called the Pine Haven Cafe, which is now Pier 65.
Special guest, Emil Borg, is a resident of Lake Minnewawa, where he has been vacationing for 76 years. “My grandfather and father bought the first lot on Lake Minnewawa from a Tingdale advertisement in 1919,” said Emil.
Emil recalls the road from the cities that turned to gravel at Cambridge. He remembers riding with the mailman in horse and buggy from Tamarack to the lake. He remembered the five cent milk sign.
The Pavilion was the place to be in those days. “There were dances every Saturday night,” he said. “I remember the live orchestra, the booths on the outside and the slot machines in the middle. It was all screened in.” Mary Patterson, Emil’s sister, felt it was the most beautiful dance floor she has ever seen.
Emil went on to share about the owners, the Bokenhogens. They had a bear tied up to a post outside the pavilion. The bear would drink pop from a bottle. According to Emil it was really neat, until the bear got ahold of one of the Bokenhogen children. Their Chesapeake dog jumped in to save the boy and killed the bear. The dog also died from its injuries.
It wasn’t until 1946, when Emil was tending bar, that he learned
about the five cent milk. It was actually where a person could get
Karin McGinnis shared her memories of the Sandy Lake highlands, just across the Prairie River bridge. They bought their cabin in 1941. They had many of good times and the only bad times involved using the outhouse. One of Karin’s most vivid memories was the sound of motor boats. “My father would fish and I could always recognize the motor of each boat,” she said. “I always knew which resort the boats were from.”
Jack Hooper, a former resident of Shamrock township, shared stories about the Bellhorn School, the mailman, Lawrence Osterman, and the first time they got electricity. Jack remembers Ziggler, the school teacher. They called him ‘Bones.’ His wife taught there also. There was also Mrs. Littleback. Then… they tore the old school down. “That was sad,” he said.
One of Jack’s more vivid memories regarded the mailman, Lawrence Osterman. “It was 1950, and we got a lot of snow. I’ll never foget this; Lawrence came down the road on a pair of skis and a big ol’ back pack. Now, you would think he had a bunch of mail in that pack. Not so… he had 20 or more Sears & Roebuck catalogs. He made it as far as the Cajun Queen. Everybody enjoyed that catalog. “It was a year or two later that Jack would experience electricity. “It was really something to see that light bulb come on,” he said.