St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Don Davidson Trade Lake

A neighbor and friend passed away this week, Donald Davidson.  I first met him when he picked up cattle for my father to haul to the Twin Cities -- South St Paul stockyards.  After Stanley Selin and I started  writing about Trade Lake in the newspaper column, River Road Ramblings, in the Inter-County leader.  He sent me a letter telling about the resort his family started on Trade Lake.  I then began visiting him and learning more about the Trade Lake area.  When he was 84 (or so) he had a stroke that forced him into the nursing home at St Croix Falls, where he lived from then on.  

Donald M. Davidson, 89, passed away Monday, July 7, 2014 at the Good Samaritan Society in St. Croix Falls, WI.
Don Eckland and Don Davidson 2007
Giving Russ a local history tour

Donald is survived by his children, Debra (Wayne) Olson, Mary Jane Davidson, Sue Ann Davidson; grandchildren, Lonnie (Donna) Olson, Shawn (Carrie) Olson, Toni (Matthew) Nord, Kori Jasper; 8 great-grandchildren, Frannie Hillstrom, Brenna Olson, Bailey Olson, Britta Olson, Mariah Olson, Jonathan Olson, Savanna Nord, Kendall Nord; sisters, Rose Williams, Mary Ann (Tom) Lynch; half-brother, Franklin “Ole” (Ginger) Baker; sister-in-law, Sylvia Meyers; nieces and nephews.
  He is preceded by his wife, Shirley; father, Monroe Davidson; mother, Marie Graves; sister, Doris Ott; brothers-in-law, William Ott, Robert Williams, Roy Lundby, William Gulick, Edward Meyers; and sisters-in-law, Anne Sewell, Edna Gulick, Ferne Lundby.
  Memorial services will be held at Trade River Evangelical Free Church in Grantsburg, WI on Wednesday, July 16, 2014 – visitation will begin at 1:00 p.m. followed by the service at 2:00 p.m. Rev. Dale Van Deusen will be officiating.

A Story written by Don
     I worked at my family’s farm and resort on Little and Big Trade Lake during the 1920s and 30s.  I spent a lot of time helping our guests have a good time during their vacations.  I remember some of the families who came to visit. 
     One Jewish family came from New York who had never been out of the city.  They had a boy and girl 18 and 19 years old ready to leave home.  They wanted to have a family vacation before the family separated.  I dug worms for them and showed them how to fish.  The father thought the worms were snakes.  The girl said "Papa, they are only little worms.  They won't hurt you!"  They had a younger girl, 8 years old.  She just wanted to ride in the boat.  I caught and cleaned fish for them too.
    Robert Pennington, from Chicago, rented the cabin "Pair of Dice" (Paradise) for the whole season.  He came up twice during the summer. He fished all day every day.   His wife came along one time and didn't come again.  She hated the outhouse!
    Art Engel came each year from Milwaukee to stay at a cabin for 2 or 3 weeks.  He was an engineer on the Milwaukee Road train.  He had the first outboard motor that was made in Milwaukee by Ole Evinrude.  In 1935 he bought a larger one and gave me the old one.  When I started working hauling milk and cream to Trade Lake in 1940, I gave the motor to my cousin Dennis Erickson.
    Roy Dailey came each year for a month from Milwaukee.  He had worked for the railroad and lost an arm in an accident so was retired.  His wife came one time, but didn't like the country and never came back.  He swam every day in the lake.  His daughter was about 15 years old.  She showed us that she ate worms!  She would put them in her mouth and hide them there to make it look like she had eaten them. One day she was showing off and a worm crawled down her throat.  She lost her dinner and that was the end of her eating worms!
   Charles Frymark came each year for 1 to 2 months with his son from St Louis MO.  He only wanted to fish for northerns.  Every morning I would row them from east Big Trade way to the north end of Little Trade Lake at  early light.  One morning young Charlie had a fish on and old Charlie had the net.  His own cork went down and I saw him throw the net over his head into the lake!  Young Charlie dove down looking for the dip net, but it was never found. We went home with plenty of fish anyway.
     Young Charlie made pancakes every morning with half a pound of lard in the fry pan.  The pancakes floated on the lard like lily pads on the lake. We burped lard all day long!
     One year the Frymarks got a big snapping turtle in the lake.  They had heard that turtle soup was really good, so they decided to eat it.  They hung it on a tree and put a wire around the head to pull it out of the shell.  Dad Frymark pulled on the wire to get the head out so young Charlie could cut it  off.  The wire slipped off and Dad rolled over backwards, his head hit another tree and twisted his neck so that he went home hurting that year.
    County Road Z went past some of our cabins.  When it was being worked on by the WPA crew in the 1930s to widen it, one of the workmen put dynamite under a big maple stump to get it out of the ground.  The blast blew it across the road and through the roof of the Frymark's cabin and right into the bed!  The roots were sticking out through the roof. I carried pail after pail of dirt out of the cabin and then cut the stump into pieces with the cross cut saw.  The "Dynamite Technician" said "I guess I overestimated and put one in too many sticks."
     My Grandpa Davidson had an old 10 gauge double barrel shotgun that I could barely lift.  He brought it to the cabin and told Old Charlie it was time for him to shoot a gun once before he died.  Grandpa loaded both barrels, handed it to Charlie, and told him to point at the lake and pull both triggers.  The whole place shook.  Charlie went upside down and the rifle almost hit me.  He had his arm in a dishcloth sling the rest of his stay and left hurting that year too.  They never came back again!
     A couple staying at a cabin came in from fishing.  The wife was petrified.  She told Grandpa Manley "A fish jumped by our boat that was as big as the boat itself!" 
    Grandpa had lived there all of his life and had never seen or heard of a monster fish.  She tried hard but didn't convince him.  Grandpa told the neighbors who laughed about it.  The couple would not go out fishing again.   Later in the fall another man said a fish as big as a man jumped by his boat.  That story was joked about too and the Monster Fish in Trade Lake was laughed about as my Grandpa told the stories.
     That winter Trade Lake froze out--1934-35.  Tons of stinking rotting fish floated on the lake and lined the shores.   The CCC boys went out in boats and filled tubs of fish using forks to pick them up.  I was plowing Pickerel Point that week with the horses.  They dumped the fish on the field in the furrow for me to plow them under. One of the horses wouldn't step on the fish so it was an awful hard time plowing.  Those boys found that big fish.  They pulled it to shore.  It was a 90 lb Sturgeon.  It ended the story of the Monster fish!  The corn grew about 8 feet tall that year
     Emil and May Christensen from St Paul rented the newest cabin on the east side for the whole season one year.  Emil came out for the weekends and May stayed all summer.  She fished almost every day and caught a lot of big northerns.  One morning she came rowing into shore looking for help. She had a 22 lb northern on her cane pole and needed help to land it.  She put it in the artesian well food box and kept it there all summer.  It lived and grew some moss on its back.  Many people came to see it.
     We had built seven of the cabins before the Depression hit in 1929.  Many banks closed and people were left without their money and no jobs and no place to live or anything to eat.  At the beginning of the Depression we had about 30 people move in with us on the farm and into our cabins.  They were relatives and friends or neighbors.  Many of them helped out on the farm for room and board.  During the beginning of the Depression no one was vacationing at our resort.  Grandpa had me make the rounds early each morning and wake them up to try to get them to help with the farm work.   After a while most of them left and found other places to live.  One couple told me later that it was good that I was little when I made the wakeup rounds because the people were grouchy to be wakened so early.
     My great grandparents first came to Trade Lake about 1870.  John and his first wife are buried on the Island we owned in Little Trade Lake along with many of his early friends and neighbors.  All that is left of the Davidson gravesite are a few lilacs and lily of the valley spread under the huge trees with lots of wild flowers after nearly 70 years since our sheep pastured there. An old buried wire that outlines the family plot still is there.  Around the island are other depressions that show where early settlers were buried.   I hope to put a marker there before everyone forgets the Davidson burial site.