THE BEGINING OF HALF MOON TRAIL RESORT
By Pat Tesch Walsh
My parents and I lived on Lake Minnetonka near Excelsior, MN. During World War II my father (Harry Tesch) worked in a defense plant in Minneapolis as a tool and die maker. Many people left their homes during that time to work in defense plants and that was where he met Frank Bates. Henretta and Frank had a small resort on the south end of Boot Lake. My dad had 2 brothers who moved to Lake George after the war was over. We would visit them during the summer, pick blueberries and fish. In the fall we hunted grouse and deer. We enjoyed the area so much that we thought about having a cabin of our own. We stopped and visited Frank Bates one weekend and he told us about a cabin and 40 acres for sale on the lake. We drove part way into the property and walked through the brush the rest of the way. It seemed to be just what we were looking for. On our way back to Excelsior we stopped in Wadena at Merical Lumber Co. and bought it for $1200.00 (the summer of 1951).
During the winter we decided we would build a small resort and began the job of buying all the things necessary to furnish cabins. Mom went to moving sales, etc; she bought sheeting and hemmed sheets, she made quite a few quilts and bought blankets, etc on sales. By the time spring came she had enough furniture, linens and kitchen utensils for 4 cabins. Dad and I went to Boot Lake about March 1. Mom stayed in Excelsior to sell our home and another house that was rented out.
The first thing we had to do was get electric brought from the road and have a driveway built (the same one you have today). There was no telephone service available, that came about 5 years later. All of the roads were gravel except Hwy. 71. There was a little post office out on the Hwy. Our address was Argo, MN. All reservations were made by mail.
We hired a neighbor man to clear brush where the cabins were to be built and another neighbor with a chain saw to cut all the stumps off level with the ground. We saved every little tree and transplanted more from out in the brush. At that time there was very little shade. The size of those trees today is the most startling change to me! They are huge and beautiful.
That first spring we (my dad, my uncle, and I) built a garage and 4 cabins. The cabins had 2 bedrooms and a main room. They had flush toilets and running cold water. The kitchen had a sink, a 3 burner gas plate and an ice box. There was a wood burning air-tight heater for heat. The outside was log siding treated with preservatives and left in natural wood color.
When the lumber company logged off the land they had a sawmill set up at the north end. They left behind long piles of slab wood. Dad would saw it up in stove length pieces to be used in the air-tight heaters. It made almost instant heat and could be dangerous for those not used to wood heaters. We never had a fire but sometimes the stove pipes turned red.
The lumber company also left a large pile of sawdust and a small shed. This became our ice house. During the winter when the conditions were right the neighbors and dad would get together and cut ice. This was done at the south end of the lake where the tractors could easily pull the loads off the lake. The ice was packed in saw dust and it kept well through summer. Dad had a small tractor and a two wheel trailer. He would haul ice around to the cabins and (haul) garbage cans to the (on-site) dump.
We purchased 6 nice wood (cedar) strip boats and several motors. Next a fish cleaning house and a laundry room with “men” and “women” showers was built. This was located where your west wing on the lodge is today. We had 2 shallow wells that were witched by Joe Hughes. He always found the spot and knew exactly how many feet deep it would be.
The winter of 1952-53 my dad went back to Minneapolis to work and mom and I stayed at BootLake. No TV and nothing to do. I bought a “Learn How to Knit” book and soon I was even knitting socks. Dad had put his dark house out on the lake in front of our cabin. I had watched him spear fish since I was a little child and I soon found out I could do it too! When the second spring finally came we built 2 more cabins, a two bedroom and a three bedroom. Also we put a good-sized room on the back of the house to be used as a store.
With more boats on the lake each year the resort owners decided the lake needed to be stocked with more fish. The only way to accomplish this was to form a sportsmen’s club. The resort owners, neighboring farmers, and some others around the lake formed the Boot Lake Sportsmen’s Club and met once a month in an old school house on the north end of the lake. The building was sold the next year and the meetings were held in the Savannah Town Hall. There really wasn’t much to do in the winters, so the meetings were a popular way to get together and visit. Whole families came; we had holiday parties, basket lunches, pie socials, etc. The big event in the fall was the “turkey shoot”. The Game and Fish Dept. planted fry in the rearing ponds north on Hughes Rd. In the fall members of the club would help seine the fingerlings and transport them to Boot Lake and Big Dinner Lake. The club served two important purposes: fish for the lake and social meetings for the neighborhood….
My story of Half Moon Trail ends here. I’m a very poor writer, but I thought you would like to have a little history about the resort. If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them. My family is so pleased to have Grandpa’s fish back. We really appreciate your kindness in letting us have it.Thank you!
Pat Tesch Walsh
For the record: Grandpa’s fish is a 21 pound Northern that Harry speared (the local story that I heard, he actually speared another one the same week about the same size). This fish was mounted and was hanging in the lodge when we purchased the resort. Also, I think that Marie and Rol built cabin 1 and we know that Denny and Linda built cabins 7, 9, 10, 11. 12. 13, and the three lodge units. They also enlarged the lodge with several additions, enlarged the owners home attached to the lodge, and built the swimming pool. At some point, someone combined two original cabins to make cabin 6, ditto for cabin 4. Mary and Dave have remodeled all of the original cabins, put cabin 17 back in service, plus they built cabin 18. Our thanks to Pat Tesch Walsh for writing this letter explaining the beginning of the resort. Pat was the daughter of the original owners.