Shing Wako Resort: A Historical Snapshot
1936 The 7 1/2 acre resort property was purchased by Edward J. and Wilhemena (Minnie) Schmidt and F.R. Seyferth.
1937 E.J. and Minnie Schmidt and F.R. Seyferth, took a mortgage out for $2,500 to build the resort. Shing Wako was well known as a dance hall, tavern, country store and gas station; as well as a housekeeping resort with six cottages, an ice house, a maintained beach, dock and boats for fishing. The dance hall, tavern, country store and gas station stood where the office and residence is now. It was THE place to go on a Saturday night!
Ed and Minnie’s son, Edward (Bud) worked at the resort full time as well. Their house was located behind the lodge.
1940’s Electricity was added to the resort. A cabin was built for Aunt Ann, now cabin 7 – it was called the “Big Cabin” and had an indoor bathroom with toilet, sink and a shower!
1945 E.J. and Minnie Schmidt sold Shing Wako Resort to Charles and Rose Aymar.
1946 Charles and Rose Aymar sold Shing Wako Resort to John and Genevieve (Jean) McGraw. Mrs. McGraw’s brother, Bud May and his wife Wanda lived and worked at the resort, and lived in cabin 6 in the winter.
1950’s A central bathhouse was constructed with one side for men and one side for women. Each had a shower, toilet, and sink on a concrete floor. The building stood where the small red shed is now across from cabin 3, which is actually a remnant of the bathhouse. Refrigerators replaced the iceboxes in the cabins. The icehouse became a storage barn and garage. There was still wood to haul for the heaters in the cabins and wooden boats to clean and repair. Four “Overnighters” were built near the road for overnight guests. They had a double bed, electricity, hot plate and wash basin.
1952 John and Genevieve McGraw sold Shing Wako Resort to Darrell and Dorothy David. A baseball field was constructed across the road from the resort and many games were played there. The “home” team was called the “Center Cats” (Center Township).
1960 Darrell and Dorothy David sold Shing Wako Resort to Anfin and Sonja Blakstvedt.
1961 Anfin and Sonja Blakstvedt sold Shing Wako Resort to Raymond and Inga Holmstrom. Walter and Frances Merkel were the managers. Saturday night dances were still the rage at the Shing Wako Lodge and were advertised in the Brainerd Daily dispatch every Friday throughout the summer.
1966 Shing Wako Lodge burns down – the end of an era. An owner’s residence is built in its place with the resort office included.
1970’s Indoor bathrooms (toilet only) were built-in to cabins 1 – 6 in the small front porch area.
Resort was sold several times:
1974 — Raymond and Inga Holmstrom sold to Richard and Helene Letsch.
1977 — Richard and Helene Letsch sold to Gordon and Margaret Lehrke.
1979 — Gordon and Margaret Lehrke sold to Roger and Lois Carson and Jon and Marlene Wordelman.
1980 Roger and Lois Carlson, owners, develop four seasonal campsites and removed five of the day use campsites.
Shing Wako Resort now has seven cabins, fourteen recreational campsites and four seasonal sites.
1981 Roger and Lois Carson and Jon and Marlene Wordelman sold Shing Wako Resort to Gerald and Anna Straub.
1990 Address of the road outside the resort (now County Road 3) changed from Star Route to HC 87.
Start of a New Era at Shing Wako Resort!
1991 Gerald and Anna Straub sold Shing Wako Resort to Marty Paradeis. Resort included: seven two-bedroom cabins, some tent camping, thirteen water and electric campsites and eight seasonal campsites. The bath and shower houses were still “on top” near cabin 3.
1990’s A modern new shower house with restrooms is constructed at lake level where cabin 14 is now. Front and back decks are added to cabins 1- 7 along with Cable TV, televison sets and updated electrical. Updates are also done to the beach and dock to include boat lifts. Seasonal campsites now number thirteen. Road name changes from HC 87 to County Road 3. Sue joins the resort business.
2001 Built five new cabins (#s 8 – 12), with #8 being handicap-accessible, and an asphalt basketball court. Overnight camping is discontinued and the first website was launched.
2002 Built another cabin, #14 and added an 18’ deluxe fishing boat to our rental fleet of 14’ boats.
2003 The existing resort house and office was sold and moved to rural Pine River. A new resort house and office was built in its place, with the addition of a public laundry facility, restroom and a storm shelter. Two new 20’ pontoons and two double kayaks were added to the resort and paddleboat and kayaks begin to be included in cabin rental. Charcoal grills were also purchased for all the cabins.
2004 Cabins are now smoke-free and this was the last summer of seasonal camping. An additional 2 ½ acres of vacant land, adjoining the south side of the resort was purchased. The last “Overnighter” and the two outhouses near Co Rd 3 come down.
2005 Cabin #6 is sold and moved to Pequot Lakes (near the American Legion) and six new Reunion Lodges (#s 15 – 20) are built on much of the new property. A resort workshop/storage building is also built near the office. A newly designed website is re-launched, shingwako.com, with added online availability search.
2006 Embarked on the “mini vacation” reservation concept and the ice house/storage barn/garage is taken down.
2007 Began providing resort-wide, high-speed wireless internet.
2008 Air conditioning is added to cabins #8 – 14. Green practices are initiated (environmentally-friendly cleaning products) and on-site massage is now available to resort guests.
2009 County Road 3 (the road in front of the resort) was widened with 10’ shoulders and turning lanes added. This proved to be a great improvement for driving, walking, running and biking. The Shing Wako Resort sign was moved from north of the resort driveway to the south.
2010 A swimming ladder is installed at the end of the dock and an accessible path is added to the beach area. Wireless internet service continues to be upgraded for the guests.
2011 White beach loungers with side tables and two single kayaks are added to the beach area; to the playground, a new sand digger. One of the three large White Pines (or Shing Wak’s) by the office comes down.
2012 Added Carpet Ball to our playground. It has been very popular! Launched electronic newsletters for guest (sign up at shingwako.com) to keep everyone informed on resort changes and other happenings in the Brainerd Lakes. Two walking trails were been carved out of the woods “on top” behind Cabin 7 and near the lake, next to Reunion Lodge 15.
2013 Shing Wako Resort is on Facebook! We are experiencing one of the coldest and snowiest April’s since we moved to the resort. On April 12 there is still 27″ of ice on the lake and more snow and cold in the forecast. And we continue to upgrade our wireless internet! Each cabin has not only a picnic table but newly added stack chairs! 4 for the two bedroom cabins, 6 for the three bedroom cabins, 8 for the four bedroom cabins, 8 for the 3 bedroom Reunion Lodges and 10 for the 4 bedroom Reunion Lodges.
2014 Winter just wasn’t going to give up this spring! We got a late start but the playground “remodel” was completed on schedule. Now it is about twice the size with adding a second deck, tunnel slide and monkey bars. The sand was dug out and replaced with pea rock as was the area in and around the “big kids swings” by the lake.
2015 Introduced our new logo!The name Shing Wako is a derivative of the Ojibwe word, zhingwaak(oog), for White Pine(s). In the 1930’s there were many white pine in our area and the locals referred to them as Shing Wak’s. Our new logo reflects the white pine, beautiful Lake Edward and our amazing of sunsets!
2015 will also be remembered as the year of the July 12 Brainerd/Nisswa storm! Here is what I posted on Facebook: “Yes we had alot of storm damage on Sunday night. The winds blew like we never before experienced. We have not counted the trees that are down, it is numerous. All our guests were safe in their cabins and have their own story to tell! One car had tree damage and one of our new pontoons was damaged. The dock came apart in a few sections. It is amazing that we never lost power or internet connection! We have had a humbling turn out of help and want to thank everyone! We have been able to continue operating with just a few delays here and there. Here is a view from the road – you cannot see the red cabins.”
2016 Our rental boat fleet has 3 New Bennington 24′ Pontoon Boats w/ 50 HP motor, depth finder, live wells, awning. One each of blue, black and bronze to help guests tell which one is theirs. We still offer a 18′ deluxe fishing boat w/40HP and two 14′ boats w/15HP. Our beach fleet has been expanded to include 4 paddle boards! Along with our two each of double kayaks & single kayaks, 2 paddle boats (one seats 4 – blue and one seats 2 – green) and a canoe. The beach fleet continues to be free with cabin rental!
And a webcam has been installed near the beach to capture our amazing sunsets! It can be viewed from our website. We have many who say they look at it every day!
2017 Our new sign was installed in May, just as our first guests were arriving! And over the winter Cabins 8 – 14 and Reunion Lodges 15 – 20 were all reshingled.
Growing Up With Shing Wako
Stories and history about the land and resort, as told by John D. (Jack) McDonald
Courtesy of Shing Wako Resort, Marty & Sue Paradeis, Owners
Compiled By Kathleen M. Keller
On October 6, 1935, Jack McDonald was born. He is the son of George Darrel McDonald and Grace Russell Dunham (Dunham is from her last marriage). In 1931, Grace Russell was one of five daughters that inherited the land that included the property of Shing Wako.
In 1937, Shing Wako was established as a resort. Growing up with Shing Wako, Jack remembers what early life was like at the resort. He remembers playing in the icehouse, hearing the music and revelry when there used to be a dance hall and tavern on the property, and he also remembers when some modern conveniences started popping up. These are his stories. We are grateful for his memories and especially that he has passed them along. We hope you enjoy stepping back in time with him and learning more about this historic resort.
Many Big Pine Trees
Even now there might be a giant white pine within sight of present day Shing Wako. When the resort was built there were many “shingwak’s”– the Ojibwe word for “many big pine trees”. These trees stood, huge and glorious, on both sides of the unpaved road to Merrifield from Crosslake. This road is presently County Road 3, which was called “Star Route” back in the 1940s. Nearly all of them grew on the land between Lake Edward, on the west side of this road, and Silver Lake, to the east.
The land, that includes Shing Wako, once belonged to Thomas Russell, my great grandfather on my father’s side. He put up the first building on the property that was a school in about 1919, out of logs from timber around the area. He then converted it into a house in the early 1920s. The house wrapped around the old school and still stands just west of Silver Lake. When I last saw the house that had been the old school, it was 1949. I was probably 13 at the time. This is when the McGraw’s owned Shing Wako; they were the 3rd couple to own the resort.
At this time, the Earhardts, who were friends of ours, lived in the house. Back in 1950, the community gathered at their house to help put out the fire Ed Earhardt’s grandson, Joey Shankle had started. He had poured gasoline on the live coals in the cook stove. He died at the scene. Fortunately, the fire did not destroy the house and it was repaired.
My father, George (Dick) Darrel McDonald, recalled when his grandfather Tom Russell was the Engineer on the passenger train in the early 1900s. “Sometimes my Mother would go to Brainerd on the train and I was allowed to go along. When we would get to Merrifield and go out to the tracks to wait for the train, I would walk forward and be standing where the engine would stop and Gramp would stick his head out of the cab window and say “O.K., come on, climb in here” and I would ride with him. He always let me blow the whistle for crossings and I really thought I was a ‘Big Shot’. Needless to say, I wanted to grow up and become an Engineer on a Locomotive…”
For more information about the history of owners of the land around Shing Wako and the previous owners of the resort, please see the section, “A Historical Snapshot.”
Ice House Fun
About where the dog kennels stand today was where the original icehouse stood. It was built when the resort was built, in 1937. In the winter, an ice crew would put up the ice in that house. Usually the local men would organize a crew, harvest ice from the lakes and sell it to people who had the means to store it for use in the summer. The icehouse at Shing was very large, at least it seemed that way to us kids.
It was half full of sawdust procured from one of the local sawmills, such as Marshall Young’s mill. That mill was about a half mile south of the resort, near “turtle pond.” This pond now is just a grassy slough.
The sawdust was moved out gradually as the ice was uncovered during the summer. When the new ice was put up the old remaining ice was pulled out and wasted if there was any left from the summer before, as by then it was rounded over from partial thawing and imbedded with sawdust. The new ice was neatly stacked with about 2 feet of sawdust between the sides of the ice and the icehouse. The access door ran from the ground up to the rafters. As the tiers of ice were piled up, boards were put across the doorway to hold the insulating sawdust from falling out. When the house was full, a generous topping of sawdust was applied.
The icehouse at Shing Wako was special because there was an ice locker built into the north end of the building. Ice from the main storage part was slid down the wooden chute. It was made to get the 100-pound ice cakes out and down so they could be hauled around to the north end, cut into manageable chunks and stored in the locker for use or sale.
Ed Schmidt’s son Bud did most, if not all, of the ice handling. Tall and lanky, he worked all the time. He would walk so fast you couldn’t keep up with him and he didn’t say very much. My sister Arlyne and I would pull our wagon over to the icehouse then go over to the lodge and store and tell someone we needed ice. We would usually get fifty cents worth for about 25 pounds of ice and wait around till Bud could be located to get our ice and then we would pull it home.
Sometimes Dad would buy a big chunk and put it in a sled he had rigged up full of sawdust. Sawdust is a wonderful thing to play in when it is hot in the summer. We would sneak into the icehouse over at Shing Wako, burrow down in the cool wet sawdust, plow the sawdust into hills and valleys, cover each other up and truly enjoy life. We would get it well imbedded into our clothes and hair and have to suffer Mother cleaning us up, but it was worth it!
Shing Wako was well known as a dance hall, tavern, country store and gas station, as well as a housekeeping resort with a maintained beach, dock and boats for fishing. The dance hall, tavern, country store and gas station were built at the same time as the resort and stood where the owner’s residence now is.
As memory serves me there were six original cottages at Shing Wako. These are all still standing, well spaced along the hill overlooking the lake to the west. A road still runs along their north side going down to the beach, docks and landing.
In the early days when we were young, we could hear the music on the weekends. We lived in the house that is north of that road right across from what still is Cabin 1. Mostly I remember the Peterson sisters, they played the piano and I think an accordion. There was often a fiddle sawing away and the sisters sang along. Sometimes we would hear loud cussing and fighting. It was usually when it was hot and we had all of our windows open. Sometimes Dad would go out and holler at people who got too close to our house with the noise and name calling. Being well respected in the community, he was often successful in preserving the peace. Sometimes he wasn’t.
After the war, in 1946, the McGraws owned Shing Wako. John and Jean McGraw had three children, Robert, John Jr. (called Pug) and Sandra. These children fit nicely into the ages of our bunch. My older sister Arlyne frowned on all of us but tolerated us and often had a hand in our mischief. It was mostly just “easy kid stuff” – I remember acquiring part of a case of warm beer, knocking on cabin doors then hiding and playing in the icehouse. Nothing too bad by today’s standards.
Mrs. McGraw’s brother Bud May and his wife Wanda lived and worked at the resort. Like Bud Schmidt before him, Bud May was the workhorse on the place. There were wooden boats to clean and repair and all the cabins needed maintenance, paint, etc.
As I recall, Bud and Wanda moved into one of the cabins for a while when they were first married. It was the first time (and last time) I had ever participated in a “shivaree”. Various friends, relatives and patrons from the tavern silently gather at the newlyweds cabin (which is now cabin 6) well after dark. When the time was right a shotgun was fired and everyone in attendance banged kettles, yelled and hollered and set up a terrible din. Bud and Wanda came out in their bedclothes and expressed their appreciation for our kind presentation.
Fishing and Hunting
Jack’s father, Dick McDonald, also had written down memories of the area around Shing Wako. This section is dedicated to his memories of the fishing and hunting that occurred here in the early part of the 20th century. Like Jack’s stories, this section is in Dick’s own words.
“With regards to what fishing was like in those days I am sure that most persons who read this will not believe it, but what I write here will not be fiction, only fact.”
I managed to talk my stepfather, William H. Dunham, into letting me go out with him once in awhile. We would leave the dock a little after daybreak and row around the point about 1/2mile from the dock and start fishing.
He used two cane poles about 10 feet long and worked both sides of the boat at the same time. I fished off the back end with a short pole and in about 3 hours we would have to come in because the boat was full of crappies.”
“He would then gut and gill the fish, pack them in chipped ice and have a little lunch then get another load in the afternoon. The next day he packed them in barrels, first a layer of ice, then a layer of fish until he had two barrels full. He would load them in a wagon and drive to Merrifield in time to get them on the train. I believe they went to a market in Minneapolis or Saint Paul. They brought 6 cents a pound.”
Some days he would fish for Northern Pike, then it was one pole much longer and with heavier line, a spoon hook baited with a piece of fish cut from the belly was the only bait he used. He would troll it over the end of the boat as he rowed along slowly near the edge of the rushes. About every 50 feet he would land a fish 4 to 10 pounds, but once in a while a big one 15 to 20 pounds would latch on. He usually got his two barrels full in one day.
Hunting was excellent except for deer; there were very few deer in the area at that time but lots of wolves. Walter Van Doren who lived on the north end of Lake Edward killed 30 wolves on the lake one winter.
The wolves for some reason would go out on the lake in the winter and just sit there. Walter built an iceboat powered with a gasoline engine and an airplane propeller (sort of an early version of a snowmobile). When they spotted a wolf on the lake they would take after it and could usually get within gun range before the wolf could reach shore. However, many of them made it into the brush before the boys could get in range.
Another method the hunters used to kill wolves in those days was quite effective. It went this way, right after a fresh snowfall of from 10 to 14 inches, one man on horseback would follow a fresh track and would have a cow bell on the horse and the other man on snowshoes would walk on one side about 100 yards out always on the upwind side of the track. As the horse plodded along on the track the man out on the side could hold his position as near as possible and they would simply stay on the wolf’s trail until he was played out. Eventually he would lay down to rest and when the hunter on the horse got too close, he would jump and run always into the wind. They could not run very fast in the deep, fresh snow, so many times the hunter out on the side would get a good shot at the wolf but, of course, they didn’t always get them.”
I heard of one case where a couple of hunters spent four days following the same wolf before finally getting it. I think the bounty paid by the state at that time was about $20.00 and, of course the hide would bring anywhere from $3.00 to $10.00. If a couple of guys could get two wolves a week, they were doing pretty well for those days. Of course we also trapped and poisoned them.
“When the northern duck flight started late in the fall, they flew through this area by the thousands. Pass shooting was the big thing then. One of the best passes in the country was between Silver and Lake Edwards at the site occupied by Shing Wako Resort.”
Down near Silver Lake there was a long narrow dip with a ridge on the lakeside where the hunters would be strung out in the brush there and shooting Bluebills and Mallards by the hundreds. There were enough empty cartridges there to fill a good size truck box. Most of the ducks killed were Bluebills. I was too young at the time to get in on that kind of shooting. The ducks continued to fly those same flyways for many years, but the numbers of ducks dwindled every year till it was all over by the time I was in my late 20’s. [This would have been around 1940]”
As time passed, refrigerators replaced the iceboxes in the cabins. This was in about 1950. The icehouse became a storage barn and garage for the Model A Ford Bug that was used as a tractor at the resort. There was still wood to haul for the heaters in the cabins, trash to collect and any number of chores real or imagined for young boys to need a “Bug” for.
The typical Bug was nothing like today’s Volkswagen Beetle. It started as a coupe, sedan or truck of some kind. The frame was shortened and a second transmission was mounted behind the original. Springs were usually removed in favor of fitted blocks of oak wood and large wheels and tires were put on the back, along with a short bed of some kind that provided a place to haul small loads.
This particular Bug was built on a Model A Ford chassis. It usually had a trailer attached and more often than not Bud May was working with it from dawn to dark. Sometimes it had a muffler though my father would not remember those times. He was convinced that it was always without one and was ridiculously load. As time passed, the boys were allowed to drive the Bug. They went from the lodge to the lake and back and forth unceasingly, after school and on the weekends. On good days, I got to ride along.
In the late 40s and early 50s, my Dad had experience in the iron mines building trestles. He did commercial work and remodeling. John McGraw hired Dad’s company to build small cabins out along the road for overnight guests. These four “overnighters” are no longer standing. (One owner, Jerry Straub, attempted to move one and it did not withstand the move.)
My uncle, Floyd Peck, who married Dad’s sister Lela, was a whiz around power saws. He and Dad rigged up Dad’s 12 inch Walker Turner radial arm saw to size common pine slabs from one of the local saw mills. They ingeniously grooved the edges to receive an insert creating a good weather seal as the slabs were joined together.
A few years later, a residence was built over on the south side of the property along the edge of the circle drive surrounding the central area. The foundation is still partially there today, but the area is used for a mulch pile. I remember it as a park. It originally had enough brush growing in it to hide little people playing hide and seek. There were all paths crisscrossing the park and the outhouses were there facing the cabins. There was a pump for water there and it seems like there was another pump along the drive. We had to drive the bug slow around the circle when people wer¬e in the cabins because of the noise and the mechanical brakes that didn’t work very well if they worked at all. Going down over the hill between the resort and our place we went as fast as the thing would go, which wasn’t much.
Electricity came to the resort in about 1940. Before the cabins had individual bathrooms (which were installed during the 1970s), the outdoor toilets were replaced with the central toilets and showers in the 50s. The building stood in the park along the west side. Inside there was a well and pump and a water heater – all the modern conveniences!