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Living a part of history

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Last weekend, Aug. 2-3, there was more activity at the Hubbel Pond Dam than at any point in the lcentury or so since loggers stopped flating logs down the Otter Tail River to the Frazee sawmill.

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The Friends of History and Tamarac Interpretive Association sponsored a reenactment of a 19th century logging camp at Hubbel Pond, as part of Minnesota's Sesqhelpinguicentennial (i.e., its 150th anniversary of statehood) celebration.

"The event went better than any of us imagined it would," said Joann Sponskowski, one of the event's principal organizers. "I thought if we had 100 people visit the camp, we would be doing good. We figured we had close to 600 people attend the two-day event."

A total of 410 people actually registered, but Splonskowski said there was such a crowd at the registration table at certain times that some people just walked right into the camp without registering.

"We received many positive comments, and for the most part Ibelieve people were pleased with the event," Splonskowski said.

Not that there weren't a few minor setbacks.

"We had some minor difficulties," she continued. "A chain broke when the Teamster (played by Mark Deike) tried to skid out a log, and the blacksmith (Gerry Schumacher) worked hard to fix it -- so people had to wait a while to see the horses in action."

Those participating in the reenactment each had their role to play, as Splonskowski explained.

"Our camp cook (Jane Deike) and her bull cook helper (Al Witthoeft) kept the camp fed, the seamstress (Theresa Whitthoeft) stitched garments, our Benedictine Sister (Sharon Shockley) sold hospital tickets to loggers in camp, and anyone else who wanted to buy them, and our camp hunter (Jeff Shockley) explained his role and his arsenal of weapons."

Schumacher and his Blacksmith Apprentice -- played by Kenton Johnson --worked at making small souvenirs for the public, and some visitors got to try their hand at working with the two-man saw, demonstrated by John Morton.

Dave Splonskowski and his granddaughter, Hayley Frohman helped entertain the children by showing them how the corn shucker worked and how to grind the corn into meal.

"He (Dave) also worked on carving out a wooden bowl," Splonskowski continued. "Hayley helped by running messages also. Frank Adamczyk helped with parking and whereever else he was needed."

In other activities, local historian Roger Engstrom was on hand to talk about the Pickerel Lake monument and the sodhouse his ancestors lived in when they first came to the area. Another historian, Wilbur Joy, talked about the information he had collected on the Civilian Conservation Corps and the logging industry on Many Point Lake.

Virginia Weston of the Heart O'Lakes Genealogical Society explained the early census and genealogy, and Darvin Jahnke was on hand to talk about the history of logging, the sawmills and "timber rustling."

Myrel Schermerhorn's family and John Stearn's family provided important information and photos to help complete the information about the early settlers and about the work and history of Hubbel Pond, Splonskowski added.

"Many people who attended and wanted to share their stories about the settlers and about the area," she added. "If we get the opportunity to do this event again, we would include a 'learning circle,' where people could sit and talk together and have their stories recorded so we don't lose that valuable history."

Splonskowski and fellow "Friend of History" Sue Braun acted as the tour guides, showing guests around the camp and talking to them about "why this group of friends banded together to do this."

"This group of people, as well as Earl Johnson from the DNR, the and Tamarac Interpretive Association believed the Sesquicentennial could not pass by without doing something historic for this area," Splonskowski explained. "Our county was 150 years old on March 18, as well as the state's 150th birthday (being) in March, so what better way to celebrate the two events than recreating an early settlers' logging camp at the historic site of Hubbel Pond Dam?"

Though the planning and execution of the reenactment was hard work, the dedication of the volunteers involved helped to make it possible, she said, adding, "They were good people to work with -- and if all goes well, there may be a chance in the future for something similar."

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Vicki Gerdes
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers and editor of MN Boomers magazine for the past 13 years. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.
(218) 847-3151
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