by Ann Beaver

Three of Samuel Lundborg’s siblings were looking to buy land in the Nisswa area
back in 1908 and move north from the Belle Plaine area of Minnesota. They could have
bought a parcel that extended west and south from present day Highways 371 and 77
to the shore of Gull Lake. However, that area wasn’t wild enough for
them. Instead, they bought the property between Upper and Middle Cullen Lakes from
the channel west half a mile to what was then a cranberry swamp. The two brothers
and one sister cleared the land and established a farm and tree nursery.
However, they did not own the land between them and the public road, and they
worried about one day being cut off. Their brother, Samuel, came to their rescue by
buying the land east of the channel from the railroad in order to guarantee them road
access. At that time had no intention of settling there (he lived in Pennsylvania),
although there was a small cabin on the land, built by a trapper and his Native
American wife in the 1850s or 60s. After the purchase, Samuel returned to
Pennsylvania where he and his brother-in-law had a jewelry store.
His situation changed, though, and in 1923, Samuel brought his wife and young
daughter, Margaret, to Minnesota. They settled in Brainerd, where Samuel established
a jewelry store. The family lived behind the store, and they built a small cottage on
their Middle Cullen property, where they spent time in the summer.
The Middle Cullen property was, at that time, nothing but sand with a few small trees
around the cottage. This “sand bar” extended from the wetlands on the north along
the entire east shore of Middle Cullen. Little by little, Samuel, his family, and his
brothers planted the upland area with white pines and other trees that were “spares”
from the Lundborg Nursery to the west. They planted the lowland areas with plum
trees and enjoyed their bounty for years. When the plum trees began to die, they
planted spruce and white pines in their place.
The Upper Cullen property was mostly meadow, with wetland areas along the
lake. The Lundborg brothers cut the grasses as bedding for the cows and horses and
then burned off the meadow each spring. When they stopped this practice, the
meadow quickly filled in with native plants, shrubs, and trees.
In the 1930s, a friend of Samuel’s from Pennsylvania wrote him saying he had lost his
job and couldn’t find another . Samuel sent him a train ticket to come to
Minnesota. The friend needed a place to live, so Samuel let him build a small log cabin
on his property. The tiny cabin still stands, in good shape, on the property today.
Margaret Lundborg worked in the jewelry store, alongside her parents, from the very
start back in 1923, even though she was just a youngster. In 1942, when Samuel died,
Margaret took over the business. She married Harry Larson in 1946. After living in
Brainerd for 14 years, they built a house on the Middle Cullen property in 1960 and
moved to the lake. Harry died in 1966, leaving Margaret to once again run Lundborg
Jewelry Store on her own. She expanded the jewelry store to include china, and she
continued to run it until 1990, when she sold it and retired.
Among Margaret’s many photographs is the one which shows a former well known
landmark for hunters and anglers — a 36 “room” martin house — located where the
public access is today. When people were disoriented or lost on the lakes, once they
spotted the martin house they knew exactly where they were.