The History of the Reed property on Middle Cullen
In the course of painting Bob and Martha’s house, the subject of fishing came up, and Ray told Bob about the best fishing place in the whole world, the Cullen Lakes. Bob decided to explore Ray’s suggestion, and he and his family camped in a tent next to Ray and Esther’s house on Middle Cullen. Bob was so impressed with the lake’s fishing that he went right to Brainerd to see what land might be for sale in the area. As it happened, there was a piece of property in an estate, available for back taxes, right on Middle Cullen. He found a co-buyer named Wilbur Sifert, known by his friends as “Webb”. In 1933, the deal was done. After a couple years, Webb couldn’t afford to keep his piece of the property, and he sold it to Earl Sifert, whose family still owns the piece adjacent to our property.
Bob and Martha had three children, Bob, Janet and Marty, and the family would travel from their home in Cincinnati, and later in Deerfield, Illinois, just outside Chicago, to spend the month of August at the lake every summer.
The Reeds dearly loved the old original cabin. It had a river rock fireplace (and still does) and kerosene lamps, a big wood range in the kitchen, a pump at the sink, and a real wooden ice box. Of course, in those days, and for many years later, there was an outhouse, complete with hoot owls at night.
The main activities were chopping wood and going fishing. The every- morning fishing excursion regularly involved stopping at Ray Luther’s dock and getting a big block of ice from the ones packed in sawdust in the icehouse across the road. That icehouse is still standing on the east side of Sunset Valley Road.
The next stop was across that bay to the Lundborg farm (just before the thoroughfare into Upper Cullen) where Anna Lundborg and her two brothers farmed and had cows. The fisherman came home with sweet corn, raspberries and cream.
One of the prized fishing spots, called the “pike hole”, was also located on that eastern end of Middle Cullen, in the middle of a large bed of reeds, in front of the group of cabins they called “the Nebraska Camp”. The pike hole was to be fished on overcast days, and provided many pictures of huge Northerns, which you can see in some of the pictures being projected on the screen.
They had many picnic dinners with the McDowells across the lake, out on their point. Mrs. McDowell made great fried chicken, and they always had lots of corn on the cob.
Back in the old days, Wilderness Point was called Way-Ma-Dee Point, and there were resort cabins there. Being right across the bay, the Reeds used to take picnics over to the point, build a bonfire, swim in the resort swimming area and sing with the ukulele, which Bob would play. He knew all the verses to the Martins and the Coys, and Ivan Scavinski Scavar.
In 1940, I married Bob’s son, Bob, who was a Lt. Col. in the Army Air Corps. I met him when I was helping his mother Martha take care of baby Marty. After World War 11 we started having children, and built a second cabin out to the west of the main cabin. Our family would spend three weeks every summer at the lake with Bob and Martha. My husband and his father would go out every morning and evening fishing for bass and pike. Bob would clean the fish, Martha would fry them up, we would add corn on the cob and have a great Minnesota dinner.
In the ‘60’s, we added a third building to the property, with the help of Vic and Oscar Wallin. We call it the “birdcage”. Because it was screened in, it was a great place for meals, or just sitting and watching the activity on the lake.
As our children grew up, I began rowing the boat for the men morning and evening. Grandpa Reed, as we came to call him, would scratch on the screen every morning around 6, and we would get up for the morning round of fishing. The men would decide to go to the Upper lake, or fish around Middle Cullen depending on the wind.
One summer, my husband, who had purchased an amphibious plane called a Seabee, flew our family of seven from our home in Ohio up to the lake. We landed the plane right on the lake, and brought it into the dock. You can see the Seabee in one of the pictures that are projecting on the screen.
In the winter of 1963, Bob and I brought the family up to the cabin, even though there was no heat except for the fireplace and stove. Grandma and Grandpa Reed came up then too, and we got to see the Wallins cut the huge blocks of ice from the lake, which would be stored in sawdust in the ice houses . Now that everyone has refrigerators, many of you may never have used ice blocks to keep your food cold.
Two of the lake residents that Grandpa Reed liked to fish with every morning were Doc and Millie Greenawalt. When Doc died, Grandpa would still take Millie out fishing. The day he died, in 1971, he was supposed to pick up Millie for their morning fishing. When he didn’t show up, she came to the cabin and found him lying on the floor at the front window. He must have been checking the wind and weather for the morning outing, and had either a stroke or a heart attack. He was 81. His Minnesota property was left to my husband.
In the 1991, my husband sold off three acres of the original 15 that Grandpa had bought, to his sister Marty, and she and her husband, Bob, built a beautiful cabin between our property and the Sifert/Jones property. An additional acre and a half was added to their purchase a little later.
My husband died in 2002 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Nisswa, along with the Siferts, Jones and many Wallins.
The lake has changed a lot over the course of the 80+ years since Bob Reed bought his property.
The bridge over the channel from Middle Cullen to Upper Cullen used to be made of planks. But due to heavier vehicles going over the bridge, a culvert was installed, so now only smaller boats can go from Middle Cullen to the Upper Lake.
Another change involves our means of access to our property. Originally we used the road that goes from 371 past Lower Cullen and Wilderness Point through the woods to our driveway. The DNR closed off the state property, and we now come in through Sunset Valley Rd, over the thoroughfare between Middle and Upper Cullen.
The old Way-ma-dee peninsula, now called Wilderness Point, across from our dock, has really been built up with A- frames.
The reeds (that is the plants in the lake!) used to extend much farther into the lake. Grandpa and my husband fished with flyrods, casting to the edge of the reeds, and a lot of those areas they used to fish are too shallow now, almost all around the lake.
It seems that there is a lot less wildlife, herons, loons, eagles and otters, than there used to be. And more weeds in the lake, as well as invasive plants like loosestrife and curly pondweed.
The other big change many of you have seen is the type of boats, including jet skis and pontoon boats on the lake. Also, there don’t seem to be as many canoes, but more kayaks and stand-up paddle boards.
Our children learned how to water-ski as they grew up, but now children are mainly on tubes behind the boats.
I hope you have learned a little bit that you didn’t know from my recollections of earlier times on Middle Cullen. A lot of what I have told you has been enhanced by Marty Bushey, my husband’s sister, and by Carol Jean Wallin, who owns the craft shop in Pequot. Carol Jean and her parents Ruth and Oscar, and her brothers and sisters, were such an important part of our Minnesota summers and all the wonderful memories I have of the Cullen Lakes.
Whenever I refer to this special place, I call it “PARADISE”!!!!!!