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Historical society museum offers glimpse into lakes area's past

Businesses in Pequot Lakes these days benefit greatly from the summer tourist trade, but that hasn’t always been the economic emphasis of the town.

In the early days, the main endeavor was logging and the lakes were used for moving rafts of logs to mills on Gull Lake and Brainerd. Those were not the days of lake oriented recreation. There were no power boats, no water skis, no resorts or cabins “up at the lake."

Times were so different then. Even into the 1930s, roads were woefully inadequate to accommodate traffic that wasn’t absolutely necessary.

Many early settlers homesteaded on farmland and raised families and crops on 140-acre farm sites. Although some farmers were successful enough to increase their holdings over the years, the farms in this area didn’t grow beyond the ability of the family to work them.

The contrast between then and now is interesting to contemplate. The entire area of central Minnesota has changed almost completely since those early days. Logging now is done on a small scale and the logs are trucked to the mills. Small farms continue to be part of the landscape. But over the years, recreation has become the focus of the lake country.

Many factors contribute to the evolving history of any given area. Viewing the collections in our local museums is a good way to learn about the past and appreciate the things we have today.

The Pequot Lakes Area Historical Society Museum will be open every Saturday from now until Labor Day. Our hours are from noon to 4 p.m. on those days. A phone call to 568-4808 will get the museum open for you any day of the week. We encourage you to do this. We have received many compliments on the layout and content of our displays, which depict life in the early part of the 20th century.

We are located in the Cole Memorial Building, the elegant white structure under the shadow of the bobber water tower. In addition to our museum, we suggest you visit the DNR fire tower just east of town on County Road 11. It has been repaired and spiffed up for the season. The view from the highest point in town is great any time of year.

There are other history sites close by, and they include the Pine River Depot, which has been completely refurbished to an attractive and educational site right in downtown Pine River. The Log Villages in Crosslake and Nisswa offer hands-on looks at the world that used to be, as does the Pioneer Village at This Old Farm just east of Brainerd.

If fishing and boating turn out to be boring ventures, why not take in a museum?

(Karen Bye is president of the Pequot Lakes Area Historical Society.)