The Clitherall Lake Cabin with Family History
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The Clitherall Lake Cabin with Family History

A small red cabin on Clitherall lake has an almost 90-year family history.

Written by Karen Ann Crewe Tucker

In 1998, I first visited the small red cabin located on beautiful Clitherall Lake, Minn., with my boyfriend, Jeremy, who the following year would become my husband.

The old cabin had originally been a granary in nearby Deer Creek, where Jeremy’s great grandfather was a train station master in the early 1900s. This innovative man, with the help of his two strong sons, painstakingly dismantled the granary and moved it to its current location on the bank of Clitherall Lake in 1930, where it became the summer home of my husband’s great grandparents.

That first summer when I visited the cabin, I was regaled with stories from Jeremy’s family about how this little piece of heaven came to exist. It turns out that my husband is a direct descendent of the Whiting and Gould families that were a part of the Cutlerites, a Mormon sect that traveled to Minnesota, creating the rst settlement in Ottertail County in 1865. In fact, it was his third great grandfather, (Francis) Lewis Whiting, who chose Lake Clitherall as the place to build a camp, and the settlement was born.

I have gleaned more information about the cabin and its occupants through the old cabin log, a notebook of sorts with a hand-painted wooden cover, which is filled with handwritten stories of summers at the cabin from 1930 until the present day. The log tells of work projects at this cozy one-room cabin, which over the years was extended with three small bedrooms in a shotgun style and the addition of 1 1⁄2 bathrooms, a much needed improvement from the old outhouse over the bank.

The log also tells of long, lazy summer days filled with shing, swimming, boating and visitors, much like today. Friends and family are asked to include their own stories after a visit to the cabin, to be read and reminisced.

My husband and I were financially blessed to be able to buy the cabin from my in-laws in 2014 when much needed repairs had to be made. Since owning the cabin, we have put on a new roof, enlarged the septic system, put rip-rap along the 100 feet of lakefront property to prevent further erosion, bought a new, sturdy, but lightweight aluminum dock, painted the interior rooms, patched holes in the exterior wood and completely gutted the two bathrooms, replacing everything (including the small tin shower that would reverberate like thunder when hit with your elbows) with up-to-date fixtures.

See also A Nature-Inspired Minnesota Cabin

Although many things about our cabin have changed, many have stayed the same. We still enjoy fishing for (and catching!) walleye, bass and northern pike on the lake and eating them fried with pancakes each morning. Yes, for breakfast!

Nothing is more beautiful and serene than sitting on our dock watching the sunrise casting its glow onto the still, placid lake in the cool, crisp morning with a warm cup of coffee in hand or watching the gorgeous, colorful sunset when we boat out onto the lake in the warm summer evenings.

Our trips to Clitherall still include an annual trek to Battle Lake’s arts and crafts fair, the Ottertail Museum (which hosts an entire section devoted to my husband’s family as the original inhabitants of the area), as well as the cemetery on the hill to pay homage to his relatives, including those who were the first permanent settlers of the land.

We have also created some of our own traditions with our three children, like visiting Granny’s Pantry (the local candy and ice cream shop), laying on our dock stargazing and viewing the annual Perseid meteor shower and telling stories and roasting perfect golden brown marshmallows around the fire pit on the bank. One thing definitely hasn’t changed. It still feels like home every time we walk through the door.

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