By Catherine Crawford & Beau Readmand, Voyageurs National Park
Dr. Carl B. Peterson, of Minneapolis, loved this northern country so much that, in 1919, he bought what he thought was 120 acres of land on Rainy Lake, sight unseen. In August of that year, Carl and his two sons decided to drive up to explore their new property, but could go no further than Cook before the road became impassable.
Carl and Mattie Peterson and family didn’t view their purchase until 1924 and it was another five years before they started building a quirky cabin with a notched roof to fit between the trees and a drawbridge to protect the cabin from intruders when the family wasn’t in residence. In the next 15 years, between boating and fishing and enjoying the beauty around them, the family handcrafted the cabin using logs cut from the property, shiplap from local sawmills, and a fireplace built from rock found on the island and nearby mainland.
Carl and Mattie, their daughter Eunice and son-in-law Wayne Garrett, other children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and family spent 63 lively, happy years in the cabin, at times overflowing into tents. The Garrett’s daughter Ruth, who didn’t miss a summer at the cabin from the time she was six months old, remembers the endless stories and lore. “The cabin was always considered everybody’s cabin.”
Since the cabin was vacated in 1992, the elements have taken a toll. This summer a park crew is making major repairs to the structure. The front steps and porch are being replaced and hazard trees will be removed. The roof will receive new boards where necessary and new roofing. Rafters and logs throughout the building will be repaired. Deteriorated floor boards will be replaced, windows and shutters repaired, and everything will get a fresh coat of paint. With care, the cabin will remain everybody’s cabin far into the future.