At the turn of the 19th Century, Lake Jennie was a bustling community of farmers, city dwellers, day picnickers and vacationers. Now, 100 years after the first development began on Lake Jennie, one might argue that the community on the lake is not much different form its early inhabitants.
Our HISTORY - "100 Years of Lake Jennie"
Lake Jennie, at the turn of the 19th Century, was a bustling community of farmers and city dwellers, day picnickers and vacationers, who flocked to the lake for its sandy beaches, serene waters, joyful resorts and coveted Walleye fishing.
The area surrounding Lake Jennie was settled by New Englanders in the mid-1800’s who named the area New Virginia, followed by southerners after the Civil War. Canadian settlers changed the name to Collingwood in 1866 and it later became known as Collinwood Township (the “g” was dropped). Around this same time, the advent of the railway developed by the Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad (1) brought greater economic vibrancy to the area, giving birth to the town of Dassel.
Tucked in between the growing town of Dassel and nearby Hutchinson, the community around Lake Jennie began to come alive. According to Julie Lindquist, a local resident and historian at the Dassel Area Historical Society, during the late 1880’s the community was made up of three distinct ethnic groups – the Swedes on the south side, the Irish along the north and west and natives along the east.
Swedish immigrants who had broken away from the Lutheran Church established Lake Jennie Mission Covenant Church in 1886, which was also home to the Swedish schoolhouse. The natives developed School District 49 of Lake Jennie along with the Lake Jennie Methodist Church located on the south side of the lake.
On the north end of the lake, the Bonniwell family operated a gristmill and feed store and nearby, the first Lake Jennie post office was established. Other businesses around the lake included a creamery and gristmill owned by Otto Olson (2) on the west side near the Brodeen farm and a grocery store owned by Leena (3) and Frank Chatterdon.
Farmland surrounded Lake Jennie – the McGowan farm on the northeast end, the Coomer farm on the east, Servin farm on the south point, and Broodeen and Harrington farms on the west. Then, around 1910, Lou Merrill, a land surveyor from Hutchinson, developed the first cabins along Lake Jennie’s east side on Eagle Point. Skip Quade, whose family owns land in this area that his parents purchased from its original owners, recalls that some of the first property-owners on Eagle Point included Jon Lindenberg, Ruth Merrill and the Linder family.
As Eagle Point developed, entrepreneurial farmers opened resorts on their land and welcomed vacationers, sparking some of the most active decades of Lake Jennie’s history. Coomer’s resort, which boasted a water slide, was located on what was known as Sand Point and the Servin resort was located on the south side near Provincer's Pont. Vacationers from neighboring towns and as far away as Chicago frequented Lake Jennie during this time. “One of Chicago’s baseball teams celebrated their World Series victory at Coomer’s,” says Quade who adds, “I remember seeing each of their names carved into the walls of the main lodge.”
The Servin resort was owned and operated by Olga Regal’s grandparents who settled n the area in 1912. Olga, who still lives in the Dassel area, explains that the resort was made up of a few cabins and a little store. Her grandfather, she adds, lived up the hill and there was a second house where the resort helper lived. “People came year after year for the Walleye,” Regal reminisces, “We would go boating and swimming…I didn’t even have a bathing suit, and swam in my dress, if you can believe that!”
Lynette Johnson, a descendent of the McGowan family who farmed the land to the east of Lake Jennie explains that her Uncle, Jo Anders, opened the Happy Hollow on what is now the wooded area on the far east side of the lake. The Happy Hollow, according to Johnson, operated as a dance hall in the 1920’s.
Regal recalls that the Servin’s also made room for a dance hall on their resort by removing some of the partitions between unused cabins. “I remember all the people dancing the waltzes,” she says.
The cheerful, energetic times of the 20’s came to a close with The Great Depression and the drought-stricken 1930’s. During the Dust Bowl Days, Lake Jennie went dry. Quade explains that with the water gone, “You could see an island near the middle of the lake…we could walk from Eagle Point out into the lake to duck hunt.” With no water in the lake to enjoy, the resorts closed down and visitors stopped coming. Even as it began to come back, trees grew into the lake emitting oxygen and it suffered from winterkill and was re-stocked with fish in the mid 1950’s. Slowly, the lake began to improve, and re-establish itself with fish and plant life and has once again become a prime fishing location.
During the second half of the 20 th century, the Lake Jennie community continued to grow and evolve. The buildings that once served as dance halls and resort cabins succumbed to age and some of the larger plats of land were subdivided and sold to new owners. While several of the original cabins still stand along Eagle Point, new housing developments formed along Highway 18 which was moved back away from the lake in the 1980’s to make room for additional homes.
Now, 100 years after the first development began on Lake Jennie, one might argue that the community on the lake is not much different form its early inhabitants – some farmers, some residents, some seasonal owners from nearby towns of Hutchinson, Dassel, Cokato and the Twin Cities – all who still come to enjoy the serene waters and a triumphant walleye catch.
- The perseverance of a steadfast landowner who did not want the railroad to run through his property caused the rail to be built one mile to the north.
- Olson used a windmill to power his mill, and later removed it after being scorned by the community for operating it on Sundays.
- Mrs. Lena Chatterdon also was a schoolteacher on Lake Jennie.