The following narration was taken from a tape recording given by Max Eckman for the Clearwater County Historical Society.
Mr. Eckman spent most of his life as a river man. His father was a lumberjack and river man. He started his river driving career in 1908, at the age of 16, living in a wanigan, which was a shelter for sleeping, eating, storage, or office space often mounted on a raft or boat.
He said wanigans were of various sizes, small ones at the beginning of the river and larger ones as you came to the larger part of the river. The larger ones had three tiers of bunks. Cooking was done on these larger wanigans.
In the earlier days, wanigans were made of rough-hewn timbers, caulked with okum and covered with pitch.
Occasionally, logs would pile up on rocks and rapids. These jams were usually loosened by dynamite charges. Skilled river men would locate the key log that was causing the jam.
River drivers would use peaveys, cant hooks and pike poles to keep the logs moving. When the logs went through lakes, the logs would have to be boomed and floated to the outlet with favorable winds. This, of course, was in the early days. In later years, scows and gas engines were used to pull the booms.
Max worked on the Otter Tail River at various times between 1900 and 1917. He mentioned working at Camp Number One on Long Lost Lake in Clearwater County. The logs went by railroad to Elbow Lake, then by water to Frazee, where they were sawn into lumber.
Once, he said, he worked for Nockols-Chisholm, whose headquarters were at Fergus Falls. He said that it was a fine company to work for, as the wages were $30-35 a month, with board. There were bonuses paid for finishing jobs.
The men ate meals at 6 a.m., 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
In 1896, the Sons of Herman Lodge organized Lindenau Park at the Pete Schroeder Brewery near the Otter Tail River.
The park was so named because it was situated among the beautiful linden (basswood) trees. Just a short walk from the Fellerer brothers’ home, brings you to the original setting of this park.
Andrew Fellerer, father of the Fellerer brothers, was brewmaster at the Schroeder Brewery at the time the people enjoyed these outings.
Lindenau Park was a great drawing place for the Perham people. It had entertainment such as bowling, dancing and picnic facilities. The bowling balls were made of wood, and many didn’t have finger holes.
Beer brewed in the Schoeder Brewery was sold on the grounds. Horse-drawn carriages, furnished by the livery stables in Perham, were the means of transportation for the people from town.
Many people looked forward to Sunday, when they could spend the afternoon at Lindenau Park.
It has been said that the minister would announce the gathering from the pulpit, and sometimes even let church out early, so the people would have time to prepare to go to the park.
Locally, there is lore of Viking ships sighted at the bottom of two lakes near New York Mills.
Vernon Jempsa of Fertile, Minn. is a promoter of the local legend. He was born and raised near New York Mills.
Three people came to the area to investigate the legend: Gerry Michel, a professional photographer; his wife, Georgiann, and her brother, Michael Shinabeck, an experienced scuba diver.
For two days, they explored the lakes. After a thorough search, they concluded that there was nothing to indicate the presence of any sunken boats in the lakes.
Other stories continue to surface, keeping the idea that the Vikings were actually in this area alive.
These are some of the stories: One story has been heard of a sunken ship in Big Cormorant Lake, near Lake Park, but the exact location was never pinpointed.
Older settlers at Ulen recalled a ship found half-buried, near the turn of the century, in the flats west of that village; but the location was never identified.
Perham settlers recalled a large boat that could be seen near the village, which children used to play on, before the turn of the century. This story was also never substantiated.
Information for this article came from the East Otter Tail History Book, Volume I, 1977, available online at www.HistoryMuseumEOT.com. Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.