(The following was re-written from "Nisswa, Now and Then" by Tes Goodhand and her daughter.)
THE INDIANS In the very early days, Smiley, Township where Nisswa is located, was the headquarters for the Mississippi Chippew a Indians. It was the home of Chief Bug-O-Nay-Ger-Shig(Hole-in-the-Day) who built a five-room house for his white wife whom he brought back from a visit to Washington, D.C.
She immediately banished the several Indian wives and the chief built a log house at Ojibway Park for these women (one of them ran away in the process.)
During another trip to Washington, in 1864, sensing the power of the white man's advance, he yielded the Gull Lake area in return for sanctuary for his people on the White Earth Reservation.
For this reason, the chief was considered a traitor by some of his tribesmen and shot to death in June, 1864, by two half-breeds as he loosened his horse to drink from the Gull River.
The death of Chief Hole-in-the-Day was one of the biggest news stories of the time.
The site of the chief's death is believed to be near where a bridge crosses the Gull River on Highway 210, west of Brainerd between Brainerd and Pillager. (An old house on the right side of the road through Pillager is now about all that remains of once thriving business center.)
Chief Hole-in-the-Day was so named because he was born during an eclipse of the sun. His home was built on an 80-acre tract of land which later became the farm home of E. E. Bernard, known throughout the countryside as "Windy Joe" because of his penchant for telling picturesque stories.
Some of this land is now the site of a summer home owned by Pete Porter and the former residence of ex-governor C. Elmer Anderson.
In 1852, Rev. J. Floyd Breck founded the Mission of St. Columbo on Gull Lake and the Indian Uprising of 1852 resulted in the burning of the church and the destruction of the mission.
The last Indian uprising in Cass, Crow Wing and Morrison counties was in 1898.
Stories of unrest came first from the train men running from Brainerd to Hubert. It all started at a disreputable saloon south of Walker, where a fight broke out one night and a white man was killed.
The Indian arrested as the killer was later proven innocent but the arrest set off an up-rising that ended in the killing of eight men from the Third Minnesota Infantry and the Captain of the infantry.
The Indians could no doubt have wiped out the entire troops, but the Chief halted the attack and the troops withdrew to Walker. The real culprit was a drunken celebrater at the saloon who was never arrested.
THE NAMING OF NISSWA Smiley township was organized in 1900 and was one of the first townships settled in what is now Crow Wing County. Nisswa was first named "Smiley."
Leon E. Lum, as attorney from Duluth, Minn., who owned the home on Nisswa Lake now occupied by Scott Thurlow who runs the Thurlow Hardware in Nisswa, platted the township in 1921. The name of Nisswa was changed in commemoration of the three lakes located in the immediate vicinity, then known as Upper, Middle and Lower Fishtrap lakes.
Nisswa is Chippewa fo r "three."
These lakes are now named Cullen, Nisswa and Roy.
In 1898 the Smiley Post Office was established near the channel connecting the Cullens to Nisswa Lake, but because of the grading for the trains, it was moved to what is now Nisswa, closer to the tracks.
EARLY GULL LAKE AND NISSWA The census of 1860 revealed that three white and 37 people of mixed blood lived at Gull Lake. The three whites, Thomas Cathcart, a real estate dealer, Norris Wesner, a laborer from Wurtemburg, Germany, and Charles Rupertafauch, a teacher born in Ireland, lived together.
John Bishop, one of the earliest settlers had a log house on Gull Lake known as "Half Way House," a stop-over for those traveling from Brainerd to Jenkins, at about the place where Jack Anderson's Interlachen Resort is now located.
Early in the 1800's, W. B. (Webb) Hill established a stop-over place at what is now Nisswa, a large frame house with two log barns, just south of the Standard Lumber Co. office. It was originally the summer camp of the Gull River Lumber Company.
In 1882, a summer resort on Gull Lake, owned by Ruben Gray, was sold to W. B. Chambers of Minneapolis, who intended to extend the business. However, the following year, a Brainerd syndicate including Leon E. Lum and J. W. Smith, bought the property and turned it into a place called "The Club House."
The Club House was located between Gull and Round lakes where Boberg's Resort on Highway 371 now stands.
One of the earliest cars was a Ford owned by William Murray from Nisswa.
For Murray tb get from Nisswa to Brainerd he drove the old Leech-Lake ox-cart trail in sand deeper than the hubs of wagon wheels, twisting and turning around stumps and logs left by the logging operations and more or less following the route of least resistance.
In 1897 and 1898, lumbering was still the most important occupation in the lake region and cut-away dams were constructed at outlets from Cullen and Gull lakes to let the logs through.
One old-timer who followed the logging trade, told of having to stand on the seat of a horse-drawn buggy to keep from getting wet while driving home over the dams.
Roads into this region were improved slightly by 1916. A winter survey by the county however, showed that Co. Rd. 19 was a gravel road built largely with horses and scrapers, a far cry from the road building machines of today.
RAILROADS, RESORTS AND EARLY LAUNCHES
The railroad was built to Nisswa in 1899 and from that date resorts began to appear in the Nisswa area.
The laborers lived mainly in camps, but some boarded with Mrs. Webb Hill who cooked and baked for big crews on a wood range with supplies brought from Brainerd. (Webb Hill often carried the supplies on his back.)
In 1901, the first summer cottage was built on Nisswa Lake by Judd LaMoure, a Senator from Pembina, North Dakota. (Webb Hill sold lots on Nisswa Lake where the Lazy Brook Resort is now located.)
A short time later, a second cottage was built on Nisswa Lake by Casper Mills, father of Stewart and Henry Mills, both of Brainerd.
Then, to assure the public of a place to launch their boats, Hill donated a small public access on nearly every part of any lake.
When the resorts first started operating on Gull Lake, nearly all the patrons arrived at Nisswa by train that came in at about 2:30 p.m.
It was met by Stewart Mills and Merrill (Bud) Hill who each operated a launch. The passengers were walked through the woods on a well-defined path to the edge of Nisswa Lake to a landing where they boarded the launches.
Mills and Hill guided the boats through the winding thoroughfares and lakes connecting Nisswa and Gull, around rocks, shallows, large stumps and logs left behind by the log drives of years before.
The train was also met by Sol Marquis who had what is believed to be the first resort on Pelican Lake, known as Haze Haven. Marquis took patrons to his resort in a two-seated buggy and a team of "spanking bays."
His son, Fred, also came along with a wagon to transport the luggage.
Some of the first private cabins on Pelican Lake were owned by people from Missouri. At the end of the summer, Marquis drove them to the depot at Nisswa in the buggy loaded with luggage and barrels of fish packed in old-fashioned lake ice.
The guests boarded the south bound train at about 11 a.m. After the farewells at the depot, Marquis would go down to the Webb Hill place for dinner and wait for the afternoon train and another round of guests.
Reproduced from the Centennial Edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch (1871-1971).