Although it wasn't a resort by today's standards, Buff McNaulton's boat livery on East Gull Lake is believed to be the first money-making recreational enterprise on Gull Lake.
The livery was on the east side of the Gull Lake Dam, built in 1910 by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.
McNaughton put his livery into operation shortly after the 'dam was built, on the right-of-way property owned by the Corps.
A short time later he moved his livery to nearby Pikes Bay where the Cast A Bait Resort is now located. He had six boats for rent and later built four cottages.
Whether or not Buff's livery was the first "resort" on Gull Lake remains to be seen, but Reino Baakkonen, village assessor at East Gull Lake, believes it was and he's been in that area for most of his 68 years.
+ In 1869 Rueben Gray and Jeff Saunders built a road house on the narrow strip of land between Gull and Round lakes, used by lumbermen, surveyors, often hunters and fishermen.|
+ Pioneer settlers who had good lake sites were often forced to accommodate overnight guests who came to hunt and fish.
John McNaughton, Buff's uncle, who took over the operation after Buff died, had a livery of his own at about the same time that Buff started his livery. John's livery was at the mouth of the Gull River near what is now the Gull Lake Resort.
Those who remember Buff say he was a big man, weighing a good 300 pounds. Reino recalls that Buff cooked for the gang at the fire house during the winter when he couldn't get to the Gull Lake area.
An old friend of Buff's, 91-year-old Dunk Thompson, a life-time resident of Brainerd who was a volunteer firemen in those days and lived at the fire house, describes Buff as a "husky, rough talking man, heavy on the whiskey," who cooked big batches of pancakes with plenty of syrup and mighty strong coffee.
Getting to Buff's livery was no easy chore. There were no paved roads, just trails winding around the lakes, and marshes.
You rode four hours on horse-back from Brainerd.
But once you got there, says Reino, the fishing was "spectacular," especially in the Gull River. In Gull Lake itself, if you didn't catch a limit of walleyes in an hour, there was something wrong with you, not the fish.
Apparently, Gull Lake, because it was a good ten miles from the nearest railroad stop, did not develop as rapidly as other more accessible lakes. "Gull Lake was just too far for most people to travel," said Reino.
"Some came out to Gull Lake by Model-T Ford, but it "took a lot of pushing and pulling to get them over the ruts in the trails," said Reino.
It wasn't until after 1920, when better roads were constructed and transportation generally was improved, that Gull Lake began to show signs of development in the form of both resorts and private homes.
With highways and people, came rising land prices. Around 1900, a foot of lakeshore could be purchased for about $1 or less.
"That was before the railroads," said Reino. Today, the same property would cost about $70 or more, per foot.
Land in those days was more valuable in back of the lake than it was for lakeshore property. Here, land could be purchased for $5 an acre, around 1900, compared to $1 for lake shore footage.
After World War II, development increased greatly and so did the prices of lakeshore, recalls Reino.
However, even during the war years, lakeshore property around Gull Lake did not go down with the national economy. "I don't know of a single person who has lost money by purchasing Gull Lake lakeshore," saidReino.
Reino Bakkanen came to East Gull Lake in 1917 and farmed about 100 acres near Squaw Point until he recently retired.
ERNEST RITARI AND SQUAW POINT
When Ernie Ritari and his, family moved to Squaw Point from Brainerd in 1917, they made their way through jack pine and hazel bush to get there.
Ernie, 90 years old, still lives on Squaw Point, on the east side of Gull Lake, about 12 miles west of Hwy. 371 which in 1917 was "just a gravel road," said' Ernie.
His first recreational endeavor was a camping and fishing resort. He rented ten boats and usually had five families, mainly from Minneapolis and Iowa. He later built two cabins and installed house keeping equipment.
"We got out here through the mud and over old logging trails. It took about half a day from Brainerd," said Ernie.
"We had good times then -- people sang a lot and everything was relaxed -- and the fishing was excellent," he said.
Ernie came originally from Brainerd where he was a carpenter, but moved to Squaw Point because of his wife's health.
They were among the few who stayed all year around at east Gull Lake. Getting the mail was really not much of a problem, Ernie recalls. "The mailman rode out every day even in the dead of winter to bring us the mail."
A horsedrawn plow cleared the way and sometimes Ernie and his friends had to help him out.
Reproduced from the Centennial Edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch (1871-1971).