This photograph is part of the Wabana Trust Collection of historical photographs. It shows pine logs being loaded onto rail cars in the northwoods near Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

The Wabana Lake Trust

Our Family and Our History

Our Family and Our History

Our mission is forest, wildlife & fish habitat conservation

A Public and Educational Resource

The High Cost of Preservation

How You Can Help Preserve Nature

Contributors and Acknowledgements

Contact Us

Home Page

Our history and our role in a century of foresighted land use in northern Minnesota.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, land was inexpensive because it had been cut over for lumber. The image above is a family photograph taken showing the loading of logs near Grand Rapids, Minnesota, near the turn of the century. Much of the land in this region had been old-growth white (Pinus strobus) and red pine (Norway Pine; Pinus resinosa). These trees were very valuable because much of the pine in the east had already been cut for lumber.

Thomas H. Simmons saw the potential in this land for recreation, forestry, farming, and the building of new lives for people displaced by World War I. He bought a great deal of this land and sold it at reasonable prices to immigrants from Finland, Sweden, Norway and other european nations. He also chose some of the best recreational land to preserve and make accessible to people from the Midwestern US. He founded a recreational colony on Arrowhead Point of Wabana Lake that is now on the United States Register of Historic Places.

Simmons helped to set up immigrants in their new homes. He generously co-signed loans for building materials for them. When the great depression hit, he was left with massive payments for building materials as the new residents were forced to default on their payments. To pay for these catastrophic costs, he donated large tracts of land that formed part of what is now Chippewa National Forest. He saved the best piece of land (now the Wabana Trust) much of which escaped the big forest fires that followed logging. The northern end (the burned part) was used starting in 1906 for grazing cattle but was reclaimed to restored forest in the mid 20th century. He also saved a few other parcels of land for his daughter, Deborah Simmons Meader, that she used to supplement her income. She was the primary family provider. She is known for her travels throughout the state of Minnesota following the depression, training unemployed people in puppetry as part of the WPA program.

William Downing's family purchased a vacation home on Wabana Lake in the 1930s. He met Amos and Deborah Meader's Daughter Betsy (Mary Elizabeth) at Arrowhead Point and they were married following World War II. They and their three children (Deborah, John, and Elizabeth) form the nucleus of the Wabana Trust, but share the responsibilities with spouses, children, and relatives. We have managed this land and shore actively since 1956, and have followed officially recognized forest management plans since 1987.

Our family has owned this land since 1906.

We believe that families have a role to play in conservation.