Association and area history

The Association was incorporated in 1945 as the Pequaywan Lakes Improvement Association. For the next 35 years, it was the prime instigator of developments which made the area more habitable. There was no local township governance then, as the area was part of Alden Township and apparently there were too few residents for St. Louis County to care much about what happened here.

One of the first projects was to bring electricity to the area. The Association petitioned the Northern Minnesota Coop Power and Light (now called Cooperative Power and Light) to bring in power and lines came in in 1950 after a sufficient number of people signed up, agreeing to the $45 a year minimum cost.

The other big issue in these early days was the condition of the roads... in one word, they were terrible. The Association kept after the county to do graveling and eventually paving. At almost every meeting, the issue of the condition of the roads came up. In the early spring, #44 was almost undriveable due to deep mud.

One interesting note in the old minutes is that there was talk in 1963 that a road be put across the river between the Little Lake and the Big Lake. Lester Erickson, who owned the property now owed by Katie Dwan, agreed to donate the land to the Association. But we could find no later mention of the road in later minutes.

Another service the Association provided was the spraying for mosquitoes. It owned a larger truck that went from cabin to cabin spraying DDT to control the insects. This also drastically reduced the bird population which came back when the spraying was stopped.

In 1965 the topic was phone service and in mid-1966 phone service became available for a monthly charge of $8.

The Association also managed a dump which until 1977 was located near where the gravel pit is now (where we have Yard Waste Day). Association members were able to bring their trash there and members took turns maintaining the dump.Every so often a tractor was brought in to push the trash further over the hill into a pit. It was a favorite summer spot to watch bears. After the dump closed, an attempt was made to have a dumpster behind the Inn for members.There is also a mention of a dump on land owned by Al Wilson off West Branch Road.

In the 70s, with the Association members leading the way, the county was petitioned to create a township separate from Alden. One of the requirements the county had was that there had to be a town hall for township meetings.

In 1964 the Association had bought 40 acres from Al Wilson for $200 with the idea of developing it into a recreation area for members. In 1980 the association donated the land to the township so it could build a townhall . The hall was never built as the township decided to use the Fire Hall.

Pequaywan Township became a reality in January 1981.

A review of the old minutes show that some things never change. The topics that concern us now were also of concern 60 years ago.

The issue of a public access came up several times and each time members voted against it. An interesting statement is that in 1965, the minutes reveal that the DNR said it would be guided somewhat by the wishes of the area residents!

Stocking fish was also a common topic. As were break-ins, safety on the lake and weed control. For a few years in the 60s, the Association had water patrols on both lakes as well as a list of regulations which was distributed to members.

For the first 30 years or so of the Association’s existence it met not at the lake but at various places mainly in Duluth, sometimes in Two Harbors.

Paul VidmarVidmar resort

Probably the person most responsible for the start of the Association and for many of the early developments was Paul Vidmar who bought a resort on the Little Lake from Al Wilson in 1944. It was located in the bay below where the Lakeside Chapel is now.

Paul was secretary/treasurer of the Association until his death in 1963 from a heart attack at the age of 53. His wife Alice ran the resort until 1965. The resort was closed in 1973.

View more old photos

There are several theories on how the lakes got their name - Pequaywan. Was it after an Indian Chief... or is it an Indian name at all.

According to Native American Placenames of the United States by William Bright - 2004 -

PEQUAYWAN pronounced \pa kwa’ an\. ... is from an Indian word, language not identified, said to mean ‘crow’ or ‘bird’ (Cheney 1984). .

Another reference says it is Ojibway name of undetermined meaning