Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, February 15, 1999

Kreitlow log home tells its story

August Kreitlow bought the land on which the Kreitlow log house stands Feb. 21, 1899. Now, 100 years later, we hear its story.

By Burton Kreitlow

My beginnings

In 1874, Henry Gray obtained his land patent on the ground where I was built. I remember little of those first years with the Grays and the Haulters, but in 1899 my real story begins. The estate of Christian Haulter was sold to August and Paulina Kreitlow.


I was built from basswood logs cut from the nearby woods. I was started during a log raising party that was organized by the neighbors.

Later improvements included no such activity. The main addition, which became the kitchen, was completed so that August and Paulina Kreitlow, their five girls, Pauline, Minnie, Marie, Elsie, Lydia, and son William (Bill) could move in before planting time in 1901. The next addition, the porch, was completed before Esther moved in as Bill's wife in 1915. The last was completed in 1941.

Did you know that my kitchen floor was removed and replaced? When that 1901 addition was done, it was built right over an oak stump six feet across. The edges of the room settled, but not the stump. That stump removal exercise was a neighborhood story for years.

In my rooms, there were periods of great joy. When was I really rocking? Perhaps when those five Kreitlow girls were at home and being courted. Of course, their brother, Bill, was responsible for hitching up the horses and taking them to dances near-and-far ­ Howard Lake, Buffalo, Waverly, Rasset, Albion, Cokato, Winsted, and even Dassel. By 1915, the courtships were over.

The wildest fun was in the 1930s, when Burt and Bud invited every club of which they were members to have parties at their house.

Burt would say, "Ma doesn't care."

And if he did not speak up, Bud would say, "Come to our house. It's okay with Aunt Esther."

One night when the Buffalo, Delano and Middleville Junior Farmer Labor Clubs got together, my rafters nearly fell apart.

There were periods of great caring. Esther's soft heart was open to anyone in need. She was most helpful to children, but cared for all. From 1917 until 1960, there were extras around for every meal. Burton and Willard treated them all like brothers and sisters. They fought them one day and loved them the next.

I may not remember all, but these I do: Mary Olson (Esther's sister), Gertrude (Gertie), Bud (Clifford), Paul and Kaare, Margaret and Eleanor, Mildred, Harry and Harvey, Lowry Nelson Jr., Gene Hoganson, Mary Onne, and the last pair, Merlyn and Gilbert.

In the 1940s, '50s and '60s, the happy voices of grandchildren echoed through every room: Burt's two girls, Karen and Candy, Willard's David and Marienne, Gertie's Arlen, Gail, and Glen, and Bud's Susan and Nell.

Had I been haunted I would have used my talents at my last party, Halloween 1984. By then, all of my additions were falling in. The upright logs placed in 1875 were still true. You can see that on the picture. I believe that at heart I have been a good house.

Silent night . . ., Oh, little town . . ., We three kings . . ., songs of many a past Christmas are in my timbers still. Stringing popcorn and cranberries, hanging the stockings, carefully placing real candles on the branches; their glow is but a memory.

My own Christmas song is filled with a melody of love. For the Christ child who made Christmas what it is. And for the good folks who celebrated his birth around that old wood stove, or the old coal stove, or the oil heater. The room is cold this Christmas, but my heart is warm.

One last word about another as old as I. Do you remember the Christmas cactus? Paulina brought it from Germany to Oconomowoc in 1881, to Montrose in 1900, to my west window in 1901, and to Howard Lake in 1915. Esther and Bill returned it to my west window in 1931 where it stayed until 1969.

It now thrives in Burton's home in Grand Marais. It is older than I am and I am 112. the Christmas cactus and I, we are survivors.

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