Someone's Been Here Before

Part Two


Back to Part One


The Harrison brothers weren't the only war vets with dreams of the islands.  There were Carl Moe and George England, a sailor and a Marine. On Christmas Day 1946, they hired Henry Johnson to take them out to South Twin. Marooned until spring, as  Carl put it,  they'd  get plenty of work done turning  their new land into a first-class summer resort.

All went okay for Carl and George at first. They cut logs by hand, then hauled them down by the dock to build their first-class restaurant. The guys did a good job;  the Park Service used the building as a "contact station" for years, right among the campsites. When they tore it down in 2004, it took the crew twice as long as they thought it would.

Things went sour for a bit when George cut his foot with an axe. That stopped the work-- it was no one-man job-- and then they had to wait fifty-one days for the ice to firm up so they could walk back and get George some real help.

That first summer, though,  a young lady named Mary McGuire came out with her folks. She and Carl hit it off, and the second summer she came back as Mary Moe, and the third summer they brought out a little boy named Steve Moe.


Mary Moe at South Twin

Mary McGuire Moe at Troller's Home,
South Twin Island, c 1947


Mary didn't mind cooking meals for the tourists and fishermen, baking bread every day, or hauling water from the lake in buckets, but she did a draw a line once. She and Carl used to take boat rides to visit the Coasties at Devils Island when she was expecting, and once,  one of the wives there gave her own baby a bottle of cold milk. When Mary  asked why, the mom explained that with only a wood stove, she couldn't warm a bottle at night, so she gave him cold milk all the time to get him used to it.

When they got back to South Twin, Mary told Carl, "Not for my baby!" so Carl put in a kerosene heater.


Finally, let's you and me pull our kayaks onto the sandspit at Outer Island. I want to show you the spot that Harlan Kelsey looked at back in 1930. Mr. Kelsey was an official from the National Park Service, here to take a look at the Apostle Islands and see if they were worth calling a national park.

He put things bluntly in his report to Washington.  There was no way the Apostle Islands would ever look the way they used to; way too many fires, way too much logging, way too much footprint-of-man. He let the locals down easy, but he made it clear: the Apostle Islands would never be any kind of kind of wilderness again.

Mr. Harlan Kelsey was wrong. The Outer Island sandspit, and most of the National Lakeshore, is a wilderness today. The Gaylord Nelson Wilderness, and that's a good thing, so long as you and I don't ever forget there's been other people there before us.


Outer Island 1930

Outer Island Sandspit, 1930


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