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The Johnson Family Cabin on Long Beach

by Megan Speers

Raymond G. Johnson was born to immigrant parents in 1908. His parents, Andrew Johnson and Emma Rasmusson, both traveled to the United States from Sweden in the beginning of the twentieth century. He grew up in a farming family but decided to go into business when he was old enough. In 1936 he married my grandmother, Perle Bellig. Eventually, Ray and Perle moved to Lamberton, Minnesota where they had three daughters: Judy, Jane and Jeanne. Ray owned his own farming implement company and Ford dealership.

In the middle 1940's, Raymond G. Johnson first brought his family to Ten Mile Lake for a short summer vacation. The family quickly fell in love with Ten Mile and decided to return every summer. Their decision was helped by the fact that two other Lamberton families, the Kuehls and the Stahlers, also decided to make Ten Mile their summer home. In 1948, Ray purchased 125 feet of lakefront property on Long Beach for $5.00 a foot from Mrs. Siqveland. The lot was originally larger, but some was split off to the Ted Kuehl family (currently the Jim and Anita Thomas' cabin, just south of the Johnson cabin). The Stahler family built a cabin further north on Long Beach, now the Swan cabin. Mrs. Siqveland would not sell the beachfront property without the back ten acres, however, so Ray also purchased that land for $140. Six other families on the beach agreed to split the $140 and leave the land undeveloped, as it remains today.

During the summer of 1948, Ray sketched out a design for the cabin he wanted to build and ordered logs from Washington State. That fall Ray, with the help of a carpenter named Carl Urness and some friends, built the cabin. It took them ten days to build the five-room cabin. There was no running water, and the three girls shared a bedroom with bunkbeds. An outhouse was built and named "Li'l Sweden" by Urness, who wanted to tease Ray and his Swedish father about their heritage.

As the three girls grew up, Perle packed them off each June for the summer at the lake. Ray, back running his farm implement company in Lamberton, would come up every possible weekend and vacation. Sometimes he even chartered a small plane to get him there faster. He would land in Backus and then hitch a ride into Hackensack or to his cabin, delighting his three daughters with the surprise. Judy, Jane and Jeanne made fast friends at the lake, including the Garbisch girls (Marlou, Mimi, and Marcia), Karen Lane, and Janey Anderson, all of whom still have cabins on or visit Ten Mile today. As the girls grew older, they waitressed in town at night, slept late, and skied all afternoon.

Along the way, the cabin experienced changes. In 1951, running water was added to the cabin and the girls original bedroom was changed to a bathroom (although "Li'l Sweden" still stands today!). In 1954, Ray bought a barely used wooden speedboat in Little Falls for $800.00, motor and trailer included. The boat was a fourteen foot Larson Runabout with a Johnson thirty horsepower motor. On its first launch, Raymond was horrified when it sank to the bottom. Fortunately, the boat sank simply because it had been out of the water for too long and the wood had shrunk. Once it was recovered, the boat was fine and Judy, Jane and Jeanne could often be seen in it or behind it on a pair of water skis. In 1973, the guest cabin was built to accommodate the increasing number of grandchildren spending time at Ten Mile Lake during the summer. Also in the 1970s, Ray retired, sold the wooden speedboat, and bought a pontoon for fishing.

Perle died in 1996 and is missed every year. Because of health limitations, in 2001 Ray was not at the cabin for the first time since the 1940's. Judy, Jane and Jeanne and their families hold strong connections to Ten Mile and spend summers there still.

Judy, the oldest daughter, met her first husband Fritz Kilander during summers at Ten Mile. They had two children, Heather and Trip. After their divorce, both Fritz and Judy remarried. Fritz and his current wife Bernadette established a permanent home on Ten Mile Lake and Heather and Trip spent many summers with them growing up. Recently, Heather and her husband Mark Stonacek bought the Hillaway Camp owner's cabin (in the 1990s) and now spend summers there with their sons Raymond and Stuart. They also bought back Ray's original wooden speedboat, now beautifully restored, from the Ten Mile family who had purchased it from Ray. In addition, Trip, his wife Heather, and their children Quad, Cannon and Holly, visit Ten Mile and their extended family a few times each year.

Judy married Forrest Chaffee and they have rented various cabins on Ten Mile for many summers. Forrest's daughter Kris met her husband Jeff Bates at Ten Mile, as Jeff's mother owns a cabin on Ten Mile as well. They, along with their two daughters Sara and Natalie, recently built a permanent home just south of the original Johnson family cabin on Long Beach. Forrest's son John, his wife Tracy and their three children currently live in California but still make it to Ten Mile at least once a year. Judy and Forrest now divide their summers between visits to the Chaffee-Bates home and the Stonacek cabin.

The middle daughter, Jane, bought the Johnson family cabin from Ray and Perle in the early 1980s. (Ray and Perle continued to spend summers there for many more years.) Jane and her husband Ken Odell now live at the cabin each summer, and plan on spending even more time there as they have both recently retired. Jane and Ken have updated the old cabin in many ways and in 1998 replaced the guest cabin with a brand new garage and second cabin, with another kitchen, bathroom and a beautiful deck overlooking the lake. Jane's daughter Becca, along with her husband Lance and children Emma and Andrew, spend a good part of their summer at Ten Mile with the Odells. Jane's younger daughter Megan and her husband Steve also visit regularly and look forward to bringing their new baby Lucy there for the first time in the summer of 2002.

Ray and Perle's youngest daughter Jeanne married Frank Agnello and they currently live in Olympia, WA. Despite the distance, they still travel for a summer vacation in northern Minnesota every year. Jeanne and Frank's daughter Amy, her husband Michael Lowsky, and their daughter Luna also visit Ten Mile from their home in Olympia, Washington. Raymond and Perle Johnson left a legacy when they built their cabin on Ten Mile Lake. Over fifty years later, all of their descendants continue to include Ten Mile as a major part of their lives. The Johnson family children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will all agree that Ten Mile is a very special place.

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Revised: June 30, 2016.

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