The Original Cut Foot Sioux Ranger Station is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the eastern Forest Service region. Constructed in 1908, it is the first ranger station established on the east side of the Chippewa National Forest. At that time, there was a great need for a station in this area, as the focus of logging on the forest was moving east from the Cass Lake-Bena area. Forest Supervisor Ed Marshall chose the location and sent three men, Horace Lydick, Billy McKinnon and Sewell Tibbetts by boat to build this station using pine logs cut right from the site.
One of the builders, Horace Lydick, was the first ranger to live and work at this location. His primary duties were fire control, road building, and dispersal of slash, such as cut tree limbs and tops left over from the cabin construction and road building. It was a daunting task, encompassing a huge area. The closest ranger station was nearly ten miles NW with an unbroken expanse of timber in between. There were very few roads and the only means of travel was horse, wagon, canoe or on foot. It was overwhelming at times...
Horace was hired as a forest guard in April of 1908 and his new bride, 18 year old Susan, joined him in the fall. They stayed in the little cabin until winter approached and returned in the spring to complete the 1909 season.
For Susan, life here was challenging as well. She wasn't accustomed to life in the wilderness. The site was very isolated, and at times Horace would be called out on a fire, leaving her alone at the cabin (ranger station) for days.
Shortly after Horace and Sue Lydick left in 1909, work began on a two story log home / ranger station for the new ranger, George Henderson. This building, completed in 1910, was located on the hill by the parking lot. Once that was in place, the original ranger station was used as a tool shed.
Henderson and his assistant ranger, Howard Flint, worked together to mark the 10% reserved trees to be left as a seed source after the logging operations were completed.
In 1911, the original ranger station was converted back into a home for Howard Flint and his new bride, Elizabeth. They were fortunate to have the companionship of Ranger Henderson and his family, and really enjoyed their time along the shore of Little Cut Foot Sioux Lake. Elizabeth kept a journal and wrote vivid descriptions of her time spent here and in other locations where she and her husband lived during his years with the Forest Service. From her notes she later published a book called The Pine Tree Shield. An excerpt from the book, written in 1940, describes the cabin in this way:
..We stood a moment together looking at our home - a little cabin of weather-stained logs, set with new white chinking which glistened in the morning sun. Blue wood smoke of our first breakfast fire crawled up against the pine wall behind it. To the right, up on the hill, was the flag. "Will it do, Girl?" he asked, the question in his eyes more searching than in his voice. ..
"I don't know anything that could be better." I answered as we walked toward it.
The reconstructed Cut Foot Sioux Ranger Station represents an important chapter in the history of the early years of the Chippewa National Forest. The interpretive displays within the cabin are based on descriptions from Elizabeth Flint's writings of her time spent here. (1911 - 1912)
The ranger station / cabin site gives up a glimpse of the remote setting and the living conditions of early managers of the Minnesota National Forest. Due to their first efforts, the Chippewa National Forest of today is known for its diverse forests, abundant wildlife and pristine lakes and rivers.
History of the Original Cut Foot Sioux Ranger Station
1908: Horace S. Lydick was the first ranger at Cut Foot. He was hired as a forest guard on April 14, 1908. On October 16, 1908, Horace married Susan Roy and they lived in the cabin / ranger station during the fall and returned in the spring of 1909. His primary work was fire suppression and slash (tree limbs and tree tops) dispersal.
1910: George Henderson became ranger in 1910 and Howard Flint was his assistant. Their primary job was to select and mark the 10% reserve trees. (These trees were left to insure a source of seed for a new forest). Other duties included making sure that the slash from logging operations were properly piled and burned, along with fire suppression and road and trail construction. They were also responsible for building a two story log home and station which became the new ranger station at Cut Foot.
1911: Howard Flint converted the Old Ranger Station into a honeymoon cabin when the Hendersons moved into the new two-story log home and station. While Henderson and Flint were managing timber sale operations in their district, Elizabeth Flint made her and Howard's first home as comfortable as possible. They stayed until 1912.
1913: After 1913, the station was used as a tool shed and later a garage for a district fire truck.
1933: Ranger Gerald Horton, because of a personal interest in local history, restored the building and converted it into a small museum to preserve local historical artifacts. Later rangers continued this effort more or less, depending on their personal interest.
1969: In order to save the building from further deterioration, the district engineering crew, with materials obtained from the Jobs Corps Center at Lydick Lake, built a protective shell around the old ranger station.
1974: The Original Cut Foot Sioux Ranger Station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
1994: The restoration project was started. The cabin was completely dismantled and logs that were beyond repair were replaced. The foundation, the floor and the roof were rebuilt. The interior was patterned after the description left by Elizabeth C. Flint in her book The Pine Tree Shield which is the only surviving description of the cabin's interior that could be found.
1998: Reconstruction of the cabin was completed and interpretive displays were developed.