On July 12, 2018, the Museum of Lake Minnetonka lost one of its dearest friends. Jim Ogland was an integral force during Minnehaha’s restoration and served as the restored vessel’s first captain during her lake trials in 1995. A dedicated Lake Minnetonka historian, he passed away peacefully at the age of 87. His full obituary can be viewed here.
MLM Vice President Jim Zimmerman spoke at Jim’s funeral. The following is a transcript of his speech.
“It’s a great personal honor to be able to speak at Jim Ogland’s celebration of life. And what a life we’re celebrating! His was an extraordinary life, exceptionally well lived.
“If you knew Jim well, you know he wore a lot of hats. You will hear a lot about his hats and roles, but I’m here to talk about this hat. It’s a captain’s hat from the steamboat Minnehaha, which was one of Jim’s passions. And he was the very first person to wear this hat.
This article originally appeared in the Wayzata Historical Society newsletter The Telegraph. It has been republished here with permission from the Wayzata Historical Society.
Like many other spots on Lake Minnetonka, the peninsula we know today as Bracketts Point has gone by many different names in its long history. Also known as Promontory Point, Starvation Point, Printers Point, and Orono Point, to name just a few, it was eventually named after its most well-known settler George A. Brackett and his wife Annie Hoit Brackett.
George and Annie Brackett first visited Lake Minnetonka on August 18, 1858 for a picnic and day of fishing and camping with friends. It wasn’t until 1880 that the Bracketts returned to Lake Minnetonka to purchase the peninsula between Browns Bay and Smiths Bay. Mr. and Mrs. Brackett gave it the name Orono Point and built a modest cottage at the site. The name Orono was important to George Brackett, as he had left his home of Orono, Maine to come to Minnesota in 1857. It wasn’t until 1930 that it was renamed Bracketts Point in his honor.
Dear Minnehaha Supporters:
Another year of Minnehaha’s distinguished career has already passed. 2017 brought us a number of hardships, but we prevailed and ended the season successfully with a total ridership of 8,800 passengers. Fun times were had and much business was taken care of, and new friends were made while others are remembered. The following is a recap of just some of the past year’s major events.
The season started in an unfortunate way. While the sale of the former Bayview property was pending, access to Minnehaha’s home dock and utility lines was limited. This led to the cancelation of cruises during Memorial Day weekend. The issue was thankfully resolved after the new owners completed the purchase, and by early June Minnehaha was able to begin operating as scheduled.
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2017 was the year that the MLM finally established a proper archive for its collection of photos, videos, documents, blueprints, and memorabilia. The idea to do this began many years ago, but it was daunting. Volunteer Kathy Newman started the effort by moving the archives to their current location in 2013. Finally, in 2015, an official Archives Committee was formed (members included Aaron Person, Sherry White, Helen Sears, Dave Peterson, Chris Wolf, and Juli Englander). Over the next year the Archives Committee met with and received tours from representatives of the Minnesota Historical Society, Hennepin History Museum, and other organizations to learn the proper basics of archiving.
By 2016 the committee had decided that it would be best to hire a professional consultant for the initial phase of the project. With the expertise of volunteer Helen Sears, the committee received a $9,157 legacy grant from the Minnesota Historical Society for labor and supplies expenses. The committee interviewed three candidates that October and ultimately hired Rachel Garrett Howell as the consulting archivist. Work could finally begin!
Leo Conrad Meloche was born in Escanaba, Michigan on December 17, 1931. After graduating from Washburn High School in Minneapolis in 1950, he went on to study at the University of Minnesota. He served in the United States Army for a time before embarking on a thirty-one-year career in sales at IBM Corporation.
During retirement in the 1980s, Leo eyed the hull of the streetcar steamboat Minnehaha sitting on shore near the edge of town in Excelsior. According to local lore, he and resident Bob Bolles looked at the hull after saving the former Blue Line Café ticket booth. It was then that they conspired to restore Minnehaha back to her original glory.
Leo helped form the Steamboat Division of the Minnesota Transportation Museum (the MLM’s predecessor) in 1990, which subsequently received title to Minnehaha’s hull. A barn near Excelsior public works was constructed later that year so that restoration could begin. After fifty-four years on the bottom of Lake Minnetonka and ten agonizing years on shore, Minnehaha was in rough shape. Nevertheless, the Minnehaha Restoration Project began. Leo would act as Director of the project.
2016 marked an important milestone in Minnehaha’s career and a significant achievement for the Museum of Lake Minnetonka as it was the twentieth anniversary of Minnehaha’s return to passenger service. We are very proud to say that, as of May 25, Minnehaha has now been in service longer in her second life than in her first. Furthermore, we are thrilled by the past year’s near-record ridership – approximately 11,500 – as it shows that, even after twenty years, Minnehaha and her story continue to inspire new interest and remain a beloved piece of the community. Thus, the legend continues! The following is merely a recap of the latest chapter in Minnehaha’s story.
To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the restored Minnehaha’s maiden voyage, the MLM hosted a party at Excelsior Brewing Company in May for volunteers old and new. It was a joyous evening with live music, good beer and food, and mingling between the earliest of early volunteers and newest of new recruits. On the morning of May 25 – exactly twenty years to the hour since the maiden voyage – a commemorative video entitled “Salvaged Memories” was published on the Steamboat Minnehaha Facebook page. This video was shared by 450 individuals and viewed nearly 30,000 times over the course of several days. To further commemorate this moment, a beautiful tribute by Meghan Davy was published in the Lakeshore Weekly newspaper.
Time has certainly escaped us as we can now say that it is the end of yet another year and yet another sailing season on Lake Minnetonka – and what a year it has been! 2015 saw higher-than-normal ridership on board Minnehaha, as well as some very special events, media coverage, and more. The following is a summary of just some of the happenings that have transpired over the past twelve months.
The Winter Maintenance Crew worked hard finishing up various projects before Minnehaha‘s launch in May. On top of the regular repairs and inspections that are made every year, two unique projects that took place were rebuilding Minnehaha‘s telescoping smoke stack and planing her bronze propeller. The smoke stack can now be raised and lowered more easily when needed, and the planed-out propeller (originally from the Express Boat Como) reduces stress on the steam engine and allows for a smoother ride.
Bold. That was the type of year 2014 was for the Museum of Lake Minnetonka. With an overhauled timetable, national press coverage, and another Captain at the helm, it was nothing short of this. Here we will reflect on this truly spectacular year.
New Passenger Experience
It began by asking the question “How can our passengers’ experience be more historical?” We realized at that point that the Museum had to reinvent itself – no longer could we simply provide a mere boat ride. Instead we would have to provide a fully historical, educational, and legendary experience. The first order of business was to overhaul Minnehaha‘s timetable with all new and unique cruises, each of which would cover a different part of the lake and highlight different stories from Lake Minnetonka’s past. Among these new cruises included Minnetonka’s Gold Coast, Legends of Big Island, and Victorian Gems, Cottage Treasures. An additional specialty cruise called The Grand Minnetonka Voyage was added as well. Departing only once a month, this two-and-a-half hour cruise would be by far the most inclusive experience the Museum had ever offered.
In last year’s newsletter we featured an article about one MLM volunteer’s experience aboard the RMS Segwun, the oldest operating steamship in North America, which caught the attention of one of Segwun‘s engineers, Bryan Dawes.
This past summer the MLM received an email from Bryan Dawes seeking the expertise of an engineer in Minnesota who could help fire a newly built steamboat named Arezoo, a replica of an Edwardian gentleman’s steam launch. Arezoo, which means Wish in Persian, began life in 1994 when IMAX co-founder Robert Kerr designed her. Kerr’s “relentless pursuit of perfection” is evident in every detail of the vessel’s impeccable craftsmanship – it appears more like a piece of art than a functioning boat. Sadly Kerr passed away before construction of the vessel was complete, though his daughters Nancy and Barbara went on to finish the project shortly after his death. By 2011 Arezoo was ready to set sail with initial boiler tests and sea trials conducted by Bryan Dawes on Lake Ontario.
Strolling through the woods of Shaver Park in Wayzata, visitors and local residents alike are bound to pass by a little log cabin that has seemingly appeared out of nowhere. If they read the plaque standing next to the structure, passersby might be shocked to discover that this unsuspecting shack is actually the oldest surviving structure in Wayzata and likely the oldest in the greater Lake Minnetonka area, possibly dating back to the 1850s. But it didn’t simply appear there spontaneously. Bolted to a boulder near the cabin’s entrance is another plaque that reads: “Through the dedication of Irene Stemmer this nineteenth century Trapper’s Cabin was saved in 2014.”
The “Trapper’s Cabin,” as it is called, was originally located east of town, just north of the railroad tracks off Bushaway Road, though the tracks probably didn’t even exist when the cabin was built. Although it is unknown who actually built the cabin, records show that Horace Norton was the original owner of the property it sat on. Norton purchased the land in 1855 from the federal government under the Act of Preemption. However, this does not necessarily mean that Norton built the cabin – property owners of the time often bought land without actually visiting it, and it was common for squatters to build small, primitive shacks on the land without any official record. One theory, although purely based upon lore, suggests that the cabin was built by a Black logger who was sent out from Saint Paul to clear the land. Another theory suggests that it was built by an early trapper, which is why the structure has been referred to as the “Trapper’s Cabin” since the early 1900s. One thing that is certain, however, is that the cabin was constructed out of timber from nearby tamarack swamps, almost all of which were depleted early on for use as railroad ties and other construction. Tests conducted by the Department of Forest Resources at the University of Minnesota have confirmed this hypothesis.