Haffner Resort



Anthony Haffner was born in Germany July 6, 1858.  His mother Gertrude died in 1864 and in that same year his father Anthony Sr. and children came to America and located in Hennepin County.  Some fifteen years later the father, Anthony Sr. and family came to St. Michael and operated a steam saw mill and threshing machine from there. Anthony Jr.

attended schools in Hennepin County.  He worked around St. Michael a few years and married Katherine Dronick of Hennepin County in 1884.  They resided in the village of St. Michael for about five years.  In 1889 he purchased 40 acres of land in section 31 of Frankfort Township.  According to the Wright County History Mr. Haffner cleared the land with a grub hoe and planted his first crops. Their house was a board shanty covered with tar paper.  For two years they had no horses or oxen and only one cow. He moved the saw mill to this location on a large pond on the north side of his property.  The 1879 map does show a pond there with a wagon trail jogging around to the North side.  (Anna Duerr in an interview in 2003 recalled the pond as a small lake that just disappeared. It seems that when County Road 34 was built the pond was partially filled in.)  He added 33 acres probably in the late 1800’s which gave him a total of 75 acres with a splendid water line on Lake Charlotte.


 The Wright County History by Franklin Curtis Wedge 1915 states that Mr. Haffner was a very successful farmer and about eleven years after he settled on the place he erected a large barn and a substantial residence.  The Haffner’s had nine children seven girls and two boys. In 1978 the two remaining Haffner girls, Gertrude age 90 and Millie age 89 were interviewed by a member of the Wright County Historical Society. Listening to the tape it appears that the family lived in the tar paper shanty for several years until the farm house was built in about 1899 or 1900.  One of the sisters described the shanty as one large room for the kitchen and dining room.  There were two bedrooms added on the sides.  One had three double beds and the other had two double beds and a single bed in them.  They also talked about the saw mill and Mr. Haffner operating the steam engine threshing machine.


 After the farm house was completed from time to time the Haffner’s friends came to their place to fish on the lake.  Gradually he received requests from strangers for board and room.  Finally in 1907 he decided t o go into the summer resort business.  When his farm house became too small he erected a five room cottage near the farm house.  The house and cottage were several rods from the lake.  He selected a slope of land on the North bank of the lake shaded by some nice trees and possessing all the qualifications for a summer resort.  He moved the cottage to the new location and started the resort business on a large scale.  The main hotel, built in 1910 by the lake, housed the kitchen and dining room. It was cool, airy and well furnished.  This is the present home of Terry Rawlings. The history goes on to say that ten cottages gave ample accommodations for a large number of guests. The Haffner sisters in the interviews did not indicate the total number of cabins. They said there were at least one five room cabin, a four room, a three room, and several two room cabins.  It appears that the cabins were small with sleeping rooms only.  The interviews revealed that Kate Haffner did all the cooking and meals were served in the hotel dining room.



The history also adds that a garage, ice house, dance pavilion, a well of pure water and a large fleet of boats added to the guests comfort and pleasure.  It also states that the lake is clear and sparkling one mile long, ½ mile wide and 100 feet deep in the deepest point.  The bathing beach in front of the cottages is excellent and the maple grove gave an ideal spot for picnics.  Year by year, the place increased in popularity as a fishing, hunting and recreation resort. The resort was open primarily from Decoration Day to Labor Day.  In the early days most of the guests came by the railroad.  Mr. Haffner would meet them in a horse drawn vehicle at Albertville. Some may have come by way of Rockford.  They also hauled supplies and freight from Albertville by wagon team.  They operated a small store at the resort which handled gum, candy, tobacco products and a limited amount of canned goods.  They did not have electricity for the years that the resort operated.  Food refrigeration depended on ice boxes.  Mr. Haffner had an ice house and the necessary straw and saw dust to store the blocks of ice for use during the summer months.  The frozen lake provided the blocks of ice.  Cutting the ice and hauling the huge blocks of ice to the ice house was a necessary winter job. The Haffner sisters said that some of the guests packed their fish in ice to transport them home.


(This brings back some memories for this writer.  I recall the process of putting up ice in rural South Dakota as a youth.  The ice was cut at the lake using long hand saws.  The very large blocks of ice were loaded on a horse drawn sled and taken to the ice house.

There it was stacked and each block covered with straw or sawdust.  The ice kept very well.  Most families did have an ice box for cooling food. On special occasions we would get a block of ice and using a hand cranked ice cream maker we made homemade ice cream.  Every child should experience turning the crank until it is too hard to turn, then tasting the very, very cold ice cream.) 


Millie said that her brother put on dances in the dance pavilion.  We do not have information on what the dances were like however we can bet they were not swing, rock or big band music.  The musicians were no doubt local people with drum, violin, accordion and perhaps a horn.  There would be a caller for square dances and circle two step. They danced the polkas, old fashioned waltz and in the 20’s perhaps the Charleston. Light was provided by gasoline lanterns and kerosene lamps.  Dances were generally family affairs as youngsters were not usually left home in rural areas.  Dads, Moms and kids all had fun whirling around the dance floor.  It was my understanding that when the resort business slowed down the dance pavilion was sold and moved to Buffalo and is still in use as a residential house.


 The Haffners generally had one or two hired men to help with the saw mill and threshing machine. Millie said that in the winter time, logs were brought in on a sled to the saw mill.  The machine was pretty much enclosed in a shed with one side open to bring in the logs.  The saw mill was a thriving business.  Millie said in the taped interview that in the summer Mrs. Haffner (Kate), Edith, and Millie stayed at the lake house and did most of the resort work.  Gertrude remained unmarried and lived most of her life on the farm.


Edith married Carl Reifler.  They lived in the lake house a couple of years before moving to Buffalo.  Anne married August Wagner a son of a near neighbor.  The 1879 map of Wright County shows that August Wagner was the owner of a portion of section 33 in Frankfort Township on the Northeast side of Lake Walker (Currently Lake Wagner).  Since the map was made about 15 years before Anne was born it can be assumed that the land owner was the father of her husband. We also have a copy of a one cent post card dated Sept. 15, 1915  sent from Edith to Mrs. A.G. Wagner, RR #1 Rockford, Minn. The card written in very neat beautiful hand writing reads, “I think I will drop you a card and let you know that we are alive yet.  Mamma has not got back from the city yet.  I bet she is having a good time.  Aug asked me to come down to your place for a few weeks but I can’t until the corn is husked.  How are the boys?  Will be down some time before it gets cold.  From your sister Edith”.  Lena Haffner married a Mr. Lenneman and Alvina married a Mr. Laubner. Theodore Haffner married Regina Bruska a sister of neighbor George Bruska.  Millie said that Theodore (Ted) stayed on the farm and Albert the youngest son worked in the cities.   


 Millie remained unmarried.  She worked for Dr. Ludeman in St. Michael for over 20 years.  He had built a hospital in St. Michael in 1913.  She started working for him in the 20’s and stayed with him until he died in the 1950’s.  He left his property, the hospital, in St. Michael to Millie. It is the present apartment building on HiWay 241 just west of the shopping mall.  In 1953 Millie purchased and moved into Lake House (Hotel) on Lake Charlotte.  Electricity was installed in the house at that time. (She was still living in the lake house ion 1960-61 when we built a cabin on lot 60.  My wife, Pat and my mother visited with her quit often. They called her the flower lady.)  Millie died in1987.


Clara Haffner married Nick Duerr in 1912.  Their son Arthur was born in 1912 his father, Nick, died when he was only 3 months old.  He was raised by his mother, Clara, on the Haffner farm.  A picture of Art Duerr and Vernon Haffner on a steam engine is in the Wright County Historical Society files.   Vernon (1920-1989) was the son of Theodore and Regina Haffner.


The Haffner resort operated through the 1920’s into the 30’s until the lake was very low and the bay in front of the resort nearly went dry.  Gertrude said that when the lake was so low in the 30’s the resort folded, however Millie said even after that people continued to come out and stay at the resort.  She said they walked over to the lake on the point.  Never-the-less the fate of the resorts on the smaller lakes close to the cities was certain.   Automobiles became more common (the tin lizzie, model “T” Ford, came out in 1908) and the roads were improved.  Then vacationers and sportsmen began to go to larger lakes farther north.   The sisters did tell about selling the saw mill and the threshing machine.  The cabins were sold and moved to various locations.  One of the cabins still exists at the lake on the Bruska property.


Arthur Duerr married Anna Barthel in 1947.  They lived on the farm after they were married.  They have three sons.  The oldest Tim lives in a house built on the site of the original farm house 6852 10th St. NE.  Tony and wife Toni live at 6721 10th St. NE.  Greg and wife Mary live at 705 Haug Ave. NE in a house built on the site of the original resort cabins on the lake. The hotel is now the home of Terry Rawlings 671 Haug Ave. N. E.   Mr. Anthony Haffner died in 1951 and Mrs. (Kate) died in 1957.  Arthur Duerr died in 1986.  Anna was a resident of the Park View Retirement Home in Buffalo in 2003 when interviewed. She subsequently  has passed away and is interned beside her Husband Arthur in the St. Michael South Cemetery.