Log House Landing on the St Croix River – Gateway to Scandia!

Carl A. Fernstrom, Oscar Roos, and August Sandahl, Swedish settlers arrived by boat at the Log House Landing on the St Croix River in 1850. They hiked to their homesteads from the St Croix & established a farm near Hay Lake. A monument inscribed with the names of the first settlers stands near the site of the original log house, at Hay Lake Historic Corner, about a mile-and-a-half south of Scandia.

Otisville, the community that grew up at the original Log House Landing in the 1850’s was named after Henry Otis. He was a Native American and a Civil War veteran. During the summer he lived in a small cabin on the river across from Log House Landing. The log house at Log House Landing served as a public house during the years of Swedish immigration. From 1912 to the present it has been a private residence.

Charles Ekdahl owned the land around Log House Landing. He laid out a "master plan" for developing a real town. In 1902 the "town" of Otisville was created on paper. There was Maple and Elm St and Park Av and Washington Street on the map; but the actual town never happened. A general store was the only real business in Otisville. Charlie’s Store was where people purchased dry goods & picked up their mail. The store closed during the depression. All that is left of the town of Otisville is a plan, photos & memories from a few residents. One resident is Ed Summersby.

Ed Summersby ‘s family has lived in Otisville for over 100 years. In 1912, his grandfather, George Edmund Ingersoll built a vacation house for his family on the river just south of Log House Landing. Here are Ed’s memories of the Log House Landing on the St Croix River.

"My first memories of what we used to call the "Public Landing" stem from the mid-1930s, when I was a young boy, a summer resident of Otisville with my family and a host of cousins, living in the Ingersoll house across the stream and just downriver from the Landing. In those days there was no boat launching ramp, just some wooden steps leading partway down the bank toward the shore from the sandy parking area that was large enough for a few cars, and provided, as I recall, a stone fireplace grill and a double outhouse, also constructed of stone. The "public landing road", (205th St) as we called it, was originally Ekdahl Avenue, a local name with real historical relevance. The course of the road hasn’t changed since the 1902 plat.

In my youth, along the shore of the Landing were groups of wooden boats, some with outboard motors, some not, that belonged to assorted local Scandia residents, mostly farmers and fishermen and others without riverfront property, who trusted implicitly that their boats were perfectly safe left unattended for long intervals, simply pulled up on shore and tied to a tree. In fact, in those days no one even thought of locking their boats; you just assumed they would stay where you left them.

I do not know when the boat-launching ramp was first constructed, gouged steeply out of the riverbank, but I would guess it was in the late 1950s or early 1960. This development marked a major change in the character and usage of Log House Landing. Gone were the nice old boats clustered along the shore. The Landing was no longer just a place for Scandia locals to keep their boats for fishing on the river, but it became a place for anybody with a boat and trailer within driving distance of Scandia to gain access to the St. Croix. As more and more people came to use the Landing, so too the detrimental effects of greater usage also increased – more and more trash left behind, greater erosion of the approach road with resultant gravel outwash into the adjacent trout stream, plus severe erosion and damage to vegetation on the slopes down to the river. The sounds of the spinning tires and racing engines pulling loaded trailers up the slope are a regular feature for those within earshot.

Over the years, the Landing certainly has changed in character and is now a regional amenity, but with renewed interest by the City of Scandia in improving it, managing it and protecting it, the future of Log House Landing appears to be in good hands."

I hope Ed is right. The Log House Landing is an important part of Scandia history and a valuable asset for Scandia citizens. It is the beginning of the story of the Swedish settlement in Minnesota. The first Swedish settlers used the St Croix as a highway just like the indigenous people, fur traders, and loggers. In the book Scandia Then and Now, Anna Enquist writes," During the 1850’s steamboats would dock at a point called Log House Landing and immigrants with their trunks and knapsacks, climbing the steep hill out of the valley and trudging through heavy woods in search of proper sites to build log houses and make a new beginning." I believe to really understand the Swedish story you need to enact the whole journey, and it begins at Log House Landing on the St Croix River.

The Log House Landing is an access point for the St Croix National Scenic Riverway. Ever since the boat ramp was put in, the site has been used as a public boat access and a parking lot with a dumpster. There has been much neglect to this site, which has caused multiple problems: erosion of the Landing itself, expensive road maintenance, degradation to the adjacent stream and to the St Croix River, a National Park. The city of Scandia along with the Marine Carnelian Watershed with support from the National Park Service are aware of these and other issues and are seeking to find solutions. The Log House Landing on the St Croix River was an important gateway for the early Swedish settlers of Scandia & continues to contribute to our community’s culture.

Submitted by Lisa Schlingerman
October 2013