History of Bay Lake

History of Bay Lake

Archaeologists have documented human activity in what is now Minnesota to at least 9,000–12,000 years ago following the end of the most recent Ice Age. The region was strategically important to Native American peoples for thousands of years as they used the waterways for transportation and food and to develop an extensive trade relationship with other native peoples.

The original Native Americans were largely Dakota or Sioux. One of their largest communities was known as Izatys and Kathio, located on the west side of Mille Lacs Lake – the current location of Vineland and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Reservation.  

View Paul Erickson's History Presentation

The fur trade

In the 1600s, French Canadian voyageurs came west from the Great Lakes region in search of fur. They traveled rivers, lakes and portages. Their route to the settlement at Izatys/Kathio likely followed the St. Louis River west from Duluth to the Mississippi River at or north of Big Sandy Lake to the Ripple River at Aitkin and south through lakes (including Bay Lake) to Mille Lacs Lake.

Also in the 1600s, the Ojibwe began moving west into Minnesota. Conflict with the Dakota developed in the mid-1700s and by the 1800s the area was divided with the Dakota primarily in the Southwest and the Ojibwe in the Central and North. 

One of their final battles over land was fought around 1800 at the site of what is now called Battle Point.


Minnesota became a state in 1858. Land was divided into “Sections” (1 mile by 1 mile). This is a map of the original survey.


The Homestead Act of 1862 was signed by President Lincoln to encourage migration and development of the frontier regions to the west. It provided land to settlers in exchange for a nominal filing fee and an agreement to build residences and farm the land. This paved the way for settlement, but without accessible transportation it took about 20 years before settlers came to Bay Lake.

Railroads and first settlers

In the 1870s, work began on a line from the Great Lakes to the West Coast. Construction reached Withington, later renamed Deerwood.

Construction worker Robert Achibald was the first Withington settler.

After the founding of Withington, the Sessabegamah Trail was established south to Bay Lake and in 1881, Robert Achibald’s brother David Archibald settled on North Bay Shore (section 3).

To promote the building of a transcontinental rail line the government gave the Northern Pacific Railroad every odd numbered section of land within six miles of the new line. Because the route went southwest from Deerwood, Bay Lake was within six miles.

Therefore, odd numbered sections went to the railroad while even numbered sections were available for homesteading.

For example, the southern half of South Bay and most of Echo Bay was available for homesteading but the northern half of South Bay, including Eaglewood, went to the railroad and was later sold.

The David Archibald property on North Bay Shore was purchased from the railroad.

David and Tillie Archibald built a log home which was replaced sometime prior to 1920. It was later purchased by the Below family from St. Louis. It still exists and is owned by Below family descendants.


1882-1883: The first wave

Nickolas Newgard, 1882

John Milem, C.G. Christensen and Ashael Bennett also on the north end of Bay Lake in around 1882.

Henrich and Louise Knieff in 1883 on Knieff Bay. The home is still in use by their descendants.

In 1883, George and Maggie Hunt homesteaded the west shore from Hunter’s Bay nearby the current location of The Lonesome Pine as well as property on Middle Bay east of what is now Woodland Beach Resort.

Henrich & Louise Knieff's House

David & Tillie Archibald

David & Tillie Archibald's House