sm AO logo

Account: Lake Union History
The following Lake Union history was compiled by the Annandale History Club secretary in November 2011 in conjunction with Mary Larson’s October presentation,
Growing Up on an Indian Reservation


Lake Union is located in Township 121, Range 28, Section 30 and 31, Southside Township, Wright County, Minnesota, and Section 36, North Kingston Township, Meeker County.  48 acres of Lake Union are in Wright County and 43 acres are in Meeker County.  According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Lake Union covers 91 acres and has a maximum depth of 35 feet.  (The Minnesota DNR Lakefinder website lists Lake Union’s area as 92.66 acres.)  The ordinary high water elevation is 1035.2.

Kingston Township and Southside Township were surveyed in 1855 at the time of the Original Government Survey.  All of Section 31, Southside Township, Wright County, including south and northeast Lake Union lakeshore, was deeded by the United States to the State of Minnesota.  Through Railroad Land Grants, the state deeded odd sections of land to early railroads to aid in building a railway.  The railroad sold thousands of acres to the Litchfields, who resold the land to settlers.

The earliest plat map (1879 Southside Township plat map) shows that Southside Township, Section 31, was owned by E.D. Litchfield, with the exception of 80 acres owned by S. B. Hutchins.  The Hutchins property ended south of the road by Lake Union and didn’t include the narrow strip of lakeshore.  In 1879 there were seven landowners in Section 30, Southside Township, including Ed Marquardt on the north side of Lake Union.

Sections 16 and 36 in each township were reserved to benefit schools through Minnesota’s School Land Grant.  North Kingston Township, Section 36 was school land and the income from sale of the land was to be deposited in the Permanent School Fund.  The 1880 Kingston Township plat maps has no land owners in Section 36, which includes Lake Union shoreline.

Origin of Lake Union Name

Union Lake is on the 1879 Southside Township map.  All plat maps since 1879 have Union Lake.  Lake Union Church was named in 1906.  Union Lake is on the DNR sign at the public access.  Local people generally say Lake Union.

The origin of the name “Lake Union” isn’t known, but it is thought it’s because the lake unites

Wright and Meeker Counties.  Another possibility is that Civil War veterans or other patriotic people

named the lake for the Union Army or the union of our nation.   Civil War veterans in the area included

the following:


Lake Francis pioneer Joseph N. Hamilton (1839-1924), Maine Infantry; Andrew J. Francis, (1839-1924), 39th Kentucky

Infantry, who lived at Lake Union;  Andrew Larson (1844-1936), Ninth Minnesota Infantry, who lived

near Lake Union; Moses A. Hutchins (1839-1920), Second Minnesota Infantry, and Charles M. Hutchins

(1843-1910), Fourth Minnesota Infantry, sons of Samuel B. Hutchins.  Samuel Hutchins was an 1856

pioneer in Kingston who homesteaded 153 acres on the northeast side of Lake Francis in 1863.  S. B.

Hutchins also owned land near Lake Union, as shown on the 1879 Southside Township map. S. B.

Hutchins named several lakes in the area, including Lake Moses (aka Moose Lake) after his son.  Lake

Francis was Lake Hutchins on French Lake Township plat maps until the 1940s.

Road and Bridge on the South Side of Lake Union

Mary Larson, resident on the south side of the lake, said that part of the original road past Lake Union went closer to the lake to go around a hill.  The original bridge was a little further north than the present bridge on County Road 2 and was made of wood and cement.  The remains of the pioneer bridge on the Larson’s property were removed by the Department of Natural Resources in 1982.

According to the Wright County Highway Department, another bridge was built in 1930.  The new bridge had a concrete box culvert.  In 1986, the 1930 concrete bridge was remodeled and a 20-foot addition was made on both sides of the road.  County Road 2 was gravel until it was paved about 1958 or 1959.

Lake Union is five miles southwest of South Haven.  County Road 2 and other roads were given street names and addresses in 1991 or 1992 for the 911 emergency response system.  The grid system was developed by the Wright County Board in 1972 but townships were not required to adopt the street names until the early 1990s.  Wright County Road 2 is Quinn Avenue from Highway 55 in South Haven to Lake Sylvia, Redwood Avenue southwest to Lake Union, 750th south from Lake Union on the Wright/Meeker line, 60th Street east on the Southside/French Lake Township line (continues to Widmark Lake), and Rhoades Avenue N.W.  south to Lake Francis.  Street names and house numbers became post office addresses instead of “South Haven, Rural Route 1.”     


The creek flows from Spring Lake and sloughs in the Sutton Ranch, aka Lake Sylvia Ranch, into 30-acre Widmark Lake.  The outlet from Widmark Lake is through a culvert under present-day Rockwood Avenue (this part of the road is referred to as Widmark Road by local people), through a meadow and lowlands, under County Road 2, and into Lake Union.  The creek continues from the northeast corner of Lake Union, flows north to Scott Lake (101 acres, maximum depth 23 feet) and exits Scott Lake as the Clearwater River.  A plat map identifies this creek as “Six-Mile Creek.”  The Department of Natural Resources has no name for the creek and considers it an “ephemeral” creek (lasting a short time).

The creek flows through a very wide meadow and wetland.  Nels and Betsy Nelson’s children crossed a small bridge over the creek while walking through the meadow on their way to Lake Francis School.  The Nelson boys did a lot of trapping in the meadow.

In 2011, area lakes were high because of a rainy spring and summer.  After a 6-inch rain in mid-July 2011, rushing water at the outlet from Widmark Lake washed out the road and exposed the culvert.

Widmark Lake

Widmark Lake covers 30 acres.  According to fishermen, it has a maximum depth of 20 feet.  The DNR identifies Widmark Lake as the alternate name, but the lake is officially “unnamed.”   In 1890 Olaf Peterson Widmark (1862-1933) purchased 80 acres by the lake.  In 1893 Ole Widmark married Christine Erickson (1864-1943), and they raised three children, Emma, Ruth and John.  The Widmarks were the only people on the road past the lake, and it became known as Widmark Lake.  The 80-acre farm is still in the Widmark family in 2011.  The Widmarks found many arrowheads or points on their farm.  There have always been a lot of beavers at Widmark Lake.

Dorman Lake, which became known as Widmark Lake, is on the 1879 Southside Township map.  Dormans were pioneers at Kingston and Lake Sylvia.

Clearwater River Watershed District

Lake Union is part of the Clearwater River Watershed District formed in 1975.  The CRWD encompasses the entire drainage area of the Clearwater River, about 159 square miles.  The Upper Chain includes Lakes Betsy, Union, Scott, Louisa, Marie and Mill Pond at the Fair Haven Dam.  The mission of the Clearwater River Watershed District organization is to “promote, protect and preserve water resources within the boundaries of the District in order to maintain property values and quality of life.”

Jame McGannon

The pioneer bridge on Mary and Martin Larson’s property on the south side of Lake Union is where James McGannon was killed by Little Crow’s son-in-law, Hi-Uka, on July 1, 1863.  Two days later McGannon’s body was found by the mailman.  The ground was too wet at that spot, so McGannon was buried near Lake Lilly (present-day County Road 2 and Rockwood Avenue).  The marker where the body was buried mistakenly says he was killed there.  James McGannon’s family later reburied him at the Fair Haven Cemetery.  His gravestone in inscribed, “James A. McGannon, Killed by the Indians, July 1, 1863, Age 28 years.”  Little Crow was killed by Nathan Lamson near Hutchinson on July 3, 1863.  James McGannon’s jacket was with Little Crow.

Lake Union Covenant Church – 1906 to Present

Lake Union Covenant Church (organized in 1906) and cemetery (organized in 1899) are on Meeker County Road 19, which continues from Wright County Road 2 on the southwest end of the lake.  The land for the cemetery was part of Andrew and Christine Anderson’s farm and included a small amount of lakeshore.  Land with lakeshore was donated for the church by Hedwin and Agneta Olson.  Until the church was built in 1906, services were held in homes or the Lake Francis School.  Circa 1991 the church purchased an additional 300 feet of Lake Union lakeshore.  150 feet were sold in 2010.  In 2011 the Lake Union congregation built a new church, which was dedicated October 23, 2011.

Ditch No. 9

The following article appeared in the Kimball Kodak and was reprinted in the Dassel Anchor on September 21, 1911.  “Kingston Ditch Controversy:  Quite an interesting judicial hearing before Judge Qvale at Litchfield last week.  The ditch has its beginning in Meeker County, where it is proposed to drain two small lakes located northeast of Kingston, and it runs across the line into Wright County, where it is expected to empty its waters into Lake Union.  The farmers near the lower end of the ditch object to the assessment for benefits, as they feel that their land will be flooded.  The judge has reserved his decision for a later date.”

The farmers on the lower end of the ditch that were affected are Andrew Anderson, Peter Norgren, Pete Peterson (later the Thurber farm) in Kingston Township, Meeker County, and Hedwin Olson in Southside Township, Wright County.  The water from the ditch flows under County Road 2, empties into a creek on the former Hedwin Olson land, and then flows north into Lake Union.

One of the drained lakes is named Lake Robinson on the 1880 Kingston Township plat map.  Nearly all the land around that lake was owned by George Robinson or John Robinson.  Later Hokkala owned part of the land, and it was known as Hokkala’s slough.  According to Arthur Hasselberg, the other drained lake was named “Lake Charlie” for Charlie Hutchins, who from 1873 to 1886 owned an 80-acre farm nearby in North Kingston Township, Section 26.  This farm was sold to A.O. Nordstrom in 1886 and in 2011 is still owned by Nordstrom descendants.

Department of Natural Resources Lake Union Public Access

The DNR purchased property for a public access on the south side of Lake Union in 1980, and the DNR Parks and Trails Division developed the public access in 1982.  The access is on the west side of the creek inlet on a small piece of land Mary and Martin Larson originally sold to Ron Strand in 1961.  Ron and Joann Strand built a small cabin in 1964.  The Strands sold the property in 1972, and the new owners sold to the DNR in 1980.  There is a cement boat ramp and a boarding dock at the public access.

Lake Union Residents

In 2011 there are ten dwellings on the south side of Lake Union, nine on the north/northeast side, and two on the west/northwest side.

Andrew & Hannah Francis

Circa 1881 Andrew Jackson Francis (1839-1924) and Hannah (Cline) Francis (1839-c.1924) purchased land from the State of Minnesota in North Kingston, Township, Section 36, on the northwest side of Lake Union.  They were married in Kentucky in 1857 and moved to Dassel, Minnesota, circa 1871 and then to Lake Union.  According to census records, their children were Sarah, William T., Nancy E., Joseph F., Andrew and Margaret Mae.  Andrew, Jr. was born in Meeker County in 1872 and Margaret in 1874.  Andrew J. Francis was a Civil War veteran.  He was wounded October 2, 1864, at the Battle of Saltville in Virginia.  Andrew J. Francis may have been the first person to own Lake Union lakeshore in North Kingston Township.  In 1891 his son Joseph F. Francis married Annie Hamilton, daughter of Lake Francis pioneer, Joseph N. Hamilton.  The property later became the Sandell farm.

Mary Sandell     

For over 100 years and four generations the Sandell family has lived on the west/northwest side of Lake Union in North Kingston Township, Meeker County.  Mary (Nilsdotter) Sandell (1855-1943) and her children, Albertina, Mathilda, and Frank (1886-1956), moved to the Lake Union farm after Mary’s husband John (Johnson) Sandell died.  Their previous home was a log cabin in what is now the Northern Unit of Stanley Eddy Park.  This log cabin was later moved to Wulleiinda Lodge at West Lake Sylvia where it was used as a cabin and later became the resort’s store.  The Sandells rented boats and a cabin at their property.  Frank Sandell (1886-1956) and Beda (Adams) Sandell (1891-1935) had two sons, Franklin and Wilford.  Franklin, and wife Betty Sandell, lived at the Lake Union farm, and all three of their sons presently own property at Lake Union.  Wilford Sandell (1915-2005) and Elaine (Erickson) Sandell (1919-1982) purchased the Simberg farm near Scott Lake. 

Andrew & Christina Anderson 

Circa 1889 Andrew Anderson (1863-1942) and Christina Olson Anderson (1862-1956) purchased an 80-acre farm with Lake Union lakeshore.  Since 1900 the Lake Union Church cemetery has been on former Anderson property bordering Lake Union.  In 1906 the Andersons were charter members of the Swedish Christian Mission Congregation (Independent) of Lake Union, North Kingston, Meeker County (changed to Lake Union Covenant in 1935).  Their children were Nellie, Mathilda, Oscar, Arthur, Albert, Esther, Ruth, Clara, and Clifford.

Joseph Hamilton

Circa 1875 Joseph Hamilton (1839-1924) homesteaded 80 acres on the east side of Lake Francis in Wright County, which he sold to daughter Belle and her husband, Leonard Holm.  Joseph Hamilton taught a free school in his home, and was instrumental in establishing the Lake Francis School in 1886.  In 1894 Joseph Hamilton purchased 23 acres near Lake Union and moved to that property.  He served as a Kingston Township supervisor and was a member of Annandale’s Buzzell GAR Post 24.  Joseph Hamilton’s 23 acres were later sold to Frank Sandell.

Hedwin & Agneta Olson

Hedwin Olson (1845-1925) and Agneta Johnson Olson (1833-1922) homesteaded a farm between Lake Francis and Lake Moses in1872 (homestead granted 1877).   They donated land for the Lake Francis School in 1886.  They moved across Lake Francis to Cedar Point and then to an 80-acre farm near Lake Union circa 1900.   In 1906 Hedwin and Agneta Olson donated land at Lake Union for the Lake Union Church.  Their children were Emma, Ole, Albert, Simon (infant), Emil, Gust, Oscar, Frank and Henry.

Nels & Betsy Nelson

In 1902 Nels (Johnson) Nelson (1860-1916) and Betsy Dahlberg Nelson (1873-1950) moved to a farm with Lake Union lakeshore.  The farm was sold in 1928.  Their son Henry B. Nelson (1903-1958) later purchased 40 acres of the farm, which included all the lakeshore on the south side.  Nels and Betsy Nelson’s children were Vera, Clifford, Henry, Leny (infant), Delbert, Evelyn, Alice, Edna, Lloyd, Mildred, Harvey (infant), and Harris.

Salmela Family

The outlet from Lake Union is on the northeast side of the lake in Southside Township, Wright County.  As shown on plat maps, some of the owners and dates they purchased this farm property were Ed Marquardt (1879), Carl Ecker (1901), Frank Ecker (1911), Homer Peterson (1928), Paul Murphy (1948), R. Niles, Roy Johnson, and Everett and Lillian Salmela (1956).  Salmela descendants, Roger and Susie Salmela, are the present owners.

Peter & Karin Peterson

Peter Peterson (1833-1906) and Karin (Nildotter) Peterson (1846-1929) emigrated from Sweden and purchased a farm near Lake Union.  Their children were Karin, Olaf, Christina, Jacob, Gustav, Mary and Oscar.  Their grandson, Hilbert Peterson (1892-1900) was the first burial in Lake Union Church cemetery.  Ditch No. 9 flowed from west to east through the middle of their 40-acre farm, and the farm had a lot of wetland.  Other owners of this property were Jacob Peterson (1935), Gust Peterson (1944), and L.P. Sederstrom (1948).   The farm was later sold to Clayton and Lila Thurber.

Clayton & Lila Thurber 

Clayton Thurber (died 1953) and Lila (Foster) Thurber (1899-1995) purchased the Peterson farm and another 40 acres to the north, which had a large amount of Lake Union lakeshore.  Three of their children, Marrell (Bernice), Clayton, Jr. (Norma), and Violet (Clarence) Kramber, each built a home at Lake Union.  Thurber family members sold 300 feet of Lake Union lakeshore to Lake Union Covenant Church in about 1991.  Thurber descendants still live at the south shore of Lake Union. 

Ed & Marian Schramm

Since about 1945 Edward Schramm (1902-1967) formerly of Hutchinson owned a gravel pit by nearby Lake Lilly.   He purchased lakeshore from Henry Nelson in about 1950 and moved the Wadman School (aka Lake Sylvia Woods School, open circa 1900 to 1938) to the property on the southeast side of Lake Union. He added to the schoolhouse, and he and wife, Marian, lived by Lake Union for many years.  Ed Schramm died in 1967, and Marian (Holloque) Schramm (1918-1995) later married Walt Piepenburg (1908-1997) of Hutchinson, and they lived at Lake Union.  Walt Piepenburg donated farm land for Piepenpenburg Park near Hutchinson.  The Shramm gravel pit also included land formerly a part of Lake Sylvia Ranch.  The gravel pit continued under the ownership of Bauerly Brothers and later Knife River.

Mary & Martin Larson

In 1948 Mary and Martin Larson purchased lakeshore property on the south side of Lake Union from Henry Nelson.  Over the next four years, the Larsons built three summer cabins and a boathouse (platted as Secluded Beach).   Two cabins and boats were rented to vacationers.  The two rental cabins were sold in 1959.  A third cabin built in 1952 is still owned by the Larsons.

Annandale History Club Secretary