Lake Poinsett Nostalgia

Photo Challenge

What kinds of experiences stir emotions for the past within you?

Lake Poinsett Nostalgia

The word that was suggested for the one-word prompt recently was nostalgia. It was a photo challenge, but the photos I’m using here are not current. The beautiful lake named Lake Poinsett in northeastern South Dakota is where I will take you on my nostalgia trip. I was born in 1940 and grew up witnessing many changes at the lake. With this post, I hope to take a short trip back down memory lane and recall different things about Lake Poinsett. It has seen dramatic changes in usage, population, residences, year around homes, food, drink, bait and tackle places and a multitude of water level changes.

We lived on a farm less than a mile south of the lake, our parents were Frank and Frances Olson. A lot of time was spent either fishing or swimming in our lives. Our great uncle Simon Hoel Olson built a stone house on the hill just east of the park in 1885, part of it still stands. My grandfather Andrew Hoel Olson helped him farm the land, the Olson name shows on the oldest maps for Lake Poinsett.


Simon Hoel Olson home 1880’s

Tall, virgin prairie grass grew for a mile along the south shore of the lake. Simon and my grandfather cut hay from it for forty years. There is a beautiful state park on that land today, trees and campgrounds everywhere. There is still some virgin Prairie sod where you can find a few wildflowers still growing today on ground that wasn’t plowed after the state turned it into a park. One of those Prairie areas is on a steep hill just south of the tent campground, the other is west of the turn around on the east side of the park, I think some is still virgin Prairie part way to the boat landing. The May flowers were plentiful in that area back in the early days they’re was also wild Tiger lilies.

A few tall original cottonwood trees were growing along the shoreline but through the centuries ice knocked most of them down. An old wagon trail can still be seen in places west from the turnaround almost to the boat landing, it went to the east boundary fence and on for another mile to the Hendrickson farm, what is now Runia’s farm. There were no homes or cabins on any of that land.

Just to the west of the State Park property, there was a very lively, noisy dance hall named Smith’s place. It flourished in the early 1900s. It was a very lively dance hall, where many big-name bands played as they travelled through this area. We knew Charlie Smith, the owner, and his family very well. Their daughter babysat the three Olson boys on occasion. Karlton, Harlan, and Leland.

It was during the time of the second World War. It would almost seem that those who did not go off to do battle overseas did their battling at Smith’s Dance hall. As a young boy I remember a lot of fighting going on at almost every dance.

My brother Harlan was a banker, writer, and collector of artifacts who helped start the Museum at the state park entrance. Harlan loved every minute of it, even the many volunteer hours. He passed away on March 8, 2016. I can see him searching for artifacts on old Heavenly terrain now. I imagine there are some nice artifacts to be found near those streets of gold.

Smith’s dance hall and the property was all sold to the Methodist Church, they may have become the first church to have a beer license. The original dance hall building where Lawrence Welk played still stands, in the same place on that stretch of shoreline. Today it is used for meetings and as a dining hall, which says something about old-time construction.

Arlington Beach, the next place west, was run by a lady named Ann Oburn. This picture is of the Lake Poinsett water slide in the 1920’s. it was located at Arlington Beach, as far as I can tell from looking at the Hills and the trees in the background. I will be glad to edit this story and change the location if it is wrong. Ann Oburn had a few rental cabins, a cafe and a bait house.

Bud Mueller from Estelline gave boat rides at Arlington Beach in the 1940’s. This was his fancy boat.

In the nineteen forties or early fifties it was purchased by Russ Weiland and his wife who operated it for many years. Russ was the original Evinrude Johnson dealer in this part of the country. His daughter and son-in-law relocated to Weiland Marine, which is now on Highway 81.

Lake Poinsett 1920's.jpg

West from there were only two or three homes until you got to the little hilltop farm with the goats. Madsen’s lived there. There were only two cabins between there and Mundt’s Resort. Mundt’s had several small cabins that they rented out. There was a farm between Mundt’s resort and what is now Pier 81.

There was another dance hall. It seems like one of the Norgaard  boys put the building up, it closed after the War. It later became Wieland Marine on Highway 81 just north of the corner by the Poinsett Cemetery. It was near a gas station, some called Hilltop, others Ann’s Place.  She served lunches and usually had a lively crowd, Ann and Clyde served beverages to those with the most discriminating tastes. The place later became Howard Lees, then Ole’s repair shop. It was Gene’s repair until Weiland Marine bought it.

Ernie Edwards moved a building to the lake and started Edwards’s resort, in the late 40s. Edwards served tasty food and later had a motel bar and live music.They had dances through the 60s and 70s, Country Western and Rock and Roll music. They usually had incredibly good crowds. It was sometime in the 1960’s a truck driver must have gone to sleep at the wheel, and he tipped his semi over in Edwards’s parking lot wrecking cars and almost taking out the gas pumps. I can imagine the call that driver had to make to his company trying to explain how he just wrecked a few dozen cars while tipping over at a crowded dance. I was there that night and recall there was a lot of commotion. It was a miracle that no one was hurt, many people were outside. Pier 81 was later owned by Floyd and Nellie Bronstad and Kenny and Helen


On the west side of the Lake, there was a resort called Sportsman’s Lodge owned by Nesson’s, the Hawley family was there too, it burned down. It was an exceptionally long large building with a restaurant, they also had cabins and rooms in the lodge that they rented out.

What is now Lakeview Resort was a small resort opened by Ole Mikelmier. It later became Fish Haven, the home of the famous Carp Sandwich. They had a secret BBQ sauce, it brought out the best in a sizable chunk of carp. From Lakeview North, there were two or three homes.

The Grape Farm had no homes until the first one was built right on the point in the 1950s. From there North to Saarinen’s the state purchased part of the shoreline and later sold Lots to private owners. That closed it for skinny dipping. From Saarinen’s Point North there were a few homes because it was close to the highway.

Niteberg’s Resort was just east of the Stonebridge. That highway washed out west of the bridge in the spring of 1969 as flood waters from over a hundred inches of snow came in from the river and Dry Lake.

Nittebergs must have had a couple dozen summer cabins that they rented out along with boats and bait. They also had some carnival rides in the summer months and afternoon roller skating in the dance hall. The dance hall was built over the lake at one time, but ice damage made them move it back to shore. It was a family run business. The brothers John and Clair ran the bar and maintained most jukeboxes, pinball and other game machines in a large area, their sisters operated the cafe.

The Dance Hall was busy and a lively location during the 50’s and 60’s and into the 70’s. There were all types of music, old time music was the most popular for many years, until Rock and Roll moved in. There were many big-name bands playing at Nittebergs Resort in the early years, the Model T and Model A days. Lawrence Welk who was from Strasburg N D played there in his younger days. Miron Florin from Rosholt South Dakota managed the Welk music when Lawrence stepped down.

Leo Fortin’s Orchestra was a regular at Nitteberg’s Stone Bridge Resort for many years.


Leo Fortin

They had Thursday night dances in the fifties. I recall our football coach Don Jorgenson at Castlewood kept telling us “You Guys are a good football team but just think how much better you would be if you didn’t spend all night at the dance on Thursday night.” He had a good point there.

We danced a lot to Big Tiny Little’s Band who played with The Lawrence Welk Orchestra. He was born in Worthington Minnesota and was a regular there in the 50s and 60s.


Dry Lake was north of Stone Bridge. In the dryer years, it was full of muskrat houses. The Game Warden Ed White with his Smokey the Bear Hat would fire a shotgun to open the trapping season. From what I have heard it was like the Boomer Sooner land rush in Oklahoma. Trappers made a mad dash to claim as many muskrat houses as they could.

The County had a bounty on pocket gophers at that time. It was rumored that some entrepreneurial muskrat Trappers took the front paws from their muskrats and turned them in to claim pocket gopher bounty in the spring. It would take a very thorough coroner’s autopsy to tell the difference between the feet.

When you went east from Nittebergs cabins, there were only one or two houses, the one right below the hill was named ‘The Mouse Turd Inn.” The west side of that hill was steep, just a dirt trail going straight up, many Model A’s some Model T’s, later newer cars had drivers who challenged each other to make it to the top. The dust really flew! Some got sideways on occasion and rolled back down the hill.

The resort on top of the hill was known as Jim Bagley’s place. A long wooden staircase went down the hill to the lake. They also had a café, fishing equipment, and bait. The name was changed to the Hilltop Resort later when owned by Louie Morales and his family. Louie rented boats at Thomas Lake one summer when perch fishing was hot.

Just down the hill, east of the hilltop resort, there were three or four homes before you got to Hammer’s pasture and to the outlet of Lake Poinsett, which led to Stark’s Bridge where flood gates were installed.

There have been several fish winter-kill years when oxygen in the lake got so low most of the fish died. Dead fish laid in windrows around the lake at one time. The worst spring brought out the National Guard with front-end loaders, trucks, and lots of shovels.

The Bakke farm and Cemetery took up most of the east shore. Two homes were on the hill overlooking Prestrude’s Landing. Lots were developed and cabins built to the south of the boat landing in the 1950’s. Goulds opened a beer and bait place there in the late forties, but it didn’t last. The Hansen family only recently developed the next mile of shoreline. Going south from the Hansen development to Hendricksons or now Runia’s there were two cabins.

This was a selfish nostalgic trip around Lake Poinsett. I’m far to young to have nostalgia for the water slide or for the swimming attire. So, I feel a lot younger by taking this trip back just a few years before my time. I thought I would like to share these memories of Lake Poinsett while I’m still able to share them. I’m almost at the end of life’s checkout lane. The changes at Lake Poinsett are hard to imagine if you didn’t witness them. The number of large homes today must reflect great prosperity in this country or ‘something’?

At night the lake and all of the countryside was darker than pitch, this was in 1945, before REA, no all-night yard lights, no electric lights period. We played cards with light from a kerosene lamp on the table. The nights were a whole lot darker, a small glow in the sky to the west was Lake Norden’s lights. The smaller glow to the east was Estelline near the Sioux River. You could barely make out a tiny glow for Brookings. You might say nights were a bonus for ghosts and goblins in those days. On a night with no moon or stars, you best hope your lantern did not go dry.  Can you imagine going back to living in those times?

NOVEMBER 15, 2016 / LELAND OLSON HOELbeach-bunnies

Swimming attire has gone from one extreme to the other throughout the centuries. In classical antiquity, swimming and bathing were done nude. The swimming suits here from the 1920’s seem a wee bit extreme, the weight of the wet swimsuit could pull you under. Now close to one hundred years later we saw, peered, peeked our way through the tiny weeny, polka dot bikini era, we are back to swimming in the nude again on some beaches.

What goes around comes around, with nostalgia or Murphy’s Law.

9 thoughts on “Lake Poinsett Nostalgia

  1. And, our paths cross again, Leland, as I was a counselor at the Methodist camp held at Lake Poinsett and ate in that very dance hall turned dining hall!!! Loved your history of the lake and environs.


  2. “We lived on a farm less than a mile south of the lake. So we spent a lot of time either fishing or swimming in our lives. Our great uncle Simon Hoel built a stone house on the hill just east of the park. My grandfather Andrew Olson helped him farm the land.” Sounds like a great place to have grown up!!!


  3. Goodness sake, Leland, where have you been? Of course, I have not been your way so? Guess you done scratched me off memory land. lol Your posts are great! I enjoy reading them.

    I have come a long ways since we met. This 2017 Father is doing amazing things with and for yours truly. Check it all out in, I miss you. Keep in touch! Much love, thiaBasilia. 🙂


    • Dear thia Basilia, I have been to visit you a few times and I am surprised at all the glitz and glamour I have found. Father has made you a expert at setting up professional looking blog sites. You’ve done a great job at reorganizing and having an orderly system. One thing for sure, the word never changes but your ability to catch our eye changed dramatically! Keep up your good work, keep up your faithful commitment to the Father. I wish you all the best and a blessed year in 2017. I keep trying to learn, plugging away, a little slower each day through.The grace of the Father sustains me each day. I can continue to give him all the praise and glory for what I can do. Leland


      • O but Father is good to this ‘goofy’ child of His. You are just one year younger than me but! In good sense? You are tenfold older than yours truly. I will post your comment with your link and see what happens. Would you benefit or? Will it be for my benefit. O me, O mine! Motives, motives, motives! Keep in touch! Much love, thiaB. 🙂


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