Building a Minnesota Cabin Tradition circa 1950

July 23, 2021

Clearing land to build the sota Cabin on Big Pine Lake

I am not a first-generation Cabin Guy … my parents built our cabin before I was born, you could say I was born with cabin fever (the good kind)!  But they weren’t even the first generation in our cabin legacy.  My mom’s Uncle John had a farm on a lake in Minnesota and often had extended family gatherings at his place.  My folks stayed in his guest cabin down by the shore a couple times and they were hooked.  In the 1950’s they bought a chunk of land on the other side of the lake and started building.

Minnesota Cabin being built

They cut down a few trees and used a portable saw mill to turn them into lumber to frame up the cabin.  They did much of the work themselves, but got lots of help from aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents. Keep in mind this was before the internet and places like Log Cabin Hub had the blueprints and would tell you how to do it. Word of mouth and talking to people was how you got it done back then.


Framing the cabin near Minnesota Lake

They roughed in the interior rooms and got some second-hand appliances and they were ready to go in our new cabin kitchen..


Cabin kitchen circa 1950 with appliances

There was no central heat, no telephone, no microwave, no dishwasher, and a cabin outhouse – but there were plenty of folks ready to lend a hand to get things done. 

Cabin kitchen sink doing dishes

They took their time with the construction.  In fact, it was 20 years before the framed spot in the north wall actually became a fireplace.  There was always a project to do, but there was also time for some recreation along the way.


Cabin fishing catch


Even when the walls were just rough 2x4s, the cabin was a place to gather with friends and family, to share a meal and a cabin game and some laughter.  When I was a kid, we always had a procession of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, long-lost relatives and friends stopping by to enjoy the cabin.  My parents were eager to share their special spot in the woods and that tradition has carried on with me inviting my friends and my kids sharing the place with their friends. 

Cabin breakfast with friends and family

(same scene repeated hundreds of times over the last 65 years)


Cabin dinner with family and friends

My parents are both gone now, so I am the cabin caretaker these days.  My sister has the cabin next door and my brother has a cabin on a different lake a few miles away.  The Cabin Guy tradition that started on Uncle John’s farm is going strong into the fourth generation. 

Whether your cabin is 100 years old or 100 days old or still a “some day” idea, I hope it brings as much joy and laughter and rest and rejuvenation as my family and friends have gotten from ours.  Uncle John would be amazed at what he started. 

(me and Uncle John – 1965)

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