"Manitowish Waters Area History: A Look Back," continued...
The Chicago & North Western Railway main line may have been the key to the development of this area.
It was built north in 1888 and where the track crossed the Manitowish River, the settlement of Manitowish developed (even before Mercer did!). It was a cluster of general stores, liveries, hotels, post office and homes. Supplies for the dam building crews, lumber camps and residents now could be wagon-hauled easily from Manitowish, or poled or rowed up the river in the bateaux that the Chippewa Lumber & Boom Company favored. For decades afterwards the railroad remained a lifeline, bringing up settlers, vacationists and supplies. Passenger train service ended just after New Years's later.
From 1906 till World War I, travelers could ride a small connecting train directly to the waters of the Manitowish chain at a landing at Rice Creek Bridge. The train, which often handled freight and log cars ahead of his little coach, linked Buswell, Rice Creek, and Boulder Junction with teh main line of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway at Star Lake (near Sayner).
Logging, rafting and even river driving were still going on when the first adventurous vacationists began coming up to enjoy the Manitowish Waters, and the trend eventually spawned several forms of hospitality or enjoyment: resorts, camping, summer homes, even group camps.
Resorts, as a result, have been an important part of the Manitowish Waters scene for over ninety years [since the original writing does not have a date], and there have been resorts at over one hundred locations on the chain or nearby lakes during that time, divided between American plan resorts and housekeeping cottage resorts.
It was the American plan idea that the first area resorts adopted, usually in the form of a central lodge with dining room, lobby and perhaps a few sleeping rooms, along with a few separate sleeping cottages, and all with the trademark of the era: screened porches.
The early host chose picturesque settings for their resorts. Abe LaFave perched his hotel and cottages on a little island in Island Lake around 1895, making him the first resort operator on the chain. Within less than five years George Washington Buck had opened a lodge at the narrows between Spider and Manitowish Lakes (a resort better remembered as Koerner's), and J.A. LaMotte had chosen the eastern shore of Manitowish Lake, facing the sunset, to begin Deer Park Lodge. He blended ruggedness with gentility as he equipped it with a launch, fishing boats, a cow and a piano. Peter Vance ran a little "resort" about the same time, before burning out in 1903, but his was more a roadhouse or little inn with meals downstairs and a few sleeping rooms upstairs, on the shore of Rest Lake near the dam.