More Than 100 Years of Family History
Thomas and Ida Plii, parents of Helia and Matt, traveled on a two day journey from Virginia to Tower by train then across Lake Vermillion by boat up the Vermillion River to the Pelican River and into Pelican Lake in search of and finding a homestead on the south shore of Pelican Lake, the present resort location. A Sauna (always the first structure built on a new home site) was erected; a cabin and several outbuildings were added in subsequent years. Indians would often camp where cabin #3 Twin Pines now stands on their journeys between Lake Vermillion and Nett Lake.
The Virginia and Rainy Lake Lumber Co. pushed the railroad to Orr bringing thousands of men, many immigrants to work in the surrounding forests. The VRL Lumber Co. was the largest on earth producing on average a million board feet of lumber a day seven days a week. Production on such a vast scale required an enormous supply of virgin white and red pine harvesting a total of four billion board feet over a 20 year period. With the influx of rowdy lumberjacks, Orr was very rough and tumble; public drunkenness, fights, murders, gambling and prostitution were all part of the lawless area.
A trading post was constructed on the site where our present Cabin #1 (My Northern Home) now stands selling to and trading with local loggers and Indians. Trading and carpentry were the sources of income for Thomas. Many boats were built in a workshop where Cabin #3 is now. Thomas also built several schools around the Orr area.
Our current Sauna was built, the third one to occupy this site. The first two destroyed by fire, this one has been more fortunate and still warms chilled bones to this day. Matt fit right in growing up in the lawless area around Orr, making moonshine, gambling. getting into gunfights and spending lots of time in Virginia jails while Helia worked in the logging camps, ran a trap line, helped Thomas tend the farm and host guests coming from the iron range to fish Pelican Lake.
Mike Terska was one of those young guests coming to the homestead on Pelican Lake to picnic and fish. Taking a liking to Helia, he asked for her hand in marriage. She moved away from the homestead to Mike’s family farm at Lindon Grove about 20 miles south. Mike and Helia had 2 children, Delores and LeRoy.
The workshop was destroyed by fire along with a large launch under construction, a new marine engine and all of Thomas’s tools. Thomas now ailing offered the homestead on Pelican Lake to Mike and Helia. They began making improvements to the farm and because of an increasing demand for a place to stay instead of putting guests up in the milk house, barn, etc. they turned the trading post into a duplex cabin.
Started renting the old Trading Post, now a duplex, and two wooden boats Thomas had made, “Little Eva” and “Tar Baby”. The milk house was also converted to a cabin.
The duplex was moved, built 4 log cabins and purchased new wooden boats. Moved the cabin from on top of the root cellar, becoming Cabin #9 (Hilltop).
Bought Cabins #4 (Norway Pine) and #5 (White Pine) and moved them across the ice from Orr bay. The ice house and docks were also added. A 32 volt electric system was installed and all the neighbors helped install a new party line phone system.
The milk house was moved and added on to becoming Cabin #7 (Honeymoon) The duplex is added on to becoming Cabin #8 (Pine Cone). In 1946 a 115 volt system replaced the 32 volt system.
A boat house was built to store the boats in winter. In summer it was used for square dancing. A cabin was built west of the boat house along Pelican Lake becoming Cabin #10 (Trails End). In 1949 the Rural Electric Coop Association came through with power for all, no more generators.
The wooden boats were very high maintenance so new Lone Star aluminum boats replaced them, in addition new rental motors, 3, 5 and 7.5 hp,
Mike passed away leaving Helia to run the resort by herself. Her son LeRoy and family purchased Cabin O’ Pines and moved back from California to continue the resorts operation.
LeRoy replaced the old homestead cabin/home/store with a new split level home/lodge.
Late 1960’s/early 1970’s
Started remodeling some of the cabins, adding new docks and campsites.
Mike and Helia’s grandson, Gary Coyer purchased Cabin O’Pines. Repairs, updating and building of a new 8’ x 48’ floating main dock were accomplished with a lot of help from his parents, Gene and Delores.
Gary married Lori, whose family were guests of Cabin O’Pines. The now old Lone Star boats were showing their age and were replaced by a new fleet of Lunds. The fish house was moved away from the beach. Several old farm buildings were torn down, the grounds cleaned up and everything was painted.
New arrivals to the Coyer family, Brittany and Ross were born. Two new (8’ x 50’) sections of floating dock were built. The campground saw a major expansion with the addition of more sites, electric to some and a shower building. Several old docks were replaced by roll in docks. Cabins #6 and #7 along with 150’ lakeshore were sold to guests of the resort. The first pontoon boat was added to the rental fleet.
Helia passed away at the wonderful age of 92, her home was then remodeled and became our largest rental “Split Rock”. Remodeling of the cabins continued, deluxe fishing boats were added and a half court basketball area. The boat house was torn down; in its place a campsite on the beach was added.
A new century
A new much larger storage building away from the lake was built. A second pontoon boat was added to the fleet. The campground saw the addition of full utilities and a change to seasonal camping. A new large playground was erected. Electricity was added to the main dock and a major expansion of the main dock system and continued updating of the rental boats.
Historic Photos of Cabin O Pines (click to enlarge)