The Wolsfeld family sailed from Germany in 1852 to come to
the New World. They worked on farms in Illinois for three years to save money
to travel to Minnesota and stake a claim on newly opened Dakota Indian land,
west of the Mississippi River. The father died of typhus during the journey,
but sons John and Charles Wolsfeld, their sisters and mother, carried on. John
staked the first claim at the west end of what is now Wolsfeld Lake, and his
barn of rough-hewn oak continues as a working barn today.
Charles claimed land
at the east end of the lake, two years later, in 1857 and, with the help of his
brother, hand-built a log cabin for his family.
The two brothers used the forestry practices that they had learned in Germany
to manage the virgin Big Woods. They sold basswood, second-growth hickory and
oak to the huge cooperage (barrel works) in Long Lake. Ash, butternut hickory
and ironwood they fashioned into tool handles, wagon parts and furniture, and
they sold lumber to the nearby Reiser sawmill. Their only source of heating in
winter came from a wood-burning stove, which they fed coarse off-cuts of wood.
They hand-split smaller chunks for the cooking stove.
As the family grew, the
Wolsfelds framed in the original log cabin, adding a second story, bedrooms and
sleeping porches for hot summer nights. The farm thrived, and its outbuildings
grew to include a wagon and buggy shed, two animal barns, a hog shed, chicken
house, smoke house, granary and corn crib and two huge hay sheds. A metal
windmill in the backyard pumped up water for the household. Charles provided a
watering spot from a spring for passing horse teams on what is now County Road
Six; farmers who maintained public watering troughs were exempted for the road
Walking Trails Established in the 1930s and 1940s
In the 1930s and 1940s, Wolsfeld family descendents supplemented their farming
with a large-scale maple syrup-making business that became known regionally.
The foundations of their evaporator shack and temporary housing for syrup
workers can still be seen in the woods.
The Wolsfelds also opened up the east
end of the lake to picnickers and developed walking trails for visitors to see
the rich fall colors. The picnic tables and beauty of the spot attracted people
from Minneapolis to Excelsior, and some older people remember happy childhood
excursions to picnics by Wolsfeld Lake.
After the Brooks family donated the land to the DNR and Wolsfeld Woods became a
designated Scientific and Natural Area, all the farm buildings were removed, so
that the land could return to its natural state.
The Friends of Wolsfeld Woods
collected funds to have the original Charles Wolsfeld cabin dismantled and, in
1999, a cabin was reconstructed from the original timbers. It stands in the
grounds of Medina City Hall at 2025, County Road 24 and is open to the public