Workers at the sawmill. (Trail Center) Sam Seppala and Hans, on a hunting trip about 1940
Our heartfelt thanks to Gladys Seppala Treuri for sharing her photos and remembrances of the sawmill and logging camp that was the origin of Trail Center. Born in Finland on July 24, 1900, Sam Seppala came to the United States as infant. He completed the third grade and began working in the logging business. By the time he was 20, he had a fleet of five trucks. Sam had camps in Buyck & Cousin, MN and hauled logs to Bailly's Mill in Virginia, MN. In 1924 he married Mayme Holkho and on December 24, 1925 they had Gladys. The couple had three more children that died as babies and Mayme had several miscarriages. The family moved to the Grand Marais area in 1936, where Sam and his brother, David, started a camp at Pike Lake. In 1938, the brothers split up and the Seppalas moved up the Gunflint Trail to Poplar Lake at the site of what is now Trail Center Lodge.
"The mill flourished, operating 24 hours a day with 100 men. "My mom and aunts were cooks . . . always homemade bread and pies. They even made their own soap out of grease and lye. I remember all the crates of dried raisins, prunes, apricots and coconut (my favorite!). There was a Cook, Cookie (helper) and Bull Cook, a man that did the heavy work - wood, water, dishes. There was a screen house where they kept meat, so they had trouble with bear. My mother used to can bear meat. When she served it, alot of people thought it was beef. They also cut their own ice from the lake. The men played alot of cards in the evenings. Poker mostly. Or they would read or mend their clothes. Sometimes they would have dances in the Cook Shack. Someone would play an accordion. Of course, on pay day many went to town." Gladys Seppala Treuri
Winter 1940. Times got tough and the mill camp closed the fall of 1940, although someone ws always at the camp the winter of 1940. "That winter, my dad and Hans Kesanen trapped with the Greco brothers to earn money. They also fished and hunted together. My father, Sam drowned on July 4, 1940 at the age of 39. He was in a canoe, with no life jacket, of course. He always wore wool pants, a red wool shirt and boots. Winter and summer. He wasn't a good swimmer. There were four Kesanen brothers that worked for Sam: Hans, Elmer, Bob and Ray. Elmer was married to my mother's sister Mildred and they ran a restaurant in Grand Marais. So my mom went to work for them ($1 a day - 7 days a week). I babysat for their two children after school (10¢ an hour). In 1941 my mother married Hans and, because there wasn't any work, we moved to Idaho. My father was very good to me. I went hunting and trapping with him. He drove me to Duluth once a week (Sundays) for dancing and skating lessons and I was in the Ice Follies in Duluth in 1939. This, of course, stopped after his death. The day after my father died, I had to learn to drive, as my mom didn't drive. I drove round and round the camp yard until I learned to shift. My Uncle Elmer helped me. I was 14 and my license cost 35¢.." The store that is now Trail Center Lodge sat a little away from the camp, up near the Gunflint Trail. The store had supplies, a bar and two nickel slot machines. The Seppalas slept in a back bedroom while Gladys slept up in the loft. Gladys hopes to visit Trail Center Lodge one day soon.