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Longtime resident writes on McDonald-Berger lake area

Evelyn Berger

(Editor's Note: The following text was adapted from material submitted to the McDonald Lake Association and Edna Township for the historical records. Evelyn Berger, 97, a lifelong East Otter Tail resident, has deep connections to the McDonald-Berger Lake chain. The Berger family farm and home date back a century.

Evelyn was a 1931 graduate of Perham High School, and a 1964 graduate of Moorhead State College.)

To my knowledge there has never been any recorded history of the McDonald-Berger Lake region. In the mid 1800's, Big McDonald, McDonald Lake, Berger Lake, Mud Lake and Walde Lake were one large body of water. A fur trader, Mr. McDonald, had a trading post adjacent to what was later part of the Berger farm. He named the vast area "Big McDonald" and he also named Little McDonald. Mr. McDonald and his Indian wife made their home at the trading post. A remnant of the building's foundation is still visible today. I believe it is adjacent to the home of Bruce and Paula Williamson. It is located on land that is now owned by Bob and Betty Walde.

Geographic changes are continually being made. When Albert and I were married in 1938, there was no Berger Mud Lake. Albert plowed the entire area. While working the land, he unearthed an old shotgun. Later, he learned that it had been lost by Elmer Walde, when his boat capsized while hunting ducks on the Mud Lake. Elmer was delighted to reclaim his gun, which was very rusted and worthless to anyone else.

Albert seeded flax in the new field. When the plants were in bloom, the beautiful blue blossoms waving with the breeze resembled a body of rippling water. The fertile soil produced a bounteous crop. For the next few years, that land was a productive hay field.

Beginning from the early to the mid 1940's, the water began to come back, soaking some of our haystacks. In the early to the mid 1950's, we had much wet weather. Water soon filled more than the former Mud Lake area, extending very close to our barn. It covered our road to Big McDonald, and formed a lake in our potato field. That summer, neighbor boys came over several times to join our sons to swim in our potato field lake.

Albert dug a ditch to drain as much water as possible. By hauling gravel onto the lowest areas, our road to Big McDonald Lake was made passable. Since then, the water did recede, making what it is today, but our former potato field never again was tillable. It is now a grove of trees.

The new road, East McDonald Trail, which leads from East McDonald Drive past the Berger homestead, was built to curve around the wooded area; which for many years, had been a productive field of various crops. The last crop of potatoes could never be harvested.

Another item that may be of interest is the fact that neither Berger Lake nor Walde Lake had any official name until the early 1960's.