The History of Echo Lake Lodge
By order of the District of Kenora, Patricia Region, parcel 2431 was surveyed by R.T. Dynes, an Ontario Land Surveyor and recorded on March 20, 1948. This parcel was part of an overall plan to locate Summer Resort Locations.
Ernest Nelson (Nels) Spiers was one of the original settlers in the Red Lake District, having flown into Red Lake in an open-cockpit Fokker aircraft in March 1927 during the gold rush period. He became master mechanic at the Howey Gold Mines Limited, Red Lake’s first gold producer. Nels and his wife, Marion, began noticing an increase in visitors to the Red Lake District after World War II. They were both industrious and creative, and were soon planning a tourist lodge. By 1948, they had decided to build and operate a tourist lodge on Underbrush Lake. Under patent 12171, recorded in the District of Patricia, Volume 12, page 269 dated July 29, 1949, The Summer Resort Location designated as R.F.D.117 on Underbrush Lake was conveyed to Nelson Spiers of the Village of Red Lake for consideration of $250 Canadian.
Nels and Marion Spiers
their home in Red Lake, they worked tirelessly to construct a log camp at
Underbrush Lake in 1948-1949, which they originally called “The Call and Echo
Camp” mainly because of their joy at calling across the lake, and hearing the
echo in return. The name was later
abbreviated to “Echo Lake Camp.” Construction
of the log camp was largely completed by 1949, the camp’s first season.
Although Nels was a stocky, strong man, by 1954, his health was deteriorating. He decided to sell the tourist camp to Henry (Hank) and Marcy Faess, of Thiensville, Wisconsin. Nels retired from Madsen Red Lake Gold Mines and a year later (1963), died at the Red Lake Red Cross Memorial Hospital.
7/29/49 through 8/19/53 (unknown)
Nothing was recorded.
On March 19, 1953, George John Hinton of the City of Toronto in the County of York, then the Land Tax Collector appointed under The Provincial Land Tax Act, filed a claim of interest in the Summer Resort Location know as R.F.D.117. He requested that no dealings with such lands be made on part of the registered owner (Nelson Spiers) until notice has been served upon him. It is unclear as to what transpired, if anything, between these two parties. Mr. Hinton withdrew his request by filing an order to withdraw his interest on June 10, 1954.
Special thanks to John Richthammer, Winnipeg for providing information on Nels and Marion Spiers.
6/10/54 through 6/3/55On June 3, 1955, Henry John Faess, a geologist and prospector, along with his wife Marcella Faess, both of the Town of Thiensville, in the State of Wisconsin, one of the United States of America, purchased the Summer Resort Location R.F.D.117 from Nelson Spiers and his wife Marian Spiers.
During the 1982 summer season Hank and Marcy’s health continued to fail and they both realized that they could no longer run the camp.
After the summer 1982 season, their health failing and their son, Thomas, running their Lynx Tundra Outpost Camp out of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Hank and Marcy decided to sell Echo Lake Lodge. The property was listed with a realtor and on December 15, 1982 was sold to a partnership from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The original six investors were: Jack Zazza, Don Barrigar, Raymond Blakeman, Stephen Allison, Jerome Frake, and Robert A' Hearn. All parties shared an undivided one-sixth interest. The camp was purchased “sight unseen” and was closed to the public. It was run as a private resort for the corporate owners and their employees.
During the summer of 1983, plans were made to build new houses rather than restore the old log cabins. For reasons unknown, Frake and Hearn decided to liquidate their interests to the other four owners. The three houses, now known as Moose, Black Bear and Caribou, were constructed and a bathroom was added to Cabin #1, now known as the Loon’s Nest. All the materials were flown in by a helicopter using a cargo sling. The materials were unloaded on the front lawn and carried up to the building sites. One load of plywood began to swing out of control as it was transported to camp. The pilot made the decision to cut it loose to avoid crashing the helicopter. The material was never recovered. Employees brought up from each of their corporations completed the construction during the summer of 1983.
The partnership hired Canadian caretakers to manage the ongoing duties and maintenance. Every year they found it necessary to hire a new caretaker. This practice continued until the summer of 1986.
Kelley Wodtke, Dick Nazette, Mike Mulcahy, Randy Nazette
During the summer of 1986, the caretaker was fishing on Detour Lake with Dick and Randy Nazette. Dick and Randy were guests of Jack Zazza and also the attorneys for their partnership. Two fishermen in a canoe approached them. One of the fishermen was Thomas Ehr, a former guide who had worked for Hank and Marcy Faess from 1966 to 1969. After several minutes of conversation, Dick Nazette asked if Tom might be interested in the caretaker position for next summer. Tom took Jack Zazza’s address and telephone number. He told Dick that he would discuss the offer with his wife, Caroline (Mitzi), and contact Mr. Zazza if they were interested. Tom and his family ventured to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that winter to meet Mr. Zazza and his partners. The discussions and offer were appealing to Tom and Mitzi, so they accepted the job beginning with the summer of 1987.
Jack Zazza 1988
Tom has a degree in Wildlife Game Management, Biology and Environmental Law Enforcement and Mitzi is a special education teacher. Because of the past economic conditions, Tom was unable to find employment in his field. He, therefore, purchased a business in Mitzi’s hometown. When the business grew into a bowling alley and restaurant, Mitzi resigned from her teaching position to help with the business. This allowed them to consider the caretaker position, as summers are the down time for bowling alleys.
In May 1987, Tom and 4-year-old Daniel (Dan) packed up and left for Echo Lake Lodge. At that time, David (Dave) was in school, so Mitzi, Dave, and Karen came up after Memorial Day when school was out.
Tom and Mitzi had been caretakers for two years, when Jack Zazza began having some health problems and was advised to vacation closer to medical facilities. Since his partners were not interested in purchasing his interest, it was mutually agreed upon to offer it to Tom and Mitzi. In January 1989, Tom and Mitzi officially became 1/3 partner in Echo Lake Lodge with Ray Blakeman and Don Barrigar.
In 1989 Tom and Mitzi sold the bowling alley after running it for 13 years. Tom started working as a financial consultant and Mitzi returned to teaching in 1990. It was again necessary to hire a caretaker for part of the summer. Some of the caretakers were: Jim Trebatoski and Liz Zenk (1991), Don Psenicka (1992), “Big” Greg Verkuilen and Adam Fischer (1993), Greg Verkuilen (1994), Don Meggers (May and June, 1995. Camp was evacuated on 6-17-95 because of a fire in the area.), Harry Ehr (1995), and Ron and Mariann Budweiser (1996).
Jim Trebatoski, Liz Zenk and Gertie
Caretakers Summer 1991
Greg Verkuilen, Adam Fisher, and Charcoal
After the 1996 season, Tom and Mitzi became the sole owners of Echo Lake Lodge. Tom and Mitzi, along with their 3 children, Dave, Dan, and Karen have managed camp since 1997.
The Ehrs and Bandit 1996
For continued history, see our annual newsletters: