Comprehensive History of Cedar Creek

Background Events, Early Use & Development (1929-1947)

Excerpted from Hodson, A.C., 1985. History of the Cedar Creek Natural History Area. University of Minnesota Field Biology Program Occasional Papers Number 2.

The discovery of the Cedar Creek Forest, as it had been called, was in itself quite remarkable. Grace Nute, while on a weekend trip to the north shore of Lake Superior, had questioned her friend, Cora Corniea, about the origin of the interest in the acquisition and preservation of the Cedar Bog. Consequently, in June of 1958 Dr. Lawrence wrote to Dr. William S. Cooper with the request that he inform Mrs. Corniea about how he had discovered the area and when he and Dr. Otto Rosendahl had first tramped around in the swamp. Dr. Cooper’s letter to Cora Corniea, dated June 19, 1958, included the following account.

“The airplane trip on which I first saw the bog took place on April 6, 1930. My pilot was Mark Hurd and the plane was a very small one intended for one person; two of us crowded into it. There was a terrific north wind blowing, and I remember noticing that the north-bound cars were moving faster than we were. It was quiet when we turned around and headed for home. Our route that day was straight north over New Brighton, Ham Lake, Fish Lake, then circling around to cover the northeast corner of Anoka County. Incidentally, the door on my side of the plane was removed, to give me a little more extra room and to make vertical shots possible. I don’t mind looking down.”

“As to the date of Dr. Rosendahl’s visit with me, I cannot give an exact date. I made a very complete set of field notes on July 11, 1931, but I cannot believe that I waited more than a year to investigate the place that had interested me so much from the air. I can say with some assurance that this visit was sometime during the summer of 1930, probably early in the season. I took along the picture that I had made from the air, and we struck in from about where the Crone property now is. On our first attempt we missed the lake entirely, coming out on the upland east of it. Our second try brought us to the south end of the lake.”

According to Dr. John W. Moore (1952) the Cedar Creek Forest first received serious attention in 1929 when N. C. Huff visited the Isanti County portion of the bog. On the 24th of June in 1929 he obtained pictures of Pyrola asarifolia. In a letter that Dr. Lawrence received from Helen Buell, the wife of Dr. Murray Buell, she raised an interesting question.

“Does anyone around Minnesota know that Cedar Bog Lake used to be called Decodon Pond? (and the bog Decodon Bog?)—because Rosendahl and Butters were so impressed with the Decodon. I didn’t know it by any other name when we were students.” [1930-1933]

(The University Herbarium’s earliest collection of Decodon from the Area is by Dr. Rosendahl on Aug. 13, 1931; the next is by Murray and Helen Buell on Aug. 3, 1933, the place designated “Decodon Pond”.)

As will become very evident the Minnesota Academy of Science became much involved in the early development of the Cedar Creek Natural History Area. In 1937 the Academy established a Committee on the Preservation of Natural Conditions. According to an account written by Dr. Arthur N. Wilcox,

“Soon after the appointment of the Committee its attention was called to the desirability of a portion of this area by Dr. William S. Cooper, who had become acquainted with the area after discovering it from the air. The preservation of this portion, known as Cedar Creek Bog, included a small lake, bog and wooded swamp, was recommended in the committee’s first report published in the 1938 Proceedings.”

Within the next few years the Academy, with the aid especially of Drs. Cooper, J. W. Buchta, and L. M. Gould, was able to obtain the donation of sufficient funds from about 25 members so that by 1940 the Academy had purchased or had made arrangements to purchase important parts of the Cedar Creek area. In the following year the Committee for Preservation of Natural Conditions raised a large sum of money for the acquisition of more parcels of land. Dean Buchta and Dr. Cooper were very much involved in the fund raising. According to Dr. Cooper, “At the beginning of things Dr. Buchta, who was President of the Academy, proposed to me that we hold up Campus Club members as they came from lunch, and make them promise to contribute $25.00 each. We even landed Middlebrook!” Mr. Middlebrook was both Secretary of the Board of Regents and Comptroller of the University at that time.

Before proceeding further with an account of additional land acquisition and program development it is fitting that we pause to pay tribute to a truly extraordinary and memorable person, Cora Alta Corniea (Mrs. Albert Corniea). What will be said about her outstanding and unselfish contributions is taken, often verbatim, from the writings of Meribeth J. Mitchell (1960) and Grace Lee Nute (1961). According to Grace Nute if only one person could be held responsible for beginning the crusade to save Cedar Bog that individual would be Cora Corniea. She says that from the 1930s through the 1940s and for most of the 1950s Mrs. Corniea was either buying land herself, paying taxes on it, or holding it until a permanent organization for preserving it in the public interest could be formed. She also visited farmers and their wives who owned the boglands, telling them of her plans and sometimes inducing them to give their land. She also tried to interest scientists, scientific organizations, professors and deans of the University of Minnesota and others to move in the direction of public or semi-public ownership.

Cora Corniea first learned of the Cedar Creek Natural History Area in 1937 about the same time that Dr. Cooper had called the attention of the Academy Committee on the Preservation of Natural Conditions to the desirability of acquiring a portion of the area. She purchased an 80 acre tract on March 25, 1937 from the Louis Peterson estate. According to Meribeth Mitchell’s account Mrs. Corniea learned that certain members of the Minnesota Academy of Science were also interested in such a project. So, during the summer of 1937, she invited the membership out to her cabin in order that they might see the area personally and then be persuaded to support the Academy’s desire to save the region. This was one of many groups and individuals she entertained to interest them in the project. In 1939 she made the first of many subsequent additional purchases of land. She studied tax delinquent lists and prevailed upon County Auditors of both Isanti and Anoka Counties to notify her when land in which she might be interested became available. A search through the records reveals that she personally bought parcels of land totaling about 600 acres. In 1940 she was made a member of the Academy Committee for the Preservation of Natural Conditions chaired by Arthur N. Wilcox.

In 1939 the Academy Committee published a report entitled “Further progress in the search for natural history areas in Minnesota” in volume 7 of the Academy Proceedings. This committee consisted of A. N. Wilcox, chairman, R. C. Donovan, W. J. Breckenridge, T. B. Magrath, H. E. Stork and Gustav Swanson. They recommended a legislative act to establish Nerstrand Woods State Park, location of a natural history area at Itasca State Park, and a detailed investigation of Cedar Creek Bog. They expressed their views regarding Cedar Creek further by saying that during the coming year special efforts should be made to preserve the area. The report also stated that at the last meeting of the Academy the committee recommended the preservation of 240 acres in the area known as Cedar Creek Bog, and that certain public-spirited owners of tracts in the area have expressed willingness to bequeath their parcels in order to help establish this natural history refuge.

On March 25, 1940 an important letter was sent to Guy Stanton Ford, President of the University by Dr. Wilcox.

“Dr. O.T. Walter of Macalester College, who is President of the Minnesota Academy of Science, and I would like to discuss with you the question of the desirability of University ownership of a tract of land which we believe should be preserved for scientific and educational purposes, assuming that the University would be presented with the tract.”

They went on to describe the interest of the Academy in preserving natural areas and the desirable features of Cedar Creek.

The following account of an additional important series of events which made possible the preservation and development of the Cedar Creek Natural History Area is taken from an article by Dr. Wilcox entitled “The Development of the Cedar Creek Natural History Area,” which was published in 1950 in volume 18 of the Minnesota Academy of Science.

The purpose for which this land was desired seemed to justify and require a tax-free status. It was concluded that the University of Minnesota would be the most suitable public agency to preserve the area and administer it wisely for its intended uses. The University Board of Regents gave the proposal broached by Dr. Wilcox favorable consideration on April 12, 1940. The negotiation of a formal agreement with the University was furthered by the generous help of Attorney Clark Keyes, of Minneapolis, who contributed his services as counsel. Dr. Wilcox consulted frequently with Mr. Fred B. Snyder, Chairman of the Board of Regents, as he did with the officers and trustees of the Academy. On December 11, 1942 the agreement between the Academy and the University was executed, providing for the conveyance of lands and the establishment and administration of the Cedar Creek Forest, as it was designated officially at that time. It contained the following provisions as summarized by Dr. Wilcox. It provided that certain lands had been or would be transferred to the Regents, who, in turn, would keep and preserve them as far as possible in the natural conditions as a refuge for the indigenous plant and animal life; would administer the area so as to encourage its wise use for scientific and educational purposes, particularly for natural history studies; would permit the Academy to cooperate in fostering and carrying out such studies, and under reasonable regulation would keep the area accessible to qualified persons, such access and use not being limited to persons having an official connection with the University. The University also agreed to set up a committee representing various fields of natural history to have the care and supervision of the Forest and its uses. In this connection it was the desire of the Academy that the administration of the Forest should represent a broad point of view rather than that of a single department.

Dr. Wilcox went on to say that the first 40-acre tract was bought from Frank E. Swanson by Mrs. Corniea and she was repaid with funds raised by subscription from members of the Academy and that as of his writing in 1950 a total area of 580 acres had been deeded to the University. As he pointed out in a footnote the area increased to 620 acres just before the publication of his article. Of these tracts 80 acres were deeded directly to the University by Dr. and Mrs. Corniea [40 of these acres were actually a gift from the Natural History Society] and 50 acres by Mr. and Mrs. Glenn A. Carpenter, both gifts with life-estate reservations. Several tracts deeded to the University with a like provision were designated as Memorials. The forty-acre Frank E. Swanson tract was not actually acquired until the owner had died and a bronze memorial plaque was placed on the property by the Academy at the request of the family. Another 40 acres was given up as a memorial to Charles Bunn of St. Paul through gifts from his daughter, and 130 acres were given by Dr. and Mrs. Donald Lawrence. In March 1950, Dr. H. E. Essex, President of the Academy received the following letter from Dr. Lawrence:

“In July 1947 Mrs. Lawrence and I purchased a tract of 160 acres of land adjoining the Cedar Creek Forest in Anoka County. It is our desire to present now the portion of our land (amounting to about 130 acres) which lies north of the County road, to the Minnesota Academy of Science for inclusion in the Cedar Creek Forest.”

The next step was to arrange for the administration procedures required by the provisions of the agreement between the Minnesota Academy of Science and the University. Action was proceeded by correspondence among a number of interested persons. On March 24, 1945 Dr. Wilcox wrote to President Walter C. Coffey and stated that administration by a

“… committee directly responsible to the Dean of the Graduate School would be an arrangement very satisfactory to the Academy and that the Academy of Science has solicited the donations of land and money for the Cedar Creek Forest and has undertaken to maintain a continuing interest in the project. It would seem appropriate for the University to invite the Academy to participate directly in the program, perhaps by setting up an advisory committee to meet with the University Committee and cooperate with it in performing most of its functions.”

Dr. Wilcox suggested some of the advantages for such an arrangement:

“It would strengthen the planning, … give evidence of the University’s desire to cooperate with other institutions rather than to dominate, … encourage closer association and foster mutual respect between persons associated with the several institutions, … stimulate wide public interest and pride in one of the University’s activities, and … give added weight to applications for financial support from foundations or other agencies. I am sure that the Academy could select, or nominate for the Regent’s approval … a committee of non-university members who would cooperate very creditably with a University committee.”

A few days later President Coffey wrote to Dean Henry Schmitz, Dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics, with the request that he make suggestions relative to the kind of committee and its personnel because of Schmitz’s experience in administering the Itasca Forestry and Biological Station On April 24, 1945 Dr. Schmitz responded by saying in part that ultimately a single individual should be held responsible for the administration of the property, but not now. He stated further that he agreed with a suggestion made by Dr. Wilcox that the Academy be asked to appoint a committee of three to work with the University Committee. On May 21, 1945 Dean Blegen replied to correspondence he had had with the President by saying that he accepted a suggestion made by Dr. Schmitz that personnel of the committee should be Wilcox as chairman and that Drs. Abbe and Minnich should be other members with himself as an ex-officio member. According to Dr. Wilcox in May of 1945 President Walter C. Coffey appointed Professor Arthur N. Wilcox, chairman, Professor Ernst Abbe (Botany), Dwight E. Minnich (Zoology), and the Dean of the Graduate School, Theodore C Blegen, ex-officio to serve as a committee in the administration of the Cedar Creek Forest. It was the President’s judgment that the administration ought to be under the Dean of the Graduate School who could represent the University as a whole

The following year President J. E. Morrill invited the Academy to select an advisory committee of three to advise the University committee in the administration of the forest and its uses. The Academy decided that its members would serve first for one, two and three year terms and thereafter for three year terms, and that members of the University staff would not serve on the Academy committee be- cause they already were represented on the overall Advisory Committee. The first, Academy representatives were selected on April 19, 1947. They were Professor O. T. Walter of Macalester College, the Reverend Adelard Thuente of St. John’s University, and Professor Harvey Stork, Carleton College.

Dr. Wilcox also pointed out that one of the first acts of the combined committee was to request the Graduate School for a grant of $400.00 for an aerial survey, which was then carried out on the direction of Dr. Donald Lawrence. The Forest and its surrounding area, about 2 by 3 miles, were photographed on June 19, 1947, by Mark Hurd Aerial Surveys. Forty-eight photographs were made on a scale of approximately 12 inches to the mile, providing complete stereo coverage. From these photographs a large mosaic photo-map was prepared. Later, under another grant, the committee had the map copied and employed an experienced cartographer to draw in the legend, scale and a grid showing the approximate boundaries of all 40 acre tracts in the general area. Because of some difficulties in establishing section corners the grid lines were recognized as only approximately the legal boundaries. Nevertheless, a half-tone plate was made for printing copies intended just as working maps for visitors and field use.

During June of 1947 a foreman’s shed was moved to the Cedar Creek Forest from the Rosemount Research Center to serve as headquarters and as a storage place for equipment and tools. The Graduate School also provided funds to recondition the cabin, and along with gifts from the University Inventory Department made it possible to provide simple furnishings and essential tools. The cabin was equipped so that two persons could use it overnight, winter or summer.

It became obvious to the Advisory Committee that a few regulations for use of the area were very necessary. Persons wishing to visit the area were required to obtain permits in advance. These permits were issued by the Chairman of the Committee to individuals for their own use, or to teachers or leaders who were responsible for classes or other groups. For visits for observation only permits could be obtained either from the Chairman or the Museum of Natural History. Collecting was to be prohibited except when approved in advance, and users were advised about necessary precautions against fire, defacement, and disturbance, including the disturbance of persons who held life-estate reservations in portions of the area.

Research projects which would involve collecting, experimentation, or other disturbance of natural conditions could be carried out only after application to and approval by the Committee. It was recommended that maps, records of surveys and research studies should be filed with the Committee for preservation in the library of the Museum of Natural History, which was designated at that time as the official repository for records concerning the Forest.

According to Dr. Lawrence, in a letter to Dr. Alton A. Lindsey dated October 31, 1981, Dr. Murray Buell and his wife Helen did the first comprehensive work on Cedar Creek Bog and Cedar Bog Lake. But he points out that their first paper, “Surface level fluctuations in Cedar Creek Bog, Minnesota,” was proceeded by one year by Ray Lindeman’s first publication. Dr. Buell had established a transect in 1934 in order to make an elevation survey and marked trees with railroad spikes, and at this writing the one marking the northern end of the transect is still visible, as are also two adjacent ones. Dr. Lindeman and later workers used the same transect for other purposes. Dr. Lawrence went on to say that Russel Artist was actually the first one to do serious work at Cedar Creek Bog. He, one of Dr. Cooper’s students, collected cores for pollen analysis and included Cedar Creek Bog samples as part of a broad study of bog deposits scattered over the Anoka sand plain.

In an article published in 1980 in volume 31 of the Naturalist Dr. Lindsey paid elegant tribute to Dr. Ray Lindeman. The article was entitled “The Ecological Way.” Most of what follows has been extracted from Dr. Lindsey’s account of Ray Lindeman’s problems and accomplishments. Because Dr. Lindeman was blind in one eye he could not study air-photos stereoscopically. However, the power of his mind was not hindered by his physical incapabilities which were considerable. His health declined so much that his wife Eleanor had to help him regularly in field work much of which called for rowing, dredging, towing and dipping. He was so intense that had it not been for his dear wife he wouldn’t bother to take time to go home to supper. This I know from personal observation.

The Lindeman legacy, beyond his commitment to science, is in the form of six significant papers. In the last one is what Edvvard Kormondy called, “The most significant formulation in the development of modern ecology.” He was referring to the “classical paper of Lindeman” as it has often been called, entitled “The Trophic-Dynamic Concept in Ecology.” This paper was at first rejected by the editors of Ecology because two leading limnologists who reviewed it said that it made too many assumptions for publication. The paper was published in Ecology in 1942 following the urging of such people as Drs. Cooper, Lawrence and G. Evelyn Hutchison, members of the Editorial Board, and with the hearty approval of Dr. Thomas Park, the Zoological Editor of Ecology. Ray served as a teaching assistant with me and frequently used me as a sounding board. In a letter I received shortly before he died in 1942 Ray thanked me for reminding him to “keep one toe on the ground.” For an excellent and much more complete account of the importance of Ray Lindeman’s work the reader is referred to an article published in Science (1977) by Dr. R. E. Cook entitled, “Raymond Lindeman and the Trophic-Dynamic Concept in Ecology”. In this article the author includes considerable correspondence regarding the original rejection and subsequent acceptance of the “classical paper of Lindeman”.