Bone Lake, located in Georgetown and Bone Lake Townships, Polk County, Wisconsin, is a 1781-acre lake with 12.5 miles of shoreline and more than 500 private lots. The mean depth is 20 feet, with a maximum depth of 43 feet.
Bone Lake is a quality Wisconsin fishery with musky minimum length limit of 50 inches. Other species present include crappie, perch, bluegill, large mouth bass and northern pike. Smallmouth bass have recently been stocked.
Public boat launches are located at the north and south ends of the lakes. Luck Lions Club manages the beautiful Bone Lake Point Park at the north end with a public boat landing, fishing pier, picnic pavilion, and toilets.
HISTORICAL BONE LAKE
Onondogacona – the beautiful Indian name for Bone Lake, means LAKE OF THE SMALL PINES. Carbon dating of artifacts shows the first known settlers were Indians who lived on Indian Point cira 900 A.D. These Indians were the mound builders, and bone, pottery and beads made from shells have been found in the remains of their campsites. The mounds built by these people are very ancient--they outdate the traditions of the Indians who were here when the country was discovered. The early Indians were a very large race physically and quite advanced-- they possessed arts akin to the Aztecs. Whether they were driven away, or what became of them will possibly never be known.
The ruins of what was believed to have once been a trading post and fort, and perhaps a missionary center established by French Traders is located at the south end of Bone Lake. The post remains were believed to have been one in a chain of such post extending from Sault Ste. Marie to DeSoto, a town 50 miles south of LaCrosse. French posts had been established in Northern Wisconsin as early as 1700. At the time the French owed their allegiance to Louis XIV. Jesuits followed the fur traders to do missionary work among the Indians. The trappers were known as "Courers-de-boie" or "Runners-of- the- woods". Location of other posts established by followers of Marquette, Hennepin, Joliet, Nicollet and LaSalle have been found by historians at Prairie du Chien, Apostle Islands, Fort Xavier, Stillwater and Brule. The ports extend in a crescent shape at intervals along streams and on lakes. Remains similar to the one found in Georgetown were located near the river at St. Croix Falls, and may have been one of the series. Historical research revealed that the name of the post found near Bone Lake was Fort Onondogacona.
The remains show that the main post was a building 24 by 36 feet in size. A break on one side indicated a door. Grouped closely were the remains of six cabins. Slightly larger then the cabins, two parallel rows of stones indicated the alter where the "Courers-de- Boie" worshipped.
During the year, but especially in the spring, the Ojibways came to the post with their ginseng, maple syrup and fur to trade for many things the white man produced. Eating, singing and dancing occupied most of their attention for several days or even weeks, and the throb of Indian dances carried on into the evening air.
A large settlement of Ojibwa lived in teepees or hogans on Indian Point until the 1700’s there was at least one Hogan located on the Holmberg farm until the same date.
Ching-gwa-mik, elder of the Chippewa (Ojibwe) tribe, lived with his wife and nine children on Little Clam Lake. At this time there was much unrest over all of Ojibway territory. Sioux made repeated forays into the area and there were many skirmishes. However, the Sioux decided to ask the Ojibwe to join with them in attacking their mutual enemy--the white settlers who lived near Frederic. A council had been called at Bone Lake where many of the tribe lived. The Sioux were sending representatives. Ching-gwa-ga-mik disliked the Sioux and was growing old. He could see no reason to travel a long distance to meet with a traditional enemy. At the council, members argued loud and long. They decided to take a vote-- the results of what showed the Ojibwa split down the middle-- half were for joining the Sioux, and half for refusing. I-yaw-barise (later to become a great chief), left camp to run a message to Ching-gwa-ga-mik, who was the Ojibwa chief. He took the Indian Trail from Bone Lake to Clam Lake and back again in one night-no small feat. Morning found I-yaw-banee back on the shores of Bone Lake with his tribal, who cast the deciding vote in favor of his white neighbors and that saved the village of Frederic from an Indian attack.
The land around Bone Lake was covered with rich and virgin growing of white pine. The Ward Logging Company cut the timber around the lake in the winter of 1844-1845. In 1853 the state sold 12,000 acres in Bone Lake Township for 85 cents an acre. Of course the trees had been cut and the new settlers had to remove the stumpage. Some of the logs were four and five feet in diameter. The Ward Logging Company had previously lumbered off the trees around Big Round and Blake lakes, and they tried to use the same technique on the much larger Bone Lake, but met with a different situation. Their objective was to float the logs down Fox Creek and thence to the Apple River and on to St. Croix. The capricious winds on the much larger lake would change the direction of the logs and many ailed willfully around until they became waterlogged.
In 1894-1896 Loren Larson pulled some of the sunken logs out of the water to run through his saw mill at the north end of the lake. (Bone lake Park now occupies the site of the sawmill). Some years later a sawmill located on the Abe Johnson Stock Farm (now Rest Point Resort), also tried retrieving the logs but was stopped by a government agency. Abe Johnson not only had a sawmill, but also ran a stock farm. He had over 100 head of cattle, many of whom froze in the extremely cold winter of 1886-1887.
Mail was carried up the St. Croix River by bateaus in the summer and by sled in the winter--in 1845 the overland route was begun. The mail arrived weekly, and was delivered to the Dueholm Post Office which was established in 1894, with Chris Dueholm, Sr. as postmaster. The post office was located at Dueholm corner on the northeast end of the lake.
It is interesting to note that an old undated map shows Mallard and Murdock lakes formed one lake drained by a creek which flowed east into Bone Lake. The highest point surrounding the lake is Murdock’s Hill, also at the north end of the lake. It is the outline of this hill which creates our beautiful mid-summer sunsets. The prominence was named for Dr. Murdock-- an early resident of Taylor Falls who was an ardent hunter and fisherman.
Calderwood Lodge, on the eastern shore of Bone Lake has a fascinating history. It is a beautiful stone building and was built by Charles E. Calder and his three sons – Charles, Paul and Jack. Charlie Calder came to the lake in 1898 on his summer vacation. Soon afterward he and his sons built a cottage just off County Truck I. In 1922, they began the present building, and with the help of Mike Yourchuck and others, completed the building in July of 1923. Father Phillip Gordon was the only Indian priest in the area, and he conducted Sunday Mass on the West Porch of Calderwood Lodge. Guests came to spend the summer or a weekend. Charlie Calder would meet them at the Luck Depot and transport them to the Lodge.
There are many stories concerning Al Capone and other gangsters who supposedly visited at Calderwood Lodge and the Shedd property at the north end of the lake. None of these stories have been substantiated, however.
This short narrative on Bone Lake would not be complete without reference to the two islands which have a colorful past.
When the first white man arrived in this area, they found the large island had many human bones lying about. Chief Archie Mossay relates this story. The Sioux had been in control of this territory, but the Ojibwa (renamed the Chippawa as the early settlers could not pronounce Ojibwa) were driven out of the east by the encroachment of the white man, and found this area the most desirable. They fought with the Sioux and defeated them, thus gaining control of the land. One of the great battles was fought on the big island. The Sioux had retreated there and were surrounded and defeated by the Ojibwa. The many bones around the lake after these battles gave the lake it’s new name – Bone Lake.
President Roosevelt signed the deed giving ownership of the largest island to F.P. Bushnell, who established a farm there in 1900. The family later moved to Hill City in 1912. Two of the Bushnell children died and were buried on the island while the Bushnell's lived there. However; no children are currently buried on Bald Eagle Island; the Bushnell family removed them years ago. The big island Island has only changed ownership two times since the Bushnell family homesteaded it and re-registered it when Franklin Roosevelt was a cabinet officer. After the Bushnells the island was owned by Joan Eckberg who then sold it after 10 years to Janet and Bill Jungbauer in 1995. The large island was named Bald Eagle Island by the Jungbauers. The small island was named Chaffee Island in honor of Glen Chaffee, a well known DNR worker in the Bone Lake area, after a vote of local school children.
After the motor boats on the lake have been stilled for the night it seems possible to hear the dip of oars and the singing of the Courere-de-bois-- and in the darkness see the shape of their canoes as they glide by.