Lake History from our Members
Clearwater Lake Conservancy is collecting stories of Clearwater Lake history by it's members. If you have a story you would like to share, we would love to have you write it down, record a video or audio file or contact us to interview you and save it for all lake owners current and future!
We now have our first story and it's from Janet Knudson Swanson. Janet believes her great-grandparents may have been the first settlers on the southwest side of the lake (certainly they were one of the first). Her grandparents built the three identical cabins on the west side of the lake and rented them out for travelers to enjoy the lake. One of the cabins has been rebuilt recently. Thank you, Janet, for taking the time to write your family story for us to enjoy!
Origins of Nels Johnson Road and the Swanson Legacy
By Janet Knudson Sawnson
My Clearwater Lake family history goes back generations and here is how I understand it….
Emma Svenson (my great-grandmother) was born in Sweden in 1877. She immigrated to the U.S. when she was about 18 years old. She worked in Minneapolis for a while doing housekeeping I believe and then somehow ended up in Brainerd with her husband Gilbert Johnson. They homesteaded the land at the corner of O’Brien Road and Nels Johnson Road. They lived in the main farmhouse which is still standing today and ran a dairy farm. When Emma and Gilbert could no longer handle the farming, their daughter Esther along with her husband Nels Johnson -- my grandparents -- moved into the farmhouse, renting from Emma and Gilbert. They took over the farming and raised their family there. One of their children was my mom, Loretta Johnson Knudson. A little house was built behind the farmhouse for Emma and Gilbert to live in (which I believe has since been torn down). There were also 3 little cabins down by the lake that they rented out. Nels' sister and her husband, Alma and Bert Johnson, owned a farm down the road -- where the townhouses are today. They also had a cabin rental business.
Emma Johnson died in 1965 and a couple years later the farm was sold. Nels and Esther had never owned the farm -- just rented it -- however, they acquired some land down the road and it was eventually named Nels Johnson Road. They built their retirement home here. Nels died in 1987 and Esther in 1989, and their children then acquired some of the property on Nels Johnson Road. In the early 1990’s, Bob and Loretta (Johnson) Knudson, my parents, built a home next door to where my grandparents had retired and lived there for over 25 years. We had always enjoyed coming up here with our kids, and we purchased their home in 2016 when they moved to an apartment in Baxter. Dad passed away in 2020 and mom in 2021.
So now up to the present time…our young grandchildren are the sixth generation of our family to enjoy Clearwater Lake. My hope is that it will stay as quiet and clean as possible in the years to come.
Janet Knudson Swanson
Turn In Poachers
Since 1954, Clearwater Forest has served as a retreat center and summer camp. They are owned and managed by Presbyterian Clearwater Forest, Inc. Clearwater Forest is an important resident on our lake. With 4+ miles of lake shore and over 1000 acres around Clearwater, everyone benefits from their mission statement "... be a faithful steward of God’s creation."
To lean more, go to clearwaterforest.org.