Effie’s Logging Legacy

Effie’s Logging Legacy

I stopped in Effie on a whim when I happened to drive by the boarded-up public school on my way home from Togo. Effie is a quiet little town in Itasca County with a population around 130 according to the 2010 Census. In 2000, however, the Census only listed about 91 residents. If anyone knows the reason for the influx of residents between 2000 and 2010, I’d love to hear it in the comments.

Logging Camp Near Effie, Minnesota

Effie, like most of the settlements in this part of Northern Minnesota, is a community that exists largely due to the logging industry. According to Mimi Barzen at the Minnesota DNR, “By 1875 logging was big business, due to the abundance of trees, expanding rail system, and network of waterways extending all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.”

Logging Camp Near Effie, Minnesota

These photos were taken by FSA Photographer Russell Lee in 1937 at a logging camp on the outskirts of Effie.

Logging Camp Near Effie, Minnesota

Loading logs onto a railroad car.

Logging Camp Near Effie, Minnesota

Logging Camp Near Effie, Minnesota

Blowing the horn for dinner.

Logging Camp Near Effie, Minnesota

Effie, Minnesota School

Many Minnesota logging communities were left behind when the white pine logging industry moved on to the Pacific Northwest in the 1930s, and empty schools, like this one in Effie, or the one in Togo, are remnants of the exodus.  Effie clings to life, however, with outdoor recreation in warm and cold weather–hunting, fishing, and snowmobiling for instance–and they have a well-regarded rodeo, the North Star Stampede, held annually, rain or shine, in the last week of July.

Effie, Minnesota School

Effie, Minnesota School

Effie, Minnesota School

Effie, Minnesota School

Black & White photos by Russell Lee, 1937. Color photos by Troy Larson, Original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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40 thoughts on “Effie’s Logging Legacy

    1. When our son built his home in 2008 they said it was the first new residential construction in Effie since 1949. The “influx” of people between 2000-2010 is probably from the Presbyterian church being turned into an apartment building. The ice rink is still used/maintained some years.

  1. A lack of jobs plays a large part in the population of Effie. Bergquist and Bigfork Valley employ the majority. Small businesses and the few logging companies left also employ a few, but for the most part a lot of those jobs are filled by others from the surrounding areas. In my opinion I tie it to when the gas prices started to climb. We lost a few of the smaller logging companies and those who drove longer distances couldn’t afford to live in a remote place and find work. There have been a few businesses that have tried to move into the area but in some way fell through and never made it. On a positive note, the Powell’s bought the old Presbyterian church and turned it into apartments. This has brought a few people to the area. On a sad note, with the passing of Howard Pitzen, original owner and operator of the North Star Stampede, I’m not sure how this is going to affect Effie in the future. Effie’s future is uncertain.

    Krystal Holcomb
    Former Effie Council Member
    Former resident of Effie.

  2. The population on the sign in 1990 was 58… I lived there and have a photo of the sign. I think they may have expanded the city limits?? There are only a couple
    of new houses in the area in the last 25 years… Nothing to account for 70+ people in 25 years.

  3. I believe the population increased due to elderly people selling their homes to young families just starting out. There are lots of young families with kids.

  4. I remember spending a formidable part of my childhood learning in that school. I also remember when that softball field was the place to play tournaments as well.

      1. I grew up in Effie, the Dahlbergs were my neighbors. I lived at the Forestry Station. Cynthia, Linda and I had a great time together with Sharon Anderson Waller.

      2. I went to school with them and you, too, Molly. I was in your class from grade 1 to grade 4. My name was Shellie Rodseth. I moved away to Alaska in 1962.

        1. Shelli, are you still in Alaska? I’m in Soldotna. Grew up on Deer Lake and left for AK 20 years after you but went to bhs with the Dalhbergs.

          1. Hi, sorry it took me a year to answer!
            Yeah, I’m still up here. When we arrived in ’62 we homesteaded in the Copper Valley. It’s a lot like Effie but with MOUNTAINS! I have Copper River water in my blood now, I’ve been here so long. My dad worked on the North Kenai Stretch of road back in the mid 60s. How are the people of Effie? I have heard nothing since we left. I think it was one of the nicest areas on the planet, people wise. And in lots of other ways, too.
            email me: trailsidegrill@yahoo.com

    1. It’s still the place for softball tournaments! We have the healthiest league in Northern Minnesota! 9 teams in 2015! Nearly every weeknight in the summer, you can find a game playing from 630 on.

  5. In the early 80’s there was alot bigger famlies living in effie. It was a fun place to grow up it is so sad it looks like time is passing Effie by

  6. My dad, Steve Richards, grew up in Effie. I remember going there several times a year as a child and have many fond memories playing on the playground at the school, walking to the gas station, and of course eating at the Effie Cafe. I was surprised to see several kids playing when I visited there this last summer! I know it will never be a bustling town but it’s a nice thought to think it won’t just be an abandoned dot on the map.

  7. i spent a lot of time there during high school in the early 90’s hanging out with my best friend jamie hall…great memories.

  8. I remember going to Effie in the 1970’s to see relatives and hunting. My grandparents had a homestead in the area. We would go to the cabin hunting for many years in my childhood. Lots of fond memories. Great area!

  9. On a positive note: The Effie Lutheran Fredheim Church community is great and has the hoppin’-est pie social every summer during the Rodeo! In “new” news: Second winter running, at the old Effie School grounds, a few of us have been voluntarily holding a youth/community cross country ski gathering/lessons on sunday afternoons in Jan and Feb. The church provides the warming space and Ron D. grooms some classic tracks around the school grounds and all the ski equipment, currently from the Bigfork School’s PE program, is available to use for the winter! Myself and another adult coach/facilitate ski lessons. Our best day/afternoon has been 30 participants, of which 24 are trail users and, of those, 12 are youth (so that leaves at least 6 simply enjoying the hot cocoa/social aspect!); numbers are something not too far from that on most Sunday afternoons. Pretty good turnout we say. Great, short learning trail groomed around in a few different little loops on the old Effie School grounds with warming space at the church across the street nearby for beginners and young ones. Safe and simple way to learn to ski and meet up with others who enjoy it as well. Some of us are starting to affectionately call it the “Epic Effie 1K”. 1 Kilometer. Most ski trails are talked about in K’s (not miles) and most are much longer than 1 K. It’s a respectful little chuckle about our happy little starter trail. Great trail to learn on in case there is an equipment or wardrobe malfunction or a little one is cold, a person can scoot across the school grounds from anywhere on the trail and be in warmth drinking hot cocoa in no time. It’s fun for the littlest ones to be able to ski a little and play on the playground a little. No matter one’s ability with skiing it’s always fun to drink hot cocoa with friendly people. ALL are always welcome and for many it’s an outdoors nordic ski open gym of sorts with equipment and hot cocoa and instruction and friendly folks included. Our family is new having moved to the area abt 3 yrs ago. We don’t live in Effie proper, so haven’t contributed to the population increase, but we sure like the area and have a great respect and appreciation for all the wonderful people in the Effie area! It may seem sad and abandon in the pics on this page, but we quickly learned after moving here that off the beaten path there is great life blood happily nestled in the woods nearby happy to extend a kind hand. Call 7025 with questions or for more info about EOWSKI! (pronounced Yeow-ski; stands for Edge Of Wilderness Ski!) nordic ski gatherings and just come join us for some cross country ski fun or to simply enjoy a cup of hot cocoa! ALL are welcome!

    1. I went to Sunday school and religious instruction classes at the Lutheran church. Elaine Dorr , Marie Dorr and Carol Olson were teachers. I remember Marsha Dorr , Cheryl Olson and Jo Anne Dorr were my friends. I wonder whatever happened to them?

      1. Shellie, Oh my gosh, so fun to see you write on here. Totally lost track of you, when Joey (Joanne Dorr) and I get together we have mentioned you many times 🙂 Would be so fun to connect with you again. I don’t know where Cheryl is ( somewhere in Arizona I think). But Joey and I still live in Bigfork.

  10. Hopefully next winter due to EOWSKI! activity in Effie we can be viewed more so as a roadside attraction rather than an abandon site.

  11. I remember going to Effie school with Tim Morse in the 5th and 6th grade. Good memories. Effie just isn’t the same anymore. I still like to go there and visit.

  12. I grew up in Effie, and as kids we thought moving to a big city would be great. We didn’t know what an awesome childhood we had! I now live in the Twin Cities area and wish we could head North more often. I try to get up to Effie around rodeo time. It’s your best chance of running into several people you know!

  13. In 1990 I went too Effie with a friend to help rebuild a deer hunting cabin, it was the weekend of the North Star Stampede…..Over the years I met Jeff and Paula Powell owners of the Gas station…..Howard Pitzen, his sons Fred, Del and Cim….Howard is gone and the rodeo is still going!!! I just wish there were deer, because in the last 5 years our group hasn’t seen nothing but wolves…..It once was the deer capitol of Minnesota, but like everything the DNR ruined it by not controlling the wolf population……I hope someday the deer population returns because it truly is Gods Country up there!!

  14. Been going to Effie since I was born. And I’m 56 the property on county road 40 has been in the Johansson family since 1944 gramps gave up some land for part of the busti lake access road. My uncle played a lot of baseball in Effie in the 40’s. I have many great memories of Effie and the north woods long live Effie.i Live in Denver and been driving up every summer for the last 20 years the place is awesome

  15. Effie Cafe always has the greatest food……been going there off and on for many years even when it was an hour and half away from where I lived. Sad that Howard Pitzen died, he was a really nice man. My mother and Howard were in a couple of committees together,,,,I.e. The Committee to restore the Constitution. Of course that is almost 40 yrs ago now.

  16. I grew up living East of Effie about 12 miles. I remember playing marbles in 4-6th grade at recess on the left side of the school. Lots of times the guys in class would play war at recess in the tree line by the road. I still remember going down to the gym with my trumpet (that didn’t last long) to ‘practice’. Didn’t like the trumpet much!
    On another note, the feller blowing the lunch horn in the photos, My Dad knew the feller who used to do the hunting to feed the men in the logging camps. Frank Werthner. We used to go to Grandpa Franks with Dad quite often and Dad would interview him for hours it seemed. Dad even recorded some interviews on cassette tape. I remember his little shack always smelled like skunk because he would trap and skin them among other animals. His dog Queen was REAL crabby if you got anywhere near her backside while trying to pet her…. We knew better after a few snaps and Frank warned us, She’ll bite you! I don’t remember him scolding the dog. As it should be! Queen had her reasons, good enough! I want to say Frank went to Effie in 1908. But not positive. I do know he worked the railroad and needed money to get to Marcell to get his first paycheck. They wouldn’t let him ride the train without paying so he stayed in Effie. And I don’t think he ever went to get his check. I wish I knew what happened to those tapes! Dad sure was a good guy, Earl Lund, he loved visiting with Frank and it seemed he wanted so bad to relive what Frank had lived. I think Dad just had an awful lot of respect for the old timers. I guess a married couple of Franks saw the man getting old a sickly, Frank would go down to their place and carry him outside on nice days and took care of them while the feller grew weaker and died. Then Frank looked after the fellers wife after he’d passed on. He was certainly a real man that Frank Werthner. Dad made his tombstone and I believe it still marks Franks grave in the Bigfork cemetery. When Frank died my Grandma was dying of had died just at the same time soo Dad had to miss Franks funeral. I know he always felt bad about that!
    Lastly, Effie was full of really good people, Buddy Savich’s power equipment store across from the Big Dollar. That was in the late 60- early 70s. Effie bustled or felt like it did to a kid! You could still run in and get cigarettes for your parents! LOL! Good ol’ Effie!

    1. I lived 9 miles east of Effie, at the corner by the Dam Road, from about 1956 to 1962. Our neighbors were the Ralph Swansons, Jim Lund, Jess Lund, Jack Walls and Roy Walls families. Teresa Lund and I were in the same class. My grandparents, the Gus Smiths, lived just up the hill from us.
      Those were wonderful times.

  17. Pa moved up there off of 229 in the early to mid 70’s. My (step) mom Joan taught at BHS until she retired a few years back. I am sure if you went to school there you had Mrs. Lester as a teacher. Pa knows the rich and colorful history of the area. Always loved listening to him recite Robert Service on the way up 38. There really is no place like it, not that I have encountered anyway. The giant mosquito, gas station, post office, cafe, bar and what? like 5 churches…who knew there were that many heathens in the middle of no where. LOL! I remember the bluegrass festivals at the school in the summer, and of course the Effie North Star Stampeed.
    I still count it as home and try to get there more than once or twice a year. It fills my soul to wake up and look out at the sun rising over the trees. Can’t go in the woods until after the frost or the bugs try to change your DNA…

  18. My mom was born and grew up in effie there is still some of the name around if anyone new frances rahier or any of them i would like to know where the old house was so if you remeber let me know please

    1. Hmmm, I remember the Rahier family. I went to school with Johnny, Lyle and Donna in the late 50s and early 60s. I think they lived out (west?) of town near Harringtons and Hills but I could be wrong. My cousin, Earl Carlson knows Len Rahier, I’ll ask him.
      We lived east of town right by the Lund and Walls families.

  19. There were several Rahier families there when I was growing up in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. Mike Rahier lived about half a mile north of town on 38. Len Rahier’s place was on the King Road south of No. 1. Snorky lived down by the river near Howard Helm’s. There was also a Ben Rahier, whose wife taught 5th and 6th grades, and Jim Rahier, but I don’t remember where they lived.

    1. There father name was napoleon also a madaline there brother gerald larry fred david sisters martha barbra please any help you could give

  20. My Uncle Harry and his first wife, Alrene, ran the Effie Cafe for a while; probably 60 yrs. ago. I remember my grandma, Leonie Helm, up at the crack of dawn making pies to serve at the cafe. Grandma and Grampa Howard lived in a trailer in the backyard belonging to Lucille Anderson. Mom would take us up to Effie to visit them in the summers. We would pick wild blueberries and wild strawberries. Nothing like the tasteless berries in the stores now! Good times!

  21. I lived in Effie until I was in third grade, then moved to that metropolis Big Fork! We lived right across from the school. I used to sneak out to all of the neighbors to get candy and cookies. I got my first scar from learning to ride bike down the hill by the Lutheran Church (that damn bump at the bottom). There was a grocery store and so much more in town when I was there in the 70’s. And spent a lot of time at the school as my best friends mom was the janitor. I moved away after graduation, but still attend the Effie Lutheran Church when up visiting the folks and tell my kids about those good old days.

    1. Somehow I stumbled across this article, and I think it’s great! I grew up in Effie also. Lived northeast, a couple of miles past the Waldron’s and the Hill’s. Went to the Effie school 4th, 5th and 6th grade. I wouldn’t trade growing up in Effie for anything. I still love it up there. I have a cabin now a little ways past Little American falls on the river and spend a lot of time up there. As much as I can anyway. You forget what quiet really is until you get back to it.

  22. Just introducing my wife and I. Rick and Rachel Kimball from Montevideo. We just bought some of the Janice Evenson Estate in January 2021 so we would be glad to meet our neighbors in the near future. We will be on the land just East of 287 and off of 42. Our plan is to get a driveway into it and spend some time getting to know the area. Janice’s daughter Stephanie just sent us her Grandfathers book “We Homesteaded” by James Knight.
    We look forward to getting to know you all. I grew up in Nashwauk (class of 1982) and my wife grew up in LeSueur (Class of 1976). I am so thankful to be linked to Itasca County again and cannot wait to put the canoe into the river and explore.
    Any tips, advice, or other would be greatly appreciated. Feel free to reach out to me at rkimball@centurionind.com or call me at 320-226-8433

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