A Bear Lake History

by Matt "Mad Dog" Bundi

Prior to 1919 there where 8 Lakes in the Area, namely: Lang, Hannah, little Hannah, Fox, Plunge, Little Bear, Walker, and Big Bear.

Since only rivulets and creeks ran between these Lakes, in order to log the area dams had to be built! One to bring the water up on Lang, and one to regulate at Penage and Walker.  There is a series of three Dams down from Lang to Willisville and Whitefish Falls. The dams created a navigable waterway, called Whitefish River Watershed where they were able to float logs down to the Big Waters all the way from Big Bear to Georgian Bay.

Then, a guy named Stu Lehman built Lang Lake Resort. Besides him there were two other Camps on Lang Lake, one half way up Lang on the left built by Bert Leblanc, the other one just opposite built by Bill Finch (White cabins in the Bay).  Just before you got to Bert Leblancs place was a beautiful Camp with generators, showers, fireplaces; a virtual showplace in the Bush. The Heiress of National Cash Register owned this camp. (Old, dilapidated buildings on the left side of Lang).  At that time there was no Road into Lang Lake.  She used to come with Porters, Indians and a cleat- track vehicle overland from Willisville. There she entertained all kinds of brass and top salesmen from the company. Stu Lehman also built another Camp with 8 Cabins and a Kitchen building on the Island west of Bear Lake Camp,

It used to take em the good part of 4 hours to get back to Bear.  They only had 4 HP Motors and quite good sized homemade Boats.  But apparently it was all worth it because Lake Trout and Walleye fishing was fantastic. You could go out any evening for a couple of hours and bring in the Limit of Walleye.

Well in time Stu sold the Bear Lake Operation to a a drunk named Scarrow.  He had a Guide from Ohio named Bill Neel.  Scarrow also had a cook called Mae who was Indian.  Later Bill and Mae married and bought Old Scarrow out.  Bill, a hard working man, soon built himself a little sawmill in the Bay on the East side of the Island. They lived out there for six years before they bought (A or the) farm in McKerrow just outside Espanola.

On that Island they had both Housekeeping and American Plan.  Later, Bill acquired today's Bear Lake Camp with the Idea that he'll only have American plan guests. There is a lot more money in an American plan, especially when you have a good cook in your Wife. He started off with the Lodge and then a Cabin for 8 on the Northeast point of the Island, which later burned down.

Then he divided the big Island into 12 one-acre lots and sold them mostly to his customers. He owned the Camp for 24 years.  His son Perry and Daughter had no interest in keeping the Camp in the Family and that's when I come in. Earlier Stu Lehman committed suicide, he hung himself and his Wife Mary kept on running the Camp for a few years until Con and Faye Racicot bought Lang Lake Resort from Mary. 8 years later Con and Fay sold to Hans and Winny, and another 8 years later Hans and Winny sold to Howard and Carol Acton.  For a couple of years Bill Neel had a couple of Horses out at Bear with which he hauled Lumber out of the Bush for the Sawmill. Most of the Lumber was used to build all the Cabins of Bear Lake Camp (formerly Neel's Camps) One, time he lost a Horse through the Ice that was the reason he took the other one out that winter.

According to their stories, they had to walk out of Bear three times on Snowshoes, because of lack of food or harder than anticipated winters. Now that's a feat that I'm glad I never had to endure! But then in my time we had Snowmobiles. Although unreliable, they used to get us within about 3 Miles of Lang Lake Resort before they decided to go on the blink.

Hope this is what you are looking for.  It is a good start.  I'll try to remember some of the funny anecdotes during camp life.

Mad Dog