Oliver's Lodge

  • Article

    John Oliver worked for Western Feltworks of Chicago. According to Gladys Mykleby:

    In 1909, John and Florence (Farnham) Oliver bought the hotel and he and his wife operated it as a summer vacation hotel until 1942. He had changed the name of the hotel from Waldheim to Oliver's Lodge in 1914. From 1942 to 1944 the property was owned by Joseph Aldous (See Forbes/Aldous/McKelvey Family) but was not in operation. History( 2nd to last page) John Oliver and his wife retired to the Ben Hur Home in Crawfordsville, Indiana in 1944. At least once the Aldous family visited the Olivers in Crawfordsville. Florence died in 1950 and John in 1956. They are buried in a rural cemetery is Oswego, New York, evidently in the Oliver family plot.

    There are many stories to tell of Oliver's Lodge. Some were told to me by my father, aunt, and uncle. Others I have read. Stories of riding the wild ponies left behind when the logging companies pulled out; of riding the handcar on the rails to Sayner, of having to dress for dinner (ties for the men); of the electricity going out at 10:00 p.m. with a warning dimming just before lights out (the lodge was dependent upon a generator and they did not run it all night); of the chef that kept an ice pick in the stove fire to put "grill marks" on steaks that he been cooked on a griddle; of outhouses and chamber pots (which continued into the early North Star Lodge years); of masquerades and other parties that entertained the guests; of fish caught and of the huge muskie caught and hung on the lodge front porch while many of the guests had their pictures taken with it; of forest fires across the lake; and of diminishing business during the depression years; and of the final death blow--gas rationing. A lot of people had wonderful memories of Oliver's Lodge, and for many it was central to their family experiences. If you were one of those, or the child of one of those, please share your story. Write to webmaster@starlake.org.

    As I can I will add more of the stories that I know of my family's experiences at Oliver's Lodge.


    The Robert M. FORBES family of Alton, Illinois, first came to Oliver's Lodge in 1908 on the Milwaukee Road. It consisted of Robert and Mary Forbes, their children Harriet (age 15), Jim (age 13) and Charles (age 8) and very likely two girl cousins, friends of Harriet. They returned almost every summer staying at Oliver's Lodge (and then North Star Lodge) until they build their own cottages in 1932 (Joseph Aldous and Harriet Forbes Aldous) and 1955 (James and Muriel Forbes with their son, Charles). The family came in large numbers, often bringing cousins, aunts, uncles, in-laws and friends. For years they stayed in the Bird Cottage, in the property later owned by Win Thompson and now by the family of his son-in-law Roger Schmeling. The Bird cottage burned (date uncertain), and they stayed in other cottages. Their last summer before the war was 1941, and the group consisted of Jim and Muriel Forbes and their sons Charles Forbes and Jim and Bob McKelvey staying in the Silverthorne Cottage (see paragraph about the Silverthorne family). Staying at Lowwood, the Aldous cottage, that summer were Joe and Harriet Aldous and his mother Blanche Aldous. Jim Forbes' and Harriet Aldous mother, Mary, was there, staying either at the lodge. Over the years they stayed in a number of cottages including the Helyer Cottage, but mostly in the Rahm Cottage, the fifth and last cottage north from the lodge. That cottage is now gone.

    Known members of the family that stayed at Oliver Lodge, in addition to those noted above: James Aldous, Elizabeth Caldwell, Alexander Forbes, Helen Forbes, James and Blanche Crowe Aldous.

    Known friends (mostly from Alton) that joined the family at Oliver Lodge at least one summer: Mary Davis [Source]; Mary Olin, wife of Franklin Oliin (founder of Olin Cororation), and her son Spencer (age 8) were at the lodge with the Forbes from August 5 through 12, 1908; Bertha Bowman and son, Monroe(1909); Mrs. and Mrs. E.M. Dorsey (1909); Virginia and Lucia Bowman (1913)

    Guests at Oliver's Lodge mentioned by Mary Forbes in her diary:

    The HELLYER and SILVERTHORNE families were among the first guests of Oliver Lodge. They were owners of the Western Feltworks in Chicago and came to Oliver Lodge because of their connection with former employee John Oliver. On their visits to the area the canoed around the neighboring lakes and fell in love with land at High Lake, which they purchased in 1919. They built cabins there, and the family compound still thrives (2020). There story is told in a little booklet written by Jaque Reed (a Silverthorne). Jaque is the wife of Frank Reed, a descendant of HENRY FAROUT, whom he indicates had also been a guest of the Oliver's Lodge. [Charles Forbes interview with Frank and Jaque Reed, and Mary Silverthorne, at High Lake, August 10, 2003] Among the cottages at Oliver's Lodge were "Hellyer" and "Silverthorne" . Whether these names came from the fact that they were used exclusively (or almost exclusively) by those families, or whether they participated in building the cottages is not known. The names were never used by the Theels at North Star Lodge, but were by the guests that remained from the Oliver era. The Hellyer Cottage was a large cottage on the hill above what was called the Three Spot (left from the lodge, first cottage on left). It burned in the early years of North Star Lodge. The Silverthorne Cottage was in the field further down that path. The Theels used it for a housekeeping cottage, and Loraine Theel retained it for personal use when she sold the lodge. [Charles Forbes personal recollections.]

    The DEAN family, Walter and Greta, of Louisville, Kentucky, came to Oliver's Lodge over the years leading up to its closing, and continued to come to North Star Lodge through the 1950s. They were joined by their children Martha and and Bill, and later Martha Ann, husband Arthur J. (A.J.) and their chilidren Susan and Walter. Bill's son, Bill, also came at least one year. Susan and her son J.J. stayed at the Lodge in the Hintz years.

    The McDONALD family came to Oliver's Lodge and later to North Star Lodge. Their son, Bernie, had built a small aluminum boat with a motor too large for it. It was only safe to operate it on a very calm day. A ride in Bernie's boat was always a fun treat for me, as the boat ran like "a bat out of Hell." The family stopped coming to North Star Lodge in the early 1950's as Mr. McDonald preferred to stay in Minocqua where he could conveniently play golf.

    Millie CROCKER was a single lady who came to the lodge, beginning in the Oliver's Lodge days and continuing at North Star Lodge. She ate at a table by herself in the dining room, but was always friendly with everyone.

    In the 1970's my wife and I moved to Baltimore and became members of Govans Presbyterian Church. There we met Jack and Mary Hodgson. In conversation Mary (I don't know her maiden name) we happened to discover a Star Lake connection, in that as a little girl, probably in the 1920's, she and her family had been guests of Oliver's Lodge for one summer.

    There were many others, and as I know their names I will add them to this list. My memory, however, is limited to those who returned after the closing during the war and were fellow guests with my family at North Star Lodge.

    Charles P. Forbes
    August 9, 2006
  • Bibliography

    Major References

    ****. Mrs. Joseph Aldous.... [Unk. newspaper, July 1928] Alton, IL, 1928. View Full Entry (Full text available)
    Aldous, Joseph. Ancestral Summers. Alton, IL, 1950. View Full Entry
    Goodspeed, Edgar. As I Remember. New York, 1953. View Full Entry
    Hotel Waldheim. Hotel Waldheim, Star Lake, Wis.. [Chicago Tribune, June 23, 1908 p. 8. "Resorts and Hotels"] Chicago, 1908. View Full Entry (Full text available)
    Mykleby, Gladys. Early History of Star Lake, Wisconsin. Star Lake, 1969. View Full Entry
    Oliver, J. W.. Hotel Waldheim Star Lake. [Chicago Tribune, June 15, 1909, p. 6. "Directory of the World's Leading Summer Resorts."] Chicago, 1909. View Full Entry
    Reed, Jaque. The Way We Were, High Lake (1919-1999). Boulder Junction, n.d.. View Full Entry

    Minor References

  • Links
  • Images
  • Miscellany

    NOTE FROM 1940

    When the Forbes family arrived, July 12, 1940, Mrs. Forbes noted in her diary that there were "only seven guests on the place."