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A Duck Lake Treatise

A Duck Lake Treatise

Written by Helen Karesek whose family lived at 16930 Duck Lake Trail at least since 1872. Source: Eden Prairie Historical Society.

Kutcher Family

I am sure that anyone familiar with Eden Prairie is also very familiar with Duck Lake. 63 years ago when I was an Eden Prairie High School student, living as one had since birth on the north shore of Duck Lake, this was not so and no one knew where it was. That was back in the days when you not only had to explain where Duck Lake was, but what and where Eden Prairie was. I remember well sitting at the basketball games we played with Hopkins, defending, as only an energetic teenager with stubborn pride would be able to do, the right for a place as small as Eden Prairie to exist. But this is not the beginning of my knowledge of the Duck Lake area as I know it from personal, pictorial, and recorded history.

On maps of this area made in the 19th century;. Duck Lake is shown as an unnamed “Dry Lake”.  These maps were what helped get me the raspberry when I tried to defend it as the lake I knew it to be.

Because my much older brother Rudy, who before me was also a camera bug, I have a photographic record of Duck Lake dating from 1914, the year before I was born.   As stated before, it had been shown on maps as a “Dry Lake”. but the 1914 pictures that I have, show it to be a beautiful little lake. My brothers Bill and Rudy Kutcher swam in it and I waded the shores.

As a child I spent many hours on the lake in the flat bottom boat built by my father Jim Kutcher. Adolph Miner owned the south shore, what is now Prairies Shores. Ruby Miner and I were best friends and the land next to the lake being unfenced pasture, I would row over and help her herd cows. Or we would pick armfuls of water lilies which were plentiful in our beautiful “unknown” lake.

During these years of my personal knowledge of Duck Lake I also walked to one of Eden Prairie’s three one room schools (Jarret School) I walked Duck Lake Road (now called Duck Lake Trail) to (The Corner) which was where a mostly unused and unnamed road ran north and south. (This road is now called Duck Lake Road, only because one of the early city fathers turned the map upside down and read it wrong during the naming process. The 1855 deed and other old records show this to be true.) At this corner I turned left and walked down the now named Duck Lake Road, where in the spring a boat was moored in the exact spot where a house now stands (Stan Riegert’s house) in what is now called Padon Downs.

Later in the season, if it turned out to be a dry one, marsh hay grew here and was cut by Ed. Jerabec, the owner of this “meandering land” and stored in a hayshed, which stood on the only high spot a few yards down the unnamed road.

Starting about 1927 the long period of drought set in. At this time, the lake started to recede and everyone was very concerned.  Because of the lack of rain, we no longer had the rain water that my mother used for washing clothes. So my father began hauling water from the lake. Grace Stodola complained, saying the we were adding to the drying process of the lake. The drying process continued. The shores became weedy. The water lilies disappeared and we were no longer able to reach the little water that remained in the middle. Finally in 1937 there was not a drop of water left and it reverted to the dry lake of the 19th century. Parts of the lakebed were fenced and farmed with various crops.

It was during this time that the part of the lake now known as Padon Downs became a completely dry piece of land and was tilled and farmed by Ed Jerabec. As the years passed, the lake shore owners (Kutcher, Bartush, Mliner and Seck) learned to take in stride the weeds, cattails and the unpleasant smells of a stagnant marsh. After a couple of years my father was persuaded to sell his boat to Ed Empanger who laughed at my father’s doubts about selling it, because he felt that if we just had a couple of rainy years the lake would come back. After all, both my dad and Adolph Miner said it had been dry back in the early 1800’s and came back so it could do the same thing again. In the intervening years we did have several winters of heavy snows and heavy spring rains and slowly but surely the lake did start to come back. It took many years and during the early 40’s there was water in the middle, but the outside remained weedy and stagnant. Had it been a period of home building the land anywhere within sight or smell would have been valueless. During these years of the slow return of the water to Duck Lake, the home building boom began to hit Eden Prairie. There were no building codes or inspections. A building permit was issued to anyone with the S5.00 to pay it. This does not mean that there were not misgivings about the building of homes in the Padon Downs marshland by several people old enough to know of the existing condition. It was suggested that it be used as park land instead. This angered the builders, who said that it was being opposed only because neighbors didn’t want low cost homes so close. The powers that be decided to drop the matter and let them build. After all, if they were determined to build in a lake, who would they hurt but themselves? Of course the records will show that when the basements began filling with water, they brought suits against the City of Eden Prairie.

 James Kutcher 1917

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