It was a Swedish, not Norwegian, immigrant who settled Lutsen, Cook County’s third permanent settlement (only Grand Portage and Grand Marais preceded it). Carl Axel “Charlie” Nelson (born in Norkoping, Ostergotland, Sweden, in 1863) came to the United States when he was eighteen, eventually finding work in Duluth on the fishing tug Evaston. After toying with the idea of working with Alfred Merritt on the Arrowhead’s iron range, he contracted with the A. Booth Company to set up a fishery, which he established near the Poplar River.
The Poplar River—at whose mouth was found the Charlie Nelson’s homestead—takes its Anglicized name directly from the Ojibwe name, Gamanazadikizibi or “Place-of-Poplars River.” The Poplar is perhaps best known as the site of Nelson’s Lutsen Resort, which he first called “Lutzen House” when he began hosting hunters, anglers, and occasionally those who suffered from hay fever or tuberculosis starting around 1900. Today the area includes the resort’s Swedish lodge (designed by Edwin Lundie in 1952), Lutsen Mountain ski hill (opened in 1948), and a golf course laid out along the Poplar’s banks.