The saying of “15 minutes of fame” may have been derived from Andy Warhol, but it’s a concept that has been in our society long before it was said.
In April of 1934, the notorious gangster John Dillinger and his gang members evaded federal officers in Manitowish Waters. While this story and the characters are fairly well known, a few individuals who are not so well known were caught up in the historical event.
Edward J. Mitchell and his wife Anna Mitchell spent 20 minutes with John Dillinger and his gang members. The proprietors of Mitchell’s Resort on Rest Lake told their story to as many newspapers as possible, garnering their “15 minutes of fame.” The Mitchell’s reported that Dillinger came to their home a little before 10pm and held them at gunpoint. He and his gang members were looking for a getaway car.
“I’m Dillinger,” the man with the automatic said, “I presume you have read a lot of things about me in the papers all winter,” Mitchell told the Standard-Speaker newspaper of Hazleton, Pennsylvania. The Mitchell’s did know of Dillinger who, to them, was calm and courteous as he asked for their car. As a car was being procured from a neighbor (the Mitchell’s car had not run all winter), Dillinger took the couple outside, and as he did he grabbed a blanket to wrap Anna up in because she was ill. Dillinger and his gang eventually found a car and got away. Their story would continue on, but the Mitchell’s had their one moment in the spotlight. This one story does not do justice to a well-respected resort known throughout the region.
Evidence of the Mitchell’s Resort (also known as the Rest Lake Resort) goes as far back as 1912, where an advertisement for it shows up in the Chicago Tribune: “an ideal place to spend vacation. Fishing, boating, bathing. Hunting in season.” The resort had cabins and a main lodge for dining as an ad for a “girl for dining room work” shows up in the local paper in Hurley, Wisconsin. Edward and Anna Mitchell owned and ran their resort until 1943 after the passing of Edward.
Edward (1865-1943) was born near Ottawa, Canada. He came to Wisconsin around 1900 and was a guide on the lakes in Vilas and Iron counties. In 1911, he married Anna, and they settled on Rest Lake, where they opened their resort. Anna (1868-1951) was born in Milwaukee. In the 1900s, she worked at Deer Park Lodge, where she met and then married Edward. “From a modest beginning they developed one of the most famous resorts of the area. In the old days it was primarily a fisherman’s resort and was patronized by noted and celebrated personages,” according to the Iron County Miner newspaper. Anna was the hostess at the main dining lodge. In 1943, after the passing of Edward, she sold her resort to Mr. and Mrs. James Bart. Bernice Bart was a daughter of the Mitchells.
Advertisements in both the 1949 and 1952 Manitowish Waters Chamber booklets say this about Bart’s Rest Lake Resort: “Good beds – excellent meals, friendly atmosphere, beautiful surroundings. Opposite Manitowish Waters Airport on U.S. Highway 51 and Rest Lake… for further information write: James Bart.” James W. and Bernice Bart owned and operated the resort between 1943 and 1958. James was a World War I veteran and born in Loyal, Wisconsin.
Their son William E. Bart was a veteran of WWII (Pacific Theater) and discharged aboard the U. S. S. Hornet in 1946. He married Dorothy LaPorte in 1947.
While the Mitchell’s resort seemed to cater more to the outdoorsmen, hunters and fishermen, Bart’s was geared more toward the families in search of rest, relaxation and the comforts of home. The Bart’s put the resort up for sale in 1958 (in The Chicago Tribune). “8 modern cottages and furnishings; on Manitowish Chain and hwy. 51 on Rest Lake. Selling price from $2,000 and up with 25% down and balance as low as $20 mo. For info contact Jim Bart.”
After the ad to sell the resort, additional information on the resort is difficult to find, possibly because it was replaced with private homes. No matter what happened to the land, it will always have a place in Manitowish Waters history, remembered for that fateful night in April 1934 that will forever be a part of American cultural lore.
Other Resorts at this locations since being founded in 1912
Edward Mitchell. “Rest Lake Resort.” Manitowish Waters Chamber of Commerce, 1949
Chicago Tribune, 3 Jul 1912, p. 12.
Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, Pennsylvania), 24 Apr 1934, p. 8
Iron County News (Hurley, Wisconsin), 27 Aug 1943, p. 4.
Ironwood Daily Globe, 15 Apr 1976, p. 2.