MELBY, Minn. — At noon Saturday in the small town of Melby, a big piece of our region's duck hunting history will be on the auction block, in what some are calling the end of a romantic era.
Lake Christina, near Ashby in Grant County, has long been known across America as the "Midwest Duck Factory," where canvasback ducks who loved the plant life offered in the lake flock to feed.
Movie stars, along with railroad and land barons, baseball stars and the Mayo brothers all came to hunt on the lake over the years.
On Saturday, Sept. 21 — the Minnesota duck season opener — an auction marks the final chapter for some classic state hunting lore.
"It is bittersweet that I sold it. I will miss it," said Brad Gruss, who just sold what has long been known as Millionaire's Point, a spit of land jutting out into Lake Christina that since 1919 has hosted the rich and famous who came to hunt the canvasbacks.
On Lake Christina near Ashby, you can still hear the stories from 100 years ago echo across the water starting at the point. It was here where the powerful, rich and famous from across America would travel with an entourage by rail to hunt canvasback ducks.
"People who owned the railroads would come up in train cars from Chicago and Minneapolis and come and hunt at Lake Christina and stay at the Kittson Hotel," Gruss explained. "James Hill, he brought his own train car up to bring guys hunting."
Saturday's auction in Melby features a duck boat owned by Shreve Archer of Archer Daniels Midland, as well as guns, prints and old advertising that hung in the century-old lodge that housed the hunters.
John House, Minnesota's five-time Department of Natural Resources stamp artist, marvels at the romance of the last century, where hunters would gather at Millionaire's Point and other duck camps on Christina for their annual ritual.
"It was the glory days, no doubt about it," he said. "I think it was great — very romantic ... they just wanted what we want: Good hunting."
That auction starts Saturday at noon across the street from the Melby Outpost. Directions and a list of items available can be found on the Aasness Auctioneers website.