Many who have shopped at The Homestead - at the intersection of Hwy. M and Fishtrap Road North of Boulder Junction - may not know its rich and colorful history.
The 40-acre property was originally owned by Boulder Junction resident, Bill Paquette. However, guide Harvey Begley, Bill's nephew - who came to Boulder from Arbor Vitae in 1907 and had worked along with Bill at his father, Dennis' Rabbit's Foot Resort on Boulder Lake and later at Camp McKinley, and eventually Dairyman's Country Club - desperately wanted that piece of property. Eventually, he was able to make the deal.
After Begley purchased the property in 1929, he and guide, Porter Dean - his good friend - made their home in a tent he put up on the land. Then they both fell in love with the same girl who lived on Boulder Lake.
Because of rivalry, Harvey kicked Porter out of the tent. Harvey eventually married Ellen Nelson and they moved to his homestead home on the property that he built in 1930.
Porter eventually married Aina Ohlsson, but the marriage only lasted six months. She went on to marry Ray Morawetz.
In 1928-29, Begley had built a garage on the property (today the entrance room of The Homestead). He and his wife lived in it until he completed their homestead cabin. After Porter's marriage failed, he welcomed him back to the property, and allowed him to make his home in the garage. Porter picked potatoes and cut wood and ice to pay for his rent.
Meanwhile, the Hegeman family was living in Milwaukee, where Wally was a carpenter. They vacationed in the Northwoods and loved the area. They eventually had a summer cottage on Lake Rosalind in Presque Isle.
They then decided they would like to live in the area permanently and began looking for a business. They found the Nick Nack Niche (today Skids) on Hwy. M in Boulder; and in 1975 the family - Wally; his wife, Sally; and their four children Molly, Barbara, Holly and Tim - made their move to Boulder Junction.
Even though gas prices and interest rates were high at that time, they did a good business selling gift items - and Wally built furniture and sold it out of the garage.
"I loved the Nick Nack Niche, said Molly Hegeman, who runs The Homestead today with the help of her mother. "It was my favorite store before my parents bought it. I spent every free moment there, and by the time I was 11, my parents left me in charge when they had to be away."
Hegemans kept the shop for 10 years, but then built and opened the Log Work Shop on M before they sold the Nick Nack Niche in 1986. Now Wally had a place to make his furniture.
Molly had always been artistic. She pursued her talent at Nicolet, and earned a double degree in liberal arts and business.
"I lived on campus and loved it. I was serving as editor of the college newspaper when we won a Class A rating from Columbia University. It was the first such rating bestowed on a non-university newspaper.
"But the best part of attending Nicolet was studying art under Bob Kanyusik. Bob had designed and built the Vietnam war memorial in Neilsville.
"Today, I am a post impressionist painter using a full range of media and also do carvings."
After opening the Log Work Shop, Molly, who had always wanted a shop of her own, took over one half of the building to sell folk art and decorative pieces - both hers and other artists. But, she was also looking for a location to open her own shop. It was then she found Begley's property.
At that time it was owned by Dr. Gorectke.
"I was able to work out a deal with him," Molly continued, "and purchased the property. When I bought it, I connected the garage and a pole building that was adjacent to it on the property; and that eventually became my shop - The Homestead. I named it The Homestead in honor of Harvey Begley and the pioneers who had the spirit to tame this rugged land.
"I opened The Homestead on July 4, 1988. The night before I opened, I just laid on the floor and cried because I had so little stock to sell."
That is not the story today. There are hundreds of items in her shop.
"I represent the work of more than 60 artisans, buying more than half of it outright and taking the rest on consignment. I handle Ojibwe crafts, including Smithsonian carving artists Little John Cross, John Snow and Ross Allen, Jr.; plus Brooks Big John, the Pouparts, the Philemons, some of Allen's relatives and many others. My youngest Ojibwe carver is 'Timber' Petersen - he gave himself that nickname."
In 1993 Molly met Scott who became her significant other, and together they worked in the shop, delved into the history of the area, and expanded the number of items offered to their customers.
Her mother, Sally, has always worked with her in The Homestead, and her father contributed by making cabinets and boxes, which Sally then decorated with her paintings of birds and animals.
Having Scott and my mother in the shop, gave me more time to paint and carve. I have a full workshop for my carvings, but like to do them out-of-doors."
Molly travels to Lake Superior each year and pulls cedar from the bottom of the lake to use in some of her carvings.
"Totem poles are very popular right now and I get orders for them every day. I carve them in cedar and on posts for those that will be put outside, and use the slab wood pine from Lake Superior for those that will be used inside or on porches.
"I have carved pieces for the raffle at the HYMC Auxiliary Bazaar that is held each year. This year I will carve St. Francis of Assissi.
"I also paint, and love to do the muskie. I think my style was enhanced during my 15 years with Scott and being exposed to folk art and fish decoys."
The historian part of Molly also has a project. She is collecting the signs of early businesses and resorts in the area and attaching them to one side of her building, creating a wall museum of sorts.
"In addition to old signs, I am always looking for old photos to archive. We have such a rich history in this area and it should be preserved.
"I think the best part of having the shop is the opportunity of meeting so many wonderful people.
"I try to make the place comfortable for kids. I have a pop stand in the summer, with proceeds going to the Boulder Food Pantry. There are lots of bird feeder around so they can watch the birds. I also have Blue Grass music playing. It's fun to watch the kids having a good time and waving at the cars as they drive by.
"I am doing exactly what I like to do and consider the whole Town of Boulder Junction my family. They have always been so good to me."
Sadly, Molly lost Scott last year, and she didn't know if she would ever recover.
"I am slowly getting back to normal after losing Scott - but my life has for-ever changed."
There was a time after his death when she even considered closing The Homestead. "But when I realized how many people depended on me to sell their crafts, I knew I couldn't do that. It has now become almost comforting to work in a place that Scott and I shared for so many years."
The Homestead is open weekends through May, and after that the summer hours will be on the answering machine - 715-385-2428.
If you haven't been there, drop by and see a "piece of Boulder Junction history."
Joyce Laabs can be reached at
Posted: Monday, May 4, 2009
Article comment by:
Hi, It was good to read your article on the Homestead. It has been some time since I have been in back to Boulder and to find the home I grew up in has become a historical landmark. What a great job Molly has done in creating such an attractive and most interesting business.
A couple of things you might like to know. My Mother's maiden name was Mattson, not Nelson. My Grandmother's sister Margaret was married to Swan Nelson so that could have been part of the confusion.
My mother worked at Camp McKinley for Ralph and Clara Oxley. Dad worked atthe the Dariymens Country Club at the time and that is where they met.
Boulder Jct. is a small town. So my wife Sue's parents Dick and Helen Strock built the Nick Nack Niche and operated it for several years. So Sue has fond memories of growing up in the "Niche". So Molly and her Mom have ties to both the "Niche" and the Homestead and so do we.
While the love triangle made for good reading,the Harvey and Porter saga goes like this. The cabin was built prior to the garage. Porter lost favor with Dad when Dad came home from Dariymens to find Porter did not cut the firewood for the heat, but was mearly feeding the logs into the open door of the stove. Later in the fall Dad needed some help roofing the garage because it was November. Porter said he needed to take a day to go to Sayner to visit his mother. He came back in April, and Dad says "hows your mother" but didn't let him stay there anymore. We have enjoyed the memory jogging accounts of the early days in Boulder Junction.