The “Pine Tree Bachelors” came to town. It was the year 1891. Charles A. Weyerhaeuser and Richard “Drew” Musser, ages 25 and 26 respectively, would soon become managers of the Pine Tree Lumber Company. Their fathers, Frederick Weyerhaeuser and Peter Musser, along with seven other lumbermen, had organized the company in 1890.
Charles and Drew were good friends who shared rooms at the Antlers Hotel and above the Pine Tree offices. Managing such a large enterprise was an awesome responsibility for the young men, but it did not deter them from pursuing a social life. Newspaper articles mention parties hosted by the bachelors at the Antlers. None of the local ladies, however, found permanent romance with either of them, though there was much speculation in 1894 when Charles and Drew were “buying large quantities of fine furniture.”
Charles’ interest in a young lady from Duluth began to conjure thoughts of hearth and home. He made plans for a home overlooking the Mississippi River in Little Falls. Frances Maud Moon became his bride on December 14, 1898, in Duluth. It was described as “an affair of great simplicity”, performed in the parlor of the bride’s father’s home. After a short honeymoon they moved into the luxurious new home on Highland Avenue.
Drew Musser, who was not at the time intending marriage, arranged for an equally fine home to be erected within feet of the Weyerhaeuser house. The two friends had purchased land together and hired architect C. H. Johnston, an associate of Cass Gilbert, to design the houses. Little Falls contractor A. D. Harrison erected the homes. Drew, while on business trips to Cloquet, met a lovely young woman from Glens Falls, New York, who was staying with her sister, Mrs. Huntington Taylor. On June 3, 1903, Richard Drew Musser and Sarah Walker were untied in marriage at the Taylor home. It, too, was a quiet home wedding. Drew and Sarah took up residence in his commodious white house.
The two beautiful brides were accepted immediately into Little Falls’ society, and they, in turn, became leaders in the cultural community. The houses and artistically landscaped grounds were the center of activity. Weddings, showers, card clubs, musical entertainment and community events were frequent. Several community children were tutored there, and Charles and Drew entertained dignitaries and business associates. They also began to raise their families; the Weyerhaeusers, son Carl and daughter Sarah Maud, the Mussers, daughters Laura Jane, Mary and Alice. The Musser’s son, Peter, died shortly after birth.
In 1911 Maud Moon Weyerhaeuser and Sarah Walker Musser were among a group of women who organized the Musical Art Club. Mrs. Musser served as president in 1914 and 1915. Mrs. Weyerhaeuser, executive board member and program chair, brought highly acclaimed classical performers to Little Falls. Mrs. Weyerhaeuser, a soprano, was also a frequent performer, as was Laura McColm, sister of R. D. Musser. In 1919 Mrs. Weyerhaeuser donated to the community a new hall for the Musical Art Club and furnished it with a grand piano. It was named the Maud Moon Weyerhaeuser hall (now KLTF offices).
The following year, when the Pine Tree Mill closed, Charles and Maud moved from Little Falls. A luncheon for Mrs. Weyerhaeuser was given by the Musical Art Club, paying tribute to her generosity to the club and the community. Drew and Sarah Musser remained and retain the entire estate, which became known as Linden Hill.
The Musser home was the setting, in 1921, for the marriage of their daughter, Alice Drew, to Dr. Edward C. Davidson. In 1930 the Musser house was remodeled with major additions, including a large music room. The pipe organ was dedicated January 19, 1931, with a reception held in the new downstairs recreation room. In 1939 the wedding of Mary Musser was described. “In a beautiful setting of pines, cream chrysanthemums and cathedral candles in the spacious music room at the home of Mr. & Mrs. R. D. Musser Saturday evening their daughter Miss Mary became the bride of Roger Eugene King.” Musser’s daughter Laura Jane participated as flower girl at Alice’s wedding and as a bridesmaid at Mary’s. Laura Jane sought a career in music, graduated from Julliard and worked in New York.
Sarah Walker Musser died in 1953. Prior to the death of Mr. Musser in 1958, Laura Jane returned to Little Falls and took up residence in the Weyerhaeuser house. Laura Jane carried on the tradition of the Weyerhaeusers and Mussers. She continued to bring classical performers, such as pianist Van Cliburn and opera star Marion Anderson, to Little Falls. She became immersed in community affairs, government and historic preservation. She carried the message of Little Falls throughout the world.
Laura Jane Musser died November 12, 1989, at the age of 73. The houses on Linden Hill sit quietly now except for a few events held in the Musser music room. The remaining furnishings are reminders of past activity and the prominent role these two houses have played. Tom Austin now conscientiously watches over the houses and grounds as have caretakers before him. He wonders what activity awaits this magnificent site in the future. It is now up to the Musser Trust and to the citizens to carry on the legacy that has been left by the prominent Weyerhaeuser and Musser families.
by Jan Warner
Copyright 1993, Morrison County Historical Society