A brief history
Various Native American tribes first inhabited the area known as Wisconsin. The Chippewa (a.k.a. Ojibwe), Menominee, Oneida, Potawatomi and Winnebago tribes lived in the area until the late 1800's at that point many of the tribe move away or were relocated.
Little Sissabagama and the surrounding area was home to various Native American tribes over the years. The abundant wildlife and dense giant white pine forests made the area both an attractive place for Native Americans to live and flourish. Trappers and French explores traded goods for furs with the Native Americans during the centuries when no roads existed and travel was exclusively by water. Sissabagama is a Native term roughly translated as "lake of many bays."
The Logging Era
It is believed that a survey from 1813 indicates a camp was located on Big Island (Frank Stout Wilderness Preserve). The area remained a wilderness with only footpaths and few inhabitants until around 1880 when the U.S. Government and Wisconsin Government began granting land to companies like the Wisconsin Railroad Farm Mortgage Company for development. This land was later sold around the late 1800's to logging companies such as Rice Lake Logging and Stout Lumber and still later sold to smaller independent loggers that took the downfall timber. The next to own the land were the immigrant farmers who often failed and left. The mineral rights for much of the land around the lake was sold and gifted to Cornell University, which still holds title to it.
Logging ended by 1910 when it was said, "no trees stood between Little Siss and Stone Lake or Birchwood". Canals were cut between each of the area lakes to Rice Lake to float the giant pines to the mills. The canals can still be seen near Blueberry Bay on the northeast end of Little Siss along with earthen dams, also visible by Slim Lake.
The Boxing Camp Era
During the early 1930s, boxer Jimmy Braddock trained at the Ogren boxing camp located on the north end of the lake. Braddock was immortalized in the film, "Cinderella Man." Many of the building that were part of the camp have been renovated and still exist to this day. Historical images used with permission from the Stone Lake Historical Society. stonelakeareahistoricalsociety.com
Somewhere around 1905 the islands known as Isle of Pines and Big Island hosted fisherman and rugged outdoorsmen camps and buildings. These men were "looking for sport fishing and hunting". Later one these fishing camps became a permanent fixture.
The Isle of Pines did not become a true destination for vacationing outdoorsmen and families until the I920's. The railroad connected to Chicago and it became all the rage to travel to the wilderness and go fishing and stay at a resort. The lake had several resorts by the late 20's and early 30's. These resorts were both public and private. The best know of the resorts were Gerlach Island (now known as Isle of Pines) and Karl Ogren's Boxing Camp (now known as Black Eagle Lodge and Boulder Lodge).
In 1992 Frank Stout, heir to the Stout lumber fortune, turned over the deed to Big Island to the lake association for the purpose of establishing a nature preserve. His grandfather gave Frank the island when he was born. The island at that time was called Moonbeam Island. After Frank's death, the island was renamed Frank Stout Wilderness Preserve in his memory. Frank Frazer and Jim Kissinger are thanked for actively pursing the actions that allowed the association to become an owner of this remarkable island.
Hiking the islands
The lake offers a couple of islands that are excellent for roaming and hiking. The Frank Stout Wilderness Preserve offers nearly 30 acres of old growth forest and some unique flora. Fires are not permitted on the Preserve (Big Island) and are discouraged on the state owned island.