Minnesota’s ‘Root Beer Lady’ Was Once Named the Loneliest Woman in America, But She Was Far From It
You might know about Dorothy’s Isle of Pines Root Beer. It's got a sketch of an older lady as the logo. But do you know the story behind that root beer?
Dorothy Molter is known as Minnesota's 'root beer lady'. She lived in a cabin in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area all alone on an island called the Isle of Pines. She lived there from 1934 to 1986, according to Atlas Obscura. She had no electricity, phone, internet, running water, nothing. She would get ice in the winter to keep food during the summer and the way she communicated with others was via mail, telegraph, or word-of-mouth.
Dorothy was trained as a nurse and when she first started living in the BWCA she became a first responder to canoers who would get injured on their journey. She also liked to hand out cold beverages to travelers. She got the beverages from planes that would fly to her and drop of the beverages. But then flights to her island stopped in 1952.
Then, as Atlas Obscura writes, "the Wilderness Act of 1964 mandated that residences, buildings, and businesses [in the BWCA] had to be removed from the area." Dorothy ignored the orders to move and eventually because she had so much support from the public, she was allowed to keep living there as a “volunteer-in-service". This made Dorothy the last resident of the BWCA.
So now Dorothy is the only person living on millions of acres of land and is no longer receiving delivery of beverages to give to travelers, so she decided to make her own. That's how Dorothy's famous root beer came to be. She got flavoring syrup and would make the root beer with the lake water. People LOVED it!
But even though all of these travelers loved to stop by and get some of Dorothy's delicious root beer, a post written by Saturday Evening Post named her the 'loneliest woman in America.' But I think most people would agree that she wasn't lonely at all. Atlas Obscura writes that "as many as 7,000 thirsty and curious canoeists" stopped by each summer.
After Dorothy died at her cabin in 1986 a group who was inspired by her called "Dorothy's Angels" were able to get her 4 cabins moved to a spot in Ely and create a museum in Dorothy's honor.
You can visit the Dorothy Molter Museum, learn more about her and her way of life, and of course try her delicious root beer. I can confirm that it's delicious, I've had some before.