Who the Heck Was Judge C.R. Magney?
Judge C.R. Magney State Park near Grand Marais is best known for its waterfall anomaly, the devil’s kettle. Established in 1957, the Brule River State Park grew to eventually encompass 4,500 acres along Lake Superior. In 1963, the name of the park was changed to Judge C.R. Magney State Park. So, who the heck was Judge C.R. Magney?
Clarence R. Magney was born on January 11, 1883 and spent his childhood in the St. Croix River Valley. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Magney secured a job at the law firm of Jenswold & Jenswold in Duluth. His first legal case took him by boat to Grand Marais, sparking his love for the natural beauty of the north shore.
Magney was elected Mayor of Duluth in 1917 and served as his own park commissioner. He expanded the city’s park system by nearly 1,500 acres by acquiring land for Memorial, Upper Chester, Enger, and Magney Parks. Magney was also instrumental in doubling the size of Jay Cooke State Park in Carlton. After leaving the mayor’s office in 1920, Magney served as a District Court Judge and then was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1943.
After ten years as a state Supreme Court justice, Magney retired and devoted his time to conserving the natural beauty of the north shore. He used his influence to advocate and pave the way for establishing 11 state parks and waysides along Lake Superior. He was known for securing land to be set aside for the state, preparing plans and financial reports to be presented to the Legislature, and passionately advocating for Minnesota’s public lands.
In 1954, Magney created the Minnesota Council of State Parks (now the Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota), a statewide citizen advisory board for state parks. He served as the first chairman. His last project was securing approval to establish Devil’s Track River State Park in 1961. While he wasn’t successful in obtaining state park status, it was established as a state wayside. After the bill was passed, Magney told friends that his work was complete now that all of his waterfalls were safe. He died in 1962.
More than 20,000 acres of state park land--nearly one-sixth of Minnesota's park system--can be attributed to the hard work of Magney. For that, the name of the Brule River State Park was changed to Judge C.R. Magney State Park in 1963.
Morgan, Samuel H. “A Story of Dedication”. 1962
Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota