Written by Cokato Museum Staff
Cokato Boat and Cabinet Works was started by Gordon L. Mattson in the garage of his parents, John and Levina Mattson. In the spring of 1948, Gordon moved his boat-building business to a facility on his father's property on Highway 12 in Cokato. He was soon joined by his brother, Milton Mattson, who helped Gordon construct custom made cedar strip boats in 12, 14, and 16 foot sizes.
The boats were incredibly labor intensive and time consuming, as each cedar strip needed to be steamed and bent to the proper position. In spring of 1949, the brothers contacted Great Lakes Steel about purchasing a 32 x 72 Quonset building for their business. They soon realized that there was a demand for these structures and the brothers eventually switched from building boats to these steel buildings.
The Mattsons fulfilled orders for their boats from Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa.
There were approximately 40 wooden boats made, we are only aware of three still in existence. One is in a lake-less part of North Dakota. The second, a museum patron told us he owned. The third is the one currently on display at our museum (above right photo).
Our boat was donated by Bruce Reischl, of Bruce's Outboard shop in Sauk Rapids. Reischl purchased it at an auction and restored the boat to its former glory. This was no small task considering the boat was in three parts when he bought it.