A Record of Settlement, Organization,
Progress and Achievement
Volume 1
Chicago, Illinois
The Pioneer Publishing Company



The first schools in Dickinson County were opened at Spirit Lake, Okoboji, Center Grove and Tusculum. Dr. J. S. Prescott established a private school soon after his arrival in this county in 1858. In his house one room was used for school purposes and Miss Amanda L. Smith was employed to teach the pupils, most of whom were from Prescott's family and a few others. However, the first real public school was taught at Okoboji in the winter of 1862-3 by Myra Smith.

J. S. Prescott was a visionary person ‐ a man with good intentions, but inability of execution. He was one of the founders of a college at Appleton, Wisconsin, also at Point Bluff, Wisconsin. He heard of the country around the lakes in northwestern Iowa and conceived the idea of founding another institution of learning here, one which would follow the lines of the one at Appleton. In order to further this undertaking he persuaded various men of means in Wisconsin and Ohio to advance funds to him. He planned to select a site well located, lay out a town site, and then hold the most desirable pieces of land for the institution of learning and as an endowment. He selected what was later known as Tusculum Grove, on the east side of East Okoboji Lake, bought Thatcher's claim and also that of Mr. Howe. He laid out the town per arrangement and named it Tusculum. The seat of learning, however, did not materialize, for many reasons which are stated in an earlier chapter. Doctor Prescott did not win for himself an enviable reputation by his "land-grabbing" tactics and finally disposed of his Tusculum claims for a mere song. Pres‐


cott was given the title of "doctor" because, he was educated for that profession, but later turned to the ministry and preached in Dickinson County. He was unique, well educated and well meaning, but simply lacked the necessary quality to insure success. His private school taught by. Miss Amanda Smith, later Mrs. A. L. Buckland, was abandoned after a year and a half.

Smith's History of Dickinson County states: "It may seem strange to some that this county did not have public funds as early as the adjoining counties of Clay and O'Brien. The reason is this: In Clay and O'Brien Counties the greater part of their land had been proclaimed for sale previous to the panic of 1857 and was entered up by Speculators and non-residents, and was held by them at the time of the first settlement of the counties, and of course one of the first duties of the patriotic settler was to see that the non-resident iand shark paid his proper proportion of taxes, and especially of school, road and bridge taxes. His second duty was to see that the proceeds arising from these taxes were properly expended.

"The late Judge A. W. Hubbard of Sioux City used to tell a story of his own experience that illustrates the point better than any amount of explanation would. He owned quite a tract of wild land in one of the counties between here and Sioux City, and he said that he always noticed from his tax receipts that he was all of the time paying a good round school tax. Having business in that vicinity at one time, he thought he would drive out and see his land and see what sort of a neighborhood it was in. Accordingly he employed a man who knew the country to drive out with him and made the trip, and found somewhat to his surprise that there was but one man living in the school district in which his land was located. He found a commodious, well furnished schoolhouse, with all of the fixtures and appurtenances for maintaining a first class school, while the lone settler and the hired man were the full board of directors. His aries.[sic] His wife was also teacher and his children were the only ones wife was treasurer and his oldest daughter secretary, both on good sal‐ of school age for miles around.

"The judge took in the situation at a glance and was highly amused by it, and driving up to the settler's log cabin, entered into conversation with him. After talking awhile about the country and the prospects of its settlement and growth, the judge made some inquiries regarding their school and finally remarked that he could not see why it would not be a good idea for the settler to move right into the schoolhouse and live there. His cabin was small and uncomfortable, while the school house was large and commodious, and then as there were no other children, there would be no one to complain. The settler answered that he had been thinking a great deal about it of late, and he believed he would. And sure enough


when winter came on it found the family comfortably fixed in the new schoolhouse, while the 'teachers' fund' and the 'contingent fund' contributed liberally to their support."


The first school in Spirit Lake was a private school, taught by Miss Mary Howe, who was paid for her services by the parents of her pupils. The first school here maintained by a public school fund was taught by Rev. William Leggett, a preacher, in the winter of 1863-4. Any room available was used for holding classes, no schoolhouse being built until 1866.

In an article in a local paper G. E. Schuneman wrote of the first school in Spirit Lake: "In the summer of 1861 Mary Howe taught school in her father's attic, above the living rooms, the chimney passing through the middle of the room, and the cooking being done in the rooms below. The house stood on the site of Ed Carleton's present home. Miss Howe could stand upright only in the center of the room. The heat was intolerable. The following winter, after the Indians had ceased to trouble, an elderly Congregational minister, named Leggett, kept school in a log house near the east end of the lot where William Stapleton lives. Miss Lockwood taught the next winter in my Uncle Henry's house, and Miss Lawton began the next term in the Orson Rice house, then removing to the Johnston home on the McMahon place, the old school room being in the back part and a store in the front. Mr. Andrew Smith next taught a term on the east shore of East Okoboji. Then I rode horseback to the little log hut near the poorhouse. After that the courthouse was used and the first teacher was Horace Bennett."

It has already been stated how the school authorities utilized the upper story of the first courthouse, paying the rent by buying and installing the seats and other equipment. Miss Myra Smith taught the first term here, in the summer of 1866.

After the courthouse had been destroyed by fire, entailing the loss of all the school furniture, a building was erected south of the Crandall House, the upper story used for a Masonic lodge room and the lower for school purposes. This was used until the school grew to such an extent that both rooms were necessary, and then the whole structure was moved to the present location of the consolidated school building, the ground which had been donated by Henry Barkman. W. F. Pillsbury was the first teacher in this schoolhouse. The last ones in this building were H. I. Wasson and Mrs. Albert Arthur, the former for the advanced grades and the latter for the primary. In 1882 it was torn down and a new building erected, which was more adequately suited to the needs of


the community and which was quite a pretentious structure for the time. This school served until 1914, when the present consolidated building was erected.


At least one authority says that the first real schoolhouse in the county, that is, built and used for that purpose and none other, was the log schoolhouse at Center Grove. In the spring and summer of 1863 Philip Doughty, Ludwig Lewis, Samuel Rogers, C. H. Evans, M. J. Smith and W. B. Brown began a movement to erect this school, to provide educational facilities for the many youngsters in the vicinity. Private donations were secured, some of them in the form of building materials. A "house raising" was held after all the logs, shingles, etc., had been hauled to the site and in a short time the structure was complete. The shack, as it really was, was about seven feet in height, fourteen feet wide and twenty feet long. Boards fastened around the wall served as desks and the seats were rude benches fashioned out of rough logs. After a few years' service this "furniture" was removed and good equipment installed. The building was located in the extreme southwestern corner of Center Grove. Myra Smith taught the first classes here in the winter of 1863-4. The first summer school was taught by Julia Bennett. Some of the other early pedagogues here were: Ardella and Arietta Waugh, G. Fairchild, C. H. Rogers, A. C. Justice and George Hilbert. The latter was the last in the log building, the school being demolished in the winter of 1874-5.

The Center Grove district is notable as having been the only district organized under the law of 1872, authorizing rural independent districts. The law was repealed at the next session of the Legislature. A new school building was erected after the log one was torn down and in this A. C. Justice was the first teacher.


The honor of being the first school in the county has been accorded to that held in the Harvey Luce cabin at Okoboji and taught by Miss Myra Smith. In the summer of 1864 a class was held in J. S. Prescoot's barn, a new structure of frame, which was also used for church meetings. Miss Syrena Pillsbury taught here during the following winter. Prescott had a frame building, sixteen by twenty, and this he donated to the district with the understanding that they would move it to a suitable site and furnish it as a school. A band of the settlers got together and moved the building part of the way, an accident stopping them. Before they could again undertake the task Prescott's home was burned a


he himself utilized the intended school building as a residence. In the summer of 1865 subscriptions were taken for a new building. The plan was successful and a lumber structure, twenty by thirty, was put up. The walls were bricked up. The first school, according to several authorities, was taught here by Syrena Pillsbury, followed by Mrs. A. L. Buckland, W. F. Pillsbury and Anna Fairchild.


The first school in the Tusculum district was held in the old Thatcher cabin and was taught by Miss Theresa Ridley of Estherville. Christopher Rasmussen, Burgess Jones, Miss Nellie Arthur were other early teachers. In 1870 the cabin was abandoned and a modem school, for the time, erected.

Beginning with the year 1870 the county began to grow in population; emigration became larger; and in conformity with this increase new and more schools were needed in the new communities.


At Lakeville the settlers erected a schoolhouse in 1869, which at the time was the largest and best furnished of any school in the county. Mrs. Esther Carleton taught first here.

The first school in Milford was taught by Miss Helen Lawton of Emmet County in the summer of 1872. Her immediate successors were: Miss Emma Gillett, Mrs. A. L. Buckland, Mrs. H. C. Crary and R. B. Nicol. After the removal to the new town the independent school district of Milford was formed of territory from both Milford and Okoboji Townships and a schoolhouse from each was moved into town. These were used until 1888, when they were sold and a modern building erected. In 1891 this structure was destroyed by fire, but was immediately replaced by a similar building.

The first school in Silver Lake Township was taught by Louise Middleton of Lakeville and was held in the house of C. B. Knox. The second term was held in the house of John Dingwall. After the town was set off from Lakeville the first thing done was to erect a school building. It was constructed in 1873 opposite the northeast corner of the lake and was known as the Knox School. In 1874 another building was put up at the southwest corner of the lake and became known as the Dingwall School. R. B. Nicol taught the first term in each of these schools, the winter of 1873-4 in the Knox School and in the Dingwall School the following winter. After a time the township adopted the plan of having alternate terms in each of the two houses, a plan which was more suc‐


cessful than dividing the attendance between the two places. In 1884 a new two-room building was erected in Lake Park.

Probably the first schoolhouse in Superior was built in 1886. The first term of school in Terrill was taught by E. E. Heldridge soon after the opening of the town. Lloyd Township has the distinction of having been the first township in the county to adopt the township school system. This was done in the spring of 1901 and a modern schoolhouse erected the summer of the same year.


The Dickinson County Teachers' Association was organized in November, 1873, the same time of the first institute meeting in the county. This first institute was held and conducted by Prof. James L. Enos of Cedar Rapids. Mrs. A. L. Buckland was the first president of the institute and R. B. Nicol the first secretary. Meetings were at first held quarterly. This institute remained in force for about eight years.


Some discussion is presented in the educational chapter dealing with Emmet County on the subject of consolidated schools, a repetition of which in this chapter is unnecessary.

Practically the first district in Dickinson County adopting the features of the consolidated system was that of Terrill, which had a centralized system of education as early as 1901.

On August 19, 1913, an election was held which resulted in the consolidation of the town of Superior with eight sections of Superior Township and sixteen sections of Richland Township. On January 17, 1914, the consolidated independent district of Superior voted bonds to the sum of $30,000 for a site and new building.

On December 24, 1913, the Lloyd Township centralized school reorganized under the state law and on June 12, 1914, voted $50,000 worth of bonds for a new school building, also the site.

On February 16, 1914, Spirit Lake and Arnold's Park each consolidated with surrounding territory comprising the entire township of Center Grove and some adjacent territory. In these two new consolidated districts the entire former districts of Center Grove Township, Center Grove Independent and Crescent Independent were included, also some territory of Spirit Lake Township.

On April 22, 1914, the consolidated independent district of Spirit Lake voted bonds for the sum of $90,000, for the construction of the present school building. The old school was demolished and the new one erected on the same site.


In April, 1914, Superior Township voted to consolidate five sub-districts and on June 18, 1914, voted bonds for $17,000 for a building and site.

On April 27, 1915, the school township of Okoboji voted to consolidate and on the 15th of July voted bonds for $22,000 for a building and site.




The Spirit Lake Beacon was the first newspaper established in Dickinson County. The first number of the paper was issued on September 6, 1870, the writing and editing being done at Spirit Lake and the printing at Estherville. In the issue of December 9, 1875, the following account was written by J. A. Smith, one of the early editors:

"Five years ago the people of Spirit Lake and Dickinson County made up their minds that a newspaper was necessary to promote their interests. The county then contained about twelve hundred inhabitants. Spirit Lake boasted of a dozen buildings and Milford had just been platted. Not a very promising field truly, but the project was discussed pro and con and finally decided in the affirmative. The question then arose as to who would stand sponsor for the literary fledgling. The responsibility was a grave one. It entailed much labor without remuneration and the chances were about nine in ten that the publisher would sink his money.

"Finally Messrs. Orson Rice and R. L. Wilcox agreed to make the venture, Mr. Rice to attend to the financial arrangements and Mr. Wilcox to do the editorial work. Another important problem was the choosing of a name for the embryo journal. This took some hard thought and was for several days the subject of grave deliberation in the Crandall House bar-room, George Bellows' boot and shoe shop and Roscoe Brown's saloon, which were the three principal places of public resort. It was the general feeling that there is everything in a name, and common titles, such as Gazette, Times, Journal, Reporter, etc., were unanimously and indignantly rejected. Who was the first to suggest the 'Beacon' cannot be satisfactorily determined, for at least half a dozen different persons claim the honor. However, the name 'took' as being remarkably appropriate. Why it is so appropriate we cannot explain better than to give the language of an enthusiastic gentleman who had a hand in the parturition. Said he. The position which Dickinson County occupies geographically, being the most elevated portion of the state, together with our facilities for navigation,' here he paused and wet his throat with some of Roscoe's distilled lake water, 'makes it particularly fitting and meet that we should have a Beacon to shed its light upon the world and serve as a guide to the weary emigrant seeking a homestead, and by the way, I will show a man a devilish good claim for ten dollars.'

"This last sentence, however, is foreign to the subject, and is only introduced for the sake of euphony. The management and name being settled, the question of ways and means was left to the newly installed journalists who decided to commence by getting patent outsides and hav‐ EMMET AND DICKINSON COUNTIES 369

ing the inside printed at the Estherville Vindicator office. Accordingly the arrangements were thus made and in due time the Beacon appeared in seven column folio form with about three columns of home advertising and some two hundred subscribers, including exchanges and deadheads. In a few weeks Mr. Wilcox retired, leaving the whole burden on Mr. Rice. During the balance of the first year the editorial work fell upon the broad shoulders of A. W. Osborne, Esquire, who performed the onerous task faithfully and well. At the end of the first volume Mr. Rice found the balance on the wrong side of the ledger. The cost of having the printing done was greater than the income and he was obliged to have a new deal or give up the game altogether. So he took the other horn of the dilemma, bought a second hand outfit of Warren, of the Algona Upper Des Moines, and after several vexatious delays, the Beacon commenced its second volume with the outside printed at home.

"From the commencement of the second volume the concern began to be self-sustaining and in May, 1872, Mr. Rice sold out to 0. C. Bates, the founder of the Estherville Vindicator. In October, 1872, Mr. Bates disposed of the office to Lamborn & Owen. During the succeeding winter they made extensive additions and improvements. In April, 1873, Mr. Lamborn disposed of his interest in the Beacon and was succeeded by J. A. Smith. In April, 1874, Mr. Owen retired and was succeeded by A. B. Funk.

The firm of J. A. Smith & A. B. Funk conducted the Beacon until the fall of 1870, when Mr. Funk retired. In the spring of 1881 Mr. Funk returned to activity and bought the paper from Mr. Smith. In turn he disposed of a half interest in it to E. G. Blackert in 1886. On November 1, 1910, the firm of Funk & Blackert sold out to O. E. Smith, who has conducted the Beacon continuously since that date and earned a well-merited patronage by issuing a sheet of editorial and mechanical excellence.


The Dickinson County Herald, in Spirit Lake, was started by the firm of Reycroft & Flower in July, 1894. By February, 1895, Flower had dropped out of the management and his place was taken by William Hayward. The latter later purchased Reycroft's interest in the paper, but he himself sold out, on July 1, 1896, to H. Van Steenburg. Van Steenburg, inexperienced in the conduct of a newspaper office, employed J. L. Dunham as editor. He operated the paper as an independent republican sheet until March, 1898, when he sold out to L. F. Stowe who leased it to Mr. Dunham for one year. G. A. Taft then came into possession of the Herald and conducted it until the spring of 1901. Since 1901 the Herald has passed through many hands, being upon the verge of succumbing several times.


However, the paper is still published weekly and is a creditable paper. The present editor of the Herald is 0. B. Congdon.


Several times there have been attempted the publication of other papers in the city of Spirit Lake, but for diverse reasons these attempts have been unproductive of success.

The first attempt at instituting another paper after the Beacon was established was in 1880, when Carl Eastwood started the Dickinson County Journal. It was a republican sheet. In 1884 the Eastwood brothers, then proprietors, sold the plant to J. 0. Stewart. Mr. Stewart made the paper an editorial success, but a financial failure, and in 1885 the paper went into the hands of C. H. Ayers and A. F. Heath, who changed its name and politics, entitling it the Spirit Lake Democrat. Heath was at that time postmaster. The paper, notwithstanding the fact that it had the support of the administration, soon became heavily in debt and was sold at sheriff's sale. The paper later came into the hands of G. A. Getchell, familiarly known as Huckleberry. He conducted the paper under the name of Huckleberry's Paper. He acquired the paper in the summer of 1887 and suspended in the fall, a sufficient proof of the financial difficulties experienced by a second paper here.

Near the year 1890 V. B. Crane purchased the outfit which had been used by the Democrat, Journal and Huckleberry's Paper and established the Spirit Lake Pilot. After a year's precarious existence in Spirit Lake he decamped to Jackson, taking the plant with him.

In December, 1891, Messrs. Caswell and Clark brought a new press and type to Spirit Lake and attempted a revival of the Spirit Lake Democrat. At the end of four months they called quits and suspended.


The first newspaper in the town of Milford was the Milford Mail, the first number of which was issued December 29, 1882, by J. A. Smith, formerly of the Spirit Lake Beacon.

Before Mr. Smith had issued a complete volume of the Mail he sold out to R. B. Nicol, who held it until 1886, then disposing of the plant to E. G. Blackert. After a short time Blackert resold the paper to Nicol. In May, 1898, George Sherburne and W. T. Davidson purchased the Mail from Mr. Nicol and operated the paper until September, 1899, when Davidson sold his interest to E. E. Heldridge.

A newspaper called the Milford Sentinel was started by the firm of Bryant & Smith in 1896. The paper suspended publication in May, 1898. In September, 1898, R. B. Nicol started the Milford Monitor, which he


published until September, 1900, when the Mail bought the subscription list and the material was transported to Fostoria, where it was used in the starting of the Fostoria Record.


The Lake Park News was established in 1890 by A. B. Chrysler. The first number was issued on September 1 of that year. In 1897 J. D. Flint and H. C. Darland bought the newspaper plant and operated it for about two years, when they sold it back to Chrysler.


The Terrill Tribune was established in 1899 by E. Taylor and John Hayden. At the end of the first year Hayden bought out Taylor's interest in the paper.


The Superior News was established about 1890 by F. Finch. The paper was published until the year 1897, when the plant was destroyed by fire.