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



The county of Dickinson has within its borders the principal summer resorts of the state of Iowa, due of course to the presence of the lakes ‐ the two Okobojis, Spirit and Silver Lakes. Every season ‐ beginning in April or May and ending in October and November ‐ thousands of people from all over the Middle West travel to the lakes and here reside in cottages or hotels during the summer. The first settlers in the county believed the lakes would be the means of attracting hundreds of people to this vicinity and thereby perceived the added value which would be given to the lands nearby. Long before the railroad companies extended their steel lines through the county the lakes were well known as fishing grounds. Parties were organized in surrounding counties and pilgrimages taken to this county for a few weeks of excellent fishing and shooting. There were no pretentious hotels or cottages then built upon the lake shores, but there were a number of homes and quaint hostelries where the travelers could obtain food and lodging. The old Crandall House in Spirit Lake was a favorite stopping place; another at M. J. Smith's place near the Okoboji bridge and at W. B. Arnold's. Algona, Sibley and Storm Lake were the nearest railroad stations and the trip from there had to be made overland. The coming of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad to Spencer in 1878 brought an increase in the number of people taking advantage of the lakes. The Hunters' Lodge had been built at the north end of Spirit Lake in 1871 and Lillywhite's Lodge on the southwest shore at the same time. Hunters' Lodge was the principal hotel here at that time, and was exceedingly well patronized. The Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad issued a booklet advertising the beauties of the lake as follows: "Spirit Lake has many summer cottages along the shores, with a few resorts where visitors are entertained. The most noted of these is Crandall's Lodge on the northwest shore. This famous place has been identified with Spirit Lake for more than thirty years and has shel‐


tered many hunters and anglers who came here year after year to enjoy the superb hunting and fishing. There are none of the restraints of a fashionable summer resort at Crandall's Lodge, but visitors here come to have a good time unhampered by anything that will prevent the fullest enjoyment. From time to time additions have been made to the lodge which at present, with the eight cottages surrounding it, has accommodations for seventy-five or eighty people. The beach facing the lodge is the finest on Spirit Lake. It is quite wide, floored with clean, white sands dipping so gently into the water that bathers can go out a great distance before getting beyond their depth. This is the most popular pastime at this resort and the merry shouts of children at play upon the sand or sporting in the water are heard from morn until night. Bathing accidents so common at many resorts would seem to be impossible here. Boating, sailing, shooting and fishing are also prominent among the outdoor pleasures here. The rooms are large, well furnished and comfortable. The table is supplied with an abundance of well cooked and well served food." Crandall's Lodge was erected on the site of Hunters' Lodge.

The Lillywhite Lodge was run by Billy Lillywhite. He purchased the place in 1872 and erected a building considered large and pretentious at the time. In 1875, however, he sold out to C. A. Arnold. Arnold improved the place and called it the Westside Hotel. The first building was later destroyed by fire, but better quarters were soon erected in its place.

A. Kingman's place on Spirit Lake was another popular stopping place for the resorters. He later sold out to B. F. Stevens. Samson's Lodge was another old time hotel. This was on the north short of Spirit Lake, a mile east of Crandall's.

One of the principal hotels built on Spirit Lake at this time was the Orleans Hotel. It was located on the isthmus between East Okoboji and Spirit Lake and was opened June 16, 1883. The Beacon thus describes the building: "The dimensions of the main building are three hundred and twenty-four by forty feet, two stories on the east side and a basement on the west end eighty-four feet, making it three stories with an addition sixty by one hundred and twenty feet from the center of the house to the railroad track. It contains a spacious dining room fifty by sixty feet. The building is surmounted by nine handsome towers, one on each corner and one over the commodious office. This veranda affords a grand promenade three thousand feet long and sixteen feet wide. There are two hundred guest rooms all furnished in first-class style with annunciators, gas, baths and all modern conveniences. Every room has two doors, one leading to the corridor and the other direct to the veranda. There is a regular post‐ office named Minnie close to the hotel. The American Express and the Western Union Companies have offices in the house, and there is telephone connection with the town of Spirit Lake. Of course, there is a laundry,


a billiard hall, bowling alley, fishing tackle, boats and all minor accommodations in connection with the hotel."

The ceremony of opening the hotel was an elaborate one. Many prominent people were there, including Col. E. P. Howell of Atlanta, Ga.; Capt. C. B. Richards, of expeditionary fame; Governor Boynton and L. S. Coffin. Most of the prominent men made speeches. J. W. Hutchinson, manager of the Lake Park Hotel at Minnetonka, leased the Orleans Hotel and placed it under the managership of J. B. Bryant.

The hotel, however, soon underwent difficulties which eventually resulted in its being torn down. First, the water level question was misunderstood by the hotel authorities. In 1882 the water was very high and the difference in level between East Okoboji and Spirit was about six feet. Steamers made trips through the narrows and straits and all along the short of Spirit Lake large vessels could come close in without trouble. The hotel authorities believed that the difference in water levels could be utilized as a water power (a mistake which had been made before by Peters) and accordingly cleaned out the race and installed a water wheel and works for the hotel, also to supply the railroad tank nearby. The receding of the water in Spirit Lake resulting from this action became serious, for the level was lowered and would not rise again. The navigation in East Okoboji also had to be stopped, owing to the resultant shallowness. This ended the profitable steamer trips from the Orleans to the points on West Okoboji Lake and of course had a bad effect on the hotel patronage. The dock at the hotel was left stranded "high and dry" by the receding waters and the bathing beach was ruined. By 1898, the year of the lowest level of the water in the lakes, the hotel people decided to abandon the hotel and tear it down. This was done to the disappointment of many people, although considering everything ‐ not the least of which were the money panic and high rates at the hotel ‐ the resort could not have existed upon a profitable basis.

The large park on the west shore of Spirit Lake known as Templar Park is described in the chapter on fraternal orders.

The principal early stopping places on West Okoboji Lake were: Arnold's Park, Miller's Bay and Smith's Cottage. The site occupied by Arnold's Park is one of the most historic in the county; it is the scene of the first settlements after the massacre in 1857 and is also in close proximity to Pillsbury's Point, where the Gardner family was killed by the Indians. J. S. Prescott made the first improvements upon this site in 1857 and 1858. He built a residence which was destroyed afterward by fire, then moved another building sixteen by twenty feet to the same site. This he sold to Blake & Arnold. This became a prominent stopping point in the early days. The small space inside made accommodations difficult, but somehow everyone who applied obtained sleeping space and plenty to


eat. Arnold's Park at present is one the most famous and extensive amusement parks in the Middle West, combining every type of recreation common to such a place. Hotel accommodations and cottages are abundant at this point now and every year great crowds seek their pleasures here.

Miller's Bay is named from one of the first settlers on the west side of West Okoboji Lake. At first the accommodations offered here were only those which could be given at a country farm house, but in recent years extensive improvements have been made. Miller's Bay hears the reputation of being one of the best fishing grounds around the lakes.

Adjacent to Miller's Bay is a hill which is claimed to be the highest point of land between the Rockies and the Alleghanies. The mound was at one time pointed out to tourists as the grave of the Indian chieftain, Okoboji, who, of course, never existed. T. H. MacBride, in a geological report, writes of this hill: "The most remarkable of all these hills, a beautiful object in itself, and by far the most elegant illustration of its type, is the long famous Ocheyedan mound. This is a prairie mountain, a precipitous mound or peak, rising at last abruptly from the general surrounding level. It is situated in the southwest one-fourth of the south‐ west one-fourth of Section 12, in Township 99, Range 40 West, on the east bank of the Ocheyedan Valley, and about one mile southeast of Ocheyedan town. One hundred and seventy feet above the valley flood plain, and at least twenty feet higher than any surrounding land, it has long been a landmark and is visible from their homes to hundreds of citizens of Osceola County. The height above sea level, as estimated from data furnished by railroad surveys, is not far from 1,670 feet, one of the highest points in Iowa, its only rival the summit of the morraine in Wilson Township northwest of Allendorf, which has probably about the same elevation.

Smith's Point, an early day camping ground, is located at the crossing of the straits between the two Okobojis. Here was built the first bridge in the county, a foot bridge made of logs flattened on one side and laid upon trestles.

Okoboji Park was laid off into lots by M. J. Smith in 1885 and placed on sale. Judge Given, who was the first to take advantage of the sale, bought a lot and erected a cottage. Thus it became known as Given's Point. George Dimmit of Des Moines erected the first cottage at Okoboji. This place later became known as Des Moines Beach, on account of the number of Des Moines people purchasing lots and building cottages there‐ on. In like manner. Fort Dodge Point was named.

A postoffice was established at Okoboji in the spring of 1859, with G. H. Bush as postmaster. M. J. Smith and J. W. O'Farrell were later postmasters. E. A. Case is credited with placing the first stock of goods


on sale here in 1880, at which time he also became postmaster. S. E. Mills erected a store building later.

Manhattan Beach, on the west shore of West Okoboji, north of Miller's Bay, was first conceived as a resort in 1893 by D. B. Lyon of Des Moines. Shore lots were laid out and sold, a stock company formed, cottages erected, a pavilion built, and other necessaries added. The old steamboat "Ben Lennox" was overhauled and named the "Manhattan," which provided passengers with transportation to the trains. Another old steamer, named the "Robert Williams," was purchased. The scheme did not materialize, however, and the proposed resort failed to be a profitable investment.

Dixon's Beach, first known as Maple Grove and then as Bennett's Beach, was first used as a resort upon a large scale in 1882. Not until 1896, due to various financial losses, was the spot improved to any great extent, and then J. A. Beck took it in hand. The Inn was constructed by him that year. Other inviting spots around the lakes have been laid off into lots and made into ideal summer resorts, among them being Gilley's Beach, Hayward's Bay, Pike's Point, Brownell Beach, Pocahontas Point, Omaha Beach. Gilley's Beach was started by William Gilley about 1894, when he bought the property on the east side of the lake and laid it off into lots. Hayward's Bay is located on the east side also. It was originally known as Palmer's Bay, but after becoming the property of William Hayward of Spirit Lake, was surveyed and platted, and became known as Hayward's Bay. Pike's Point, north of this latter bay, was improved by Baum & Patterson of Omaha in the early '90s. It is said they were the first to install a toboggan slide. Pocahontas Point was named for the number of Pocahontas County people who invested in the land there.

Pillsbury's Ppint has been covered with cottages and small hotels, so that it is practically continuous with Arnold's Point. Des Moines capitalists first invested in the land at this point and properly prepared it for sale.

Notwithstanding the many hotels scattered around the various lakes in Dickinson County, the cottage life remains the predominating one. Today the whole shore line of the two Okobojis and that of Spirit Lake is lined with cottages of every description, all of which are occupied during the summer season. There is a great demand for available quarters, a demand which increases every year, and new houses are rapidly being built. Summer homes are not matters of expensive luxury to the people of Dickinson County; they are common and within reach of everyone.

The first boating upon the lakes of the county was probably done by the Indians ‐ either in canoes or flat rafts constructed of logs. Spirit Lake is undoubtedly an exception, for no record remains to show that the Indians ever dared to navigate this lake in the face of the evil spirits


which they believed lived beneath the waters. The first settlers in the county built a raft which they used in crossing the narrow passages, but later canoes were constructed. One was built at Okoboji by W. B. Brown and Lawrence Furber, and another at Center Grove by R. U. Wheelock and Lewis Hart. They were made from basswood logs, about twelve feet in length. After the construction of the saw-mill several row boats were made from lumber.

Perhaps the first real sail boat on the lakes was the "Martha Washington," built by a man named Benedict, who stayed at Crandall's. Lillywhite also constructed a sail boat, which he called the "Old Tub." Zina Henderson, of Okoboji, built one named the "Lady of the Lake." By 1876 there were enough sail boats on the lakes to warrant the holding of races. Much interest was aroused by these contests. Among the participants were: The "Old Tub," William Lillywhite, Owner, and L. M. Waugh, captain; the "Martha Washington," 0. Crandall, owner, and R. L. Wilcox, captain; the "Lady of the Lake," Henry Baxter and Zina Henderson; the "Little Red Wagon," A. A. Mosher, owner and captain; "Queen of the West," J. F. Hall; "Okoboji Star," George Chase. The "Old Tub" proved to be the best boat in the races, although the "Martha Washington" was a close second. The "Foam" owned by T. J. Francis, the "Swan" by James F. Hall, and the "Petrel" by the Hendersons were subsequent sail boats placed on the lakes. The "Foam" bore the reputation of being the fastest boat on the lakes and easily captured the races in which she was entered.

The first steam boat on the lakes was the "Favorite," built to carry about thirty passengers. This boat was built on the Cedar River, and was later shipped to Okoboji and placed in charge of John Hackett, for the purpose of carrying passengers between Arnold's Park and Spirit Lake. For several years this was the only steamer on the lakes. In 1882 the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad Company transported a steamer called the "Alpha" from Burlington and placed it on Spirit Lake. This boat was succeeded by the "Queen" and the former taken to East Okoboji for passenger service.

In 1882 Captain May of Minneapolis made preparations to build the largest steamer yet afloat on the lakes. He was backed in his enterprise by the Milwaukee Railroad. The boat was over eighty feet in length and named the "Ben Lennox." The boat was launched in July, 1884. The "Queen" on Spirit Lake was built about the same time by the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad Company. She was built of iron and carried about 250 passengers. The "Hiawatha," built by Captain Kendall on East Okoboji, was launched about this time also. This boat could easily carry eighty passengers. The "Lelia," the "River Queen," the "Huntress" and the "Iowa" were shortly placed in service on the lakes. The "Okoboji" was built in 1900; the "Irma" in 1898; the "Orleans" in 1896; the "R. J.


Hopkins" in 1896; and the "River Queen" in 1890. The large steamer "Sioux City" was built and launched on West Okoboji in June, 1911.

Small sailing boats, motor launches and other craft are numerous on all the lakes at the present time. A boat of some kind is in the possession of practically every cottager, from the small fishing craft propelled by oars to the multiple horse-power motor launch used for pleasure and for speed contests.