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



In the study of history dates play an important part. One event follows another in the process of development, and each event wields more or less influence upon those that follow. In the foregoing chapters a conscientious effort has been made to show the progress of Emmet and Dickinson counties along industrial, educational, religious and professional lines, as well as their part in the political and military affairs of the state and nation. As a fitting conclusion to this work, the following summary of events leading up to the settlement of the counties, their organization, and occurrences having some bearing upon their more recent history has been compiled for the ready reference of the reader.

At first glance, many of these events may seem to have no connection ‐ or at least a very remote one— ‐ with local history, but this is another case of the "Seen and the Unseen" mentioned in a former chapter. Each event, great or small, played its allotted part in shaping the destiny of the great State of Iowa and of Emmet and Dickinson counties. For example; The discovery of the Mississippi River by De Soto in 1541; the English grant of land to the Plymouth Company in 1620; the organization of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670; or the claiming of the Mississippi Valley by La Salle in 1682, may appear to the casual reader as having no place in the history of Emmet and Dickinson counties. Yet these events were the forerun‐ a conflict which finally ended by the purchase of Louisiana by the United States, whereby the territory now comprising the State of Iowa became a part of the Federal Union. Without the happening of any one of these events, the history of this country might be differently written.


‐ 1541. Hernando de Soto discovered the Mississippi River near the site of the present City of Memphis, Tennessee. This discovery formed the basis of the Spanish claim to the interior of North America.


‐ 1620. The Plymouth Company received a charter from the English Government to a large tract of land including the present State of Iowa.

May 2, 1670. The Hudson's Bay Company chartered by the English Government. This was the first of the great companies formed for the purpose of trading with the North American Indians.

June 17, 1673. Marquette and Joliet, the French explorers, discovered the Mississippi River at the mouth of the Wisconsin and saw the bluffs near the present City of McGregor, Iowa.

April 9, 1682. Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, claimed all the territory drained by the Mississippi and its tributaries for France and gave the region the name of Louisiana. Iowa was included in this claim.

November 3, 1762. The Treaty of Fontainebleau, by which France ceded all that part of Louisiana west of the Mississippi to Spain. Iowa thus became a Spanish possession.

February 10, 1763. The Treaty of Fontainebleau ratified and confirmed by the Treaty of Paris.

September 3, 1783. Conclusion of the treaty that ended the Revolutionary war and fixed the western boundary of the United States at the Mississippi River.

‐ 1788. The first white settlement in the present State of Iowa made by Julien Dubuque on the site of the city that bears his name.

October 1, 1800. Treaty of San Ildefonso concluded, by which Spain ceded back to France that portion of Louisiana west of the Mississippi River.

April 30, 1803. Conclusion of the Treaty of Paris, by which the United States purchased Louisiana. Iowa by this treaty became the property of the United States Government.

October 31, 1803. Congress passed an act authorizing the President to take possession of Louisiana and establish a temporary government therein.

December 20, 1803. The United States commissioners take formal possession of Louisiana at New Orleans.

October 1, 1804. Louisiana divided into the Territory of Orleans and the District of Louisiana. Iowa was included in the latter, which was placed under the jurisdiction of the Indiana Territory.

November 4, 1804. First treaty with the Sac and Fox Indians negotiated at St. Louis by Gen. William H. Harrison.

January 11, 1805. The Territory of Michigan established by act of Congress.

August 9, 1805. Lieut. Zebulon M. Pike left St. Louis to explore the upper Mississippi River. On the 21st of the same month he held a coun‐


cil with some Iowa Indians at the head of the rapids of the Mississippi, in what is now Lee County.

‐ 1807. Iowa attached to the Territory of Illinois by act of Congress.

June 4, 1812. The Territory of Missouri was created and Iowa attached to the new territory.

September 13, 1815. Treaty of peace with the Sac and Fox Indians of Iowa concluded at Portage des Sioux.

March, 1821. Missouri admitted into the Union as a state and Iowa left without any form of civil government.

‐ 1824. A trader named Harte established a post where the City of Council Bluffs now stands.

July 15, 1830. Treaty of Prairie du Chien establishing the "Neutral Ground" between the Sioux on the north and the Sac and Fox tribes on the south. At the same time the territory now comprising Emmet and Dickinson counties was ceded to the United States.

February 24, 1831. The above treaty declared in effect by proclamation of President Jackson.

August 2, 1832. Last battle of the Black Hawk war, in which the Indians were defeated.

September 21, 1832. A treaty concluded at Davenport, Iowa, by which the Sacs and Foxes ceded to the United States the strip of land forty miles wide across the eastern part of the state. This strip, known as the "Black Hawk Purchase," was the first land in Iowa acquired by the Government for white occupation.

June, 1833. The first postoffice in Iowa was established at Dubuque.

June 28, 1834. President Jackson approved the act attaching Iowa to the Territory of Michigan.

September, 1834. The Michigan Legislature divided the present State of Iowa into two counties ‐ Dubuque and Des Moines. Emmet and Dickinson were included in the County of Dubuque.

April 20, 1836. President Jackson approved the bill creating the , Territory of Wisconsin, which included all the present State of Iowa, the act to take effect July 4, 1836.

May 11, 1836. The Dubuque Visitor, the first newspaper in Iowa, established by John King.

May, 1836. First census in Iowa taken by order of Governor Dodge of Wisconsin. Population, 10,351.

October 3, 1836. First election ever held in Iowa, for members of the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature.

November 6, 1837. A convention at Burlington adopted a memorial to Congress asking for the establishment of a new territory west of the Mississippi.


April 7, 1838. J. N. Nicollet appointed by President Van Buren to make a hydrographic survey of the upper Mississippi basin. Nicollet visited the region about Spirit and Okamanpadu lakes.

June 12, 1838. President Van Buren approved the act of Congress creating the Territory of Iowa.

October 3, 1838. Death of Black Hawk, the great chief of the Sacs and Foxes.

May 9, 1843. Capt. James Allen came up the Des Moines River on the Steamer Ione with a detachment of troops and established Fort Des Moines, where the capital of the state now stands.

October 7, 1844. Iowa's first constitutional convention met at Iowa City. That constitution was rejected by the people.

May 4, 1846. Second constitutional convention assembled at Iowa City. The second constitution ratified by the voters on August 3, 1846.

December 28, 1846. President Polk approved the act of Congress admitting Iowa into the Union as a state.

September 28, 1850. Congress passed the act giving to the several states certain swamp lands within their borders.

January 15, 1851. Gov. Stephen Hempstead approved an act of the Iowa Legislature creating fifty new counties, among which were Emmet and Dickinson.

August 5, 1851. Treaty of Mendota, by which the Mdewakanton Sioux relinquished their claims to lands in Iowa.

April, 1852. Last battle between the Sioux and Sac and Fox Indians on Iowa soil took place in Kossuth County.

June, 1856. Jesse Coverdale and George C. Granger, the first white settlers in Emmet County, located claims in what is now Emmet Township.

July 16, 1856. The first settlement established in Dickinson County by Rowland Gardner and Harvey Luce.

January 4, 1857. Birth of Peter Rourke, the first white child bom in Emmet County.

January 19, 1857. Third constitutional convention assembled at Iowa City. Emmet, Dickinson and twenty-one other northwestern counties represented by Daniel W. Price.

March 8, 1857. Beginning of the Spirit Lake massacre by the murder of the Gardner and Mattock families.

March 24, 1857. Expeditionary forces under Maj. William Williams left Fort Dodge for Spirit Lake.

May 11, 1857. First religious services in Dickinson County conducted at the Gardner cabin by Rev. J. S. Prescott.

June, 1857. The town of Spirit Lake located by Howe, Parmenter and Wheelock.


August 4, 1857. First election for county officers of Dickinson County.

‐ 1857. First postoffice established in Emmet County with George C. Granger as postmaster.

‐ 1857. In the fall of this year the first sawmill in Dickinson County was established on the shore of East Okoboji Lake by Jones & Miller.

February, 1858. A postoffice was established at Spirit Lake with R. U. Wheelock as postmaster.

February, 1858. Robert W., son of Orlando C. Howe and wife, born. He was the first white child born in Dickinson County.

June, 1858. Blackbirds ravaged the fields of Dickinson County.

February 7, 1859. First election for county officers in Emmet County.

April 29, 1859. Marriage of George Jenkins and Miss Sophronia A. Ridley ‐ the first marriage in Emmet County.

‐ 1859. In the spring of this year the first marriage occurred in Dickinson County, between William E. Root and Miss Addie Ring.

‐ 1859. First grist mill in Dickinson County started in this year by a man named Peters.

‐ 1859. A weekly mail route was opened from Algona to Spirit Lake.

‐ 1859. First school in Emmet County was taught in this year by Miss Mary Howe.

‐ 1860. A postoffice was established at Estherville with Adolphus Jenkins as postmaster.

December 24, 1860. First schoolhouse at Estherville dedicated with a supper and dance.

April 17, 1861. Gov. Samuel J. Kirkwood issued his proclamation calling for one regiment of volunteers for service in the Civil war.

May 1, 1861. The plat of Estherville was filed with the recorder of Emmet County.

‐ 1862. In the fall of this year Fort Defiance was built at Estherville by Company A, Northern Border Brigade.

November, 1862. First school in Dickinson County opened at Okoboji by Miss Myra Smith.

December 14, 1868. Bates & Northrop issued the first number of the Northern Vindicator at Estherville ‐ the first newspaper in Northwestern Iowa.

January 18, 1870. Ole Knudtson, a fourteen-year-old boy, lost in a blizzard and frozen to death in Emmet County.

September 6, 1870. First issue of the Spirit Lake Beacon, the first newspaper in Dickinson County.


October 3, 1871. A disastrous prairie fire in the southern part of Emmet County.

November 24, 1871. The Dickinson County courthouse was destroyed by fire.

February 16, 1872. Two saloons in Estherville wrecked by women crusaders and the liquor emptied into the streets.

June 4, 1873. Grasshoppers made their first appearance in Emmet County. Early in July they struck Dickinson County.

Dash; 1876. The first bank in Emmet County established at Estherville by Howard Graves.

October, 1876. The Emmet County courthouse burned.

January 1, 1877. The first bank in Dickinson County was opened by Snyder, Smith & Company.

May 10, 1879. An aerolite weighing several hundred pounds landed in Emmet Township, Emmet County, about two miles north of Estherville.

October 14, 1879. At the general election in Emmet County a majority of the voters expressed themselves in favor of the removal of the county seat to Swan Lake.

October, 1879. The Town of Spirit Lake was incorporated.

December 2, 1881. The first officers of the incorporated Town of Estherville were inaugurated.

June 8, 1882. The first train on the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern (now the Rock Island) Railroad arrived at Estherville.

June 27, 1882. Special election on the constitutional amendment to prohibit the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors in Iowa. In Emmet County the vote was in favor of the amendment.

July 11, 1882. The Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad was completed to Spirit Lake.

August 1, 1882. The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad ran the first train into Dickinson County.

November 7, 1882. The voters of Emmet County decided in favor of removing the county seat back to Estherville.

November 22, 1884. The present courthouse in Emmet County was accepted by the board of supervisors.

June, 1887. The board of supervisors of Emmet County appropriated $400 for an artesian well at Estherville.

November 24, 1891. The present courthouse in Dickinson County was completed and accepted by the board of supervisors.

December 22, 1892. Estherville was made a city of the second class by the state authorities.

March 6, 1893. First election of city officers in Estherville.

July, 1893. First Chautauqua Assembly in Dickinson County.


March 22, 1895. Office and plant of the Estherville Democrat destroyed by fire.

July 26, 1895. Monument commemorating the Spirit Lake massacre dedicated.

August 3, 1897. Upper Des Moines Valley Medical Association organized at Spirit Lake.

May 25, 1898. Fifty-second Iowa Infantry mustered into the United States service for the Spanish-American war. Eight Emmet County men were enrolled in Company K.

‐ 1899. The Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad was built through Emmet and Dickinson counties.

‐ 1900. A geological survey of Dickinson County was made by Thomas H. MacBride. Mr. MacBride also made a geological survey of Emmet County in 1903.

November 8, 1904. Dickinson County voters indorsed a bond issue for the purchase of a county poor farm.

December 26, 1904. The Coon Block at Estherville, and several adjacent buildings were destroyed by fire.

May 3, 1905. A destructive tornado swept over Dickinson County.

May 13, 1909. The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad depot at Estherville burned.

September 21, 1909. The Northwestern Iowa Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church began its session in Estherville.

November 8, 1910. At the general election on this date the voters of Emmett County indorsed the proposition to buy a poor farm by a vote of 1,357 to 504.

March 26, 1914. The publication office of the Estherville Enterprise was destroyed by fire.

January 8, 1917. fire destroyed the Grand Theater at Estherville causing a loss of nearly two hundred thousand dollarss. [sic]


To write of the deeds and achievements of those who have gone before us; to profit by their mistakes as well as to emulate their examples; to keep green the memories of by-gone days; to preserve a record of past events, is but a duty that every individual owes to a common humanity. It was with thoughts such as these in mind that this History of Emmet and Dickinson Counties was undertaken.

Less than a century ago the region now comprising the State of Iowa was part of the great "unexplored" domain of the United States. The Indian and the wild beast were the only occupants. The hills and dales of Emmet and Dickinson counties were covered with the primeval forests or the tall grass of the prairie. The muskrat and the beaver inhabited


the swamps unmolested. Then came the white man with plow and ax and all was changed. The Indian and the wolf have departed. The swamps have been drained and brought under cultivation. To tell the story of the hardships of the pioneers, as well as the accomplishments of those who followed them, has been the object in view in the writing of this history. How well that object has been attained is for the reader to determine.

In presenting this work to the people of Emmet and Dickinson counties, the publishers desire to state that no effort has been spared to make the history both authentic and comprehensive. Authentic, because, as far as possible, the official records have been consulted as sources of information; and comprehensive, because, it is believed, no important event has been overlooked or neglected.

The work has been one involving great care and labor and at times no little difficulty has been encountered. Much credit is due to old residents and others for their ready and willing coooperation in the collection of data regarding events in the years gone by, their scrap-books, etc., having played no inconsiderable part in the compilation of the history.

In bidding the reader good-bye, the publishers take this opportunity to express their obligations to the county officials and their deputies; the editors of the various newspapers, who generously permitted the use of their files; and the librarians of the public libraries at Estherville and Spirit Lake for their uniform courtesies while the work was in course of preparation.