Atchison Daily Globe
The Town of Le Mars.
An Iowa Colony of Englishmen Described by Kernan.
Striking Individuality of the Place. Teaching Aristocrats Farming
at $600 a Year -- Days of Anarchy and Bloodshed -- Some Reminiscences
[Special Correspondence] New York, Jan 3 -
I have lived in many communities in my time, but in none that
possessed a more striking individuality than Le Mars, the English
colony located in northwestern Iowa, twenty-five miles east of Sioux
City. Picturesquely situated on the banks of the Floyd river, and
surrounded by a seemingly limitless prairie, its spires and
housetops can be seen for a distance of thirty miles on any of the
bright, clear, wonderful days that make the climate of imperial Iowa
the most pleasant in the world.
The Duke of Sutherland, traveling through the west when Le Mars was
a nameless shanty settlement, saw the potentialities of the place,
and bought 67,000 acres of land in the vicinity. A little later a
London syndicate of fabulous wealth purchased great tracts of
territory in the county, and advertised its advantages throughout
England. The present colony was the result, a colony consisting of
several full-fledged lords, a whole raft of the younger sons of
British noblemen, and many representatives of the middle classes,
with a small sprinkling of what is known as the peasantry.
The more substantial members of the colony bought farms of the
syndicate, built handsome farm houses and undertook the cultivation
of the soil. They certainly introduced new methods in that
direction -- methods that made the average American look on with a
curious smile. To illustrate: Captain the Honorable So-and-So
advertised in the English papers that he would teach thirty young
men the science of farming for the sum of £120 ($600) each a year.
The result was that the farm of Captain the Honorable was soon
supplied with aristocratic laborers. Wealthy young men from the
middle classes also flocked over to take advantage of similar
offers, until Le Mars had at least 800 agriculturists in its
vicinity who couldn't tell a plow from a pumpkin.
Then the fun began. The boys would do little drills of work, and
make up for it by coming to town and painting it a ripe, staring
red. Many of them were spendthrifts; money flowed like water, and
Le Mars began to boom. Fine business blocks sprung up as if by
magic; immigration poured in, and the town became the center of
commerce for a vast area of country.
But it had its dark days, with which to contend when the lawless
element gamed the upper hand. It was during this period of anarchy
that thirty-one attempts were made, inside of a year, to lay the
town in ashes. Who, was the firebug? Suspicion finally centered
upon a member of one of the oldest families of the aristocracy -- a
young man whose father at that time held a position second to that
of no judge in England. The young man was arrested, tried,
acquitted, and then distinguished himself by marrying a woman of the
pave and becoming a well digger by profession.
Le Mars is celebrated for its horse races and other outdoor
sports. It has its regular Derby week, when the English take
complete possession of the town. Hundreds of men can be seen in
jockey caps, flaming scarlet shirts and black knickerbockers, on high
mottled horses. English ladies drive through its streets in queer
little carts, or, if on foot, they invariably carry canes, and are
followed by a parcel of dogs, generally greyhounds. The English
flag floats everywhere, English airs are tooted and drummed in all
directions and the English accent is heard on every hand.
By Will Hubbard Kernan.