Railroad depot museum a treasure trove of Dickinson County history

Photo from the Dickinson County Museum website.

“We even have the hand-written manuscript for ‘A History of Dickinson County,’ written by R.A. Smith in 1902. That right there is one of the more unique things here — it’s the only copy in the world, obviously.”
– Cindy Schubert, museum director

It looks plain on the outside, but inside the old railroad depot you’ll find a treasure trove of history and examples of life back in the good old days.

The Dickinson County Museum is packed with artifacts and history buffs will love it. You will probably want to visit more than once. Read the entire Dickinson County News feature on this and other museums in the area.

Read about Margaret McClelland’s brush with an outlaw.

Get directions to the Dickinson County Museum.

Younger Margaret McClelland’s story of her brush with the outlaw

Experiences of the younger Margaret McClelland regarding the history of McClelland’s Beach, Spirit Lake, Iowa, 51360

See Margaret’s original, handwritten account.

Some early experiences in the county, of Miss Margaret McClelland, now Mrs. S. E. Woolworth

I came to Jackson Co. with my parents from Biron, Ogle Co., Illinois, when but five years of age. My father bought a farm from a man who had tired of the west and being separated from his wife and family, had given up farming. At this time the county was covered with wild grass which grew very tall and in the fall there were many terrible prairie fires which it was necessary to fight day and night in order to save the little settlement. Some of the people lived in sod houses.

When I was sixteen years of age my father started a general store at the south end of Loon Lake which my sister Mary and I had to tend. One day, as I was alone at the store, a man on horseback rode up, asked for a drink of water which I gave him then inquired if I knew of a place he could find work for a few days, as his horse had become lame. I told him father would hire him, as it was in harvest and we needed help to shock oats. In the morning father told him where to go to work. This man took his horse to the field with him and all of the three weeks he worked for us the horse was never 20 feet from him. He was not very lame as one day I had occasion to try him out. Our cattle got in a neighbor’s field and as I was running to get them out, this fellow told me to take his horse which I did, and he went like the wind as there was no lameness about him. I enjoyed it as there never was a horse too fast for us girls, nor a gun we could not shoot. So we had many meals of ducks and geese in those glorious days when wild game was free and plentiful. Well, this man proved to be Henry Gardner, the outlaw of the Younger gang. After leaving our place he was going through Sioux City. The officers who were on the lookout for him chased him up the streets, shooting at him. An editor’s son from Sioux City was at our home during the time this man Gardner was there and wrote us about his being in Sioux City.

He was not killed at that time, but was later. At one time my father saw the pictures of the Younger Boys’ gang and easily recognized the picture of our hired man.

In our family there were nine girls and two boys at home until grown up. Then father would invite the neighbors for a dance, get two of the old time fiddlers who played all night for $2 – apiece, start at eight o’clock and not go home until the sun began to shine in the morning, then milk the cows and go to the field for a day’s work. Think of the difference between today and 56 years ago. If I had my life to live over again – give me the good old days. Everybody trapped muskrats and had plenty of money.

Do any of you old settlers remember when Rob Guhlke and I took first prize for the best Polka – we danced in the red school house.

There were a great many Indians when we came here, mostly friendly but tricky. On morning when father went to milk he found three of them milking his cows.

The winters were very severe with many snowstorms which lasted three days at a time.

We had the school at our house for the winter and one time there was a storm which lasted for several days and the children all stayed until the storm was over so we had school right along.

Learn how Margaret McClelland’s father, William, was a hero in 1866.

McClelland’s Beach founder was a hero in 1866

William and Margaret McClelland - founders - McClellands Beach - Spirit Lake - Iowa - 51360Our beach’s founder, William McClelland, took heroic action in 1866 when he found a woman starving to death, and so weak she could not sit up. Demonstrating the hospitality still present in the community today, William took the woman in, according to an officer quoted in An Illustrated History of Jackson County, Minnesota. Many settlers, especially new, late-season arrivals, struggled to survive in the harsh winter of 1866-67 because they failed to bring or put up enough food.

McClelland’s Beach, Spirit Lake, Iowa, appears in this Minnesota history because by crossing the road on our northern boundary, you cross the state line.

Learn much more about the lake’s history in the book, originally published in 1910.

Grandma Bartels’ recipe box: Bean Hot Dish

Recipe box - Mildred Bartels - McClelland's Beach - Spirit Lake - IA - 51360

We recently discovered a recipe box belonging to Mildred Bartels, descendant of William and Margaret McClelland, who founded McClelland’s’ Beach. Mildred and her husband, Ed, also a checkers champion in two states, ran McClelland’s Beach for many years. Many of Grandma Bartels’ delicious recipes were humbly named “Hot Dish” along with their main ingredient as the title. Grandma Bartels’ “Bean Hot Dish”, shown on the little white piece of paper to the left of the recipe box, looks like it would be welcome at any McClelland’s Beach picnic or potluck.

Mildred Bartels’ Bean Hot Dish

1/2 C. chopped bacon
1 lg. onion, chopped
1 lb. hamburger
1 tsp. vinegar
1 tsp. dry mustard
3/4 C. brown sugar
1 can pork and beans
1 can lima beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can navy beans

Brown bacon, hamburger and onion. Mix with other ingredients. Bake at least one (1) hour at 325 to 350 degrees.