Before bikinis on McClelland’s Beach

Before bikinis - north shore - Spirit Lake - 1902 - near McClelland's Beach - Spirit Lake - IA - 51360
North Shore of Spirit Lake, from A History of Dickinson County, by R.A. Smith

Before bikinis on McClelland’s Beach, women wore quite a bit more clothing. We would hate to think about what would have happened if one of these fully-skirted women fell overboard in 1902. This picture is from the digitized version of “A History of Dickinson County”, by R.A. Smith, once only available in rare, hard-copy first editions, now available free at The photo was taken about a mile west of McClelland’s Beach, according to the book. Many thanks to the IAGenWeb Project for their efforts at making history and geneology accessible to all.

By the time beach owner and McClelland descendant Mildred Bartels hit the scene, below, swim garb had evolved a bit. Mildred often swam across Spirit Lake for exercise, probably not length-wise, but to somewhere on the eastern shore. Knowing that Mildred Bartels was born in 1906, and based on tips from the fashion swimwear history site, we’re guessing this is a 1930’s photo.

Interested in living on the lake? We have city amenities and you can live here all year. Cruise McClelland’s Lane and 104th by car. Many lots are not posted for sale, but available, so if you see something you like, take a photo and contact our realtor.

Before bikinis - McClelland's Beach - Mildred Bartels - swimwear - 1930s - McCclelland's Beach - Spirit Lake - Iowa - 51360

Like history? Read also:

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

Margaret McClelland - handwritten account - encounter with an outlaw - McClelland's Beach - Spirit Lake - Iowa - 51360

McClelland’s Beach founder was a hero in 1866

William and Margaret McClelland - founders - historic portrait - McClellands Beach - Spirit Lake - Iowa - 51360

Grandma Bartels’ recipe box: Bean Hot Dish

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

Railroad depot museum a treasure trove of Dickinson County history

From the Dickinson County Museum website.

Ill-fated Younger Gang visited McClelland farm, now McClelland’s Beach

At some point, a member of the ill-fated Younger Gang visited the McClelland family’s farm in Spirit Lake, Iowa. Here is what a young boy remembers. All spellings are as they appear in the original newspaper clipping.

Read also: Margaret McClelland’s brush with the outlaw

Spirit Lake Beacon, October 31, 1902 Recollections of Jim Younger. Sioux City Journal.

The recent suicidal death of James Younger,
the paroled convict of the notorious James
gang, recalls to the memory of Claude F. Perkins
a unique meeting he once had with the
noted bandit.
For a whole week Mr. Perkins roomed and
slept with the outlaw, and just at the time when
he, with the rest of the gang, was planning the
Northfield bank. Mr. Perkins did not know
with whom he was rooming, and only later
learned that he had been living on terms of
intimacy with one of the boldest robbers in the
criminal history of America. He was only a
boy at the time, but the impression the man
man made on him is indelibly impressed on.
his memory.
The meeting was as strange as it was unusual.
It occurred at the home of William McClellan.
Mr. Perkins in recalling the incident, “when
we learned that the man with whom I had been
sleeping was the noted bandit. One would
never have thought him anything but an honest
man from the way he conducted himself at
the McClellan (sic) farm. He was out for big game,
and I believe was really above small and petty
“The incident occurred just this way: It
as just in the busy time of the year on the
farm, and Mr. McClellan was looking for assistance
on the farm. One day a stranger rode up
a fine horse. He was a tall man, but did not
impress one as being tall because he was s
well proportioned. His head was round an_
rather bullet shaped. His manner was pleasing
and he fitted well wherever he was.
“The stranger said he was riding through the
country and that his horse had gone lame. He
wanted to get some work on the farm while
his horse was improving. Mr. McClellan gladly
gave him some work and he took to it like a
man who was earnestly in search of employment.
Everybody on the farm liked him. He
was a good talker and had many interesting
stories to tell, though none of them was of a
character to awaken suspicion.
“At the close of the week the stranger left,
and we were sincerely sorry to see him go, I
was especially so, because from rooming with
him 1 hart become quite attached to him.
“You can imagine our surprise a short time
later to recognize in the picture of one of the
men engaged in the Northfield robbery our
friend of a week. It was none other than
James Younger.
“I don’t know what he was doing there, but
suppose that the lameness of the horse was the
real cause of the delay. He wanted to have »
good animal upon which to travel when the
time of need should come.”

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.