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.

Published by Karin Livingston

Karin Livingston is a great-great granddaughter of McClelland's Beach founders William and Margaret McClelland. For details, visit her LinkedIn profile:

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