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MANY of the more prominent institutions of the town date from the early seventies. The schools, churches and civic societies all had their origin about that time. The organization and early work of the Methodists has been noticed at some length, and the names of the pastors given up to 1876. That year during the ministry of Rev. J. E. Cohenour they erected their first church building. This was the second church building in the county. Previous to that time they had held their services in the courthouse. The church was dedicated September 1, 1878, Rev. I. N. Pardee officiating. The different Methodist preachers located here from that time to the present are: P. H. Eighmy, W. H. Drake, Bennett Mitchell, F. J. McCaffree, G. W. L. Brown, W. T. Cole, H. B. Green, Joel A. Smith, F. Saunderson, F. E. Day, W. D. Phifer, W. T. MacDonald, W. M. Todd and E. E. Lymer.


In 1892 the church building was thoroughly renovated and a spacious addition erected. This church has ever been aggressive and strong and has from the first enjoyed a good degree of growth and prosperity. Wide awake Sabbath schools have been maintained from the start, .and all of the up-to-date accessories for effectual church work are liberally and enthusiastically supported.





The Baptists first organized a church in this county in the winter of 1872 and 1873 under the ministry of Rev. W. A. Dorward, and built a substantial church building in the summer of 1874, which by the way, was the first church building erected in the county. This church was dedicated July 26, 1874. Rev. _____________ officiating. Mr. Dorward was succeeded in his ministry by Rev. J. L. Coppoc, who remained here several year It may be interesting to some to know that Mr. Coppoc bed two brothers who were with John Brown's men in the historic raid on Harper's Ferry. One of the brothers was captured, tried for treason and executed for his share in that wild scheme, while the younger (Barclay) escaped and made his way hack to Iowa and afterward to Canada.


Mr. Coppoc was succeeded in 1881 by Rev. W. H. Whitelaw, who remained one year, and was in turn succeeded by Rev. B. H. Brastead, who remained in charge of the work until 1887 or 1888, when he was succeeded by Rev. W. H. Dorward, a son of W. A. Dorward, who organized the church nearly fifteen years before. Rev. Charles Andrews succeeded Dorward and remained two years, when he was succeeded by Rev. — Broadbridge, who stayed one year. For three or four years now the church building was occupied by "The Church of God," which was originally an offshoot of the German Lutherans. Their first pastor was Rev. Guenter, who was succeeded by Rev. J. W. Ault. In 1900 the Baptists again occupied their church, Rev. William Megan officiating. In February, 1901, he was succeeded by Rev. J. G. Eaton. During the summer of 1901 repairs and improvements were made to the amount of $1,500. A prosperous Sabbath school has been maintained much of the time and the church has enjoyed a good degree of prosperity.


The early work of Rev. J. R. Upton for the Congregational Church has been noticed at some length. He remained in the work here and at Lakeville something over twelve years. The Congregationalists never had a church building at Spirit Lake, but most of the time held their services at the courthouse. After Mr. Upton left, which was about 1883 or 1884, most of the members of his church went to the Presbyterians, and the Congregational organization was discontinued.





The Presbyterian Church is of later date than those heretofore mentioned, their first organization having been effected December 14, 1881, through the efforts of Rev. A. K. Baird, Superintendent of• Home Missions for Iowa. The first board of trustees was W. H. Bailey, Thomas Cousins and D. R. Chisholm ; first elder, Moses Thompson. The first pastor, G. N. Luccok served during the balance of 1881 and 1882. After him were Rev. J. R. Rosser, 1883 ; Rev. J. H. Carpenter, 1884 to 1888 ; Rev. A. M. West, 1888 to 1890 ; Rev. C. E. Freeman, 1891 to 1895; Rev. H. J. Frothingham, 1895 to 1899 ;.Rev. W. H. P. McDonald, February to November, 1900. Rev. Bert A. Rayson began labor January 6, 1901, and is the first installed pastor of the church, all others having been stated supplies. For the first five years the services were for the most part held in Beacon Hall. During the winter of 1885 and 1886 the preliminary steps were taken for the erection of a church building. Work on the foundation was commenced in the spring, and on the twenty-sixth of July the cornerstone was laid with simple and appropriate ceremonies. Work above the foundation commenced September second. The building, though not wholly completed was first occupied for the morning service December 12, 1886. It was dedicated July 24, 1887, Rev. D. W. Fahs, of Des Moines, delivered the dedicatory sermon. Rev. T. S. Bailey, State Superintendent of Missions, followed with a presentation of the financial condition and needs of the church.


December 8, 1886, a society was organized under the name of the "Guild of the Good Shepherd." The charter members were Mrs. D. F. Van Steenburg, Mrs. LeRoy Davis, Mrs. W. W. Stowe, Mrs. J. W. Cory, Mrs. Henry Thompson, Mrs. William Vreeland and Mrs. G. P. Hopkins. The first rector was Rev. — Walker. Previous to the building of the chapel, services were held in the old Beacon Hall or the Baptist Church, and later in an abandoned store. The contract for building a chapel was let in July, 1894, to LeRoy Davis. On August 7, 1894, the cornerstone was laid with appropriate ceremonies by the Venerable Irving McElroy, of Waverly, acting as the representative of Bishop Perry, who was in Europe at the time. The total cost of the building and lot was about $2,850. The building committee were John Cravens, W. W. Stowe, William Hayward and A. W. Osborn. The chapel was completed and opened for divine service entirely free from debt October 2S, 1894, Rev. T. F. Bowen officiating. June 30, 1895, the chapel was consecrated, Bishop Perry presiding.


Among the early settlers were a number of German Lutherans, who as early as 1869 and 1870 located to the northwest of the town of Spirit Lake, in Spirit Lake and Diamond Lake townships, and true to their ancient traditions they brought their strenuous and positive ideas of Christianity with them, and among their first acts they made provision for maintaining religious worship in their own language and according to the tenets of their own faith. Prominent among these early workers were P. Bergman, C. Britch, C. Horn, Peter Vick, Henry Bibow, and a few others. The first meeting was held at the cabin of P. Bergman in 1871, the services being conducted by Rev. T. Mertens, a pioneer preacher who was sent out to visit the frontier settlements to hunt out his native countrymen and minister to their spiritual necessities, and provide for the maintenance of religious worship among them according to their established beliefs. This practice of holding services at the homes of the settlers at stated periods was kept up for several years. Mr. Mertens was succeeded by Rev. E. H. Scheitz, of Algona. After the building of the Swailes Schoolhouse the meetings were principally held there. In 1878 Rev. C. W. Waas was stationed here and placed in charge of the work. He at once set himself at work to secure .a permanent place of worship of their own, and in 1879 they built in Spirit Lake their first church building, which was a plain and unpretentious structure, and was planned to serve the threefold purpose of church, parsonage and schoolroom. It is a well known characteristic of the Lutherans that they believe religious instruction should be an essential part of every child's early training, and therefore they made provision .accordingly. It was not intended that the instruction given should be in lieu of the public schools, but in addition thereto that each child might have the training deemed necessary as a proper preparation for confirmation and church membership, and it was in this sense that the school was established. Mr. Waas continued in the work until 1881. Following him were E. W. Mensing, 1881 to 1883, and John Becker, 1883 to 1884. In 1884 a change was made and the charge enlarged to embrace Spirit Lake, Estherville and Jackson, and was placed in charge of Rev. A. Goppelt, who divided his time among the three places and remained on the work for over ten years. Through his efforts a new and commodious church building was erected in 1895, and other improvements made. He was succeeded by A. Enselert, who remained until 1940. This society has never been numerically strong, but their members have ever been loyal to their church and zealous in its support.


While the Catholic element has never been .as numerous in this town as in some others, they have from the first been liberal and loyal supporters of their church. Unlike most towns in northwestern Iowa, the early Catholics were not of Irish extraction but French and Canadian. They were reinforced later on by some Irish. In 1873 the Rev. J. J. Smith, of Emmetsburg, held the first Catholic services in the county at the house of Oliver Sarazine. He continued to hold services here twice a year at least and sometimes oftener until 1881 when Rev. M. K. Norton was stationed here as resident priest and held services here once in three weeks.


In the spring of 1882 Father Norton and Oliver Sarazine collected money to build a Catholic church. The amount collected was $1,500 and the church was erected the following fall. Father Norton was the only resident priest that ever lived in Spirit Lake and he remained here until 1887 when he was succeeded by Rev. L. Carroll, of Spencer. His successors were Rev. P. Macaully, Rev. P. A. R. Tierney and Rev. L. Kirby, in the order named, all of whom resided in Spencer and gave every third Sunday to Spirit Lake. This arrangement lasted until 1898, when the church here was placed in charge of Rev. M. R. Daley, of Estherville. He died on November 10, 1900, and was succeeded by his brother, Rev. J. R. Daley, who is pastor at the present time. The church is a frame building and is located in the north part of town on a' site donated by B. B. Van Steenburg, who though an Episcopalian himself, was ready to assist all worthy enterprises. There are about fifteen families in the parish and the church is free from debt.


One of the early day institutions of the town of Spirit Lake which is still remembered with much pleasure by those who participated in it is the Evergreen Sabbath School. While the several churches were conducted along denominational lines even in the early days, the Evergreen Sabbath School was a cosmopolitan affair and strictly nonsectarian. All met on a common platform and labored for a common object. G. S. Needham was the first superintendent and he was assisted by an able and enthusiastic corps of teachers and subordinates. Subsequent to Mr. Needham's time, the superintendents were A. M. Johnson, C. H. Ayers and J. A. Doughty, in the order named. For several years there was no other Sabbath school in town. Its name and fame spread to adjacent neighborhoods. Strangers staying in town over Sunday visited the Evergreen Sabbath School. So common was the practice that at one time a visitors' class was organized and Rev. J. L. Coppoc, pastor of the Baptist Church, was selected to conduct it. The school was highly successful from the start and continued in existence several years until, as the churches multiplied and grew stronger, each one conceived it to be an imperative duty to organize and maintain a Sabbath school of their own, and this interesting and highly successful effort of the early times was allowed to die out to make room for several denominational schools that grew up in its stead.


Another of the institutions of this same period was the Spirit Lake Musical Association. During the winter of 1875 and 1876 the Leslie Concert Troupe made a tour of the towns of northwestern Iowa organizing musical associations and giving concerts. The struck Spirit Lake December eighth. The Beacon of the ninth has the following notice :



"The Leslie Musical Troupe which has visited several towns in northwestern Iowa lately will give a concert at the Baptist Church tomorrow night. It. is their intention to organize a Musical Association and from the interest usually evinced in matters of this kind by our people we think a large class will be raised. There can be no question as to their ability, as they have given satisfaction wherever they have been."


The company gave their closing concert Tuesday evening, December twenty-first. The Musical Association was organized the evening before, of which the Beacon gives the following account :



"An organization was formed last Monday night in town order the above name with the following officers: President, ~. L. Pillsbury; Vice-President, C. H. Ayers; Secretary, J. Ellis; Treasurer, Miss Dena Barkman. About forty names were attached to the articles of organization and a lively interest seems to be taken in the matter. The object of the association is to keep up a musical interest in the community and to furnish an opportunity for advancement in the art by continued practice and mutual instruction. Meetings will be appointed once a week and strict rules will be adopted to insure the attendance of the members."


Well, the class was organized and the next issue of the paper as the following:


"Spirit Lake is chuck full of music this week. Everybody reads music, talks music, sings music, in season and out of Season. In fact, there's music in the air and it permeates every nook and corner of our little city. Young men and maidens court the muse, hoping to increase their accomplishments. Middle-aged persons whose early education in this direction was neglected are now trying to make up for lost time, and old men whose entire musical collection for years past has consisted of a medley composed of "Old Hundred," "Yankee Doodle," "Ortonville" and "Erin Go Bragh," are putting in their best licks learning to sing the new fangled tunes. The town is full of sharps and flats, some produced by art, but more the work of nature. Selah."


The above extract gives something of an idea of the enthusiasm worked up. It is not at all overdrawn.


The foregoing incidents may seem decidedly commonplace, and indeed they would be hardly worth the telling were it not for the fact that they mark the first awakening of the spirit of improvement and musical development which has in more recent times been so marked a characteristic of our people. It is an acknowledged fact that the Spirit Lake Chautauqua annually puts before the public one of the choicest, if not the choicest, program, literary and musical, of any organization of its kind in the West. Now, if the demand did not exist they could not do it. Where did this demand originate? It didn't come by chance. It had to be created, cultivated and fostered. What connection there may be between the early efforts and the development of the later days, we don't know, but the fact remains true all the same that there is no other town in Iowa in proportion to its population that annually invests anywhere near as much in musical entertainments as Spirit Lake.


The Spirit Lake Cornet Band is of later date. The following from the Beacon of November 17, 1878, gives the details, however, of its organization :


"There is a series of commonplace events that occur uniformly and mark epochs in the history of a town. The first church, the first lodge, the first sidewalk, the first railroad, all these things come and form in their turn starting points in the ordinary system of chronological mnemonics that serve to guide us in remembering our daily transactions. Coming in the regular order with the numerous improvements that mark the progress of our town, sounding brass and tinkling cymbal unite in harmonious effort to proclaim our metropolitan yearnings, and Spirit Lake can now boast of a full fledged cornet band. A full set of instruments in the latest styled and with all the modern improvements arrived here last Friday. The previously organized band was waiting to receive them, and after the trial they were distributed as follows: W. F. Pillsbury, E flat cornet ; S. P. Middleton, E flat cornet ; T. J. Francis, B flat cornet; A. W. Middleton, B flat cornet; Carl Blacken, tenor; T. L. Twiford alto; J. A. Ellis, alto; S. L. Pillsbury, baritone ; J. A, Smith, E flat bass; C. W. Bowne, snare drum; J. S. Johnston, bass drum. The instruments are from the well known house of Lyon & Healy of Chicago, and give perfect satisfaction. After a few weeks practice the boys will be ready to discourse sweet music. For the present, however, they have retired to hidden recesses and practice their lessons under the rose."





The accompanying illustration is copied from an old photograph in possession of Mrs. J. L. Davis. The names of the parties are as given in the list, with the addition that the figure at the left of the line was not a member of the band at all, but "Grandpap Clark," as the boys called him, a veteran and pensioner of the war of 1812, who was passionately fond of music and inordinately proud of the new band. Whenever the boys met for practice, no matter what the weather was, "Grandpap'" was always on hand, and as the boys lined up he would take his position beside the leader and following them through all the changes would keep time with the music oblivious to all external surroundings.


Since that time there have been bands and bands. Indeed, Spirit Lake has seldom been without a band. Some of them have undoubtedly excelled the original in artistic rendition and musical culture, but for honest, earnest, conscientious endeavor, the pioneer band was without peer or rival.


Among the many social organizations which have first arid last been brought into existence by surrounding conditions, there are none that, for the time being, afforded more genuine satisfaction to those connected with it than the "Pioneer Girls' Club." The plan and scope of the organization is unique and decidedly original. So far as known there is nothing like it anywhere else. As may be readily understood, there has always existed a sympathy, or a kind of freemasonry, among the children of the families of the pioneer settlers, and as they grew to manhood and womanhood, it afforded them no small degree of satisfaction to get together and compare notes, or as the newspaper men would put it, "swap lies," concerning the many and varied vicissitudes which at different times came into the experience of the early pioneers.


The impressions of childhood are the ones that stay by us through life the most persistently, and as the years go by and the episodes of middle life become indistinct and partially forgotten, the impressions of childhood become more clearly defined than ever, and it is only natural that those who spent their early days in the environments of pioneer life should iii after years find delight and satisfaction in calling up and relating the reminiscences and experiences of that interesting period. It was out of such a condition of affairs that the idea of forming an association for the purpose of keeping in remembrance the reminiscences of the pioneer days was first evolved, and the "Pioneer Girls' Club" was the result. It would ire difficult just now to say when or how the idea first originated. It was always a source of satisfaction for those who had spent the greater part of their early days on the frontier to meet and talk over their early experiences and recollections.


It so happened that along from 1890 to 1895 there were proportionately an exceptionally large number of ladies residing in Spirit Lake who could honestly lay claim to the appellation of "Pioneer Girls," and in some of their impromptu gatherings it was suggested that they form a "Pioneer Girls" club.


The idea became popular at once. So far as can now be ascertained, the suggestion was first made by Mrs. Ella Arnold Stevens, and was at once enthusiastically seconded by several, prominent among whom were Mrs. L. H Farnham, Mrs. E. L. Brownell, Mrs. A. B. Funk, Mrs. E. G. Blackert, Mrs. H. A. Miller, Mrs. J. S. Everett and many others. An organization was soon effected with Mrs. Stevens as president.


It was about 1892 when the organization began to take form and. shape. The membership grew in numbers and the meetings in interest. The idea of an annual banquet was proposed and soon became decidedly popular. The largest and most important of these annual gatherings was held at the Crandall House, February 12, 1894. Invitations were sent to all of the old settlers who could be reached, and special pains were taken to invite all who were children here in the pioneer days. There was a liberal response to these invitations and at the appointed hour a brilliant and enthusiastic company had assembled.


The Beacon, in writing of the affair at the time, gives it the following send-off:


* * * "All of the arrangements were in excellent taste. The rooms were somewhat crowded, but that was no fault of the managers, unless the girls were to blame for having so many friends. The guests embraced about one hundred and twenty-five and each and all were made to feel very much at home."


After a few preliminaries the address of welcome was given by Mrs. Ella Arnold Stevens, president of the association. The address is too long to be reproduced here, but one or two extracts will not be out of place.


"Ladies and Gentlemen : I bid you welcome in the name of our circle, hoping that you may in a measure feel repaid for coming. We have taken so much pleasure in preparing for this banquet, that we have perhaps over-estimated its merits, and we ask of you a kindly criticism, for it has grown in magnitude on our hands. We first thought to entertain our husbands and immediate families, but we have very much enjoyed extending our invitations until we have the present company. You may not all know what the Spirit Lake Pioneer Girls' Club means. Possibly some of the older settlers will remember a good many years ago (out of a delicate consideration for some of the members of our circle, I don't like to use figures) that the young people of this town had a particularly gay time. The young ladies were brilliant and attractive and the young men handsome and gallant. * * *


"Of these larks I will let the girls with longer memories speak. Since that time we have been scattered in many directions, some of us at times being separated by half a continent. This winter kind fate has brought many of us together again. In an inspired moment some one conceived the idea of forming a circle for the renewing of old times and the warming up of old friendships. As we were to meet once a week, on Thursday afternoons, we thought in justice to ourselves (and our neighbors) that we ought not to spend all our time in gossiping. With the double object in view of mental culture and social advantage, we organized a circle called the Spirit Lake Pioneer Girls' Club. At each meeting we very much enjoyed a little literary program, and out of these meetings and an ever present 'desire to do something for mankind, has grown this banquet."


The foregoing extracts convey a fair idea of the entire address which was well received and enthusiastically applauded. The intervals between the various exercises were occupied with a musical program which was much enjoyed by the lovers of music. After the banquet came toasts and responses, Mrs. Stevens acting as toastmaster. The responses were unique and decidedly interesting, the most noted perhaps were those of Mrs. Farnham, Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Brownell. The others, though not quite as lengthy were equally bright, apt and original. There were some twelve or fifteen in all and it would be difficult to say which were the most deserving of notice. It is to be regretted that none of them were preserved. The Beacon in writing of this part of the program had this to say:


"The matter was exceedingly bright, ingenious and entertaining, and the delivery actually captivating. AU of the speakers brought flowers of sentiment to this feast of soul which deeply stirred the company and particularly those who were part of the experiences of the earlier years."


These annual banquets were kept up for some years and were occasions of much genuine enjoyment, but of late the interest has been allowed to flag. Some have moved away, others have passed over the silent river, and it is more than probable that in the not distant future the Spirit Lake Pioneer Girls' Club will be but a pleasant memory of other days. Perhaps more space has been given to the foregoing incidents than their importance as historical events would seem to warrant; but the time is not far distant when all will exceedingly regret that more of the social life of the pioneer days has not been preserved and given a place in our local history.


The Spirit Lake Chautauqua is worthy of a place in this history. Early in 1892 enterprising spirits installed the Spirit Lake Park Association. An auditorium was erected on the East Okoboji shore between town and the shore of Spirit Lake. A musical festival occupied eight days with a program of unusual merit. Happening to drop off the train for, a night during this period and attending an evening session, E. C. Whalen, superintendent of the Chautauqua at Lake Madison, South Dakota, became impressed with the idea that here was a grand center for a great Chautauqua movement. He broached the matter to F. W. Barron, president of the Park Association, in whose fertile mind the idea took firm root. He talked the enterprise over and found friends for it. Mr. Barron and A. B. Funk made a trip to Madison to find what a Chautauqua meant to a community that had tried it, and the idea was found to be very popular there. Then Spirit Lake took hold and gave the movement a lift. The Park Association was merged into the Spirit Lake Chautauqua Association. Mr. Barron was continued as president and E. C. Whalen was made secretary and superintendent.


Shares of stock were offered at $100 each. Possession entitled the holder and family to free access to all Chautauqua privileges, and a leasehold interest in a lot in the Chautauqua plat. The first assembly was held in July, 1893. The World's Fair, the impending financial panic and a serious drouth all made inroads upon the attendance, but in spite of all, receipts were large and stockholders and others within a range of twenty or thirty counties in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota were delighted with the excellence of platform performance and other privileges. Each succeeding .assembly has served to fortify the Chautauqua in public esteem and confidence. Large expenditures of money and of time are required to sustain a movement of this character. This one has had no money-making feature--that is to say, it included no opportunity for private gain. All receipts are dedicated to the support of the assemblies and the property necessary to its existence. In the earlier days a heavy debt was incurred. This was due to plans impractically elaborate, .and to the endeavor to support a high-salaried superintendent. There were three plat form meetings a day where two better served the popular need and comfort. Too much ground was bought and money was wasted in expensive platting. But for a determined stand on the part of men of Spirit Lake willing to make a sacrifice rather than have the Chautauqua go into disgraceful bankruptcy, the end would have come right soon. The business men of the county responded liberally to the needs of the case. Thousands of dollars subscribed under good management so reduced the debt as to give the enterprise a chance for its life. The program was not dwarfed, but all expenses were reduced to the minimum. While still somewhat involved, the Chautauqua is growing steadily in popular favor and in financial standing, and may be regarded as a fixture. Its influence for good and its highly enjoyable privileges are worthy of the encouragement of all people of intelligence and character.


The uniform excellence and high grade of the entertainments afforded by the Spirit Lake Chautauqua have always excited much favorable comment .among the lecturers and prominent visitors familiar with the Chautauqua work in other localities. This was particularly true of the earlier meetings. Those who were present at the first two sessions doubtless recall how emphatically this point was dwelt upon by the first speakers. It seemed a surprise almost amounting to a revelation to them that in a new country so recently and sparsely settled, and that, too, by people of limited means, that a demand should have sprung up or could have been created or maintained that would justify the expense .and labor necessary to carry such an enterprise to a successful completion.


Many of them expressed both surprise and delight that they should find here, on what was so recently the northwestern frontier, a community in its transition state just emerging from the first or pioneer stage of its existence with the faith .and courage requisite to the establishment and successful maintenance of an organization of this magnitude, devoted exclusively to literary development. One of the curious and characteristic features of the movement was its spontaneity, or, well, call it what you please. Such a movement was no part of any one's plans or schemes. But few had ever heard of the Chautauqua movement, and they had given it but little thought or study. Mr. Whalen's visit here was purely accidental. In short, the whole movement was originally but the spontaneous and unpremeditated expression of the public feeling then existing. Looking back at the affair through the light of more recent conditions the only wonder is that the extravagance and inexperience of the earlier days didn't bury the enterprise past all resurrection.


The first program presented an aggregation of talent such as is seldom seen on any platform. Rev. Frank Gunsaulus, Rev. Joseph Cook, Rev. T. DeWitt Talmage, Rev. Russell Conwell, Hon. Henry Watterson, Frank Bristol, and many others of national reputation occupied the platform of the Spirit Lake Chautauqua during that memorable first two weeks of its existence, while the musical and miscellaneous features of the program were correspondingly elaborate and expensive. It may seem remarkable that so much more space has been given to, Spirit Lake than can be given to the other towns of the county, but it must be remembered that Spirit Lake is emphatically the pioneer town of the county. In fact, more pioneer history clusters about Spirit Lake than any other town west of Fort Dodge and north of Sioux City.