Peeking Into Lake City's Past

A Story of a Well Known Lake City Pioneer Family

Our story begins shortly after President Lincoln made his historic address at Gettysburg, Pa. This was a time in our local history, only 8 years after Lake City was founded. A time when Hiram Gist, his wife Mary and their 5 year old daughter Lyda of Bloomington, Illinois equipped their Prairie Schooner for what resulted in a grueling trip to Lake City, to establish their new home.

Descendants tell us they were plagued with bad weather for the duration of the trip. Cold rains, severe storms, rampaging rivers and creeks to be crossed and physical exposure from sleeping on wet grounds caused them to suffer from colds and flu.

Their first Lake city home was a log cabin with an earthen floor constructed with the assistance of compassionate neighbors who became close friends. A small fireplace built from nature's materials (usually sod and clay) served to heat the home and cook their food.

The Gists, like other early settlers, lived a typical pioneer life style in this beautiful prairie wilderness, which at that time was attracting numerous families from neighboring states. Lest we forget, in 1864 this was a wilderness dotted with a few homesteads. The vast flowered, sloughed prairie, stretching away in all directions beyond the range of human vision, with little groves of timber here and there planted on the homesteads, the picturesque, timbered Raccoon River with its tributaries connecting many ponds with the beautiful Pond Grove Lake from which Lake City was named, was a panoramic sight never to be seen again.

Life in the Gist's crude cabin home was not always comfortable. To keep warm on sub-zero nights they would heat bricks in the fireplace, wrap them with several layers of cloth and place them in their beds for warmth. Pioneers found it advantageous to eat a lot of animal fat in winter to generate body heat for additional protection from the elements.

It was into this wild, primitive environment that the Gists, like other settlers, came determined to conquer all obstacles. It is to this determination that descendants and their peers are indebted for the manifold comforts they enjoy to day.

Although the Gists endured hardships, it must not be imagined for a moment that their lives were devoid of relaxation and entertainment. The pioneers held lots of parties preceded by youthful taffy pulls. They had many square dance parties, quilting parties, husking bees, checker game contest and tournaments. The male contingent took pleasure in such sporting events as pony races and turkey shoots. Together, they raised buildings for each other, mixing enjoyable social activity with the hard work. At such times, the women folds prepared feasts to celebrate the occasion and a good time was had by all. The early pioneer was truly independent. There was no big government to direct his life style, taxes were minimal and they were content to live by their own resources and from what nature provided. Most pioneers were devoutly religious.

As little Lyda Gist grew to womanhood, she, like her mother, became a midwife, performing "child birth services" for the neighbors and friends. Pioneer midwives also offered nursing assistance during times of serious illness. Medical services as we know them today did not exist in the 1860's. Whisky, laudanum (a tincture of opium in alcohol) and a few herbs were the only medicine with curative powers known to the pioneers. I have been told that midwives such and Mary and Lyda Gist administered a special home remedy for scarlet and other feverish diseases. The prescription was "sheep droppings brewed with black tea and sweetened heavily with sugar." It is believed the prescription worked very well, especially if the patient did not know what he drank. The midwives' remedy for pneumonia was a flannel vest filled with hot cooked onions fastened tightly to the chest and throat. Sometimes, hot mustard was substituted for cooked onions. Would we take modern drugs if we knew what was in them? Is it possible that sheep droppings are still used? Midwives also helped neighbors in times of bereavement. In lieu of embalmment, deceased persons were wrapped in cloth saturated with camphor and spices, leaving the wrap over night before the funeral. The procedure made the deceased look real natural.

Mrs. Hilda Richards, a granddaughter of Lyda Gist Daisy, who supplied much of the information from which this article is composed, tells of helping her grandmother, Lida Gist Daisy, wrap a baby cousin using the above method. Hilda recalls how nice the baby looked at the funeral. The deceased baby was a daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Norman Daisy of Lake City.

It should also be mentioned that pioneer Hiram Gist was involved with the Army. As a member of the Cavalry, he was a part of the armed force that went in pursuit of the great Indian chief, Ink Paduta and his band of outlaw renegades who perpetrated the Spirit Lake Massacre, killing all but one member of the Gardner family who settled on the south shore of Lake Okoboji. Abbie Gardner, a teen age girl, escaped by swimming across the lake mostly under water. Abbie must have been an expert swimmer. I remember when about the age of 10 or 12 years, I used to talk to Abbie Gardner when visiting Lake Okoboji. I would see her frequently because I was raised on a farm between Spencer and Okoboji. My favorite pastime was fishing. I have also learned from past records that another group of pioneers from Lake City took part in an effort to bring Ink Paduta to justice. Our first Lake City merchant, John W. Lumpkin, led a group of Lake City settlers in pursuit of Ink Paduta hoping to lend support to the army.

Hiram and Mary Gist bore a large family of 8 children. One died in infancy. The seven who survived are: Lyda, who married Elmer Daisy, Ella, Ona, William, Lane, Matt and Rola. Lyda Gist Daisy lived to a ripe old age. She passed to her reward at the age of 90 years on August 16, 1950.

Lyda Gist Daisy's children lived most of their lives in or near Lake City. Lyda like her mother, bore 8 children, none were lost in infancy. The writer was personally acquainted with all of them. The names are as follows: William Daisy, Clel Daisy, Norman Daisy, Nora Daisy Jones, Lizzie Daisy Sheppard, Margaret (Maggie) Daisy Pierce, Carrie Daisy Savage, and Frank Daisy, the last to pass away. Frank will be remembered by many readers of the Graphic as the operator of Daisy's Barber Shop. Frank's sons, Brice and Howard, are Lake City businessmen, doing business as the Lake City Electric Company. If you were to compute the total of all descendants of pioneers Hiram and Mary Gist you would perhaps be amazed to find them numbering several hundred.

Numerous members of the Gist and Daisy families have been and are members of the Woodlawn Christian Church in Lake City. Lyda Gist Daisy was one of the early members of the church. When the present church was constructed in 1927, a stained glass window on the east side of the sanctuary was dedicated to Lyda Gist Daisy.