13 September 2012

Ancient and Modern Game

A Southern Iowa Editor in Search of the One Succeeds in Making the Other of His Friends.

(Sam B. Evans in the Ottumwa Democrat.)

As the stage climbed along to the top of the hill overlooking the scenery beyond, the driver checked his spirited horse and striking back with his whip to attract attention, exclaimed: "Gentlemen, see the finest lake in the northwest!" And behold, there was spread before us like a picture, West Okoboji, in all its loveliness.

The town of Spirit Lake is situated in the midst of lakes: Spirit Lake to the north, East Okoboji to the east, and West Okoboji and Diamond Lakes to the west and south.

This region may be denominated the hunters paradise; the lakes are full of fish and the inlets and lakelets covered with fowl. Here abound ducks of all varieties: blue winged teal, butter ducks, mallard, canvas-backs, plover, wild geese, curlew, snipe and in season thousands of prairie chickens.

An exploring party was organized on Saturday morning for the purpose of discovering and excavating the ancient mounds at the head of the main lake, and also to shoot the ferocious ducks and plover that might interfere with our archeological pursuits. The party consisted of nine, Smith of the Beacon, and the writer hereof hunting in couple. For the benefit of future explorers, we may say that the mounds are situated in Sec. 8, T100, R36, commanding a magnificent view of the main lake looking to the southeast. Prehistoric relics were secured in the shape of human bones, pottery, etc. and evidence in support of a theory which we do not find ourselves bold enough yet to announce.

After mound-hunting, came shooting, and Smith, of the Beacon, having kindly loaned us his excellent gun and agreeing to keep up with us, we boldly struck out in the primeval forest, scattering ducks, plover, loons and curlews from our paths like chaff before the storm. Those we did not kill were badly frightened, and yet we met there were ducks that came up missing in the family duck pond that evening. Smith is a mighty hunter in Dickinson, and labors under but one difficulty. He is broad in base and ponderous in bulk, and his wind is not equal to his ambition.

A dinner at Hunters' Lodge, where Crandell dishes up those marvelous stews, was on the programe, and here Smith vindicated his fair fame and name, for on Crandall's list of big eaters, lo! Smith's name led all the rest.

"The cool[??], fresh wind from the prairies,
Was [word not legible] the [word not legible] of the crystal lake."

Sunset too was coming and the Spirit Lake Exploring and Hunting Party set its race homeward — in the direction of the Minne Waukon House, where the genial Ed. Wells dispenses that hospitality which has made him famous with all tourists in Northwestern Iowa.

Fringed with timber on high hills, pebbly beaches and murmuring shores, Spirit Lake is a beautiful, romantic place, with the associations that render it one of the most interesting spots in Iowa. On its bosom no Indian would venture his canoe, for a spirit, according to the legend, was vigilant in drawing beneath the waters the boat of any red man who would venture to cross.

On these shores no later than 1857, a most terrible tragedy was enacted, the result of which to this day makes the blood of old pioneers bound in the veins. The entire settlement of about thirty persons was massacred by Ink-pa-du-tah's band of renegade Sioux. All the men were murdered; children were nailed to the cabin to die in torment in presence of their mothers, who were reserved for a fate that was worse.

Hon. R.A. Smith, the historian of the county, has given a very interesting account of the massacre, and which was published in the Beacon.

The time has passed rapidly away while her, and why should it not, when welcomed and entertained by such generous friends as J.A. Smith of the Beacon, Hon. Orson Rice and his son Fred, who by the way is just admitted to the law firm of Rice & Co.; A.A. Mosher, Ed. Wells, A.B. Funk, R.A. Smith, T.L. Twiford, Reynolds, Cutler, Terwilliger and Eastwood, of the Journal. I will come here again, if for nothing else than to see the new fleet of boats Commander Reynolds will have launched before the oaks on the mounds have put forth their leaves or the fish begin to bite well.

May 6, 1880. Spirit Lake Beacon 10(23): 3.