During the fall and winter of 1850, reports circulated in the sparsely settled river counties of Iowa by Indians and adventurous hunters that a beautiful lake existed way back in the center of the state. These reports reached the ears of Joseph Hewitt and James Dickirson, then living at Strawberry Point in Clayton County. On May 20, 1851, they started out with their teams and families to the beautiful lake described them.
After a difficult journey, they finally reached the shore of Clear Lake July 14, 1851. They selected a point on the south side of the lake to take shelter. The two men, with their families, braved the hardships, dared the wilderness and openly defied the war-painted Sioux to turn Clear Lake into an oasis for the Midwest.
In the spring of 1852 Dickirson, a farmer, claimed the land where Clear Lake now stands and a tract of land east of the community. In 1854 he had received a patent from the United States for 134 acres of land in what is now downtown Clear Lake.
Hewitt was a prominent trader with the Indians and spoke the Winnebago tongue fluently.
By the mid-1850's, a good number of settlers had come, most by foot. Settlement had commenced in earnest. The present town of Clear Lake was laid out in 1856 by Dickirson and Marcus Tuttle, who owned the land. Twenty-three others took an interest with them in the town site.
Clear Lake is a spring-fed lake formed by glacial action some 14,000 years ago. It has a surface area of about 3,600 acres and measures seven miles long and two and one-half miles wide. The elevation of the lake is 1,247 feet above sea level and it is nearly 100 feet above the surrounding countryside, giving it the appearance of an inverted saucer setting above the area around it. Its elevation is actually higher than the top of the tallest building in neighboring Mason City.
The earliest known-recorded mention of the body of water known as Clear Lake was a land survey of northern Iowa done in 1832. The survey was signed by land surveyor Nathan Boone, son of the famous explorer, Daniel Boone.
HISTORY COMES TO LIFE
Electric trolley cars no longer travel through Main Street Clear Lake on their way to deliver visitors to the lake, and fire destroyed the once popular Bayside Amusement Park and night spot on the Island, but those wishing to take a step back into Clear Lake's fascinating past can do so, thanks to a series of slide shows available at the Clear Lake Public Library.
The idea to retain the city's history in the form of a slide presentation grew out of the original E. B. Stillman slides and commentary, which the Clear Lake library was given years ago after the local attorney's death.
Three segments document Clear Lake's progress through the years, from the days when the lake was without the home and buildings that surround it and the only "tourists" were Indians.
As part of Clear Lake's 150th Birthday, the public library's slide collection has been transferred to VHS video tape and is now for sale at the library. For more information on the slide show or the video tape, contact the library at 641-357-6133.