Many years ago, when many of you attended country schools, memorization was a large part of your education. My wife Connie attended a one-room country school in southern Palo Alto County. She recalls that one of her assignments was to learn the names of all 99 counties and their county seat towns. How many can you recite?
Most counties in Iowa comprise of 16 townships or 576 sections of land. Dickinson County has only 408 sections and more than 10 percent of those acres are lakes and marshes. There are 27 lakes in Dickinson County. Years ago, using this standard, Dickinson County was a poor county as most of the taxes generated came from property taxes. It was not until recent years, with the huge influx of building around our lakes, that Dickinson County could be considered "rich." Compare our old county courthouse with the courthouse in Clay County (Spencer) or counties to the west of Dickinson County.
Dickinson County was named for Daniel S. Dickinson. He was a senator from New York and considered for the vice president position in Abraham Lincoln's second term. Dickinson County is 24 miles wide and nearly 17 miles in depth from north to south.
The northern townships: Silver Lake, Diamond Lake, Spirit Lake and Superior have 30 sections each whereas the other eight townships have 36 sections in each. Dickinson County has only 12 townships whereas our neighboring county to the south, Clay County, has 16 townships. The townships of Lakeville, Center Grove and Spirit Lake incorporate the lakes of the Okobojis and Spirit Lake.
According to the U. S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 404 square miles of which 381 square miles is land and 23 square miles is water. It is the smallest county by land area in Iowa and fifth-smallest by total area. The communities in Dickinson County are Arnolds Park, Lake Park, Milford, Okoboji, Orleans, Spirit Lake, Superior, Terril, Wahpeton and West Okoboji. Montgomery is an unincorporated community.
It has only been in recent years that state parks were developed at the Iowa Great Lakes. Prior to 1932 all of the shorelines of the lakes were in private hands. Through the effort of many private individuals and the Okoboji Protective Association; Gull Point, Pikes Point, Mini-Wakan Park, Marble Beach, Emerson Bay, etc. were developed and offered the public access to the Lakes.
West Lake Okoboji with its points and bays has 19.8 miles of shore line and Spirit Lake, primarily with few points and bays, has 15.25 miles of shore line. Spirit Lake has 5,684 acres of water and West Lake Okoboji has 3,867 acres of water. East Lake Okoboji has 16.8 miles of shoreline, Center Lake 2.5 miles, Minnewashta 2.3 miles, Lower Gar 1.4 miles, Upper Gar 1.2 miles and Silver Lake has 9.6 miles of shore line.
Little Spirit Lake has been developed in recent years but part of that lake is in Minnesota. Other lakes that have their own charms in Dickinson County are Center Lake, East & West Hottes Lakes and Marble Lake.
In the same neighborhood is a little known lake, Sunken Lake. Sunken Lake is separated by a wall of earth some 20 or 30 feet high and only about a rod wide from East Hottes Lake, to the north. The interesting thing is the water level in East Hottes Lake is higher than the water in Sunken Lake, hence the name. It has been suggested Sunken Lake is much older than the surrounding lakes, but that debate is still open. Some other theories are that glaciers that formed our lakes left an ice boulder that formed Sunken Lake. Take your pick. Sunken Lake is an interesting phenomenon.
Take a trip east or west of the Okobojis or Spirit Lake and visit some of the other treasurers in Dickinson County; Diamond Lake, Pleasant Lake, Lily Lake, Pillsbury Lake, Stony Lake, Welsh Lake, Grover Lake, Swan Lake, Prairie Lake and Silver Lake. Dickinson County is very unique of the 99 counties of Iowa.