Storm Lake History

For anyone looking for any kind of information about Storm Lake or the surrounding county, the best place for information would be the Buena Vista County Historical Society. They have excellent resources and the staff is very knowledgeable and helpful. This page is mostly history from the beginning of Storm lake through the early-mid 1900’s. More recent information and more in depth information can be found at the County Historical Society and the local public library.

v 1st white person to visit area was probably 1812, by Dickinson, a Scotsman from northern MN who established a fur trade route to St. Louis from Manitoba
v The 1st settler arrived around 1856. This was Abner Bell who was a trapper and hunter.
v By the late 1860’s a small settlement had sprung up on the South West shore of the lake.
v There are several stories about the naming of the town of Storm Lake. The first is the most widely accepted, while the others have also been circulated as well.
  • It was first known as Boyer Lake because it was mistakenly thought to be the source of the Boyer River. This name was abandoned after the mistake was discovered. In 1855, U.S. surveyors were at the lake, surveying the land when they ran into an old trapper. He asked what the name of the lake was and was told it was un-named. Because the surveyors were forbidden from naming the lake, the trapper said her would name the lake in the morning. That night a furious storm blew down the trapper’s tent, prompting him to choose the name Storm Lake.
  • The lake owes its name to an Indian episode. A Sioux maiden was forbidden by her chief to marry a suitor from another tribe. The 2 young lovers attempted to elope, starting out across the lake in a canoe. A storm upset the boat and the two were drowned. The saddened Chief cursed the waters as the cause of his sorrow and in his grief christened the waters “Storm Lake”.
  • Another version has it that a tribe of Indians, traveling through this part of the state, pitched their wigwams upon the banks of the lake to spend the night. They found several rudely constructed canoes and a number of young braves shoved out from the shore for the purpose of fishing. A storm suddenly came up and the boats were driven out upon the lake, capsizing and the occupants drowned. The same storm leveled the wigwams and the next morning when the survivors of the tribe left they had in their language named this body of water Storm Lake.
v In 1870, the railroad officially came to the town, when Storm Lake was officially established on the North Shore of the lake, while “old town” remained on the SW shore.
  • In 1870 the 1st child was born in Storm Lake.
v The first post office was established in Oct. 1870
v The Pilot Tribune began publishing on Oct. 26, 1870
v The first Presbyterian church was established in December of 1870. This was the first official church in storm Lake
v The first school was held in fall of 1870 in private homes. The next year a small school building was built.
v 1870: pop 256 1970: pop 8,591 1980: pop 8814 2010: pop. 10,600
v In 1873, Storm Lake was incorporated and the 1st election was held that spring.
v 1891- Buena Vista College was founding in Storm Lake. Possibly established here because there was no saloon here.
v Buena Vista County: 1899: pop. 15,029 Nationalities: United States, Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Germany, France, Russia, other Europeans, Oceania, and unknown.
v The lake provided the ice for the ice house that did big business in Storm Lake. Opening in early 1900’s. They were shut down with the invention of the refrigeration.
v The first library was built in 1905, with help from a Carnegie grant and Rev. E.E. Reed, the president of Buena Vista College at the time. The new library was built in 1972 having outgrown its original home.
v One of the earliest movies was shot in Storm Lake in 1922, a 3 reel movie “Welcome Stranger”
v Bonnie and Clyde actually robbed the bank in Rembrandt in Buena Vista County in 1934.
v The original packing plant, Hygrade Food Products Corp, opened in 1935, specializing in hogs and cattle and sheep for a while.
v KAYL, the radio station began broadcasting Nov. 14th 1948. The FM station signed on in 1949
v Old Main burnt down Sept. 1956. Thanks to students, faculty, and town folks almost everything was saved out of the building.