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“Know your history”

Abbie Gardner Cabin
Reviewed 9 August 2017 via mobile

I like to understand what the "spirit" of a place is, and hidden amongst many cottages is about a block green space that recounts the Spirit Lake Massacre . The information building is closed on Monday but the monuments and actual cottage have you close your eyes and envision these early settlers and their fear as yelling and whooping native Americans come sweeping down on them! Open your eyes and realize it may be screams from the roller coaster at nearby Arnold's Park!

Thank pattihoman5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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"native americans"
in 4 reviews
"small museum"
in 4 reviews
"early settlers"
in 2 reviews
"spirit lake"
in 13 reviews
"well worth the stop"
in 2 reviews
"grave site"
in 2 reviews
"massacre"
in 15 reviews
"gardeners"
in 12 reviews
"erected"
in 3 reviews
"frontier"
in 2 reviews
"sioux"
in 4 reviews
"monument"
in 4 reviews
"history"
in 17 reviews
"captive"
in 2 reviews
"docent"
in 2 reviews
"life"
in 3 reviews
"survived"
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Reviewed 26 July 2017

This is one of Iowa's most significant urban parks, marking the site where the Spirit Lake massacre began. There is a small visitors center and museum next to the Gardner family cabin. The obelisk monument erected in 1894 to honor the settlers and the "rescuers, " as well as the Gardner/Luce family graves are all located close by. You can see everything in less than an hour. You may easily walk here from the amusement park, though there is visitor parking nearby.

The violence perpetrated here is considered by some to be a precursor to the Dakota uprising in western Minnesota in 1862.

Why is this tragic event called the Spirit Lake Massacre if most of the settlers killed were on West and East Okoboji? What contributed to the conflicts between the Dakota and the European settlers? How many members of this Dakota band had been murdered by settlers? How harsh were the conditions in the winter of 1857 when these murders took place? What happened to the leader of this band of Dakota? Be sure to watch the short, informative film to learn more; the docent can also answer these and other questions.

On the day we visited we met someone whose relative participated in the rescue effort; he froze to death before reaching this area. The docent told us he was surprised at how many visitors had some connection to either settler or rescuer families.

Abbie Gardner Sharp, taken captive at 13 and ransomed some three months later, eventually published a memoir of her harrowing experience. She earned enough from this book to repurchase her family's cabin in 1891, and she established a bustling business that was one of the first commercial tourism ventures in this area at the time. She died in 1921 and is buried near the mass grave of her family members who were killed in March 1857.

1  Thank VivaMexicoLiz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 July 2017

Revisited this site in Arnolds Park.
Has a large memorial statue erected as well as a small museum and of course the original cabin and cemetery.
The museum has a running story of the events that happened back in 1856 and onwards, It is quite well done and a couple of local townspeople give a commentary of the events that took place.
You can make a donation but there is no firm charge to see this attraction.
The Gardner cabin is still intact and gives you a chilling realization of the conditions they had to endure.
The statue contains the names of all those involved.
A nice little piece of Northern Iowa history.

Thank dennisp859
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 27 June 2017 via mobile


In 1856 a renegade Sioux Tribe attacked several groups of settlers around West and East Okoboji and Spirit Lake, Iowa. They killed most of the people accepted for 4 women that were kidnapped. The cabin that belonged to the Gardner family can be visited at the site. A museum and the whole story of the massacre is located next to the cabin. The graves of the family and a monument built in honor of the lost pioneers is all located near the cabin. The Dickinson County Musuem is located in Spirit Lake ( 4 miles north) has items from the Gardner cabin and a book written by Abby Gardner entitled "The Spirit Lake Massacre". It is an incredible book.
Great place to visit.

1  Thank james R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 11 April 2017 via mobile

If you have kids or grandkids this is a fun short visit! If they love learning take the time to share this with them

Thank Marlin L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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