Sepia toned photo of Le Mars store fronts from the past
British Heritage
Le Mars is also proud to tout its British heritage. Le Mars can attribute its cultural and social growth to the English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh, while its industrialization can be mostly affiliated with the German and Dutch.

Early Beginnings
The history of Le Mars dates back as early as the 1850s when white settlers arrived to the region now known as Plymouth County. The county of Plymouth was organized in 1853 and started with 2 townships.

City Name
In 1869, Le Mars was was named when railroad builder John I. Blair arrived by special train with a company of officials and a group of ladies. When the train stopped the ladies were asked to suggest a name for the town, then know as Saint Paul Junction. The ladies' names were:
  • Lucy Underhill
  • Elizabeth Parson
  • Mary Weare
  • Anna Blair
  • Rebecca Smith
  • Sarah Reynolds
It is believed that the ladies wrote the 1st initials of their 1st names and arrived at an ingenious arrangement of them so as to produce the novel name "Le Mars."

Within 2 decades the tiny town would grow to a city of 4,000 residents. In the United States census of 1890, Le Mars was listed as the 4th fastest growing city in the state.

English Colony
The story of the English colony begins in Philadelphia in 1876. William B. Close, an Oxford University student, and Daniel Paullin, a land agent who was promoting land sales in Illinois and Iowa, used to converse about the opportunities held in Iowa. Inspired by Paullin's idea, Close and his 3 brothers organized the "Iowa Land Company."

The Close Family
The Close family was well connected socially and financially in England and managed to secure a sound financing for their venture. The Closes encouraged upper-class Englishmen to join the colony and mature Brits came to buy farms and ranches and set up banks and other businesses.
Black and white photo of  the Le Mars Main Street in the 1940s
Young Englishmen, especially the "second sons" of elite families were encouraged to travel to Le Mars to learn the business of farm management. Some of the older men took responsibility for the housing and training of these young pupils or "pups," as they became known.

Known By the British
By 1880 Le Mars was the most well-known city in the USA by the British peoples, other than New York City and Chicago. The 4 Close Brothers were promoting the farming occupation to British families as opportunities for the 2nd and 3rd sons; providing schools for these pupils or pups to learn to be gentleman farmers.

Many buildings in the proposed district were used by the hundreds of British immigrants who flocked to Le Mars during the 1880s, where golf was first introduced west of the Mississippi here in Le Mars. Polo teams competed as far away as Minneapolis and St. Louis.

Le Mars' Hey-Day
In the late 1800s, in the peak of Le Mars' "hey-day", the community was one of the most well known cities, along with Chicago, New York and St. Louis, as 1 of the most popular American vacation destinations. The pups inevitably got into rumbles with the young American males. Pups did not seem to take farm management very seriously and were sometimes known to have unhitched plow horses for informal racing and betting.

Popular Pastimes
Polo, golf, steeple chasing, toboggan sledding and riding to the hounds were other popular sporting events of the Le Mars Brits. The 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s coronation caused a 1-week extravaganza here in Le Mars. Remittance men (these ‘gentleman farmers’ received a monthly check from their older brother who inherited the land in England) were the main characters in many an escapade in downtown Le Mars.
The Prairie Club
The Prairie Club, an all-exclusive club for the Brits which later was opened to non-Brits, was in the upper quarters of an existing building. Banks used by them are still standing, including the telephone exchange that connected them to town. Two pubs, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, were in existing downtown buildings. The hotel where the last remittance man lived during the 1970s is extant (although most of Le Mars Bath House the hotels are gone).
Le Mars Bathhouse
Buildings Still Standing
The buildings that housed the grocery stores, cigar stores, drug stores, candy stores, and eating establishments that they utilized are still here. The bathhouse that refreshed the travelers when they arrived is still standing, later used as a hospital, and now an apartment house.