Back in 1895 a group of citizens located on the Southerly shores of Big Spirit Lake decided to form an incorporated town separate from the Town of Spirit Lake.  Originally, they called their town Minnie Waukon, Iowa.  In an agreement recorded in their first book of council meeting minutes they shared a division of assets with Spirit Lake (funds and antiquated maintenance equipment). Minnie Waukon had a school and also a Post Office located in a small grocery store. The Post Office was only open four months in the summer as even in the early days many of the residents commuted from Des Moines by railroad and did not live in Minnie Waukon in the wintertime.  The railroad had much to do with the eventual growth of the region.

Because the residents did not like writing the lengthy name of Minnie Waukon, they began to abbreviate it to just Minnie, Iowa which irritated some of the people so much they divided to change the name to Orleans after the railroad which came up from New Orleans, LA. Twenty-seven ballots were cast, twenty-four in favor and three against, so in 1897 Minnie Waukon became Orleans, Iowa.

In addition to the school, grocery and Post Office there were cottages and the famous old Orleans Hotel which was the center of many activities. It is still standing but is a private residence. The excursion boat “The Queen” made her home on Big Spirit Lake until low water in dry years forced it to move over to West Lake Okoboji never to return.  Orleans no longer has a Post Office or a school and very little commercial business. It is still governed by the mayor/council form of government according to the last official census is 560 residents but just as it was in the beginning there are many summer homeowners from away who along with the regulars find it a great place to live near the shores of Iowa’s beautiful largest natural lake, Big Spirit Lake.