Most people would associate Clinton history with sawmills; however, without the railroad, no sawmills would ever have existed in this community. In 1854, The Lyons Iowa Central (the so-called Calico Railroad) failed, but this did not deter railroaders’ dreams.
The Chicago & North Western was still planning to come to the Mississippi River and so was the Galena & Chicago Union. In 1848, the famous engine of the G&CU, “The Pioneer,” did come to Fulton, which was its terminus for four years. The narrows was the natural crossing for a railroad bridge, but that was not to be. Finances were everything
Without a railroad bridge, the industry nonetheless plunged ahead and, at first, the Chicago & Iowa Nebraska Line forged on toward the West. During the winter, ice was usually thick enough -- before dams -- to hold train cars as they passed into Iowa. (Remember, too, the river wasn’t as deep as it is today!)
The CI & N chose Clinton as its eastern terminus, and that had a profound effect on history. It wasn’t long until the nationally-famous C&NW bought out that, and other, trunk lines. The two Illinois lines met near Little Rock Island, (directly across from where Clinton would be), -- The Galena had eventually been absorbed by the C&NW. Then, the Iowa Land Company platted and advertised the city of Clinton; but, it was ten years before a railroad bridge spanned the river here.
During that time, an actual little village on the island sprang up. They ferried train cars and assorted goods across. One who worked at that trade was a Mr. Bartlett, who also owned a trading post about where the Clinton Boat Club used to be. He and Randall, Jennings, and the Perrin family lived in the little hamlet, then called New York … until it was later re-named Clinton. Mrs. Perrin had the first baby born in the new settlement in the late 1830’s.