The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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November 22, 2013

Sawdust of gold in Clinton's past

It is often said that “Clinton, Iowa was built on sawdust.”

Indeed, excavations will often find tons of solidified mashed-up sawdust underneath both Clinton and Lyons. This area had many creeks and swamps which were filled in over time; our beautiful riverfront was formed by this strategy.

It behooves us to return occasionally to our economic and historical roots, revisiting why the city of Clinton is here, on the banks of the Mississippi, and how it influenced America’s growth. It is important to know and appreciate how our founders built a beautiful community and, also, come to realize that we need to revere and preserve what they had the foresight to provide — via trees, parks, schools, streets, historic homes and buildings, libraries, etc. — for future generations.

Specifically, they provided Jane Lamb Hospital, the land for the Carnegie Library, Eagle Point Park (formerly Joyce’s Park), the YWCA, YMCA, the Women’s Club, and donations to colleges and much more.

Many of the founding fathers were rich beyond belief, and they contributed in a variety of other ways. In its early days, Clinton’s economy was booming — and nothing more so than the lumber industry. Literally “steaming” along, it hired many hundreds of workers by itself.

The Lambs, Youngs, and Joyces were the three really big sawmill millionaires, but there were lesser-known ones, also. Woodworking became a satellite industry, and the Curtis’ (in Clinton) and the Disbrows (in Lyons) provided still more jobs to yet more people. And those are only a few examples of businesses from Clinton’s past.

Importantly, those historic leaders created jobs with every endeavor they undertook: railroads, lumber and more than 250 other businesses were created all in one thriving little river town. In those days, a person could leave one job and have another by sundown.

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