The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

History

November 22, 2013

Sawdust of gold in Clinton's past

(Continued)

From 1870-1895, and later (after the start of WWII), that remained pretty much the case. Sadly, once industry moved from the “rust belt” to the “sunshine states,” hard times would hit Clinton too. (Remember, however, that the Midwest still has one critical resource… water … another thing we must value and preserve.)

But our small centrally-located insular town’s “glory days” — a time when it was peopled by many mighty millionaires — faded fast. Clinton’s early elite were seen as “special” by most of the locals, but they’d actually grown up quite common themselves.

Owing to a lucky combination of intelligence, talent and timing, they were able to amass considerable fortunes in a relatively short timespan. They needed (and possessed) business acumen, forward vision and skills with people, as well as mechanical and building talents…all rolled into one.

Most had tough personalities, which could flare up if provoked, but they also seemed innately aware of a need to take care of the common man, knowing that a successful community requires united “team” effort. These wealthy magnates didn’t like to give up control or pay too much for anything, but they did live on the same blocks as their workers, provided generously for public schools, recreation and the arts, and also served on school boards and other government offices. W.J. Young was once even Clinton’s mayor.

The Lamb family had an opulent lifestyle. They used the Mississippi as their private playground. They traveled on their private fleet of steamboats down to New Orleans and up to Frontenac, Minn., on Lake Pepin. Before leaving, they notified a local grocer to provide provisions for three months and load them on their steamboats. They stopped at all the towns along the way and they swam off of sand bars as they frolicked. The Wanderer and the Idler were pushed by powered boats like the Chaperone and the Summer Girl.

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