1855 was a year that saw a number of significant events. For example Nicholas I Pavlovitch the Tsar of Russia died and was succeeded by Aleksandr Romanov, Percival "Percy" Lowell, U.S. astronomer, Eugene V. Debs, King Camp Gillette, the inventor of the safety razor and Andrew W. Mellon were born and Charlotte Bronte died. The Crimean War was raging. Castle Clinton became the first for the United States in New York and the Know-Nothing Party held its first convention. The Wisconsin Supreme Court declared the U.S. Fugitive Slave Law unconstitutional. The Bessemer steelmaking process was patented and the first train crossed the first bridge across the Mississippi between Rock Island and Davenport. However for those of us who call Clinton, Iowa home, May 26, of that year the Iowa Land Co. was organized, on July 4 the Iowa Land Company purchased the townsite and renamed it after the former governor of New York, DeWitt Clinton, on Aug. 1, land was cleared for laying the cornerstone of the Iowa Central hotel, the Episcopal church and the school (The Clinton Herald Friday July 31, 1931 p. 3). November 10 was the date the original plat of the town of Clinton, Iowa was signed. November 10 also happens to be the birthday of Martin Luther (in 1483), Frederich von Schiller (in 1759) and my brother Ed (in 1943). Frederick Douglass's My Bondage and My Freedom and Herman Melville's Benito Cereno were both published in 1855.
Clinton was not the first town in the area. Lyons had been established by Elijah Buell twenty years earlier. He arrived there July 25, 1835 (Wolfe’s History of Clinton County Iowa 1911 p.46). To the south, Noble and Sarah Gregory Perrin purchased one hundred thirty six acres of land in what is now Clinton in March 1837 and raised their family in a cabin located approximately at the foot of the railroad bridge (The Clinton Herald Monday January 21, 1924 p.6). Their oldest daughter, Valeria, married Dr. Augustus Lafayette Ankeny, who participated in the Blackhawk war and came to Lyons in April 1850 ("The History of Clinton County Iowa" by L. P. Allen (1879)). Joseph M. Bartlett operated a trading store for Indians and called the place New York. Even earlier Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet entered the Mississippi on June 17, 1674 and passed by the site of Clinton heading south not long after. At the time Lewis & Clark were on their famous expedition, Zebulon Montgomery Pike was on a similar expedition to explore the upper Mississippi and passed by the site of Clinton in 1805. Chris Moeszinger came to Lyons in 1855, established a foundery and later became mayor of Lyons (The Clinton Herald Vol 39 No. 232 Monday September 28, 1907 p. 6). His son Louis established a hardware business that was conducted out of the building now known as the Armstrong building (The Clinton Herald Saturday April 4, 1931 p. 5). The Lyons Methodist Episcopal church was organized in 1840. It was established by Rev. B.H. Cartwright, a missionary from Illinois (Wolfe’s History of Clinton County Iowa 1911 p.152). The Protestant Episcopal church of Lyons held its first meeting December 22, 1855 (The Clinton Herald December 21, 1905 p. 6) and St. John’s in Clinton was organized that same year.
The original plat of Clinton shows a town immediately recognizable to those of us who know Clinton today with 5th Avenue as the principal street in town ending at the Mississippi River and a park on either side of the street east of First Street. The plat sets aside square blocks as the city parks named Clinton Park to the north and DeWitt Park to the south with each corner anchored by a significant church.
At that point Clinton was little more that a real estate speculator’s dream based on the promise of a railroad crossing across Little Rock Island and a few cabins of the Perrin’s and a handful of other early settlers. To become a real town, Clinton needed a magnet for settlers, namely jobs. Along came a number of entrepreneurs who made this happen. In 1856 Richard S. Seaman and his wife Emma came to Clinton (The Clinton Daily Herald Vol. 32 No. 171 Saturday March 18, 1895) and had four children. Their sons Sherman Carter Seaman (The Clinton Herald Monday June 20, 1921 p. 1 & 8) and Halleck Wagner Seaman (The Clinton Herald Monday December 15, 1941 p. 12 )(who married Noble Perrin’s granddaughter, Helen Valeria Scott) were very successful not only in business but as leaders of Clinton. Chancy Lamb came to Fulton late in the year 1856 and shortly thereafter came to Clinton and purchased a mill that he had helped build (The Clinton Morning Age Vol. 14 No. 94 Tuesday July 13, 1897) approximately where the Perrin cabin had been located nearly twenty years before. Aurelius Clarke Root established the A.C. Root insurance business in Lyons in 1856. John J. Jefferies came to Lyons in 1857 (The Clinton Mirror Saturday August 8, 1908 p. 3). His son John Quincy Jefferies was well known and successful in the insurance and real estate business in Clinton, was the Superintendent of Clinton County schools, became the first secretary of the Clinton Commercial Club (The Clinton Herald Monday May 17, 1937 p. 5), forerunner of the Clinton Chamber of Commerce. He later served as president of that organization and also was a charter member and second president of the Clinton Rotary club. William J. Young came to Clinton June 7,1858, in May 1860 moved a sawmill from LaCrosse to Clinton and on August 15, 1860 began sawing timber(The Clinton Herald Tuesday June 9, 1896). His mills employed 445 people in 1879, 772 in 1883, 834 in 1887 and 1,010 in 1891 (History of Clinton County Iowa Clinton County Historical Society 1976). David Joyce first came to Lyons in 1854 and in 1861 moved completely to Lyons, leased the Stumbaugh mill and founded the business which made his fortune (Wolfe's History of Clinton County Iowa Illustrated Volume I B..F. Bowen & Company Indianapolis, Indiana 1911 p. 381). On December 18, 1856, the first edition of The Clinton Herald was published. On January 26, 1857 the city was granted a charter and on March 7, the charter was adopted. The first bank in the city of Clinton was organized in 1857 and on April 5, 1859, the amended charter of the city was adopted which lasted until a general charter was adopted in 1867. In June 1859 the railroad line was completed to Cedar Rapids. The first train crossed from the Illinois shore to Little Rock Island at noon, January 9, 1860 and was ferried from there to the Iowa shore. In January, 1864 construction was started on the span from Little Rock Island to the Iowa shore and was completed on January 6, 1865. The first train to cross the current bridge was run February 22, 1909. In 1859, a locomotive engineer, Phillip and Ester Waters Howes, came to Clinton and raised their family of 13 children (The Clinton Daily Herald January 28, 1904 p. 3) of which two, Edward M. and Richard N., became mayors of the city.
The first public school opened in Clinton was conducted in a log house near the W.J. Young upper mill. It was erected in the winter of 1855-56 and Isaac Baldwin was its first teacher. St. Irenaeus school was opened in 1852.
Clinton was significantly affected by the Civil war with heavy participation by the residents of Clinton, many serving under the command of Col. Milo Smith in the Twenty-Sixth Iowa Infantry, Clinton’s most famous regiment. James Bulger and Patrick McManus, my great-grandfather’s brother-in-law and cousin respectively served in this unit. My great-grandfather’s brother served in the Twenty-First Regiment Iowa Infantry and died from illness contracted in the siege of Vicksburg.
In 1864 the cornerstone for St. Irenaeus Catholic church was laid. The parish was established in 1848 and the first church building constructed in 1852. In 1865/1866 St. Mary’s constructed its first church at the current site of the Clinton Community Schools Administrative Office (Wolfe’s History of Clinton County Iowa 1911 p.159-160).
Bethel African Methodist Episcopal church, of Clinton, was organized in August, 1868. In 1911 it had a membership of sixty. Charter members were; Mrs. Lucy Dozier, Peter Thompson, Mrs. George Benson, Elizabeth Fairfax, Nancy Jane Von Duzee, George Benson, Thomas Gaines, John Monroe, William Van Duzee, Sr., William Van Duzee, Jr. The first house of worship built in August 1868, at a cost of six hundred dollars. It was located at the site of the present church, which was built later, at a cost of two thousand dollars (Wolfe’s History of Clinton County Iowa 1911 p.155).
The First Presbyterian church of Lyons was organized November 11, 1855 by Rev. Daniel Clark, Jr. The current edifice was erected in 1906. The First Presbyterian church of Clinton, the only other one of this denomination in Clinton county, was formed October 26, 1856. The corner stone of the ‘new’ church was laid July 29, 1875. The church was completed in December, 1877(Wolfe’s History of Clinton County Iowa 1911 p.172-173).
The First Congregational church of Lyons was organized December 21, 1839 in Union Grove, Illinois. The first building burned January 16, 1860 and the following June a new church was dedicated. The first preliminary meeting looking toward the formation of a Congregational church at Clinton was held May 7, 1866. In September 1867 a new church building was dedicated (Wolfe’s History of Clinton County Iowa 1911 p.176).
The First Evangelical Lutheran church of Lyons was organized as St. John’s Congregation, Unaltered Asbury Confession, in 1858 (Wolfe’s History of Clinton County Iowa 1911 p.179).
On July 17, 1856 the Methodist class contained 20 people and was organized under the leadership of Rev. Joel B. Taylor, pastor at Camanche and Lyons, what was designated the First Methodist Episcopal of Clinton. The first board of trustees were, J.C. Young, S.W. Carly, M.H. Jacobs, William Jack, J.S. Waterman, F.R. Peck and Adam Dunn. In June 1857, the trustees decided to erect a building in which to worship and it was completed in June, 1858, at a cost of six hundred and thirty dollars. It was a wood structure, nineteen by twenty-four feet. Current edifice and was dedicated Sunday, September 13, 1903, although the building was not wholly finished until several months later (Wolfe’s History of Clinton County Iowa 1911 p.153).
The Baptist church at Clinton was organized after some preliminary meetings held by Rev. Addison A. Swain, then of Fulton, Illinois, under the auspices of the Baptist Home Missionary Association, December 31, 1856, the perfection of the society being dated May 19, 1857 (Wolfe’s History of Clinton County Iowa 1911 p.172).
With the Civil war over and the men back home in 1864/1865 Maj. Charles H. Toll constructed the Toll block (The Clinton Herald Monday December 8, 1930 p. 8). In 1866 the firm later to be known as the Curtis Company was established first by Charles Franklin Curtis (The Clinton Advertiser Tuesday December 21, 1915 p. 1 & 4) who was soon joined in the business by his brother George M. Curtis (The Clinton Herald February 10, 1921 p. 1). On February 5, 1865, the Clinton National Bank was established and William Folwell Coan, who had come to Clinton with his family in May 1857, became its president (The Clinton Daily Herald Saturday January 16, 1886). In 1869, the Clinton Gas Light & Coke Co. was organized and the court house moved to Clinton from DeWitt. On January 30, 1870, Alfred Garrett Smith and his wife came to Clinton) and on February 1, he and his cousin, A.L. Stone, established the bank known as Stone & Smith. In 1880 this bank became known as the City National Bank (The Clinton Herald Friday January 28, 1927 p. 6. Another 1870 arrival was Charles Emerson Armstrong who established what became C.E. Armstrong & Sons Hardware when he was joined by his nephew (The Clinton Herald Friday December 8, 1916 p. 1), Charles Allen Armstrong who married Edith Curtis, the daughter of Charles Franklin and Nancy Hosford Curtis. By 1870, Clinton had become a sawmill center. On April 27, 1870 the Mississippi crested at 19.7 feet followed by a crest of 20.5 feet on June 28, 1880. In 1874, the Clinton Water Works Co., was organized. In 1875, a new post office was built. (What did they do with the old one?). St. Johannes Kirke, now St. Stephen’s, was organized January 16, 1876 (Wolfe’s History of Clinton County Iowa 1911 p.181). On July 4, 1878, the Clinton & Lyons telephone line was used for the first time. It was called the first exchange in the country. In 1878, the town of Ringwood was annexed (The Clinton Herald Friday July 31, 1931 p. 3).
The decade of 1880-1890 was one of great expansion because the lumber industry was at its height. In 1894, Wartburg college located in Clinton and Lyons was annexed. (Well sort of, only in a legal sense, - Lyons is still Lyons). During 1883-1884, the mansions of George M. Curtis, J.E. Carpenter, J.S. Gardenier and A.R. Olney were constructed on 5th and 6th (A.R. Olney) Avenues (The Clinton Daily Herald July 9, 1884).
The largest, most elaborate party ever held in Clinton celebrated the debut of Emma Lamb and the twentieth wedding anniversary of her parents, Artemus and Henrietta Sabrina Smith Lamb on October 13, 1885. Fellow lumber baron F.C. Weyerhauser, his wife and daughter attended together with several hundred guests all attired in formal wear (The Clinton Morning News Wednesday October 15, 1885).
Construction of the current St. Mary’s church was begun in 1884 (Wolfe’s History of Clinton County Iowa 1911 p.161). The First Church of Christ, Scientist, of Clinton, was organized January 11, 1897 (Wolfe’s History of Clinton County Iowa 1911 p.185).
The original Lyons-Fulton Bridge was constructed in 1891 (replaced by the Mark Morris Memorial Bridge in 1975) followed by the Clinton High Bridge in 1892 (replaced by the Gateway Bridge in 1956).
In 1892, George E. Wilson, Sr. came to Clinton and purchased the Clinton Bridge & Iron Works. (The Clinton Herald Saturday June 19, 1926 p. 6) That same year Louis N. Iten came to Clinton and established the cracker factory that eventually became part of the National Biscuit Company (Wolfe's History of Clinton Co. 1911 p. 1078-1080) and John D. Van Allen arrived in town and purchased an interest in what became the most significant department store in the history of Clinton. (The Clinton Herald Wednesday January 2, 1929)
On September 15, 1900, the Howes building was opened to the public. (The Clinton Daily Herald Saturday September 1, 1900 p. 3) By 1900, lumber industry was dwindling rapidly and in 1905, the last of the lumber mills closed. During the summer of 1902, Oakhurst, the estate of Emma Lamb Gates, Breezy Point, the estate of Clara Lamb McCoy and Woodlands, the estate of their brother Dwight Lamb were all constructed. Woodlands was the largest and most difficult moving project in Clinton history because it moved the 26 room, 3 story, 300 ton house of Dwight Lamb from 6th Avenue and 5th Street 80 feet up the bluff to its new location (The Clinton Herald Saturday July 12, 1902 p. 3). The completion of the Post Office in 1902 was a major event for Clinton. (The Clinton Daily Herald Thursday November 20, 1902 p. 3) Christmas, 1905 the current St. Patrick’s church was completed. (The Clinton Herald Tuesday December 26, 1905 p. 3) The new Lyons High School was constructed in 1905-1906 (The Clinton Daily Herald November 21, 1905 p. 6). The corner stone of the new Lyons Presbyterian church was laid on May 15, 1906 (The Clinton Daily Herald Wednesday May 16, 1906 p. 6). The Lafayette Hotel opened to the public in June 1906, a little more than a year earlier than the Plaza Hotel in New York. (The Clinton Daily Herald Saturday December 16, 1905 p. 19) St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran church was organized May 5, 1907. The Clinton Corn Processing Company (now part of ADM) began operations in 1907.
The Clinton Daily Herald on December 19, 1908 reported on where Clinton Labor was employed at that time.
Chicago & Northwestern Railway Co.: 1500
Edwards Manufacturing Company: 65
Clinton Stores: 450
Iowa Telephone Company: 60
Clinton Contractors: 300
Kelly & Sorensen: 60
Curtis Bros. & Co.: 300
Lamb Boat and Engine Works: 60
Small Factories: 300
Star Boiler Works: 60
Clinton Glucose Factory: 275
Tri-City Telephone Company: 60
Clinton Hotels: 200
Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul: 50
Clinton Schools and Institutions: 200
Clinton Gas and Coke Company: 50
Fish Brothers Wagon Works: 165
Joyce Lumber Company: 50
Clinton Newspapers and Job Offices: 150
Lyons Paper Mill: 50
Clinton Offices : 150
Wire Cloth Factory: 50
Clinton Saddlery Company: 150
Anderson Furniture Co.: 40
Iowa Cold Storage: 150
Clinton Paper Company: 40
M.A. Disbrow & Co.: 150
Clinton Paper Mill: 40
Ingwersen & Borbeck: 120
Price Brick Company: 40
Clinton Laundries: 110
Bohart & Co.: 35
Clinton Bridge and Iron Works: 100
Clinton Novelty Iron Works: 35
Iten & Son: 100
Clinton Post Office: 35
Petersen, Bell & Co.: 100
Hemingway Bros.: 35
U.S. Steel Lock Company: 100
Olney & Jerman: 35
F. Smith & Sons: 80
Schall-Hutchinson Candy Co.: 35
Clinton Street Railway Co.: 75
Barber Shops: 30
Iowa & Illinois Interurban Company: 75
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy: 30
Anderson & Winton: 70
Clinton Brewing Company: 30
Kelly Bros.: 70
Clinton Bed Spring Company: 25
Clinton Chair Co.: 25
Iowa Granite Brick Factory: 25
Smith & Oakes: 25
That is a total of 5440 workers.
In 1908 the current St. Boniface church was constructed. (The Clinton Daily Herald Annual Edition December 19, 1908 p. 32) The Clinton Herald on April 25, 1911 reported that arrangements had been practically completed for the organization of a new Country club in Clinton at meeting held at the Wapsipinicon club. In 1913, the Coliseum was erected only to burn down at the end of 1958. George Collis and his sons, Oliver Dallyn Collis and H.G. Collis, moved their factory from Dubuque to Clinton in July 1912 (The Clinton Herald Wednesday December 5, 1962 p. 11). O.D. Collis purchased Breezy Point from Clara Lamb McCoy in February 1928 (The Clinton Herald Tuesday February 28, 1928 p. 6). In 1913-1914, the Van Allen building was constructed by Louis Sullivan and the Wilson building was added to the city’s skyline. The grandson of David Joyce, James Stanley Joyce, in 1919-1920 established the relationship with Peggy Hopkins Joyce that ultimately led to the movie “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” In 1921, the first county road was paved. In 1922, the new high school was completed. In 1928, the airport was established. Demolition of the Toll block took place in the second half of December 1930. Its replacement, the Ankeny building was completed in May 1931 (The Clinton Herald Thursday May 21, 1931 p. 11). In 1931, Clinton took a deep breath and celebrated its Diamond jubilee between July 30 and August 2. Donna Wulf and Marvin Whalen were chosen Queen and King with Elayne Paley, Helen Bronenkant, Virginia Carstensen and Grace Helferich as Maids of Honor (The Clinton Herald Monday August 31, 1931 p. 5).
In 1935 an addition on the south side of the Post Office (The Clinton Herald Monday November 18, 1935 p. 18) and the River Front Stadium (now Alliant field) were constructed (The Clinton Herald Tuesday November 19, 1935 p. 5).
In 1941, with Howard Judd as coach, Clinton High School won the first of its 11 state championships in swimming. This string included five straight championships between 1954 and 1958 and produced 39 individual All Americans and 14 Individual All American Relay Teams (The Howard Judd Story Reception Program June 5, 1966). Clinton’s athletic success was enhanced in 1953 when St. Mary’s won the state basketball championship.
On April 27, 1951 the Mississippi crested at 20.7 feet, then on April 26, 1952 it crested again at 20.9 feet. All of that was an exercise compared with the crest on April 28, 1965 which at 24.85 feet was the highest ever recorded (The Great Flood of 1965 At Clinton, Iowa A Pictorial Review From KROS Radio News Department).
Construction of the Gateway bridge was started in August, 1954, was finished in May, 1956 and opened on July 1, 1956.