This township is one of the
most irregular in shape of the twenty two in Clayton
County. It is situated in ranges 93 and 94 north,,
and ranges 2 and 3 west. It borders on the
Mississippi, and is bounde3d on the north by Mendon
Township, on the west by Farmersburg and Garnavillo,
and on the south by Garnavillo and Jefferson. It
contains twenty-seven whole and eight fractional
sections. It is drained on the north by the Sny
Magill and tributaries, and on the south and west by
Buck Creek and tributaries.
AND EARLY SETTLEMENT
The territory comprised with
the limits of Clayton Township was first seen by
Marquette and Joliet, in the month of June, 1673.
There is no reliable record for over 100 years after
this visit. In 1812, however, it was again visited,
this time by a scion of French nobility in the person
of Chevalier Marais, and adherent of Louis the
Sixteenth. When the revolution of 1792 swept over the
kingdom like the waves of mid ocean, the friends of
royalty had to flee into exile, and he, young and
gifted, on whose education no pains had been spared,
reared in the lap of luxury, fled from his native
land, and for twenty-two years he was a penniless
wanderer, during which time he penetrated these
Western wilds, living in accordance with and
patterning after the modes and customs of the
natives. He finally established a small trading post
for traffic with the Indians, at a point near the
mouth of Buck Creek, in the southern part of this
township. This point was known as French Town, and he
remained till the restoration. He then returned to la
belle France, taking with him his dark eyed bride, a
daughter of the head chief of the Iowas. In 1820,
Messieurs Lapointe and Charles La Tranch, were
located in at French Town, as the successors to
Chavalier Marais in the Indian traffic.
In the early settlement of
Clayton County, French Town was the point on the
Mississippi River where many of the settlers landed
their supplies. In 1836 Messrs. J.W. Gillett and
McMasters, having made land claims on the Garnavillo
Prairie, received their supplies at French Town from
the steamer "Warrior," that made regular
monthly trips from St. Louis, with Government stores
to the military posts above.
Mr. Gillett slept for the
first time in Clayton County about one mile up the
hollow from French Town, in the winter of 1836. It is
claimed that he sowed the first oats in the county.
He purchased sixty bushels at Cassville, transported
them across the river in a canoe, and with Bob Ross
carried them on their backs up the Mississippi
Bluffs, whence they were hauled to his claim with
oxen. It is also said the he first put the plow into
the Garnavillo Prairie. About 1846 Orrin Keeler and
James Powell entered a small fraction of land at foot
of Sny Magill, and established the next year a ferry.
They surveyed their land into town lots, and in honor
of one of the proprietors christened their town
Keeleroy. After running their ferry for a time,
Powell tired of the partnership and endeavored to
sell out to Keeler, who had built a house and brought
his family. Keeler was willing to sell to Powell, but
did not feel able to purchase his partner's interest
in the flat or scow used for ferrying such emigrants
as chanced to come to Iowa, crossing at that place.
But Powell would not buy Keeler's interest, and swore
that the partnership should be dissolved. He then
proceeded summarily to dissolve it be sawing the
ferry-boat exactly through the center, dividing it
into tow equal parts, one of which he reserved for
his share. After this novel dissolution, Keeler, out
of the ruins of the old business, purchased an old
end-less-chain horse-power, built a flat boat and
propelled the same with one horse.
The first warehouse built in
this township was built at Keeleroy, by Messrs. B. F.
Fox and Alvah C. Rogers, in 1848, from which they
shipped the first wheat to St. Louis, and for a year
or two Keeleroy could boast of shipping more grain
than any other point in the county, during which time
the proprietors indulged in visions of a future
flourishing town. But Keeler and his amiable wife now
sleep their last sleep, resting side by side in the
churchyard at Garnavillo, while his town is known
only on paper.
In August, 1849, Frank
Smith, of Dubuque, and Messrs. Gilbert and Douglas,
of Garnavillo, slept for the first time on the site
where now stand the village of Clayton. They were
then examining this point for the purpose of starting
a town. Having decided to commence improvements here,
Mr. Smith formed a co-partnership with Thompson, Sage
and Davis, of Elkader, under the style of Frank
Smith. Messrs. Sage and Davis had previously entered
the land for the purpose of making a landing and
shipping point for their flour manufactured at
Elkader Mills, it being the nearest feasible point on
the Mississippi to Eld(k)ader, for shipping. They
sold and undivided half interest to Messrs. Noble,
Watson and Douglas of Garnavillo, and then the
proprietors went to work with a will, clearing off
the brush and surveying the land into town lots. They
named the town Clayton, in honor of John M. Clayton,
and before winter set in Smith had a store built and
in full blast. The proprietors had built roads to the
place and Clayton had commenced with fair prospects
of becoming an important business town; and for five
or six years after Clayton was an example of business
thrift, energy and enterprise rarely excelled in any
now Western town.
Clayton was laid off on
section 1, township 93 north, range 3 west, in
November, 1849. The proprietors were Timothy Davis,
John Thompson, Chester Sage, Ruben Noble, James
Watson and Elizabeth Douglas. Lower Clayton was
platted in August, 1853 on land owned by Elizabeth
Douglas, Robert R. Read, Elizabeth Read and Frank
Smith. Upper Clayton was added in 1853 by Ralph
Campbell, and West Clayton in 1854 by John M. Ballou,
Mary Ballou and Elizabeth Douglas.
We have already, in the
township history, traced the beginnings of Clayton,
and seen how prosperous it was the first few years.
It never fully recovered, however, from the
commercial revulsion of 1857. Before that year there
were built large and substantial warehouses, hotels
and business houses, flouring mills, saw and planing
mills that would be a credit to any town. The streets
were blocked with teams from early in the morning
until late in the evening with produce, for which
gold was always paid. Teams were often seen in its
streets from the country directly west o Dubuque and
from Buchanan County loaded with wheat and pork, and
taking back generally lumber and goods on their
return. Large stock of goods were kept by the
merchants, and for a few years Clayton was clearly
ahead of all competitors in the county. Messrs. Clark
& Roger's stock at one time consisted of
fifty-three hogsheads of sugar, 110 barrels of
molasses, twenty tons of iron, seventy-five stoves
and furniture, fifty chest of tea, and dry-goods,
boots and shoes, queensware, hardware, in proportion,
amounting in the aggregate to $50,000; and their
sales reached as high as $500 in a single day.
Frank Smith & Co. built
the first store and sold the first goods sold in
Clayton. Clark & Rogers built the first warehouse
and shipped the first grain and produce. Mr. Ruckle
kept the first boarding house, and J. A. Brown built
and kept the first hotel, known as the Clayton House.
H. Williams, G. A. Whitman, Mark B. Sherman, D. G.
Rogers, A. C. Rogers and Samuel A. Clark built the
first flouring mills at Clayton, known as the Clayton
City Mills, at a cost of 31,000, including the wood,
land and appurtenances, miller's residence, cooper
Nestling in one of the most
beautiful valleys of the Mississippi, surrounded on
three sides by high bluffs and hills, and its western
boundary washed by the great Father of Waters, lies
the thriving village of Clayton. Civilization early
found its way to this lovely spot, and to-day the
finely cultivated farms, the hum of machinery, and on
every side the signs of busy, active life, are ample
evidences of its rapid progression. The town was laid
out in 1845 by Frank Smith, Timothy Davis, Jack
Thompson and Mr. Sage, who named it and have been
instrumental in building up the town. Among the
pioneers of the township may be mentioned John
Lossing, W. C. Stearns, C.H. Kuempel, Ralph Campbell,
who built the first blacksmith shop in the town on
what is now Main Street, Clayton City. He is now
dead. Frank Smith erected the first store and sold
the first goods in the township. The store stood
where the C. M. & St. P. depot now stands. He
also, in company with Mr. Davis, built and ran the
first steam saw-mill in the town, this being about
1853. Mr. Smith now resides in California. In 1858 a
large stone flour-mill was built at a cost of about
$43,100, and operated successfully until 1874, when,
owing to the failure of the wheat crop, the owners
were compelled to suspend business, and it has been
idle since. The failure of this mill was a great loss
to the people in the vicinity of Clayton.
Some twelve years ago
Krueger & Co. built a large four-story mill, 60 x
120 feet, at a cost of $75,000. They did a large and
lucrative business until the failure of the wheat
crop six years ago when they closed the mill, and it
has been in operation since. They manufactured the
finest flour, and their failure was a great loss to
the manufacturing interests of the township.
In 1878 C. H. Kuempel built
a furniture manufactory, which is still in operation
and does a good business.
The first hotel was built by
J. A. Brown.
dealers in barbed fence-wire, stoves, belting, tin,
and shelf-ware, embarked in this business in 1880.
They carry an extensive stock and do a profitable
established the boot and shoe store which he now
occupies, in 1872, and has been very successful.
J. Pahl, formerly of
Brush Creek, Iowa, engaged in the tailoring business
here in 1882.
Mrs. Pahl, milliner
and dressmaker, located here in her present business
in May, 1882, and carries a complete stock of goods.
Mrs. D. Clark has
been engaged in the millinery business in Clayton
Center since April, 1882, and is making it a
Shroeder, Beckman &
Stearnes, livery, feed and sale stables, embarked
in this business in 1877, and have been financially
blacksmith, embarked in business here in 1862.
J. H. Wiegand, boot
and shoemaker, engaged in his present business in
H. C. Stinson,
general merchant, commenced business in 1867 and has
an extensive retail trade.
J. M. Siple, dealer
in general merchandise, embarked in this business in
1877, and carries a full line of goods.
Beckman Bros., among
the leading business men of Clayton City, established
their present business, that of dealers in
agricultural implements and farm machinery, in 1875,
and have met with deserving success.
M. H. Adams, grain
dealer, established business in 1879.
John J. Hauschen,
blacksmith, located here in business in November,
Beckman Bros. & Co.,
dealers in general merchandise, established this
business in 1870. They carry a complete stock of
goods and are the recipients of a profitable trade.
proprietor of the city saloon, established this
business on May 1, 1978.
There are five school
buildings in the township, valued at $3,500. The
number of children enrolled in the year 1881 was 350.
Clayton City contains but
one church building, that of the Catholic
organization. It was built in 1870 at a cost of
$2,000. They have no regular priest at present.
The Methodist organization
consists of twelve members. Their meetings are held
in the school-houses of the township.
The United Brethren Society
numbers twenty members. A minister by the name of
Kauffman preached the first sermon in this faith in
the township. He also held a protracted meeting, and
some twenty-five or thirty names were added to the
church. They have no regular pastor, but the word of
God is preached to them by the traveling ministers of
remarkable bear story is told by several of the early
settlers of the county, and its truthfulness vouched
for. A party of hunters, among them R. Hatfield,
weight 240 pounds; John Gillet, weight about 100
pounds; Eli Daniel and William Carlin, average weight
about 180 pounds, William Knight, Edward Follett and
others, all of Clayton County, Ia., in the winter of
1842, started out on a bear hunt. One of the party
tracked a bear, followed him to a cave, but upon
reaching it found the opening too small for him to
crawl through. He notified the remainder of the
party, who joined him, and they all stayed around the
cave two days, partaking freely of whisky, and
getting gloriously drunk. It was not long before the
largest man could crawl into the cave. A piece of
lighted tallow candle was placed on the muzzle of the
gun, and one of the men crawled into the cave,
holding this beacon, thus prepared, in advance of
him. One of the bears, on smelling the tallow, came
up and began licking the lighted candle, whereupon
the gun was instantly fired and the bear killed. The
supposed dead bear was dragged to the mouth of the
cave and proved to be a half-grown cub. The men all
then lighted their candles, crawled into the cave and
succeeded in killing eight bears in that and an
adjoining cave. Such was the difference between a
sober and a drunken man. This is one of many true
stories of thrilling interest that might be told of
the early pioneer life of Clayton County.
Colonel H. F.
Landers, formerly of Breckenridge County, KY. Came to
Clayton County in 1831, being among the very earliest
settlers. He helped to build the fort at Cassville,
Wis. The Indians along the Turkey River were very
troublesome, stealing whatever they could lay their
hands on, and always having a dog or two with them.
Colonel Landers one day took a goose-quill, filled it
with gunpowder and stopped the end up with a piece of
punk, touching it with fire. He slipped the quill
into a piece of fat meat which he laid down for the
dog, then stepped up to the Indian and engaged in
conversation with him. The dog ate the meat, powder
and all, and in a few moments commenced to whine; the
powder exploded and blew a hole in the side of the
dog which fell dead at the Indian's feet. The Indian
looked around, smelled the powder and said:
"Ugh! My dog go off."