Message Boards

Clinton Documents Board Clinton Queries Board
Clinton Obituaries Board Clinton Biographies Board
Gravestone Photo Project
Please Join our FaceBook Group - Clinton Co., IAGenWeb
Join Our Team Friends of IAGenWeb
If you enjoy the benefits that the IAGenWeb county and Special Projects offer, wont you consider becoming a Friend of IAGenWeb? OR Join Our Team and help IAGenWeb grow by adopting a county or volunteering to transcribe records.

Camanche Township

The following history is from the Clinton Herald, July 4, 1976:

One of the original units, Camanch Township has seen numerous boundary changes since its establishment in 1841.

The City of Camanche was founded by Dr. George Peck, who came to the area in 1836.  He went to Chicago to advertise his new city, and succeeded in attracting few settlers, although Camanche did not start to grow until 1851.

A county history relates, "From 1851 to 1856, may be considered the golden era for Camanche in many ways.  There was a larger volume of trade at this point during this period than at any place in Clinton County.  Grain and pork were hauled to Camanche from log distances, and even the people in the vicinity of Maquoketa found this the best trading place."

A ferry crossed the river at Camanche intil the 1860 tornado caused extensive damage, and Camanche also lost out on getting the railroad bridge, built at Clinton.  When the county was organized, Camanche was the county seat, although in 1841 it was changed to Vandenburg, now DeWitt.

(Probably one of the original six townships)


  • Camanche: 06 Dec 1837 - Current. Dr. George Peck platted town in 1836. County seat 1840-1841
  • Shaffton: Way station on Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway

Farm of H. A. Hart

Farm of H. A. Hart, Camanche Twp. from the Andreas Atlas


History of Camanche

Some of this information comes from articles in the Clinton Herald 06 Aug 1991 found in a scrapbook given to us by Jan Hanson and the FCCFH.

In 1836, Dr. George K. Peck of Lake Pleasant, N. Y., was a guest of Elijah Buell.  He searched a good town site and settled on what he considered the ideal place to lay out a city and selected the name Camanche then went to Chicago to sell lots in the new community.

In 1837, Dr. Peck's son Franklin K. built the first structure -- a hewed log house 18 by 20 feet which was soon sold to  Chicago businessmen who opened a general store.

There was a ferry to bring people over from Albany.

Beginning in 1838 the first school was taught by Ann Eliza Thomas.  Classes were held in private homes until a brick school and public meeting house was built in 1851.

In 1840 Camanche became the first county seat. In 1841 it was moved to Vandenburg (DeWitt).

From 1851-1856, more trade was done there than any where else in the county.

On Oct 1, 1856, there were 256 buildings in Camanche which included 15 stores, 175 dwellings, three churches, two schools, four hotels, one bank, two sawmills and several livery stables.  Population was listed at 1,200.

Camanche was host to the first county fair in 1859.

Rose Hill Cemetery is one of the oldest maintained cemeteries in the state.  One of the first to be buried there was the city's founder in 1838.

One of the first newspapers in the county was the Camanche Chief, established in 1854 by Bates and Knapp.  Thomas Long was the first county attorney and it was to his home that the bodies of 19 tornado victims were taken.  The first physician was Dr. J. P. Anthony who opened his office in 1850.

The city of Camanche was incorporated by an act of the Iowa legislature in 1857, becoming one of the 60 original charter cities in the state.  Only four remain -- Camanche, Davenport, Wapello and Muscatine.

In less than 3 minutes on June 3, 1860, Camanche was virtually wiped off the map by the fiercest storm in Eastern Iowa history.  The deadly tornado left 29 dead and 76 seriously injured. 228 buildings were destroyed as well as scores of horses and livestock.  Not enough furniture was found after the storm to fill a 9 by 12 room.  (More on the Tornado)  A combination of pride, dedication and hard work has brought the city back to the point where, in the 1970 census, no other community in the state could match its population growth.

The beauty of the Mississippi which attracted early settlers also encouraged industry to locate in the area.

Commercial fishing and clamming played a key role in Camanche's economic history.  At one time clamming provided a living for 40 percent of the community's inhabitants. Development of a process to manufacture buttons from clam shells opened the door to a booming clamming industry.  Some of the most productive clam beds in the Upper Mississippi were located near Camanche.

Not only were loads of shells shipped daily to Clinton or Muscatine button factories, but there was also a ready market for the pearls found in them.  Prestigious jewelers in Chicago and New York sent their representatives on buying trips to Camanche several times each year.  At one time Camanche was the second largest pearl market in the U. S. The invention of the plastic button caused the clamming industry to start fading fast in the late 1920's.

Click on the photos to see larger versions.

3rdst.JPG (285164 bytes) brownbrick.JPG (280377 bytes) countyseat.JPG (185316 bytes)
museum.JPG (251232 bytes) rockisland.JPG (233938 bytes) rosehill.JPG (208769 bytes)
shells.JPG (115192 bytes) wagonworks.JPG (108661 bytes) firengine.JPG (50823 bytes)

Grapevine Used At Camanche in Lieu of Surveyor's Chain

This is a newspaper article someone gave us.  I'm pretty sure it was in one of the centennial editions of the Clinton Herald.

Camanche, a town of 815 population, had its palmiest days in the years of 1851 to 1856.  It was the main trading point of the county and products of the prairie country farms to the west and north were hauled long distances to be sold in the market here.

Camanche had its start when Dr. George Peck of Lake Pleasant, Hamilton county, N. Y., came west in 1836 as a land prospector.  He was immediately impressed by a beautiful site on the Mississippi river.  He at once platted a town and named it Camanche.

32,000 Lots On Market

During the winter of 1837 he went to Chicago on foot and offered his lots for sale.  The original plat contained 20 ranges of 20 blocks each.  Each block contained eight lots making a total of 32,000 lots.

Franklin K. Peck, son of Dr. Peck, erected the first building in 1837, a log structure 10 by 20 feet.  This was first used as a hotel.

August Brion, a French surveyor, came to Camanche in 1845 and resurveyed the town, using a wild grapevine in lieu of a surveyor's measuring chain.

Vie for Rail Bridges

Ten years later Camanche had 256 buildings, including 15 stores, 175 dwellings, four churches, two schools, four hotels, a bank, two saw mills and 1,260 inhabitants.

At the peak of its growth, Camanche and Albany, Ill., on the opposite side of the river, were in keen competition with Lyons to the north and Fulton, Ill., to attract a railroad company to build its proposed bridge for a projected line to the Mississippi river.  This war was carried on through several years of promotional efforts.  A ferry was operated between Camanche and Albany.

The Chicago, Nebraska & Iowa railroad was completed through Camanche in 1857.  The first depot was a box car.  Camanche became a shipping point for lumber.  The lumber mill of McClosky did a flourishing business until a fire destroyed it in 1891.  Fishing and clam shell industries provided employment.  Clam shells were sold in great volume for the pearl button industry, with four button factories operating at one time in Camanche.

Town Charter Lost

Construction of the Davenport, Rock Island and North Western railroad was begun in 1898and the first train went through Jan. 8, 1900.

Electric service was established in Camanche in 1913, but difficulty was encountered when the town attempted to negotiate a charter for the private utility company.  The town fathers could not find a copy of the original town charter.  The state legislature assisted by legalizing all the required proceedings.  Camanche is a special charter city of the state of Iowa, acting under a territorial charter.