Clarinda is the County Seat of Page County in Southwestern
Iowa, approximately 80 miles from Omaha and Council Bluffs. Des Moines is 130
miles to the northeast and the Missouri State Line is 12 miles south. St. Joseph
is 80 miles; Kansas City 130 miles and Lincoln is 100 miles. The 1960 census
reported a population of 5,901, including the Mental Health Institute which had
not been reported in 1950.
In 1913, the City adopted the city manager form of
government, the first community west of the Mississippi to do so. The form still
continues, with five councilmen (three from wards) and an elected mayor.
Clarinda has an unusually colorful history. George W.
Farrens was the first settler in Page County, arriving about 1840. He and two
brothers lived in a log hut.
The first mill was built in 1847 when the county's population was approximately
30. Travel was difficult. Oxen swam the river. Crossings were made by raft.
The name, Nodaway River, in English suggests "Sleepy mood", but in
Indian terms signifies "deep channel" or "rattlesnakes".
Page County was named for Captain John Page, killed at Palo Alto in the Mexican
War. The land was surveyed in 1845, becoming a county in 1847. An error caused a
strip 8 miles wide to be claimed by both Missouri and Iowa, the matter finally
being settled in favor of Iowa. The county contains 528 square miles and is
approximately 22 miles square.
Clarinda was named after a Miss Clarinda Buck. The town was platted in 1853 and
recorded December 7th, 1857. The highest price paid for a lot was $15.00,
including the present downtown area. A 100 foot wide "promenade"
extended two blocks outward from the courthouse square. Cows roamed the muddy
Clarinda was reached by the Western Stage Company in 1854. By 1857 there were 60
dwellings, 7 retail stores, 2 groceries, a drug store, merchant tailor, wagon
maker, 2 smith shops, 3 doctors, 2 lawyers, a cooper and 2 taverns. The first
hotel was built in 1866.
Iowa's third State Mental Hospital was built in 1885. By 1933, it occupied
approximately 1,055 acres.
Clarinda was incorporated in 1866. A courthouse was built, costing $7,456, with
an $86,500 enlargement eleven years later, including an observation platform.
As in most early cities, the need for railroads was great.
Two newspapers came into being in the late sixties, Republican and Democrat.
Both campaigned for railroads, resulting only in by-passes to Shenandoah and
other points. Finally citizens voted to build a road through Clarinda's Moresman
and Crooks. It failed in 1889 and the rails were taken up.
Through joint efforts of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy and Wabash
Railroads, the Humeston and Shenandoah Railroad was built in 1880-81, running
from Humeston to Shenandoah, there meeting the Wabash. It was 90 miles long. A
short line owned by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy was then constructed from
Clarinda southwest to Northboro, connecting with the main line.
The first County Fair was held in 1859 on the courthouse
square but in 1860, 10 acres were purchased east of the railroad in what is now
the larger city park. In 1897, a Chautauqua was held on the fair grounds in a
large tent holding 500 persons. It was said to be the second Chautauqua held in
the United States, continuing until the early thirties.
The Chautauqua acted as a spur toward formation of the Clarinda Fair Association
in 1903, replacing the Page Agricultural Society, which failed in 1896. The
fairgrounds were purchased by the City of Clarinda. Clarinda held its first fair
in 1904, followed by many successful years.
It was at these early fairs that the idea of the great
"4-H" farm youth organization was born! In 1900, Miss Jessie Fields, a
rural teacher at the age of 18, developed a club of farm boys in connection with
the Clarinda Chautauqua. Her boys became trained in judging livestock, winning
honors at Iowa State College and top place in the National Judging Contest at
The club of farm boys grew into the "4-H Clubs" and Miss Fields, who
later married I.W. Shambaugh, has been nationally honored as the Mother of 4-H.
Before the Civil War, Page County had served as an
underground railway for southern slaves, since once across the Missouri State
Line, they were free. After the war started, many African Americans stayed,
while others migrated north.
The Berry Seed Company had its beginnings on a farm in
1895, moving later to just west of the Linderman Hotel. A.A. Berry, the founder,
conferring with Henry Field. In 1913 it was moved to its present location, when
Mr. Berry withdrew, starting the Berry Poultry Farm and Hatchery.
The Lisle Factory was started in 1903, manufacturing well boring machines and
later, Monarch Cream Separators.
An early large company was the Clarinda Butter and Egg Company, started in 1894.
In 1909, it was doing an annual $3,000,000 business, with a $200,000 payroll.
Their products were sold throughout the United States and in England and
The Clarinda Lumber Company, started in 1908, employed 40 men and produced 40
lawnmowers per day, of the front cut high-grass type.
The Clarinda Woolen Factory, established in 1855, used a carding machine
propelled by oxen. By 1863, they were using steam power and doing a large annual
business. The factory was destroyed by fire in 1880.
An early flour mill in 1860 was producing 75 barrels of flour per day.
EARLY CULTURE AND HAPPENINGS
Early in 1853, cottonwood logs were hauled to build a
school. Elijah Miller, the first surveyor, became a teacher and later county
superintendent. The building was replaced by a structure in 1860 with four
classrooms. In the early fifties, a Methodist circuit rider was the first
clergyman. A frame hospital was built about 1890, later becoming the Young Rest
In 1913, the Soldier's Monument in the courthouse square was erected by public
subscription. The National Guard Armory was the present theater and city hall.
Following a fire in 1912, it was reconstructed as an armory and theater.
President Theodore Roosevelt visited Clarinda in 1903, breakfasting with
Governor Cummins in the Linderman Hotel and riding in a parade during the rain
with the top of his carriage down.
An airship stopped at the city in 1907 and "Beachy" flew at the fair,
performing stunts. A plane was made by W.G. Dunn in 1928.
The Trust and Savings Bank was organized in 1903. The Citizens State Bank in
Among Clarinda's "firsts" is the well known
"hamburger" sandwich. Bert Gray, owner of a local restaurant,
discovered a new way of making a sandwich, using ground beef. In his employ was
a chef from Hamburg, Germany. From his home town came the name of the popular
sandwich so prevalent today.
SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND
While somewhat detailed for a planning report, the
colorful history of Clarinda demands more than passing notice. Those who feel
little progress has or will be made would do well to reminisce over the past 94
years since the date of its incorporation or 120 years since the first log hut.
Vast changes have occurred in six generations. Present citizens of the lush,
push-button age with problems mighty as they seem, may compare
"insurmountable" with those which were well surmounted in the
Back to Community