Clinton, Iowa is a city in, and the county seat of, Clinton County, Iowa, United States. The population was 26,885 as of 2010. Clinton, along with DeWitt (also located in Clinton County), was named in honor of the sixth governor of New York, DeWitt Clinton. Clinton is the principal city of the Clinton Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is coterminous with Clinton County. Clinton was incorporated on January 26, 1857.
Among the first settlers of European origin in the Clinton area was Elijah Buell, who built a log cabin on July 25, 1835, and in 1837, established the town of Lyons, named after the French city of the same name. Buell partnered with a John Baker in a successful ferry service across the Mississippi River, at a location called “the Narrows,” between Lyons and what would become the city of Fulton, Illinois. Although Lyons grew rapidly and prospered, it eventually merged into the city of Clinton.
Clinton was platted as the town of New York in 1836 by Joseph Bartlett. Bartlett believed that the region was rich with gold deposits, and he prepared for a boom town to develop. While waiting for the “gold boom” to materialize, Bartlett started a second ferry service across the Mississippi to the village of Albany, Illinois. However, his service was not as popular as Buell’s in Lyons. Bartlett soon became discouraged, and sold his assets. In March 1837, Noble and Sarah Gregory Perrin purchased 136 acres (0.55 km2) of land in what is now Clinton and raised their family in a cabin located approximately at the foot of the railroad bridge. Eve Their oldest daughter, Valeria, married Dr. Augustus Lafayette Ankeny, who participated in the Blackhawk war and came to Lyons in April 1850.
Mary Perrin, born September 26, 1837, was the first female child of European ancestry born in Clinton County. In 1839, as in most early river towns, the town consisted of a sprinkling of cabins, two stores and a tavern. In 1855, the Chicago, Iowa, Nebraska Railroad announced it would cross the river at Little Rock Island adjacent to Bartlett’s settlement. The Iowa Land Company was organized on May 26, 1855, and on July 4, bought Bartlett’s tract and renamed it Clinton, in honor of DeWitt Clinton, two-time governor of New York and one of the driving forces behind the construction of the Erie Canal.
In 1840, the County of Clinton was officially organized; the village of Camanche, just downstream from Bartlett’s “New York,” became the first county seat. The settlement that would become Clinton did not change much in the 1840s, but Lyons continued to grow and prosper. By 1852, stagecoach lines ran from Lyons to Davenport, 30 mi (48 km) to the Southwest; to Iowa City, 71 mi (114 km) to the West; and to Dubuque, 51 mi (82 km) to the Northwest. That same year, the Lyons and Iowa Central Railroad Company was formed, led by an H.P. Adams. Work began on the railroad almost immediately, and progressed rapidly. However, the funds raised to construct the line were insufficient; some were misused. The venture eventually failed. The railroad was disparagingly known as “the Calico Line,” after the large amount of calico fabric sold at the company store in Lyons. But the prospect of a railroad to Lyons, and a likely crossing of the Mississippi at the Narrows that would follow, sparked rapid growth in the community. Lyons’ population grew from a mere 200 in 1852, to over 5,000 by 1858.
On November 10, 1855, the first plat of the city of Clinton was signed; the plat was surveyed under the direction of Charles B. Stuart, a civil engineer from New York, with the assistance of William Rumble, engineer, and C.I. Loring, draftsman. On January 26, 1857 the city was granted a charter and on March 7, the charter was adopted. On April 5, 1859, the amended charter of the city was adopted, which lasted until a general charter was adopted in 1867.
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