History of Clermont Township, Fayette County, IA
From: Past and Present of Fayette County, Iowa
B. F. Bowen & Company
Indianapolis, Indiana 1910


This township was established by the county commissioners in 1850, though there had been quite a settlement within its boundaries for two years previously, and the name of the township was fixed by them, though the spelling was then "Claremont."

Tradition establishes Andrew Moats as the first settler of the territory now embraced in Clermont township, though the time of his coming and what he accomplished is somewhat obscure. It is understood, however, that a man named Delaplaine laid a claim to lands where the town of Clermont now stands, in 1848, and built a cabin thereon. A year later a firm of mill operators came from Elkader and purchased the claim of Delaplaine and let the contract to have a saw mill erected. C. D. Carlton (one of the owners) and Charles Sawyer took the contract, and moved to Clermont in June, 1849. Sawyer brought his family, but Carlton delayed the removal until later. These parties built two log houses in what is now the town of Clermont, these, except the rude cabin of Delaplaine, being the first houses in the township. John Thompson, whose name is inseparable from the early history of this locality, was the partner of Mr. Carlton. The building and operation of the mill, and the later developments in that line, necessitated the presence of mechanical shops, and these came as needed. This was the principal industry in Clermont until the failure of the spring wheat product rendered the business less profitable, and the property was gradually merged into other lines.

A large and well manned cooper shop was one of the principal industries in Clermont for many years. This supplied the flour barrels to the mill, and to other mills less favored, along the Turkey and Otter creek. It also turned out pork barrels and butter tubs, until the industry was crippled by the introduction of the machine made products. The Clermont mill proper (the flouring mills, with which so many of the present day citizens and pioneers are acquainted) was put in operation by John Thompson, who came and commenced his work in 1853, and in 1854 laid the foundation and corner stone for the present brick structure, the brick being burned by Christian Miller's father. Grinding at this flouring mill was commenced in the autumn of 1855. At first there were three run of stones. In 1856 Mr. Thompson sold a share in his milling property to William Larrabee. Later Mr. Larrabee had two partners, whom he bought out in 1859, and operated the mill alone until 1872. He then sold to S. M. Leach, and he in turn to J. G. Botsford, who finally let the property go back to Mr. Larrabee, and he operated it until he sold to Christian Miller in 1901, who, since the purchase, has conducted it in company with his sons, and is at this writing converting it into a combined electric power plant and mill. (See biography of Mr. Miller for full details regarding this industry.) Mr Larrabee doubled the capacity of his mill, and was able to grind fifteen hundred barrels of flour per week. The dam washed out in 1860 or 186i, and again in 1902. In all the years of this mill's history there has never been any serious accidents happening about the property, such as loss of life or limb. These mills are now styled the Brick City Mills and Electric Power Plant, owned and operated by Hon. Christian Miller & Sons. They furnish the power to operate their mammoth brick and tile factories at Clermont, and electric lights for that town, and Elgin, four miles south. This feature of their work is to be enlarged to include towns at more distant points.

Edwin Stedman, John Hendershott, Chauncey Leverich, with their families, and J. B. Hough and Andrew Martin, settled in the vicinity of Clermont in 1850. Rev. H. S. Brunson commenced to build a hotel in Clermont in this year, but sold out before completing it, and the Clermont House, later known as Brown's Hotel, was completed by the mill company and opened and operated by C. D. Carlton in 1851. Mr. Carlton also opened the first general store in the township in 1849. Soon after the arrival of the Stedman family in 1850, Mrs. Stedman taught the first term of school in the township, a log workshop being vacated and converted into a school room. This improvised school house also served as a public meeting place, and in it Rev. Brunson delivered the first gospel sermon, in 1851. The first death in the township was the young daughter of Mr. Nutting, who settled two miles above the village of Clermont in the spring of 1850. She was poisoned from eating wild parsnip. In the summer of 1851 occurred the first drowning, when Washington Sawyer was dragged from his boat by an over hanging tree and floated over the dam. His brother, Aaron, saved himself by swimming. The Turkey river has been the burial place of many people, and the scene of many disasters with teams, etc., both in Clermont township and elsewhere along its course, as the writer can state from sad experience.

The saw mill at Clermont was a source of revenue to the pioneers within reach of it, since they cut and hauled logs to it for sale, as well as for other purposes, and thus was commenced a market place for farm products at a very early day, and which was continued and expanded as the years went by. Many present day residents well remember when Clermont was one of the best wheat markets in Fayette county, and it was a matter of little importance whether a farmer sold his load of wheat at Clermont or drove thirty miles farther to the river market at McGregor. During the active operation of the Brick City mills, any farmer who had business at McGregor could get good pay for his trip by hauling a load of flour from the mill and returning with a load of merchandise for some merchant. In fact, there were many teamsters who made a good living by hauling mill products and returning with lumber or other goods.

The name "Brick City" has stuck to Clermont from early days, probably, at first, because brick was made there in pioneer times, and continued without intermission throughout all the intervening years. The product has always been of a superior quality and for many years "Clermont White Brick" was in demand, far beyond the output. At first the crude appliances of the time were used, the hand mould and wheel barrow being about the only "machinery." But more recently improved machinery was installed, thus increasing the possibilities of the output and minimizing the amount of human muscle required. During the year 1909 Christian Miller marketed more than seven million bricks, and he has greatly increased the capacity of the plant and added electrical power for present and future use. Another feature 'which renders Clermont a "brick city," is the fact that a much larger proportion of ordinary dwelling houses in this town are built of brick than in any other town of like size in the county.

The first justice of the peace in this township was Charles Sawyer, who was elected while the territory was under jurisdiction of Pleasant Valley township, which included townships 94 and 95, north range 7, in 1850.

There were nine voters at the first election held in Clermont township, at the house of Charles Sawyer, in November, 1850. Of these the names of six are remembered, which were, besides Charles Sawyer, C. D. Carlton, Edwin Stedman, John Hendershott, Andrew Martin and J. B. Hough. They used Sawyer's coffee pot for a ballot box, which favor may have paved the way to Sawyer's election as township clerk! Edwin Stedman and J. B. Hough were elected justices of the peace. It is probable that no election records were preserved in the early history of this precinct - or assuredly none can be found.

Clermont being the only town in this township, and the first settlements being made at or near the town, it is impossible to separate their history, since most of it centers about the village from pioneer days to the present. Much of Clermont township is rough and hilly land which was not generally occupied by actual settlers in early pioneer days. Originally there was much timber in this township, some of which was of excellent quality, while a large amount of what is now good farming land was covered with scrubby oak trees, of little value except for fuel. Nearly all of the farms were what is known as "hazel brush land," and the grubbing and subduing of the under brush involved much labor and tardy development. But the land proved to be excellent for the growing of wheat, which was the principal industry among the farmers until in the seventies, when the chinch bugs rendered its cultivation uncertain, as well as generally unprofitable. Large numbers of hogs and cattle and many horses are now the product of Clermont township farms, and but little grain or hay are raised for sale, these products being fed on the farms.

The population of this township, outside of Clermont, is largely foreign, the Irish nationality predominating, though there are some Germans and a good many Scandinavians. They are all excellent citizens whose posterity are the active men and women of today. Among them are many of our successful public school teachers, and they are found in many other useful avenues of life.


The town of Clermont was laid out by John Thompson and C. D. Carlton, proprietors, in 1851, but the plat was not recorded until 1855. In this year Mr. Thompson purchased his partner's interest, and decided to call the town "Norway," and filed the plat for record. But the name was objectionable to the people, who desired to continue the old name of Clermont. After considerable discussion on the subject, Mr. Thompson decided to abandon the objectionable name, and it was changed to Clermont by action of the Legislature, approved July 15, 1856. The town was re-surveyed by Andris Brandt, civil engineer, and the town plat of Clermont was recorded February 16, 1859, by John Thompson, proprietor. On the 4th of July, following, a grand celebration was held, probably as much in commemoration of the event just recorded as in memory of the achievements of our forefathers. Clermont was incorporated as a town on the 16th of August, 1875. The first mayor was S. G. Clark, and the trustees, or councilmen, were C. W. D. Lathrop, Edwin Stedman, Alex. McKinley, John Crowe and J. P. Blackett. W. M. Newell was recorder, and Edwin Stedman, treasurer.

It would be extremely interesting to record in this connection the names of all the early settlers, but such is now impossible. We recall the Larrabee family, the Applemans, the Bakers, Drs. Hinkley and Lewis, J. P. Calvin, C. F. Weck, the Dibbles, the Botsfords and Underwoods, the Warners, the Schaeffers, the Stolls, the Pringles, the Paynes, and many others who have left their impress upon the town and community; and yet we know that the list is incomplete, and that some of the earliest established families may be omitted from it, while others of later coming may be mentioned.

It is not the purpose in preparing this work to include the names of municipal, lodge and church officers, since these positions are of short duration, and what is correct today may be wrong tomorrow. Neither is there any historical value in such a record, except as the parties may have been identified with other interests, in which case they are mentioned in other departments of the work.


Reference has been made to the first school and teacher in the town of Clermont, and that is unquestionably the first school in the township. But it progressed from this small and humble beginning, until, within a few years, the town was blessed with an excellent school, and this has been the pride of her citizenship throughout all the intervening years. In 1854 a brick school house was erected on the site of the present one, which met the requirements of the district for fourteen years, or until 1868, when the old building was superseded by a larger and better one. This had room for five grades, soon after established, and one of the first graded schools in the county was founded. The principals have usually been men of brains and ability, some of whom grew to manhood under the environments of the Clermont schools. Under later laws and regulations, the principal has been succeeded by a superintendent, and the schools classified to meet the requirements of a curriculum of study embracing a definite number of years' work. This places the town schools of the county on practically the same basis during the years required to complete the approved course of study. In Clermont, this includes a period of twelve years, with a graduating system entitling the graduates to admission in the higher institutions of learning of the state, without examination. The independent school district of Clermont was formed in 1860, and that is the date from which to reckon the crowning success of the public school in the "Brick City."


The Masonic fraternity in Clermont, with much minutia relating to this historic lodge, is ably presented in the article on Freemasonry in Fayette county, by Hon. D. W. Clements, grand master of the fraternity in Iowa. The annals of the Roman Catholic church, about which centers so much early history, is presented in the article on that church, by Mr. and Mrs. John Owens, while the history of the Baptist church is ably and fully presented by F. Y. Whitmore. Hon. C. B. Hughes prepares the history of the Methodist Episcopal church in the county, while Carl Evans, an old Clermont boy, writes the history of the Presbyterian church in the county.

The Protestant Episcopal church in Clermont, known as Church of the Savior, was incorporated April 2, 1866. The vestrymen were as follows: J. P. Blackett, D. D. Sanders, J. N. Dennis, C. W. D. Lathrop and R. B. Appleman. A church edifice was erected in 1866-7, and was dedicated by Bishop Lee, of Davenport. It was a pretentious structure for the time, being one of the prominent landmarks of Clermont at the present day. Little change has been made, save in the internal decorations, and the solid stone structure has stood the test of years without appreciable loss. For some years after this church was organized it was the principal Protestant church in the village; but in later years, due to deaths and removal of members, it has been less prosperous than formerly. In fact, while there is a nominal church organization maintained, the services are irregular and often far between. The Norwegian Lutheran congregation occupies the building as a place of worship. The widow of Dr. W. C. Lewis bequeathed to this church a handsome annuity, but interested heirs precipitated the matter into the courts, with disastrous results as far as the church is concerned.


Clermont Lodge No. 134, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was organized January II, 1871. The names of the organizing members add materially to the list of early settlers and former business and professional men of the town. They are as follows: H. A. Windom, W. C. Lewis, George D. Beaton, John J. Hopper, E. T. Smith, Henry Wilmott, B. W. Branch and W. A. Wickham. The first officers were Dr. W. C. Lewis, noble grand; Henry Wilmott, vice grand; H. A. Windom, recording secretary; C. W. Ehrlich, permanent secretary, and W. A. Wickham, treasurer.

As the years passed, nearly all of the prominent young men of the town and community became members of this "triple link fraternity," some to remain and become thoroughly identified with the order, while many lapsed their membership, transferred to other lodges, etc., thus keeping the active membership comparatively weak. This lodge is one of the continuing institutions of Clermont.

There are several fraternal insurance organizations represented in Clermont; the strongest and most prominent of which is the Ancient Order of United Workmen. Brick City Lodge No. 81, of this order, was organized in August, 1876, with sixteen charter members. As this list includes some new names of early settlers and business people of their day, we present it here as follows: H. C. Warner, C. B. Nichols, Paul Ellings, V. K. Gass, G. F. Mitchell, C. W. D. Lathrop, F. P. Harold, M. C. Payne, W. A. Wickham, Amos Longfield, T. H. Whiting, C. F. Wreck, John J. Hopper, J. P. Calvin, William Putnam, H. A. Windom and D. E. Baker. Many of these are dead or removed and but few still have an abiding place in the Brick City.


For the year 1909 there were two hundred twenty four pupils of school age in the independent district of Clermont. Five teachers were employed, - one male and four females The average compensation of the former during a school year of nine months was seventy seven dollars and ninety two cents, and of the latter, forty two dollars and fifty cents. The number of pupils enrolled was one hundred forty six, and the average daily attendance was one hundred nineteen, at an average cost of tuition per month for each pupil, of two dollars and eight cents. The school house is valued at seven thousand dollars, and the school apparatus, at two hundred fifty dollars. There are four hundred nineteen volumes in the school library.

Clermont township schools are organized under the rural independent district system, there being eight districts so organized. One of these districts had three months' school during the last year and two had four months each; one district had nine months school, two had seven months, and two had eight months. Twelve female teachers were employed at salaries ranging from thirty two to thirty nine dollars per month. The school houses of the township are valued at four thousand seven hundred dollars, with two hundred ten dollars invested in school apparatus, and three hundred two volumes in the district libraries.


No town within the borders of the state of Iowa has exhibited more true patriotism and loyalty to the nation, its flag and its brave defenders, than the little hamlet of Clermont - ex-Governor William Larrabeels home. During the Civil war, Mr. Larrabee twice tendered his services to the country as a soldier, but, on account of his loss of one eye, was both times rejected, but he went right along doing all within his power in support of the country, the soldiers, and their families in Fayette county. When the War had ended, no man had more faithfully performed his duty than Mr. Larrabee. As the decades went by, and after he had twice been honored by serving the state as its governor, he still manifested a disposition to do something to perpetuate the memory of the gallant and brave soldiery of his state and nation. Through his untiring zeal, together with that of his wife, as leaders of the movement, the citizens of the township met and devised plans by which funds were to be raised for the erection of a soldier's monument in Clermont. Nearly every man, woman and child in the township joined in the good work, suggested by the worthy Mr. and Mrs. William Larrabee. Lots were secured across from the Rock Island railway tracks, at the Clermont depot, and Governor Larrabee and wife selected the figure of Abraham Lincoln, one they had chanced to see in Edinburgh, while traveling abroad, as the most befitting one from which to cast a bronze statute of the martyred President. They were indeed fortunate in getting the services of its original sculptor, Mr. Bissell, who made a similar one. This enterprise proved a success, and it will ever stand as a monument to Lincoln, and at the same time a lasting memorial to the loyalty and liberty loving spirit of Mr. and Mrs. William Larrabee, aided by the many citizens who joined with them in providing the same. Indeed, it has long since become the pride of the state, and is the only memorial of its kind and purpose in Fayette county.

On the pedestal of this monument, there are four tablets on its base, made of costly bronze, and these were designed and sculptured under the direction of Mr. and Mrs. Larrabee. Two are of local and two are of national interest. In one is represented in bas-relief "Tom" Henderson, bidding his wife and children farewell on the eve of his departure with Company C, of the Twelfth Iowa Regiment; a second shows the Clermont soldiers in the thick of the fight at Shiloh, Captain Warner leading the charge and Doctor Lewis, of Clermont, caring for the wounded; in the third panel Farragut is seen strapped to the rigging of his flag ship in the advance of the fleet on Mobile Bay and Dewey standing on the deck below, in command of a gun squad; the fourth panel depicts the scene of Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox court house. Grant and Lee are seated at the table in the foreground. with their staff officers grouped behind them. In the granite base of the monument is this inscription: "Erected in 1902 in memory of Soldiers and Sailors of the Civil War, 1861-1865."

There are four Civil war cannon guarding the four corners of the neatly kept and properly fenced park in which this monument is located. Also many relics, such as shells and cannon balls are seen.

This superb monument and bronze statue - the best of Lincoln in this country - was formally dedicated June 19, 1902, with impressive ceremonies.


On the same day that the Lincoln monument was unveiled at Clermont. there was another unveiling and dedication of an Iowa monument which will always attract much attention to the passer by in the years to come. This is the beautiful life size statue and monument erected by ex-Governor William Larrabee to the memory of Col. David B. Henderson, late speaker of the House of Representatives. This is a square shaft planted in the center of the main street of Clermont, near the park where stands the Lincoln monument. It is surmounted by a fine bronze statue of the popular and efficient Speaker, who in the days of the Civil war had lost a limb in the defense off the flag of his adopted country. The figure shows him standing dressed in the style of clothes he was wont to wear while in Congress, with his official gavel held in his right hand, while his left is clutching his crutch, which rests beneath his arm for support. The base of this monument carries on its sides appropriate inscriptions, designed by Mr. and Mrs. William Larrabee.


"Montauk," the home of Mr. Larrabee, is situated on a very prominent bluff overlooking the village of Clermont and the meanderings of the picturesque Turkey river. On the hill top, near the residence of the Governor, and by the side of a winding roadway, among beautiful shade trees, may be seen a rare collection of statuary - the largest and finest collection, in any one private place, in the United States. Here one sees four costly bronze statues - Grant, Sherman, Farragut and General Dodge of Iowa. These were all designed and cast under the direction of Mr. Larrabee. And in the cases of Grant, Sherman and Farrago, a son of each of these great chieftains furnished the portraits and military dress to the sculptors, J. Massey Rhind and Mr. Bissell. The one for Grant was first completed, and the others later - at the date of the dedication of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, at St. Louis, to which city they were sent and placed on exhibition in front of the Iowa building.

Perhaps the most striking of all four of these monuments is that of Gen. Grenville Dodge, of Iowa. In this bronze cast, General Dodge is represented in his full military uniform, while at his side rests the emblem of his distinguished services as a civilian since the war. It is a surveyor's transit that bears eloquent testimony to those days when he had charge of the construction of the Union Pacific railroad line over the western plains; and, on foot and on horseback, traversed this section of the country nineteen times between Omaha and San Francisco.

In the decades, and possibly centuries to come, the group of statues above described will stand as landmarks and monuments to the greatness of some of America's greatest men, both in military and civil life; and with all this, the generous giver, Mr. Larrabee, will, it is believed, never be forgotten while the deeds of loyal Iowans are sought for by foure historians. Of such men the world has none too many.

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