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 council seats 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 streets.

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 Omaha.

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 Scotland.

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 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 Home.

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 1923.


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.


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 past.

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