Notes on Clare, Webster, Iowa by Pat Martin
(From some notes taken on an
interview with Carl Donahoe)
Clare Iowa was platted on 1882 and incorporated in 1892. It was named by
Halligan family from Co Clare Ireland. Other names suggested at the time were
Jackson City and O'Hern Village. The first settlers of the town were Thomas and
The first settle in Jackson Township was James Donahoe, in 1860 he purchased a
farm southeast of Clare for $1.00 an acre. Mr. Donahoe had come to Iowa in 1854
from Penn. where he had been a coal miner. His first farm was homesteaded
in Pocahontas Co. He was forced to move when the government began
assisting early railroads. The railroads were given land every other mile for 5
miles either side of railroad rightaway. When I asked why he had chosen such
sandy land along the Lizard Creek, he explained "Jackson Twp has a history
of wells difficult to find. It is on the edge of the Manson volcano
cone." Also what is now considered the best farm land was at that time a
bog/swampy land. Carl said Mr. Donahoe was one of the men hired to
eventually tile much of Jackson Twp. He could remember as a child going with his
mother to take supplies to the tile diggers. The diggers lived in tents
during the week and tried to get home for Sunday mass. (Jackson Twp is 36 square
miles) I re!
member reading that it took 3 days for a rider that carried mail from Humboldt
to Rolf, before the land in Humboldt and Pocahontas Counties was finally
The was railroad was extended through Jackson Twp. 1881-82. It was originally
the D.M. and Ft.Dodge RR, later Chicago & Rock Island RR then M.&St.L.
RR, then the Chicago & Northwestern RR. Before this, stage coaches
came to Tara (west of Fort Dodge and Unique (north of Clare,Humboldt Co., now
blacktop P29) Someone could hire a horse and buggy to meet it from Lahiff livery
The railroads made or destroyed the original settlements or towns on the
frontier. this was the case with Clare. the original settlers settled west
of Clare on the west side of the Lizard Creek .( I have been told there was a
post stop west and south of Clare on the Lizard Creek, by a member of the
Webster Co. Historical Society) The original road followed the creek from Fort
Dodge and crossed the creek near St. Patricks Church. These settlers built their
church, St Patricks, on the boundary line of Pocahontas and Webster Co.
The land for the church and cemetery was donated by owners Hugh Collins &
Patrick McCabe (Pocahontas Co) James Condon & Michael Morrissey(
Webster Co). St Patricks was the oldest rural church in Webster Co. and second
oldest parish in Diocese and served the now towns of Barnum, Manson,
Pomery, Fonda, Varina, Palmer, Pocahontas, Gilmore City , Rolf and Clare. These
early settlers are reported to have the first recorded mass in the Sioux city
Wood to build the church came from Conway Lumber in Fort Dodge,
stone from quarry on the Des Moines River. A trip to the quarry usually took 2
" in the year 1871 under the watchful eye of Rev. Thomas Matthew Lenihan,
the Irish settlement build their first Church. they selected a high hill over
looking the Lizard Creek, so called from an Indian name. Was-Sa-Ka-Pom-Pa, the
river with lizards, for
their church site"
St. Matthews church 1886, school 1892. Methodist Church 1888 (now a private
home) Public School 1905
Dewey Opera House-3 stories-hardware and groceries on 1st,- 2nd opera 3rd
balcony. had town meetings in balcony, held dances and plays on to
2nd. Geo. D. Sweet came for a week.
In later years Clare grocery and dry good stores, Donahoe &
Hood, Conway & Boyle. Collins & Rail funeral home and furniture store. 2
implement stores. McMahon and Klapka hardware stores. 2 newspapers, 3
hotels first one opened 1883, John Hanarahan opened one 1887, then Herman and
McKernon. Clare still had a hotel in 1935. 2 banks one State Bank and
First Trust and Savings Bank, 2 barber shops( Ennis barber shop had bath
and shaves 10 cents and shower 25 cents.) Photo Shop, 5 doctors,Dr.
Dorsey, Dr. Baldwin, Dr. Russell, Dr. Sanders. 3 saloons, 2 grain
Horses were a big item. Clare had its own race track just south of town. Band
members came with their horses for miles around to attended/compete in the band
contests.. Carl said the horse track had bigger crowds than the track at the
Iowa State Fair grounds in the 1890's .It originated with the many band
contests. Bands came from Des Moines, Eagle Grove, Boone Valley etc. to compete.
They members would stay in the Methodist Church. They also brought their horses
and naturally this led to "fastest/best".
At wedding recorded 1883 Jan 6 Ft Dodge Messenger noted "Clare now boasts
of a notary public".
1887 the first big community picnic was held in Lawler's Grove profit $200.
Community picnics were a big social affair. Many came from Fort Dodge by horse
and buggy. The train was used to commute to and from Fort Dodge and other town
along the track.
There were 2 fires in Clare. After the big one of 1912 Clare never really
rebuilt as transportation to surrounding shopping cemters was easier.
I hope this answers some of the questions on early Clare. I hope I have read my
notes correctly. If not please feel free to correct them. It was probably 30
years ago I talked to Carl. I am just surprised I still had them. I have no idea
where original report went.
I do remember while growing up I visited Strait cousins near Pioneer and
going to the Free Shows with them. I lived south of Fort Dodge and it was gravel
all the way to Clare and at night the corn bores were as bad as a snow storm...