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Clarence Early History

This is a direct citation from 'History of Clarence, Missouri', published by the Clarence Historical Society sometime around 1991.

     This history of Clarence is from available published articles, records and by personal interviews of local residents. In the early 1800’s, pioneers came from other settled areas of the U.S., parts of MO and the Eastern part of Shelby Co. to establish new homes in Clarence, in the hopes of improving the quality of their lives, some came because of their adventurous spirit. They came in covered wagons, drawn by oxen, mules, horses, on foot, or any mode of transportation available. Some came down the Ohio River, up the Mississippi to Hannibal, then overland, bringing their families, livestock and possessions to the swampy land of Clarence that was covered in head-high prairie grass. For some it was only a resting spot on their journey, while others stayed all their lives and went on to become ancestors to many of us who still live here today.

     Grant Hopper built one of the first houses in the area, North of the then non-existent Clarence. It was made of native logs and lumber that he hauled from Palmyra. Other early settlers were the Griswolds, Schwadas, Herrons, Lampkins, and Sheetses that came from Ohio and Indiana. Some settled North and some South of the future town before it was laid out in October 1857. The land was conveyed by the Federal government, to the State, from the State to the County. The corporate limits were a mile square, with the boundaries; beginning at the NW corner of the NE qtr of sec 17, township 57, range 12 running South one mile to a stake, then North one mile to a stake, then West one mile to the beginning.

     The first land was tilled by oxen and a wooden plow, and as they had no means of working the tall prairie grass that had been turned over, they took their broad ax and chopped a hole in the dirt and planted corn in hopes of it growing. It is said that they barely grew enough to keep the livestock alive during the first winters, as it was about three years before the tall grass deteriorated enough to be worked down.

Early 1817 five of these red-blooded pioneers set out from Bourbon County, Kentucky, to the Boone Licke settlement on the Missouri. They were Edward Whaley, Aaron Forman Jr., Joseph Forman and David Adams. Whaley, the leader of the expedition, Forman Sr., and David Adams were men past middle age, the other two members being much younger. Crossing the Mississippi at St. Louis they proceeded up the Missouri to the Boone Lick settlement which they found too crowded for them. When the party left Bourbon County, friends and relatives were making preparations to remove to Missouri and settle what is now Marion County, so the Whaley party conceived the plan of crossing overland from the Missouri to the Mississippi, cutting across the angle between the two rivers.

    They planned to strike Salt River somewhere along its upper course and follow it to the Mississippi. With this in mind, Whaley and his companions made their way up Grand River until they were about due west of Shelby County. At that point they turned east and continued in an easterly direction, bearing somewhat to the northeast. From Captain Franklin Whaley, son of this early explorer, we have the story of this first expedition across Shelby County. And these details are meager in the extreme. Whaley visited Shelby County many times later in life but changes made my the hand of man had made the course of his exploration party unrecognizable. But this much we know: during their eastward march they had kept to the heads of the small streams running to the south. They did not venture far out on the several prairies they had noticed but skirted the edges of the timber. As best one can find out at this late date, these first new men entered Shelby County somewhere between Clarence and the road that runs east and west two miles south of town. Their course must have been about parallel to the Burlington Railroad, but south of it from a mile to two miles. Captain Whaley said that all of the streams crossed were small ones, therefore the explorers must have been traversing the country lying near the head waters of the several forks of Crooked Creek. The party may have borne to the northward but not to any great extent, for when they finally struck Salt River they found the course of that stream to be from the south to the north.

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