Over 12,000 years ago Missouri was home to the Mound Builders who have left evidence of their existence in the form of over 37,000 mysterious mounds found throughout the state alone. The mounds found mostly on bluffs overlooking rivers and streams contain the remains of the dead and sometimes accompany individual limestone encased tombs. Later native tribes were defined by names more familiar to us such as the Osage and the Missouria for whom the state is named. The word, “Missouri” is thought to mean “wooden canoe people”.
After a while explorers, hunters and trappers began to enter the territory. Lewis and Clark made their expedition and then in 1815 settlers began carrying the contents of their lives in horse drawn wagons came to lay stake on the rich fertile soil. They built their homes from logs and sustained themselves on whatever they could hunt or trap until the warmth of spring finally came and began to thaw the ground.
In 1860 Clinton had a population of 500 and other towns around Henry County began to sprout up as well. However, the next decade brought the civil war. Families were torn apart and the growth of the population was stunted. Clinton,suffered little more than a skirmish.
In 1868 the Clinton Daily Democrat was established. The publication is still in print today. In 1870 Clinton’s population of 840 celebrated the coming of the railroad which would manifest into growth and incorporation for the town. The town continued to grow adding a tavern, a hotel, a general store a school and of course the county courthouse.
Clinton High School
In 1911 a Clinton high school student named Royal Booth developed the technology to incubate eggs and hatch a record number of baby chicks. Soon after the railroad developed special cars that allowed the chicks to be loaded and fed and watered from the aisles. Eventually the US Post Office allowed the mailing of live chicks and the Royal Booth Hatchery became the largest hatchery west of the Mississippi. Royal Booth closed in 1967.
Though the idea was not new in all cultures, the mid to late 1800s introduced the common belief among Americans that some spring water had medicinal properties. Such a well, complete with the strong smell of sulfur, existed in Clinton. A grand hotel and spa were built and people traveled from great distances to test the waters for themselves. Though the appeal of healing springs lost their popularity nationally when the healing properties were dispelled, the Clinton Springs slowed and stopped prematurely.
The Clinton Square continued to grow and thrive. Like other US squares and main-streets, Clinton’s square was the heart of the city. People went to the square to do their shopping, see the doctor or have dinner out. Cars cruised the square, kids met for ice cream, people gathered to socialize, date and fall in love.
In the mid to late sixties people in mid-western cities began to be lured to malls with national chain stores. Doctors began to leave for medical plaza’s and professional buildings. Over time Main Street USA began to fade into something less desirable and to make matters worse, kids in rural towns like Clinton began seeking opportunities in bigger cities and populations began to dwindle. In much of Main Street USA, the heart of the city slowed its pace to a crawl and empty store fronts became all too common.
Clinton, Missouri’s historic square slowed but it didn’t die. As a matter of fact, it fared better than many. An active chamber of commerce, passionate store owners, involved residents and progressive thinkers have managed to maintain an appealing, attractive, historic square.
The historic square in Clinton is the largest in the country. There are numerous restaurants, shops and services in addition to the Henry County Museum. The Museum is housed in what was once a Anheuser-Busch distribution center. The beer was bottled and loaded onto the trains for distribution throughout the Midwest. The facility closed during prohibition. The gorgeous building was donated to the Henry County Historical Society in 1994 by Tracy DeLozier in memory of his wife, Juanita. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. You can learn more by visiting – http://henrycountymomuseum.org/.
A very interesting landmark on Clinton’s square is a fountain which was erected in 1911 by the National Humane Alliance. The National Humane Alliance was founded by Hermon Lee Ensign whose intention was to “spread about humanitarian ideas among the people to animals and to one another”. When he died in 1899, his organization erected fountains throughout the US for the use of watering horses. The basin at the bottom of the fountain was for dogs.
Though Clinton produced four confederate soldiers to every one union soldier, a monument titled “They Stood Tall” was built to memorialize both Union and Confederate soldiers of the Civil War. The sculpture was created by sculptor Wayne Hyde from Bedford, PA. The memorial was donated by several local organizations, families and individuals.
Kevin and Jennifer McWilliams moved to Clinton, Missouri about 23 years ago. Kevin, a physical therapist was offered a job with the hospital. The two discussed it and decided to stay a while and build a nest egg, after having a baby and then another, Clinton began to feel like home. The size of the town, the outdoor opportunities and a friendly community felt like a great place to raise children. 23 years later Kevin has his own physical therapy clinic, Jennifer runs a consulting business and has opened a cafe on the square.
Clinton MO Venues
Located in a former Ben Franklin five and dime, The Ben Franklin Bistro (http://www.bfranklinbistro.com/) is a great place to stop in for breakfast or lunch. The Bistro offers a great menu using fresh ingredients with something to please everyone. As a non-meat eater, I am sometimes challenged to find a restaurant that can accommodate both my meat eating husband and myself. Frequently, I am left with the option of eating a side salad or fried mushrooms. The Ben Franklin Bistro offers several meatless meals in addition to a great variety of meals for meat eaters.
The staff is attentive and friendly. The space is cozy enough to feel intimate and yet large enough for a staff lunch. There is live music on Thursdays during lunch.
Did I mention the made from scratch, fresh baked desserts?
Cummings Men’s Wear (https://www.facebook.com/Cummings-Mens-Wear-141361625904308/) has been a fixture on Clinton’s square for decades. David and Jennifer Cummings provide quality men’s wear and personal service unrivaled in the area. If they don’t have it in the store they can order it and have it available in as little as one day. The store carries a beautiful selection of sportswear, business and formal attire.
The Green Street Market (https://www.facebook.com/Green-Streets-Market-127383597315169/) located just of the square has been open for business for just five years. The nursery offers flowers, trees, shrubs and seeds but also offers beautiful gift items and accessories. The owner Sherry, grew up in Clinton and has fond memories of going to the square throughout her childhood. She is passionate about the importance of supporting local, independent business and is certainly one of the reasons that Clinton’s historic square remains vital.
Nagel’s Fashions (https://www.facebook.com/NagelsFashion/) has been providing ladies clothing and accessories for over 80 years. The family owned business has seen trends come and go. They have also witnessed plenty of changes on the square. Having grown up in the Clinton community, Cindy Lewis knows the difference between the customer experience in a locally owned store and that of a chain. Even high end, nationally owned stores can’t give customers the personal attention that a local store can provide. The emotional investment of small business owners equates to a far more vested interest. The ladies at Nagel’s remain devoted to providing a unique level of service to long time customers and new customers passing through town alike.
Simple Pleasures (https://www.facebook.com/Simple-Pleasures-of-Clinton-678128908924139/) is new to the square and is a fabulous addition. The lovely shop offers home accessories, seasonal decor, bridal registry and so much more. It is the perfect reason to go Clinton for a girl’s day of shopping.
Glasscock Jewelry Corner (http://www.glasscockjewelry.com/) is located in a beautiful former bank building which provides the perfect home for a fine jeweler. In business for over 30 years, Glasscock Jewelry provides the largest selection of jewelry in west central Missouri. The staff at Glasscock is well informed and highly attentive. Mr. Glasscock is also responsible for the renovation and preservation of several buildings on the square.
Rhoad’s Fashion Boot Shop on 128 S Main sells a lot more than just boots. There is a full selection of men’s, women’s and kids athletic, casual and dress shoes in addition to a large selection of boots. The Rhoad’s have owned the shop since the mid 70’s when they were one of four shoe stores on the square. In addition to the personal attention a locally owned store can offer its customers Rhoad’s large variety of name brand shoes are priced competitively.
Clinton, Missouri is at about the halfway point between Kansas City and the Lake of the Ozarks. It’s a great place to get out, stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat. It’s also a very easy day trip destination from Kansas City for a day of shopping or for a historical adventure. In addition, Clinton offers easy access to the Katy Trail and to Truman Reservoir. Most importantly Clinton represents the small rural town feel that quietly whispers to us about a simpler way of living. It holds its history like a precious memory and reminds us that there is a lot more to life than shopping malls, mega stores and shiny objects that distract us from real life.