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Dunklin County, Missouri
Look at this history page for Clarkton.
Clarkton is One Hundred Seventy Two years old. (1999) This not only makes it the oldest town in Dunklin County, but one of the oldest in the state of Missouri. Although it was made an incorporated village in 1860, it was actually settled some thirty-two years prior to that date.
The first settlers of what is now Clarkton, immigrated from Kentucky, crossing the Mississippi River in the dead of winter when the ice made it possible to cross with their wagons and their belongings. Looking for dry ground, these settlers first stopped at about the present location of the James Howard home place. It was first called Bach and then later changed to Beech Grove and finally Beech, because of a grove of Beech trees at that location.
Not much is known about Beech before Major Henry E. Clark settled here. Realizing the importance of getting the farmer's crops to the nearest market, Major Clark built what was known as the "Old Pole Road" to a settlement called Weaverville, which was located in the vicinity of Portageville. This pole road meant about the same to Beech that a railroad would to any small town. Because of its importance, Beech was given the name of Clarkton in honor of Major Clark. Clarkton, being in the midst of West Prairie, which was easily cleared and tilled and being on the road from Gainsville, Arkansas to New Madrid, soon had some good stores, mills, gins, etc.
John H. Stokes established about the first store here in 1856, and his son, Robert Stokes, had charge of this store until the outbreak of the Civil War. During the War, Clarkton was the site of several skirmishes, some of its stores were destroyed by fire and the plank road was burned. This was a heavy blow to the new town, for although the road was afterwards rebuilt with poles, it was a rough affair. When once traveled from end to end, it was not hard to understand why this road was sometimes called the "Devil's Washboard." Clarkton however, withstood all this, and after the Civil War, built up again.
Z.B. Penny, E.C. White, Oscar Summers and John Muse established stores. George Rogers erected a flour mill and several grist mills and cotton gins were built. Papers were established by different men and Clarkton became the metropolis of Dunklin County. At one time before 1895, it had over 500 inhabitants, the best school in the county, two good churches, and many neat residences. And, was without doubt, one of the prettiest town in this part of the state. The Cottage Hotel, erected by Z.B. Penny, was in its day, a boom to travelers in these parts.
The building of the railroad, however, from New Madrid to Malden, dealt Clarkton a terrible blow which it has never completely recovered. In the late 1890's, Clarkton still did a considerable business for a country town. Its citizens were nearly all from old respected families who had nice homes and were good livers. In fact, among the best and most influential citizens the county has ever had, have been those in the vicinity of Clarkton. In this period there were two general stores owned respectively by M.W. Hubbard, and Judge James M. Waltrip. A drug store and grocery store were kept by Pack Harrison and his brother, Dr. Arthur Harrison. The best known farms at that time were those of Asa B. Douglass, the Rayburns, Wm. N. Gunn, Judy R.L. Hodges, Martin V. Baird and George W. Marshall.
Clarkton has always held a unique place in Dunklin County history. It is difficult to explain just why Clarkton, instead of Kennett, is not the county seat and it is even more difficult to explain why Clarkton is not the largest town in Southeast Missouri. Both of these could well have happened because of her age and because of altitude. Clarkton, even until after the turn of the twentieth century, was surrounded by swamps that were filled with wild water fowl and plenty of deer, coon, wildcats, yes, even panthers.
Clarkton turned down the chance to be the home of the Gideon Anderson Lumber Company. Upon coming to this county, Mr. W.P. Anderson stayed in Clarkton, at the two-story home of Mrs. Emma James, who was the mother of former State Representative C.B. James. He expressed his desire to establish his saw mill here, but was turned down by the village "moss backs" who seemed afraid such a mill might infiltrate the clean living of the town at that time. One can only imagine what would have happened if this mistake had not been made.
From the early 1900's until now, Clarkton has continued that tranquil, easy-going way of living. She is a proud little city, and rightly so. She has always prided herself in having the finest churches and finest schools that could be possibly by found.
Yes, Clarkton has many fond memories. She had the first basketball team in Dunklin County and was engaged in some thrilling games with Cape Girardeau in 1922 and 1923. The team was coached by former Superintendent of Schools, Carl Gum. She had the first gymnasium in Dunklin County. This building was built by the high school students and stood for many years.