“It’s All There…in LeClaire!” So they say, but why? To consider that, we need to start at the beginning.
The area where the town boundaries are today used to be home to the Sauk and Fox tribes. These tribes were led by the infamous (to the area) Chief Blackhawk. During a fierce Indian battle between Le Claire and Princeton, Iowa; the Sauk and Fox fought the Sioux. Around 100 Native Americans lost their lives in this battle. After this, as the United States began growing to the West, a treaty was eventually brokered leading to the Peace Treaty of 1832.
Because of the new peace, a total of three white settlers moved into the area. The head of one of these families was Antoine LeClaire, thus the name of the town. Antoine LeClaire enjoyed a great relationship with Colonel Davenport (which the city is named after). As a result of that, he was able to help broker the treaty of 1832. He went on to own a sandstone quarry, and much of the stone from the quarry was used in building many of LeClaire’s oldest buildings.
The city received its charter in 1834. In 1846 Iowa became the 29th state, and William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody was born just 2 miles NW of the town center. By 1850, Le Claire had grown into a bustling community fed by its location on the Mississippi. Many people do not realize that the stretch of the Mighty Miss between LeClaire and Davenport was rapids. As a result, many “River Pilots” made the city their home. This and the success of LeClaire were changed, when Davenport bridged the river. Today, the Buffalo Cody Museum stands as tribute both to its “native son” and the history of LeClaire.
We are now going to fast forward to 2004. Not a lot had changed in LeClaire through the 1900s. Then, Dr. Rick Reed (President of the LeClaire Chamber of Commerce at the time) got a downtown revitalization started by contacting and working with Iowa State University. From there, he worked with ISU College of Design and a graduate class as their school project to do a plan. Then, a certain local by the name of Mike Wolfe (sound familiar) was serving on the City Council. Mike, Mayor Vern Spring and other members of the Council decided LeClaire could be someplace special once again. Given its location on the Mississippi with its scenic beauty and the increase in recreational boat traffic, the Council felt it needed a boost. From this, the plan for returning the town to its historic character of the past came to fruition with cooperation between the Council, the Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development, Tourism and downtown merchants. The levee was developed, pedestrian friendly sidewalks were constructed and storefronts were restored exhibiting their historic appearance. Construction was finished in 2007, and LeClaire hosted RAGBRAI (the Register Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa), a journey from the west border to the river on the east in 2008.
LeClaire was on its way to becoming a destination day trip or weekend getaway for people throughout the Midwest and the United States. The city has grown substantially in the last decade. Showing off its history with the Buffalo Bill Museum and Lone Star (a steamer from the 1800s) Pier, many eclectic shops for browsing and finding that special item, great restaurants with a wide variety of cuisine from which to choose; LeClaire has become so much to so many. And let’s not forget about Antique Archaeology, home base of the “American Pickers” History Channel show demonstrating the “picking “skills of Mike Wolfe (oh yeah, that’s why that name was familiar) and Frank Fritz with the assistance of Danielle Colby. Take all of that and pair it with the friendliest shop owners and residents you could to find, and you get the following
“It’s All There…in LeClaire.” That’s what they say, and I can attest that it is true!
Contributed by Dennis Fischer