# Muscatine



The "d—d Yankee Church"

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

Rebecca Jane Clark was born September 15, 1849, three months after the city of Bloomington, Iowa changed its name to Muscatine. As a small child, she watched construction of a fine, brick church building at West 3rd and Chestnut streets.

Familiar as it became to her, that building was never her church. Rebecca and her family attended the African Methodist Episcopal where her father was the Sunday school superintendent, across Papoose Creek and most of the way up 7th Street hill. Their simple, rough building was also where she would attend the “African” school with her siblings and other “colored” children of the town.

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More about Jim White’s judges

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

We Alexander Clark storytellers work hard at learning our facts and keeping them straight.

We can’t tell Muscatine’s best Underground Railroad story without Judge Hastings, but I’m afraid I got a fact or two wrong in the last column. And I ran into a shocker.

This much is true: “A writ of habeas corpus was obtained from Hon. S.C. Hastings, then acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of this state, who released him.”

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A momentous year for Alexander Clark

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

The year 1848 was momentous in the life of young Iowa pioneer Alexander Clark.

On June 21, he and Benjamin Mathews purchased property on East 7th Street where their church would be built the following year. The Muscatine congregation became known as “the oldest colored church in Iowa.” (I’ll say more about the church in future columns.)

History reveals two other events of 1848: Alexander’s marriage to Catherine Griffin, and around the same time, his role—or maybe theirs—in a drama his eulogist will extoll in 1892, calling him “one of the Underground Railroad engineers and conductors, whose field was the South, whose depot was the North, and whose freight was human souls.”

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Of narratives learned in Iowa

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

When the nation celebrates our 250th anniversary in 2026, let us observe Alexander Clark’s 200th birthday, too.

By 1890, when President Benjamin Harrison appointed him minister to Liberia, the Muscatine man was known throughout the U.S. as “the colored orator of the West.” His speeches and writings exhorted Americans to live up to the all-are-created-equal demands of the Declaration of Independence. It was one of his favorite themes.

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"History reveals itself over time"

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

Early in the research for his Alexander Clark biography published in the Drake Law Review, retired Iowa State Supreme Court Justice Robert Allbee visited Muscatine to consult with Kent Sissel, the preservationist who has resided in Clark’s house since it was moved and saved from demolition in the late 1970s.

“I’ve spent the last 40 years, more or less, protecting the legacy of Alexander Clark,” Sissel told him in the hour-long conversation they recorded that day in 2018.

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