On This day: June 18, 1869

According to Our Iowa Heritage: June 18, 1869 – The good people of Johnson County are rewarded with a second post office. Located on the west side of the Iowa River, it was in Coralville, with Lemuel G. Wilson serving as its first postmaster. 

How did Coralville get its name?

Coralville’s name is derived from the fossilized coral that is found within the limestone on which the mills and dam on the Iowa River were built.

Coralville, Iowa, celebrated its Sesquicentennial in 2023. Its origins trace back to the early 1840s when the Iowa City Manufacturing Company constructed the largest grist mill and dam in the Iowa Territory. Situated on the Iowa River just north and west of Iowa City, this small village initially lacked a formal name until it was officially named Coralville in 1866. The village was formally incorporated as a city in 1873. 

Location, location, location

The ideal location for the mill and dam was determined by Johnson County in the late 1830s, selecting the west bend of the Iowa River northwest of Iowa City. This bend provided a long flat stretch of the river that offered excellent water flow, crucial for the mill's operations. Historically, Native Americans had recognized this spot's strategic advantage, using the natural limestone riverbed to enhance their fishing capabilities with a stone dam. 

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The Iowa City Manufacturing Company (ICMC), established in 1843, launched its mill and dam project on January 1, 1844. Despite being the largest in the region, the ICMC faced competition from Walter Terrell, who had secured a permit for a mill and dam on the East Bend of the Iowa River in 1840. Terrell's earlier completion of his mill, located directly north of Iowa City, led to significant milling business going to him rather than to the ICMC. 

The Coral Mill, as it was known, initially struggled until Ezekiel Clark and E.W. Lake, joined by Samuel J. Kirkwood from Ohio, took over in 1848. Kirkwood became the plant manager in 1855, and under Clark & Company's leadership, the mill, now renamed Clarksville Mill, became the most prosperous milling operation in eastern Iowa. The success of the mill and the ensuing growth of related businesses prompted the local residents to adopt the name Clarksville for their burgeoning community. \

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