City History

The original town of Clearwater began as a small trading post on the north side of the Ninnescah River and was established for Texas cattlemen who were driving cattle on the Chisholm Trail. The first settler from Ireland came in the winter of 1869. In 1872 Ninnescah Township was formed. Ninnescah is an Osage Indian name. The first part of the name means ‘water’ and the last part of the name includes clear, salt, spring, good, and white water. 

In 1872, 40 acres of land were donated and recorded by the Sedgwick County Register of Deeds. The location of the old town of Clear Water was Section 25, Township 29, Range 2 West in Ninnescah Township. The platting established 252 lots, and the town continued to flourish when the cattle drives were at their height. The cattle drives ended on the Chisholm Trail by Clear Water in 1874 because the farmers started fencing fields for cattle.

Railroad track

As soon as the railroads were surveyed and the station built at the new site, currently Grant and Byers, the people of Clear Water moved and this location became the present site of Clearwater. The first Missouri Pacific train came through the new site on July 4, 1884 and the first Santa Fe train came in 1887. 


Emigrant families that came to the Clearwater area were Irish, German, Scotch, English, Swiss, Swedish, and Danish. Clearwater began to flourish with the Wichita Eagle reporting in early 1885 of close to 700 inhabitants. Four months later the Order of Incorporation of the city dated September 1, 1885 reported, “that the Clearwater population is in excess of 2,000.” 

By 1900 the population was only 304. Several factors contributed to the population decline including the drought of 1887, historic run to Oklahoma in 1889, poor crops, and people moved back to Wichita and other areas.

Schools & Businesses

The first school, a one-room building, was built in 1872 on the south side of Ross Avenue just west of the Missouri Pacific railroad tracks. June 22, 1884, arsonists burned the first school. The second building was built in 1885 and was two-story, four-room brick building. The first eighth-grade class graduated in April 1895. The first two-year high school class graduated in 1902 and the first four-year high school class graduated in 1909.

The first bank in Clearwater began around 1885. A Clearwater resident did not like paying 8% per quarter interest, so in 1899 nine local men started the State Bank. They bought out the old bank at the corner of Ross and Tracy. The bank later moved into a building constructed of brick from a brickyard in Clearwater. In 1905, the Home State Bank was granted a charter and in 1928 acquired the deposits of the State Bank.

In 1910, two Clearwater residents sold their blacksmith and machine shop to give their attention to management of the first light plant in Clearwater. The light plant was located at 402 E Ross. The lights were turned on each evening. After blinking the lights several times, the lights were turned off nightly at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Saturdays. In 1912, the Council authorized Ordinance 76 for the sum of $23,000 in bonds for constructing and erecting the first water works system in the City. The first sewer system was installed in 1947, which was a Sewer Purification Plant. United Gas Service Company brought gas to Clearwater in 1927.

Clearwater Historical Museum

See the City history in person at the Clearwater Historical Museum.