Clark Island


Page added 04-21-03 - Last updated 04-22-03


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 (From the Falls City Journal, Thursday June 26, 1952)

The interesting and complex history of a section of Richardson county called "Clark Island" was recalled yesterday by a number of Richardson countyans as they read the account in The Journal of the death of Mrs. Delia Willey.


Her first husband was Jess Clark, the man who squatted on the then waste bar land along the river, in the northeast corner of the county, and gave the tract its name Clark Island.


Twenty years ago, the area now owned in part by Jean Cain, Fred Zorn, Art Duerfeldt and Don Runyan, was a "No Man's Land" between Nebraska and Missouri, without anyone knowing for sure, and not much caring which state held jurisdiction.


Jess Clark died of injuries from a dynamite blast in 1934, some time after that, the corps of army engineers, charged with the job of making the Missouri navigable, began the bank stabilization job which confines the stream today, generally inhibiting the river's meandering habits.


That stabilization program made of Clark Island something more than a sandy waste of willow thickets and rushes, and consequently, the courts long since have decided that the land is in Nebraska.  It is a valuable farm land today.


Back prior to 1914, the Missouri river in that area ran along the bluffs on the Nebraska side.  An ice gorge in 1914 was credited with changing the course of the stream pushing the channel farther out into the valley, leaving only a chute where the river formally had run against the bluff.  The land between the chute and the river came to be known as Clark Island, although the chute, except for the first few years, carried water only when the river was high.


The doubt about the status of Clark Island arose from the complicated application of riparian laws to the boundary question.  The boundary between the states was declared in 1888 to be the main thread of the Missouri river.


Thus prior to 1914, when the river reportedly changed its course because of the ice gorge, the "Island" was in Missouri.  Whether the river changed gradually, causing the land to form by accretion, or by evulsion causing it to cut off suddenly from the Missouri mainland was the crux of a legal argument which was re-stated a number of times in federal district court and the courts of Nebraska and Missouri.


Jess and Delia moved to Clark Island in 1915, and lived there until his death in 1934.  She then sold the land and moved to Verdon, Ne. where she lived when she died in 1952.


Family Folklore says; Delia was coerced by Duerfeldt into trading the property for a house in Verdon, no money exchanged hands.

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Since Apr 22, 2003