In 1840, the Michigan State Legislature named the county Kaykakee after a Sauk Indian Chief. In 1843, the county’s name was changed to “Clare” by an Irish surveyor after his native “County Clare” in Ireland. Established in Michigan’s lumbering era, the area was home to the first successful logging railroad, the Lake George & Muskegon RR. This line helped revolutionize the logging industry. Timber, the Muskegon and Tobacco Rivers, abundant land, and a railroad translated to profit and the area has thrived since. In years past, the railroad served as a lifeline to the rural communities in Clare County through the transport of lumber, goods, and supplies. Also, the trains carried passengers to and from various points in the State. Restoration of the depot in Clare, one of the few remaining of its kind, are currently taking place.
The Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration was established by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in mid-1935. The nation was in an economic depression; millions were unemployed. The WPA’s mission was to take 3.5 million people off relief and put them to work. Within a year, some 5,000 artists were busy on WPA. Clare’s Middle School auditorium has one such mural by Grand Rapids artist Gerald Mast. It is truly a national treasure. Located at 209 E. State Street, Clare, Michigan. Call (989) 386-9979 to arrange a tour of this art.
The Clare Post Office on Fifth St. in downtown Clare is another great place to see a sample of one of the WPA murals. View the murals (pictured above) during regular postal business hours.
The Doherty Hotel, downtown Clare, also boasts depression era murals painted by Jay McHugh in 1932.
The Purple Gang was a notorious group of mostly young Jewish men that controlled a large portion of Michigan, from U.S. 31 to the eastern border of the state. The most infamous happening at the Doherty Hotel was on May 14, 1938 when Central Michigan oil promoter, Carl Jack Livingston, shot and killed Isaiah Leebove in the Tap Room of the hotel. Mr. Leebove was an attorney with ties to the infamous Purple Gang. The home he built in Clare is located just north of downtown Clare.