Cerro Gordo County Iowa
Part of the IaGenWeb Project



Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
December 10, 2011
by Peggy Senzarino

Family history tied to history of Clear Lake, Lake school district

CLEAR LAKE — A Clear Lake family is using its own history to shed light on the history of the entire community.

The Clear Lake Historical Society is spearheading the efforts along with the Clausen family, Dean Snyder Construction and Holland Contracting to save a 1872 schoolhouse and adjacent home which was finished in 1891.

The properties are located in the 500 block of North Fifth Street behind the Clear Lake Public Library.

Clear Lake’s Sarah Clausen Mooney, executive director of the Historical Society, hopes to have the schoolhouse and home open to the public as a museum with artifacts and information about her family and the other people who settled Clear Lake.

Clausen Mooney’s great grandfather S[oren "Samuel"].J. Clausen purchased the property in 1890 from the Clear Lake Cooperative School District.

The two-story schoolhouse had been built in 1872 and functioned as a school until 1882.

“It remained the same until 1895 when he (S.J. Clausen [1852 - 1924]) needed it for his carriage house,” Clausen Mooney said.

Clausen Mooney said family members have many artifacts from the school including the original school bell which they later plan to place in a cupola on top of the building.

They also have slates and ink wells, desks and rosters of the children who attended the school for the 10 years in which it was open.

They also have the names of all the teachers who taught there.

“It’s really a phenomenal time capsule,” Clausen Mooney said.

The house and schoolhouse have never been out of the Clausen family.

It passed from S.J. to his wife and then to their daughter, Louise. When she died the home went to her brother Max [(1916 - 2008)] and eventually to Sarah’s father, Fritz.

“These people, their whole life was in that house. Their whole history was in that house,” Clausen Mooney said.

Among the items found in the home were 250-300 year old artifacts from Denmark and Norway.

She said her father, Fritz, said the building needed to be turned into a museum.

“Yes, these are our people. That’s the bonus. But more importantly, it’s an awesome story of that time period, that 150-year time period, for Clear Lake, for Mason City.”

Earlier this year Clausen Mooney met with Mason City architect Randy Cram and Dale Snyder of Dean Snyder Construction about whether the schoolhouse could be saved. The foundation was crumbling and the roof was in poor shape.

She was afraid one good snowfall would take the building down.

Snyder agreed that the company, along with help from Holland Contracting, would move the building on the site, set it on a new foundation and make the necessary repairs.

Snyder agreed to cover all costs, estimated at $150,000, until Clausen Mooney could raise the funds.

The first floor of the home has been cleaned and organized. Clausen Mooney has started work on the second story.

“Every drawer is a museum,” she said.

Among the items she has uncovered are 36 handwritten ledgers listing every transaction at the family’s grain elevator from 1882-1949.

“Raw data like that is very rare,” she said.

The Historical Society will launch a “Save the Schoolhouse” campaign in 2012.

A fundraising event, “An Affair to Remember,” is set for March 9, 2012, at the Clear Lake Arts Center.

“They were a very ordinary family. Their time and circumstances happened to come together to allow them to prosper greatly. But my grandfather and great grandfather were very much men of their community,” said Clausen Mooney.

~ ~ ~ ~

Clear Lake Mirror Reporter
Clear Lake, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
by Marianne Morf

What’s in your attic?

The Clear Library has plenty of mysteries. But did you know that there’s a real mystery surrounding the library?

It’s always a good time for a good story, but considering March is Women’s History Month, along with the Clear Lake Historical Society’s focus on raising funds for its Save the Schoolhouse Campaign, it’s the perfect time to shed some light on the Monona Van Cise mystery.

Monona -- also known as Minnie, grew up near Algona and later lived in Clear Lake before traveling west with her husband in 1897. She died in 1933.

Local historians report that 100 years after her time in Clear Lake, Monona’s name has repeatedly popped out of history. Yet, she remains largely an unknown local treasure.

A number of years back an inquiry from a writer researching women artists from Iowa led to the uncovering of pieces of Monona’s life. More recently, time spent by family members pouring through the history in the late Max Clausen’s Clear Lake home has revealed even more.

“It’s one of those cases where people don’t know what treasures are in their attics,” said Sarah Clausen Mooney, who has become very active in not only preserving the history in her uncle Max’s home, but in sharing Clear Lake’s rich history with others. Sarah has just completed her first year as the Clear Lake Historical Society’s first executive director. The group is currently in the midst of saving Clear Lake’s first schoolhouse, which is located just behind the Max Clausen home on North 5th Street. This Friday night, the Clear Lake Historical Society will host a special evening at the Clear Lake Arts Center which will not only tell the story of Monona VanCise’s connection to the community, but hopefully inspire others to dig into history. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Save the Schoolhouse Campaign.

So, who exactly was Monona Van Cise? And what is her connection to the Clear Lake Public Library and to Clausen Mooney?

An article appearing in a 1924 edition of the Clear Lake Mirror reported library trustees had been presented with “a gift of unusual import and value.” Two portraits, one of Mrs. J.B. Charlson, and the other of Dr. Margaret Colby, founders and pioneer workers in the library movement in Clear Lake, were hung on the east wall of the library. M. Van Cise had created the portraits. At some unsure point in time the portraits were eventually taken down and thought to have been placed in storage somewhere.

As local historians discussed what could have possibly happened to the portraits, memories emerged. One day a woman hearing of the discussions about Van Cise said she thought she had one of the portraits in her garden shed. She had pulled both portraits out of a dumpster during a library renovation for their beautiful frames. Her daughter, an artist, had the other one. The treasures had been unearthed and talk of Monona Van Cise quieted.

At least for a while.

The addition of a history room at the Clear Lake library early this century led to advanced research

NOTE: Cordelia "Monona" Colby was born November 19, 1859, Oconomowoc WI, the daughter of Jonas "Palmiter" and Margaret E. (Somerville) Colby. She moved to Algona IA in 1870 where she married Orson Fowles Van Cise, a Universal pastor and a civil engineer on November 28, 1878. After Monona and Orson's only child, Joy, died at the age of three, Monona turned her attention to art. She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago IL and in Minneapolis MN. Monona taught art in Laramie WY from 1899 to 1906; in Colorado from 1907 to 1910; LaJolla CA in 1911 and in Idaho. She is known for her landscape paintings. After Orson died in 1921, Monona resided in the San Francisco Bay area for ten years. She returned to Laramine WY where she died October 29, 1933.

Monona appears on Clear Lake's 1900 census.

Monona's works are held at Clear Lake's Public Library and at Colorado Historical Society in Denver.

Sources: edanhughes.com/biography.cfm?ArtistID=683

Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, January of 2014



  • Return to Schools Index Page

  • Return to Cerro Gordo Home Page


    © Copyright 1996-
    Cerro Gordo Co. IAGenWeb Project
    All rights Reserved.