Ida Clearwater was born in 1916, to Harris and Emma Lindsey, near Texanna in the Canadian District of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. When Ida was four years old, the family moved to Burkburnett, Texas, an oil boomtown. It was there where she met her paternal great-grandmother, Mary Ann Riley and her maternal grandmother Mary Ann Lane Brassfield, both Cherokee Indians. Their stories of her heritage would make a great impression on Ida and inspire her later journey West and her work as an author and historian.
Ida spent most of her childhood in Wewoka, Oklahoma. As a freshman in High School, Ida and her sister ventured off to the Haskell Institute, a Government School in Lawrence, Kansas. The following year they attended the prestigious Monte Cassino School in Tulsa, an experience Ida remembered fondly. After Ida’s mother died in her sophomore year, she returned home and graduated in 1934 from Allen High School. Ida moved to California to live with her aunt Mary in Pasadena and became a dancer in an Indian Girl Revue, and worked in a dress shop.
In 1937, Ida married Robert Clearwater and learned his photography business working with him for the next 33 years while raising their three daughters, Elizabeth, Mary and Carolyn. She also attended college at Humboldt State University. After Ida and Robert separated in 1970, she moved to Jacksonville, Oregon and became involved with the Southern Oregon Historical Society as the assistant librarian at the museum, retiring in 1984. Her years in Jacksonville, working within the Boosters Club and helping people discover history at the museum, were remembered by Ida as some of the best years of her life.
Ida’s love of history also inspired her daughter Elizabeth Henderson throughout her life. Many people in Jacksonville knew and loved Liz Henderson as the elegant and beautiful teamster whose mule team had carried visitors through the streets of Jacksonville with her carriage and wagon service. Elizabeth died in January, 2012. Ida spent her final years with her daughter Carolyn, pondering memories of Liz, remembering her time spent in Jacksonville, and spending time with family and friends who visited her in her assisted living home. She treasured sharing the book she had written, a documentation of the Cherokee people and her family history, and sharing her porcelain doll collection. At almost 100, with her eyesight and hearing failing, her vibrant spirit slowly let go in faith and hope of life eternal. She is survived by daughters Carolyn and Mary, and her grandchildren. A Memorial marker for Ida Clearwater and Elizabeth Henderson will be placed in The Martin Family Plot in spring by Butch and Christina Martin (Butch and Liz Henderson were longtime companions until her death and Ida loved Butch as her son-in-law.)