Biographical Profile: Sgt. William A. Clark, Company B, Pennsylvania Volunteers, 100th Regiment
Transcribed by Tami McConahy, 2nd great-grandniece of Corp. Thomas John Martin, Co. F. from "Book of Biographies, Lawrence County", 1897.
Book of Biographies, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania 1897
General William A. Clark is without question the most widely known citizen of Wilmington township, Lawrence Co., Pa. He is a comparatively young man, but his life has been crowded with events of importance, which have followed one another in close succession. His fair reputation is known not only throughout the entire eastern part of the Keystone State, but his connection with vital human interests has given him a national fame.
General Clark comes from a race that has contributed as many great men to the pages of his history as any people on the face of the earth. Any man who has Scottish blood coursing through his veins is bound to feel that courageous thrill and dauntless energy that is the heritage of the sons of the men who gathered around the standard of William Wallace, and who placed their own Stuart on the throne in England.
George Clark, who first saw the bright light of day at a point near Edinburgh, Scotland, was the grandfather of the subject of this personal history. Like all true Scots he was given some schooling, and taught a useful trade, which trade happened to be that of tailoring. Hearing of the opportunities in that fair and free land across the seas, he took his wife and started on the long journey to the West. He eventually found a location at New Berlin, Adams Co., Pa., where he settled, won and lived out a useful life, working mainly at his trade, and rearing a family of well-trained children whom he left to honor and perpetuate his good name. The children were, in order: George H., the father of our subject; William D.; Edward A.; Mary (Popp); Sarah (Arlabaugh); and Anna (Baker).
George H. Clark, born in New Berlin, naturally learned his father's trade, a trade that was especially useful and remunerative at that time. He continued in that line, and in 1832, with a desire to the more rapidly better his financial condition, moved to New Wilmington, Pa., where he opened a hotel, at the same time working his trade and employing several journeymen tailors. Mr. Clark, while a finished workman in all the branches of his craft, was a most expert cutter. It took very little time for his neighbors to become cognizant of that fact, so it got to be quite the custom in the neighborhood to buy suitings of him, which he would cut for the different individuals of the family. These fabrics, cut to measure, were then taken home and made up into handsome suits by means of the housewife's busy needle.
About 1860, Mr. Clark determined to embark in the mercantile business and so gave up his work in the tailoring line. He then opened up a large store, which he conducted with marked success up to the date of his death in 1866, at the age of fifty-four years. Mr. Clark was a man who made his mark in the community. Possessed of unusually sound judgment, keen in perception, firm in opinion and strong in character, he was a man to whom many went with their perplexities. Seldom, indeed, did he fail to untangle the bewildering conditions, or help the applicant to his difficulty. During the period of inflated and uncertain money, he was relied upon by people for many miles around to pass judgment as to the real value of the currency that found its way into their hands, and it was a rare occurrence for him to blunder. He was a strong Whig, but later on joined his fortunes to the party of Lincoln and Sumner. Many times would his admiring fellow citizens have bestowed public office upon him, but he had no ambition in that line.
Early in life, Mr. Clark married a lady who belonged to one of the first families of Pennsylvania. She was Miss Elizabeth Scott, a daughter of Major Francis Scott, who was an own cousin of the veteran hero of two wars, General Winfield Scott. Mrs. Clark was the oldest of a family of twelve children, and it is worthy to note, that her youngest sister is the wife of David McKinley, brother of William McKinley, President of the United States. Mrs. Clark lived out a long and useful life, passing away in 1893, at the age of seventy-six. Both she and her husband during their respective lives were consistent Christian people, and members of the Methodist Episcopal denomination. Their children were: William A., subject of our article; Mary L. (Moore); Frank S., who lives in Butler, Pa.; and George P., deceased, who was a medical practitioner at Prarie City, Iowa, the town of his demise.
General William A. Clark was ushered into this life at New Wilmington, Pa., March 25, 1843. He attended the public schools of his native town, then took a preparatory course and entered Westminster College. Here he soon attained a high standing, both as a good student and as a young man of more than ordinary promise. When the war, which was to tear the shackles from the enslaved African, broke out, the young student immediately enlisted in Co. B, of the 100th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, an independent regiment which won great renown, and which in army circles was termed the "Round Head Regiment." Our young soldier spent over three hard years in the service of his country, and made a war record that he may well be proud of. He took part in fourteen pitched battles, and was in an innumerable amount of lesser engagements. He enlisted at the beginning of hostilities as a private, but his services so advanced him that he received his discharge as a sergeant. Returning from the field, he became associated with his father in the mercantile business, and soon familiarized himself with all the many details. At his father's death, the son took charge of affairs, but shortly disposed of his mercantile interests, and entered the then fast-developing oil fields. Since that time up to 1896 the oil business in one or another of its many branches has claimed all of his time and he has become one of the leading factors of this immense industry. General Clark was interested in laying the trunk pipe lines which traverse the oil fields, and convey their precious burden to Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. He still retains holdings in various oil properties, but has retired from the cares of an active business life.
General Clark was twice married. First in 1865, to Miss Elizabeth Aults, daughter of Isaac Aults, a leading citizen of Lawrence County; she died in 1874, leaving one son, C. Paul. The second union took place in 1877, and was with Miss Martha F. Jones. C. Paul Clark, the son of the first wife, married Miss Mary O. Heasley of Wilmington township: he has engaged in the torpedo business, and was doing finely, when death claimed him at the early age of twenty-seven. His wife and one daughter, Pauline, survived him. Martha F. Jones, the General's second wife, was a grandchild of Phillip James of Allegheny, and her mother is widow of James Parker. To the General and his wife, two children have been given: Anna G. and William A. Jr. The daughter has made music her life study. She has had the most finished course that the best American conservatories could give, and has a studio in the Clark Block, where she gives instruction in the beautiful art. She is also a soprano of rare accomplishments, a violinist, a banjo and mandolin player, and may be regularly heard in the choir of the First United Presbyterian Church of New Castle. William A. Clark, Jr., the son, is a medical student, an electrician, and is pursuing a meritorious career at this writing.
That there is no sluggishness in the coursing of his blood, that he is energetic and wide-awake, General Clark's life -work has proved. Actively interested in the welfare of his native town, he follows his thoughts and plans by noteworthy actions. In 1893 he originated and forced through to organization the borough water-works; a stock company was formed, and nearly the entire burden of financiering and carrying the enterprise to its completion has fallen upon the subject of this history. He built the electric plant in 1896, which his son, William A., Jr., managed until he began his medical studies. His interest in education, as well as his love for his alma mater, is shown by the gift of a well equipped chemical laboratory to Westminster College. This building was completed in 1896, and bears the name of the William A. Clark Chemical and Art Hall. The massive brick block on Main Street, which bears his name, was completed in 1895; in this structure are located the New Wilmington Bank, the postoffice, the Clark Business College, which the General established in 1896, and a large number of office rooms, store-rooms, etc. General Clark has concluded to beautify the property formerly known as the Neshannock Falls property into a handsome summer resort, which he will open to the public about June, 1898. This place will be one of the finest in the United States. He is also erecting a new hotel, four stories high, and equipped with all the modern improvements.
General Clark is a member of all the Masonic bodies from the Blue Lodge up to and including the thirty-second degree. He is also a member in high standing of the I. O. O. F.; B. P. O. E.; A. O. U. W.; G. A. R.; and the U. V. L. In the latter order, he is very prominent, having passed in turn through all the official positions up to that of National Commander, a distinction he bore in 1893-94. In General Clark's possession are two badges which he prizes highly, and which speak for the high merit and esteem in which he is held by his comrades. One is a badge given him as National Commander by the members of the Union Veteran's Legion; the other has also been awarded him to keep, but it was one which had been handed down from the first National Commander from successor to successor until it reached General Clark. Another very handsome piece of work, which shows how the services of our subject were appreciated, is a life-size water-color painting of himself, presented him by the U. V. L.
General Clark is a Republican in politics with his convictions as deeply settled and fixed as his father's ideas of freedom. He believes in true Republicanism, not the party spirit which actuates men to do the bidding of some self-constituted leader who has no claim on their support except it be his own unblushing audacity or willingness to perform actions that a true man would be ashamed of. The kind of Republicanism that General Clark loves is the kind whose banner John C. Fremont dared to carry; that Honest "Abe" Lincoln proclaimed; that to-day William McKinley represents. To the General's mind a free-born American's right of suffrage is his dearest possession. A citizen should vote with a good, clear idea behind his ballot of what he wants that ballot to do. Men, who are leaders, should have won the right to lead by having performed actions entitling them to leadership. Ring politics, log-rolling conventions and packed primaries win General Clark's deep disdain. He is in a position to know the correctness of the stand he takes, for his experience in politics has been life-long. At the present writing he is president of the borough council, and is ever a prime factor in all civil affairs. In 1897, he was a candidate for the Congressional nomination from his district. Owing to his well-known independent attitude toward the crowd which makes up what is fittingly called the "ring" power, he was deprived of the opportunity at this time of making what would have been a brilliant and certain campaign. By a shrewd but, at the same time, square and honorable maneuver, in which he used his trained skill to advantage, he overturned the plans of the parties from his own county who tricked him out of the nomination, and gained by their defeat what was a fair and just revenge. General Clark will never cease to be a potent member of society in his chosen part of the State. The parties that seem to win at the present will in the long run find out that fair dealing, backed by open, honest ways and true patriotism, will ever come out the winner in the race.
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