Select Clark/Clarke Miscellany

Here are some Clark/Clarke stories and accounts over the years:

Clarks and Clarkes

The Clark spelling generally outnumbers the Clarke spelling in the English-speaking world today.  The table below shows the current estimates of these numbers.

Numbers (000's)

Clarke is more common in East Anglia and the Midlands, as well as in Ireland.  Clark is the Scottish spelling.  And the Clark spelling predominates in America.

Clark and Clarke as a Surname

Mark Lower had the following to say about the surnames Clark and Clarke in his 1860 book Dictionary of Family Names in the United Kingdom. 

“Clark and Clarke come from the Latin clericus and the French le clerc and means a learned person - that is, one who could in old times read and write.  These were accomplishments not so rare as we are sometimes inclined to think since this is among the commonest of surnames.  

Clark stands 27th and Clarke 39th in the Registrar General's comparative list.  For 33,557 Smiths registered within a given period, there were 12,229 Clarks and Clarkes.  Thus for every three hammermen we have at least one 'ready writer.'  

As a surname, Clarke appears frequently to have aliased some other appellative.  For instance the baronet family Clarke of Salford, originally Woodchurch from the parish of that name in Kent, soon after the Conquest became Clarkes (Le Clerc) in consequence of a marriage with an heiress and the family for some generations wrote themselves "Woodchurch alias Le Clerc," and vice versa, until at length the territorial appellation succumbed to the professional one."

The Clarkes of Norwich

Edward Clarke was a successful cloth manufacturer in Norwich in the late 17th century who was described by his son Samuel as follows: 

“My father was a person of an excellent natural capacity and of an untainted reputation for probity and all virtue, one whose most excellent character recommended him so to the citizens of Norwich that they chose him without, nay against, his own inclination to represent them in Parliament.” 

This statement may have been something of an exaggeration.  In fact Clarke was only elected in 1701 after a stiff contest.   After being defeated in 1702 and at a by-election in 1703, Clarke withdrew from political life.  

Edward and his wife Hannah raised two distinguished sons, Samuel and John.  Samuel became a very influential theological writer of his time.  John became Dean of Salisbury

The Clarks of Paisley

The Clarks were said to have been descended from old Covenanters in Scotland and were “devoutly pious and God-fearing.”  The first record of them was Allan Clark, a farmer at Dykebar in the early 1700’s.  Son William died in 1752 and his wife Agnes, unable to run their farm, moved with her six children to the new town of Paisley.  All four of her sons became involved in the thriving textile trade there. 

These Clarks became mill owners and played an important role in developing Paisley’s thread manufacturing industry.  James Clark was the first in 1817 to build a factory for the production of cotton thread.  There were various Clark enterprises over the next fifty years until James Clark’s sons consolidated the business as J & R Clark in 1867 under the leadership of John Clark. 

John Clark built the Atlantic and Pacific mills in the 1870’s.  These mills employed more than 3,000 people and had a combined capacity of 230,000 spindles.  John’s brother Alexander meanwhile had developed Clark mills in America.  

Sailing was John Clark's relaxation.  In 1889 he became the Commodore of the Royal Clyde Yacht Club and remained in that position until his death.  His yachts, the Vanduara and Mohican, were both used to compete in races.  The steam yacht Mohican carried him to America on business as well as on cruises to the Mediterranean.  He died unmarried in 1894.

Clarks from Ulster to Indiana

John Clark, Scots Irish from Coleraine in Ulster, crossed the Atlantic to America with his wife Agnes and their children sometime around 1720. 

Shortly after their arrival, they came to Worcester, a Presbyterian-founded town and center for the Scots Irish, in Massachusetts. Since they were probably farmers, it is unlikely that they settled in the town itself. In fact there is evidence that they settled northwest of the town of Worcester around the towns of Rutland and Holden as later Clarks of the family were born in Rutland.  They remained part of a close-knit Scots-Irish community whose center was the Presbyterian church. 

In 1739 the family set out with other Scots Irish and settled the town of Colerain, named after Coleraine in Ireland (John’s birthplace) and located some fifty miles northwest of Worcester.  John was apparently still alive in 1786 and the family moved again to Washington county, New York.  They moved a third time in 1803 to Windham county, Vermont.  In each case they exchanged one Scots Irish community for another. 

The next move occurred in 1815.  The Clarks then set out for Indiana which had just been admitted as a state of the Union.  The promise was the rich farmlands which were said to be available there.  They were, however, leaving the cosy familiarity of their Scots Irish neighbors.

Huguette Clark the Heiress

Her father W. A. Clark had been born in a log cabin, discovered incredible riches in copper in Montana territory after the Civil War, was thought to be as rich as Rockefeller, founded Las Vegas, and was pushed out of the U.S. Senate for bribery. 

Huguette Clark, born in 1906, was the second daughter of Clark by his second wife.   She held a ticket on the Titanic in 1912 and was still alive in New York City long after 9/11.  She grew up in the largest house in New York City, a remarkable dwelling on Fifth Avenue with 121 rooms for a family of four.  She owned paintings by Degas and Renoir, a world-renowned Stradivarius violin, and a vast collection of antique dolls. 

But distrustful of outsiders she became reclusive.  The last photograph of her to be published during her lifetime was taken in 1928.  She in fact lived out her last twenty years in a simple hospital room, devoting her wealth to her art and buying gifts for friends.  Meanwhile her fantastic homes in Santa Barbara and Connecticut and New York City were unoccupied but still maintained by servants. 

Upon her death at 104 in 2011, Huguette Clark left behind a fortune of more than $300 million, most of which was donated to charity after a court fight with her distant relatives.  Bill Dedman’s 2013 book Empty Mansions charted this extraordinary life.

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