JOSEPH CLARKE SR. was born in 1738 in Chester County, Penna, and spent his early life there engaged in farming. About 1780 he was married to Miss Elizabeth Lynn, and soon after the young couple located on Government land three miles southwest of the present site of Washington, Penna, on land now owned by Cornelius Clarke, a grandson. This is said to have been the second farm located southwest of Fort Catfish, and perhaps the first within the present limits of South Franklin township. The whole country was a dense forest, and here they erected their log cabin and established a home. The woods were teeming with wild animals, some of them dangerous to encounter; and a few friendly Indians still claimed the hunting grounds. Occasionally traveling bands of hostile Indians would frighten them, and on several occasions they were compelled to take flight on horseback during the night to find shelter in Fort Catfish. which had been erected for the protection of the early settlers. Only men of nerve and daring could meet the requirements of settling in the forest. On one occasion Mr. Clarke and a neighbor were traveling on horseback when the farm belonging to the heirs of J G Strean (deceased) their dog attacked a large bear. The men had no firearms with them, but each prepared a heavy club, and in this way killed the ferocious animal. Mr. Clarke was a seceder or a member of the Associate church, and took an active part in the church work of the day. He died in April, 1829, aged ninety one years. His wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Clarke, died February 4, 1857, aged ninety three years. Their children were Elizabeth (Mrs. Archibald Brownlee); Sarah (Mrs. William Johnston); and Joseph.
Joseph Clarke, whose portrait is here presented, was the son of Joseph and Elizabeth Clarke, and was born near Washington, Penna, July 23, 1787. His education was limited to the old time subscription schools during a few months in winter. Yet by diligent application he became a fair English scholar. On April 14, 1814, he was united in marriage with Catherine, daughter of Daniel Andrews of the same locality, and their children were: Adaline (Mrs. James McDonald); Mary (Mrs. Elisha Ely); Hervey H.; Cornelius; Ann Eliza; Catharine (Mrs James Pease, formerly Mrs. Samuel T. Brownlee); John G.; Sarah J.; and Harriett (Mrs. John Baird). In 1830 he removed from the home farm to the one now occupied by his son John G., and there spent the remainder of his useful and busy life. Mr. Clarke began life when farming was not very remunerative, farm productions being very low for want of markets. There was no home market, and means of transportation were very poor. Mr. Clarke soon engaged in stock raising and drove cattle to the Eastern cities for sale. He afterward extended his business by buying stock not only in his own neighborhood, but in the new states of Ohio and West Virginia. He also engaged for a few years in pork-packing, and placed a team on the National Road to transport his products to Baltimore and other eastern cities. About the year 1820 he purchased some imported Saxony-Merino sheep at what was then regarded as a most extravagant price, and was ridiculed by neighbors for his purchase. In order to increase funds, he sold before leaving home a favorite riding horse for $60. One of his neighbors asserted that he would not have given the horse for a ten acre field of such sheep. However, the purchase proved to be the foundation of his fortune. He took great interest in the care and improvement of such sheep, and really made it his life work. His flock assisted very much in giving Washington county the reputation it had at that time, of producing the best and finest wools grown anywhere.
Mr. Clarke was a leader in his day, taking an active interest in public affairs. In school matters he was much interested. Before the adoption of our present school system, it was sometimes difficult to establish a subscription school. This work often fell to Mr. Clarke, and in some cases where difficulties met him he became responsible for the teacher's wages, always maintaining that the schools must go on even if it should cost him more than his proper proportion. Mr. Clarke became a member of the Presbyterian Church in early life, and for a long term of years held the position of Ruling Elder in the congregation of East Buffalo. Politically he was a Whig, taking an active part in the politics of his section. He was industrious and enterprising, and fortune smiled on his labors. He accumulated considerable property, and at the time of his death was owner of over one thousand acres of land in his immediate neighborhood. He died January 27, 1856, aged sixty nine years. Mrs. Catherine Clarke died September 15, 1878, aged eighty four years.
John G. Clarke, a prominent farmer of South Franklin township, is the third son of Joseph Clarke, whose portrait is here presented. He was born January 24, 1829, near Washington, Penna, on the farm patented by his grandfather, Joseph Clarke Sr. He received a liberal and solid education at the district schools of the neighborhood, and at Washington and Jefferson College. On May 26, 1853, Mr. Clarke married Sarah H, daughter of Samuel Clokey Esq., of Clokeyville, Washington county, Penna, and soon after settled on the beautiful farm where they now reside. When a young man he took an active part in the formation of the new township of Franklin, was chose a school director at the first election, and assisted in redistricting the new township. Being an ardent friend of public schools, he was continued in the board from year to year, and served as secretary for a long term of years. Soon after the incorporation of the Upper Ten-Mile Plank Road Company he was elected to membership in the board of managers, and in 1872 was elected president of the board, and has continued in that position ever since, a period of twenty years. Mr. Clarke is an extensive grower of fine wool, and has given much attention to the improvement of his flocks. He has become known as an advocate of tariff on wool, and has published several newspaper articles on that question. He served as president of the Washington County Wool Growers Association for several years, and was twice sent to Washington D.C. to represent the interests of that association. In 1886 he had the honor of making the only farmers' address in defense of tariff on wool before the Committee on Ways and Means. It was extensively published in both city and local papers and was freely commented on, and pronounced by all an able presentation of the case. In politics Mr. Clarke is a Republican, having been born and brought up in the Whig party and holding very decided anti-slavery views, he naturally fell in with the Republicans at the formation of the party. In 1886 he was nominated for a seat in the State Legislature, and elected by a majority in advance of the ticket. In the House he soon became known as an active and attentive member, making it a matter of conscience to attend promptly to all business coming before the body. Being a farmer he took special interest in all bills in which farmers were interested. He was appointed to the Agricultural Committee and gave his influence in favor of the Bill to Equalize Taxation; the Bill for Improvement of Public Roads; the Bill for the Increase of State Appropriation to Public Schools; and against the repeal of the Oleomargerine Law.
Mr. Clarke is an ardent churchman, and his and his family are members of the United Presbyterian congregation of Washington, Penna. He was elected to the office of ruling elder in the congregation of East Buffalo when but twenty six years of age, and again to the same position in the congregation of Washington, Penna, in 1864, and has acceptably filled the position ever since. He is the father of ten children—seven sons and three daughters. He has lived a very busy life, and while giving his principal care and attention to his family and his farm, he has still evinced a deep interest in public enterprises and is ever found in the front ranks of Washington County's enterprising and loyal citizens.
Text taken from page 176 of:
Beers, J. H. and Co., Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County, Pennsylvania (Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1893).
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