John Clark. It is a grateful distinction to have spent half a century in one community, and when those years were filled with worthy accomplishment and with that old-fashioned spirit of loving kindness, such a career becomes one deserving of admiration and worthy of perpetuation in any history of a county in which it has been spent. The venerable John Clark, who died August 21, 1917, was a resident of Gifford. He came to Champaign County in 1868. He lived far beyond the fourscore mark, and his activities and those of the family have been a notable contribution to the upbuilding of Champaign County.
He was a native of Scotland and when he brought his bride to this country it took fifty-two days to cross the ocean. Now only the space of a breath serves to bring us into touch with remote continents. Thus he witnessed and experienced that remarkable age of scientific achievement by which the world has been rewrought and made to respond to entirely new influences and new principles.
John Clark was born in Forfarshire, Scotland, April 2, 1830, a son of William and Mary Clark, both natives of Scotland. There were four children. Thomas and Alexander are now deceased. Isabella is still living in her native land, the wife of David Freeman. John Clark grew up and acquired his early training in the habits of industry and frugality in Scotland, and there he laid the foundation of his own home by his marriage to Miss Jean Butters. She was born in Kirrmour, Scotland, September 16, 1827. Two of her sisters continue to live in Dundee and a brother, David, in Australia. John Clark and wife were married at Glasgow, and the day following their marriage they turned their faces toward the New World and embarked on the Java, a 300-foot packet, sailing to New York. On arriving in that city John Clark found employment and worked for two years in a sugar factory. In 1855 he came west to Chicago and subsequently lived at LaGrange, Illinois, until they removed to Champaign County in 1868. When they came to Chicago John Clark had only $6. Five dollars he paid for the rent of a house and thus they faced the world with brave hearts and courageous spirits but with only $1 in cash.
To their marriage were born five children, one of whom died in Chicago and was buried there. The others were named Alexander, Robert B., John A. and Elizabeth. Elizabeth is the wife of Alfred Jenkinson.
After coming to Champaign County John Clark through industry and economy was able to purchase eighty acres of land, paying $8 an acre. That land today is worth many times what he paid for it. Gradually his prosperity grew with the passing years, and Mr. Clark owned 320 acres in Illinois and also had 220 acres in Canada.
Mr. and Mrs. Clark always used their means so as to promote their own comfort and happiness and the pleasure of those around them. In January, 1886, they returned to Scotland for a visit to the hills and heather of their native land, and spent four months in the Old World. They sailed from New York on the steamer Oregon, which on its return trip sunk. How vastly improved transportation was in the interval which had passed since they first came to the New World was ‘indicated by the fact that they were only nine days in going from Chicago to Dundee, Scotland.
Mr. and Mrs. Clark instilled the principles of honesty and integrity in the character of their children and did all they could to prepare them for worthy citizens. They reared their sons as farmers, believing that the man who tills the soil can always face life independently. Their oldest son, Alexander, is a farmer two miles east of Gifford, located on his father’s old homestead. He married Isabel Minnis, a native of Wisconsin, and their children are Jeanne, Emma, whose name at home has always been “Bonnie,” John, Nellie, now deceased, and Robert. These children were educated at Penfield. Bonnie graduated from the high school there and was a successful teacher in Champaign County before her marriage to John Bryan. Mr. and Mrs. Bryan live at Wolcott, Indiana. John Clark, son of Alexander, married Inez Reynolds, and their child, John, became a great-grandchild of Mr. John Clark. Robert is now a student in the Gifford High School, and Jeanne lived with her grandfather at Gifford until his death.
Robert Clark, the second son of John Clark, married Sarah Rupp, and they have a child, Edith.
John A. Clark, the third son, married Dora Hummel, and their five daughters are named Lena, Julia, Dora, Rosella and Orvilla.
Mr. and Mrs. John Clark lived to see Champaign County converted from almost a virgin district into one of the garden spots of the world. Along with the material success that rewarded his efforts Mr. John Clark found himself the repeated object of esteem on the part of his fellow citizens, who elected him road commissioner for fifteen years, and also school director. In politics he was first, last and always a Republican. He said: “We never find a Democrat a Scotchman.” It was his opinion that the best principles of good government had their birth in the Republican party. Mr. Clark was long affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Knights of Pythias. He and his wife were very active members and liberal supporters of the Baptist Church at Gifford.
The greatest sorrow of his life came on June 1, 1916, when his beloved wife and companion was claimed by death. Mrs. John Clark was a true mother in Israel. The affection of a large community was given her during her life and hundreds of sorrowing friends gathered to pay a last tribute of respect when she died. It could be said of her that none knew her but to love her and none named her but to praise.
After the death of his wife Mr. Clark was comforted by the presence of his granddaughter, Jeanne Clark, who as housekeeper, counselor, secretary and adviser, cherished him constantly as he faced the setting sun of life. It was a worthy career on which he could look back. He never shirked work or responsibilities, and his days were days of toil, of useful endeavor, and guided by a constant aim to live according to conscience and the divine revelations.
On May 23, 1903, Mr. and Mrs. John Clark celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. Ten years later, in 1913, their sixtieth anniversary was celebrated. This was a notable occasion and 187 guests sat at the banquet which was served in the opera house. In the Clark home is a photograph of the assembled guests who gathered on his lawn at Gifford. Such occasions have a greater significance and value than many of the events which attract more newspaper publicity.