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Dr. Clark W. Sylvester, one of Riverside’s wealthy and most esteemed citizens, was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1850, son of Sewell and Mary J. (Foster) Sylvester, both natives of Maine. The father was an iron founder by trade, and although a hard-working man, with nothing but his daily labor to depend upon for the maintenance of his family, he was possessed with the innate sense of honor and the principles of a gentleman. He toiled assiduously and took upon himself liabilities to give a good education to his son, who, during vacations, worked respectively in a grocery, paint shop, machine shop and iron foundry, and even during his terms of study often supported himself by such work as he could find to do during spare hours. His college course he never quite finished, for at the age of twenty-one he became imbued with the conviction that the expenses attendant upon his course of studies and his graduation was more than his father, whose health had recently suffered, could bear, and that his father, in reality, was more in need of assistance than able to give it.
Dr. Sylvester being a youth of studious habits and of an ambitious disposition, mastered the leading branches of study in the high schools of North and South Andover, Massachusetts, then entered the Maine State Academy, in Lewiston, Maine, after which he passed through, a course of study in the Nichols Latin School and Lewiston, Maine, and then graduated from the New Hampton Institute, New Hampton, New Hampshire, and prepared himself for Dartmouth College, but being unable to carry out this design he entered the Bates College, at Lewiston. Later he obtained employment in the dental establishment of Dr. J. H. Kidder, of Lawrence, Massachusetts, and commenced the study of dentistry, which he continued through the most complete course, graduating from the medical and dental department of the Harvard University, in Boston. He remained in Lawrence, Massachusetts, for twelve years, the first five as student, and the remaining seven as practitioner. During all this time he supported his aged parents and wife and children. After his father’s death a load of liabilities devolved upon him, not at all compulsory, but according to his sense of honor he felt bound to pay. Fortune had never smiled upon him, and in 1883 he became somewhat discouraged with his prospects of attaining fame and fortune in a country which was old and built up, and offered such a narrow field for the attainment of wealth, where no capital existed but a supply of brains and energy.
Accordingly he set out to California with his wife and family. October 3, 1883, he arrived at Riverside, landing without friends or money. Never daunted he commenced action and opened up a dental parlor, where he practiced his profession for about two years. He was possessed of a natural insight and good judgment, and made additions to his small worldly store through judicious investments and operations in real estate. His straightforward and honorable dealings gained him the confidence and esteem of the community. His indefatigable energy and sound business principles and shrewdness, rendered him a valuable acquisition in promoting the various enterprises established by the capitalists of Riverside.
As early as 1884 he associated himself with W. A. Hayt in real estate operations under the firm name of Hayt & Sylvester, and for years they dealt extensively in real estate. They were the sole agents of the South Riverside Land and Water Company; for the Diebold Safe and Lock Company, and conducted a large fire and life insurance business. Among the most important of their operations was their association with Mr. A. S. White in subdividing, grading avenues, and perfecting a complete water system upon 102 acres of land known as White’s Addition, and placing the same upon the market.
Mr. Sylvester was one of the original incorporators of the Riverside Heights Water Company, and is secretary, treasurer and superintendent of the same, and the Riverside Railway Company, of which he is still a director and vice-president. He was also the real promoter and among the first incorporators of the Riverside Land and Building Association, of which he is a director and secretary. In March 1888, he became proprietor of the Riverside Harness Company, and June 1, 1889, entered into the grocery business in partnership with James H. Fountain, under the firm name of Fountain & Sylvester, which well-known business house is one of the leading enterprises of the city. Politically he is a Republican, and takes an earnest interest in the affairs of the party, serving as a delegate to many of the conventions. He is a member of Sunnyside Lodge, No. 112, Knights of Pythias, and also of the Uniform Rank of that order, of which he has held the highest offices in the county, and is now District Deputy Grand Chancellor.
In 1877, Dr. Sylvester was married to Miss Mary Abbie Davis, a native of Lawrence, Massachusetts. He justly attributes much of his success in life to the cooperation and encouragement received from his estimable wife. They have three bright children, namely: Millard S., Mabel N. and Wesley D.