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Chicago: Biographical Publishing Company

Page 256

BENJAMIN F. CLARK, a member of the firm of Clark & Deck, proprietors of an extensive mercantile establishment at Girard, devoted to the sale of drugs, books, stationery, groceries, hard and wooden ware, etc., has long been connected with the business interests of this county, and has contributed to its financial prosperity. He was born in Wayne County, Ill., April 29, 1829, his father, the Hon. Benjamin A. Clark, being a pioneer of that section of the State and one of its prominent citizens during his life time.

The father of our subject was born near Lexington, Ky., and was a son of James Clark, a native of Ireland, of Scotch ancestry, who came to this country during the Revolution, and casting in his lot with the colonists, fought bravely with them for freedom from British rule. After the war was ended he resided for a time in Virginia, and then followed the tide of emigration to Kentucky. He bought a tract of timber land near Lexington, and settling down to the life of a pioneer in the forest wilds, he lived there many years. He came from there to Illinois in territorial days, locating in the wilderness in Wayne County, in 1817, being one of the earliest pioneers in that section. He bought timber land, on which he erected a log house, and at once entered upon the hard task of clearing a farm. He continued to reside in the southern part of that county some years, and then sold and moved to the northern part of it, where he made his home until he closed his eyes in death. The maiden name of his wife was Mary Jones. She was born either in Wales or in America of Welsh parentage. She died on the home farm in Wayne County. Both were stanch Presbyterians in their religious belief.

The father of our subject was a young man when he came to Illinois with his parents. He had been reared to agricultural pursuits, and at the time of his marriage he located on a farm in the eastern part of Wayne County. A few years later he removed to the northern part of the county and entered forty acres of Government land. He built a primitive log house, riving shingles by hand to cover the roof, and making the chimney of sticks and clay. His wife cooked by the open fireplace for many years, and her deft hands carded, spun and wove all the cloth of which she made garments for her children. Mr. Clark was much prospered in his calling, invested in other land adjoining his original purchase and in time improved a valuable farm, that remained his home until his death. He was a man of more than ordinary force of character and intellect, and was very influential among his fellow citizens, who often called him to fill responsible offices. He was at one time Sheriff of Wayne County, and he also represented his district as a member of th State Legislature. It was while attending a session of that honorable body at Vandalia, in 1838, that his useful career was closed by his untimely death. He was a devoutly religious man; one of the leading members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and services were held at his house. He was a Class Leader in the church.

The mother of our subject, who bore the maiden name of Mary G. Witters, was a native of West Tennessee. Her father, Peter Witters, was a pioneer of that section of the country, and later of Illinois, where he settled in White County, and there spent his remaining years. The maiden name of his wife was Hannah Green. She was born in North Carolina and died in White County, this State. The mother of our subject was a Presbyterian in her religious faith. She died on the home farm in Wayne County in 1851, leaving four children - Joseph, Peter, Benjamin F., and Melvina.

He of whom this biography is written was reared in his native county. There were no free schools in his youth, each family having to pay according to the number of children sent to school. The country roundabout his early home was sparsely settled and not greatly improved from its primitive condition. There were no railways for many years, and St. Louis, one hundred and ten miles away, was the principal market. Our subject continued to reside with his mother until her death, and he then spent six months in Iowa. Returning to Wayne County, he taught the first free school in that section, receiving $27 a month for a session of three months. He then turned his attention to the study of medicine in the offices of Drs. Greene and Barrickman, near Jeffersonville, and subsequently began to practice in Wayne County. A short time after that he relinquished that calling, and July 4, 1857, came to Macoupin County to establish a drug store in Scottville, which he managed until 1865. May 5, of that year he came to Girard to engage in business, and has ever since been a valued resident of this city. In March, 1884, L. C. Deck became associated with him in the business under the firm name of Clark & Deck. They have one of the best equipped and best stocked establishments in the city, and carry a full line of drugs, groceries, books, hardware, etc.

Mr. Clark has been three times married. His first marriage, which took place in January, 1854, was with Miss Mary Frances Maston, a native of Marietta, Ohio. Their wedded life was very brief, as she died in the fall of the same year. Our subject was married a second time May 10, 1859, Miss Mary A. Butcher becoming his wife. She was a native of Green County, Ill., and a daughter of Eli J. And Vienna Butcher. She departed this life February 20, 1878, leaving four children - Edwin Verner, Mabel, Frank Leslie, and Grace. Mr. Clark was married to Mrs. Kate (Garst) Sherfy March 24, 1883. Mrs, Clark is a native of Tennessee, and a daughter of Jacob and Frances Garst. Her marriage with our subject has been blessed with one child, whom they have named Ethel.

For more than a quarter of a century, Mr. Clark has been intimately associated with the growth and welfare of Girard as one of its most intelligent business men and public-spirited citizens, and he has ever sought to elevate its moral, social and religious status. He has taken part in its public life as a member of the City Council and of the City School Board. He was for many years a Democrat in politics, but of late he has used his influence in favor of the Prohibition party. He and his wife are members of the Christian Church, and are active in its every good work. He has an extensive acquaintance in this county, o which he has been a resident for so many years, and is well known as a thoroughly honorable business man, whose integrity is beyond question, as is his reputation in all the relations of life.

1891 Index

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