Wednesday, May 28, 2008

About Ambrose

Wow. It's been a really long time since my last post. It's not that I've been holding out on you; I just haven't been learning much new. But due to overwhelming demand from readers (I actually did hear from two of you!), I'm going to try to post some things that aren't new, at least to me. First up: a little exploration of my one strand of New England ancestry. As I may have said before, most of my family either emigrated to the U.S. after the Civil War or spent 300 years or more migrating across the hilly, woodsy middle of the country. The pattern is the same in several families: initial settlement in Virginia or Pennsylvania, migration into the hills of Western Virginia, Kentucky, or North Carolina, then west to Arkansas or Missouri before the Civil War. The one ancestor who traced his roots back to Puritan New England was Cal Jones's great-grandfather, Ambrose H. Clark. (That's him above.) Ambrose was the father of Cal's grandmother Esther Caroline Clark. The family legend—which I mentioned in an earlier post on the Jones family in the Civil War—holds that Cal's grandfather, Charles Matthew (Matt) Jones, met Esther when he was injured while fighting for the Union in the Civil War and was taken to Ambrose Clark's house to recover. They were the parents of Cal's father Silas Jones, the one who would ultimately be run out of Arkansas for killing a dog. (More about that here, here, and here.)

So most of what I know about Ambrose comes from an 1889 History of Northwest Arkansas published by Goodspeed Publishers. Goodspeed's books were more or less a racket. They published some history about a county or region, along with biographies of leading citizens—i.e. people who pre-ordered a copy of the book. The biographies were submitted by the subjects themselves, so Ambrose was presumably responsible for his entry. It's not that terribly long, so I'll reproduce it here:
Ambrose H. Clark, who is one of the old settlers of Arkansas, and
was first identified with the interests of Washington County in
1841, was born in Ross County. Ohio, April 28, 1818. His parents,
John and Nancy (Humes) Clark, were born in the "Green Mountain"
State, the former's birth occurring in 1783 or 1784. He died in
Dade County. Mo., in 1849 or 1850, his wife's death occurring in
Indiana in 1841. They first emigrated from their native State to
Ohio, and thence to Indiana, and then to Illinois, and afterward
to Missouri. They were members of the Christian Church, and became
the parents of eight sons and one daughter, only two of the family
now living. Ambrose H. Clark only remained at home until fourteen
years of age, and then began working on a farm in Ohio, but
afterward went to Indiana, where he lived four years, and then
came with a family, by ox team, to Arkansas. He has ever since
made his home in Washington County, where he has a good farm of
300 acres, a portion of which is under cultivation. He started out
in life with no means, but being of an ambitious and energetic
disposition, and having a true helpmate in his wife, he has
surmounted many obstacles, and can now enjoy the fruits of his
labor. His wife, who was a Miss Selina Hash, is a daughter of
Alvin Hash, one of the old settlers of Washington County, and was
born on the 20th of October, 1823. Her father and mother died in
Illinois in 1844 and 1878, respectively. Mr. and Mrs. Clark became
the parents of eleven children: Mary, Frances, Martha E., Esther.
William. John. Mestlina, Josephine, Ida, Lydia and Augustine, all
of whom reside in Washington County. One child died in infancy.
Mrs. Clark and four of her children are active members of the
Christian Church. Mr. Clark is a Republican, and takes an active
interest in all enterprises for the public weal. During the late
war, although he was not a regular soldier, he was in Price's raid
and participated in the battle of Richland.
The New England ancestry of his parents makes Ambrose unique among my ancestors. It also helps to explain why he might have been a Republican and a supporter of the Union during the war.

Working backward from this information, various researchers have tried to place Ambrose's parents in Vermont (the "Green Mountain State" to which the biography refers). The best lead is a marriage record from Washington County, Vermont, from May 27, 1810, listing groom John Clark and bride Marcy (not Nancy) Humes. Was Nancy really Marcy? On the one hand, if we assume Ambrose supplied the information to Goodspeed, he ought to have known his mother's name. On the other hand, Goodspeed books are known to be riddled with errors, and Marcy could easily have been mistaken for Nancy in handwriting. Many of us have come to believe that this John and Marcy are in fact Ambrose's parents.

Next post: more about Marcy.

1 comment:

paula d said...

Thank you, Mr. Branch, for the interesting, fascinating, and compelling stories. I check my email daily for them.