Clarks of Lance Creek
THE CLARKS OF LANCE CREEK
by Catherine Gentry Thomson
The Clarks came to Wyoming from Wood Lake, Nebr. with my parents in 1917. There were five members in the family. They were a unique group. There were three brothers who were in or near their 70s. Jason was the oldest. He had fought in the Civil War on the Confederate side. The middle brother was John. He had fought in the Civil War for the North. The youngest of the three, Albert, had been too young to fight, but had carried water for the Yankees.
Jason and Albert never married. John was a widower with two "children", John Jr. and Mary, who were near their 40’s. John Jr. was a Spanish American War veteran. His sister Mary kept house for the family.
Neither John Jr. nor Mary had ever married. They had always lived with their father and uncles.
After the Civil War these three brothers forgot their differences and came to Bismarck, N.D. About 10 years later they moved to Wood Lake, Nebr. where they stayed until they came to Wyoming with my parents.
While my father and John Jr. were building temporary shelters on the homesteads, Mary became very ill. She never recovered. She was buried in the Manville Cemetery. She had filed on a homestead; so had John Jr. and Albert. Jason and John had already taken their homesteads and were not eligible to have another.
These four bachelors were our closest neighbors. They all lived together in their house just a short half mile east of ours. Their home was on the other side of Lance Creek from ours. After the Clarks moved into their new home, they settled down and the three old men never went any where, literally almost never went anywhere.
I don't believe that John or Jason were ever more than a half mile from their home for as long as they lived. Albert was at our home once. I don't believe that he was ever anywhere else.
My brother Ross was about five years old at the time. He was fascinated with these old men. For as long as we were neighbors, he spent hours and hours at the Clark home visiting with them. I used to wonder what they talked about. I've had to talk to Ross several times to get information for this story. He told me something that I had never heard before. One day he stopped at the Clark's carrying a history book. Old Jason said, "What is that?", took the book, and leafing through it saw a picture of the Wisconsin State Prison. He said, "Oh, the prison; I spent seven years there". Ross says that he was afraid of old Jason for the next few years until he learned that Jason had been a guard, not an inmate, there. This must have been right after the Civil War before the men got together in South Dakota.
The younger John had a sorrel horse that he used to ride around. He did carpenter work. I know that he built a number of rural schoolhouses. He also used to "lend a hand" to other homesteaders as they roofed their cabins or raised the rafters. He also took a few odd jobs when he needed a little cash. Every few months he would hitch up a team and go to Lance Creek for tobacco, flour, sugar, canned milk, lard, coffee, baking powder or potatoes as the need arose. Tobacco was the most important. Once a year or so he might drive on in to Manville. The mens' needs were basic: overalls, shoes and overshoes, shirts, sox and "long handles", an overall jacket over a blue chambray shirt, with a straw hat for summer and a Scotch cap for winter. Most of these could be ordered from the catalogue (Montgomery Ward or Sears and Roebuck). Shopping really was not a big problem.
They kept chickens for eggs and meat, and would buy a slab of bacon and cured ham. Beans were also a staple basic food.
The men had a little garden. Caring for the chickens, keeping the fire going, chopping the wood, these chores provided exercise. They were content. Riders would stop by for a visit, neighbor women would send a loaf of bread, occasionally a cake. My brother Ross spent hours with them. They were content, but the three older Clarks never went anywhere.
Albert passed away in about 1926.John lived only a little while longer. Before long, John Jr. sold the homesteads and took Jason to the old U-L ranch house. This was only a mile or so south of Clark's homestead house. The old log house belonged to Jakey Mills. It was a landmark left from early days. John Jr. and Jason settled in to live there in the same manner in which they had lived the previous ten years.
These men had a cherry wood table of an odd design. They told that it had be longed to John's great great grandfather, James Alexander, and that George Washington had played cards on the table. The tales were probably true, as James Alexander had lived in Fredricksburg, Va. between 1750 and 1760. His daughter Edna Lee married Olive Evans and a daughter of theirs, Gertrude Evans, married John M. Clark in 1808, still in Fredricksburg, Va. This John Clark was the grandfather of the Jason, John and Albert whom we knew. Through all their moves they had cherished this one piece of furniture and kept the history of it intact. When John and Jason moved to the U-L, they gave the table to my parents and Ross. Eventually Ross's daughter, Martha Robinson, refinished it. Now it is one of her cherished possessions.
After the move, Jason lived until about 1923. John Jr. built the casket himself and buried his last known relative in the cemetery near Manville, near his brothers.
John Jr. made a little bundle of the few things that he could carry, saddled up the old sorrel that he had ridden for so long, and rode away, heading west toward Buffalo or Sheridan.We never heard from him again. We like to think that he may have gotten to the old soldiers' home at Sheridan to spend his last days.
They were four very nice old men.
Images & Attachments
|Clark, Albert (0 - 06/10/1926)