Grandpa James Clark Climbed Out the Window on His Wedding Night and Never Returned [Genealogy] –
My great-great-grandpa James B. Clark was married once before he married my great-great-grandma Mary Elizabeth (Noggle) Clark but only for a few hours. A cousin sent me a lovely picture of James Clark the other day, so I thought this would be a good time to discuss Grandpa Clark. He was a little bit rough around the edges. Okay, so maybe he was more than just a little rough around the edges.
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In this picture, I don’t think Grandpa Clark really looks rough. I think there seems to be sadness around his eyes. He looks a bit downtrodden or something like that. A huge thanks to my Indiana Genealogy friend Karen who cleaned up the creases that were in the image when this post was originally published!
Because of the Labor Day holiday on Monday this week, I’m operating behind on everything here, so I didn’t have time to put any actual research into this post. I’m totally winging it. I’m writing purely based on the stories my grandpa told me about his Grandpa Clark.
I’m not 100% sure all could be backed up with documentation and legal records. However, of all the stories my grandpa told me about his ancestors, the ones about Grandpa Clark are probably the craziest.
Grandpa Clark’s Rough Childhood
Grandpa Clark was born in 1861 just at the start of the Civil War. I do actually know the birth year because it’s on his tombstone at our cemetery, Union Chapel (aka Old Union) Cemetery. You can visit his virtual grave here on FindAGrave. He died in 1943, so my grandpa did get to know him for roughly the first decade of his life. Some of the stories my grandpa relayed about James Clark were ones Grandpa Clark told himself, and some were stories his mother told him about her father.
Grandpa Clark had two brothers named Steve and Euler. They were born in Darke County, Ohio just across the line from Indiana. Their father William fought in the Civil War. Supposedly, William returned from the war to find his wife Anna Mariah (or Maria) had a baby. According to my grandpa, the math didn’t quite add up on the baby and the husband’s departure for the war.
So somehow William Clark ended up dying. My grandpa said he hung himself, “maybe over the baby.” I’m not quite sure that’s true. I saw a bit in a newspaper once that said he was riding a horse and got caught on a tree – apparently the tree clotheslined him. He possibly didn’t actually hang himself on purpose, and somehow my grandpa as a little boy heard someone say he “hung himself on a tree” and thought it was on purpose. Or it could be the paper printed it in a way that made it sound like an accident out of respect for his war service and the situation. I really don’t know.
Honestly, I don’t even know if the baby’s paternity was even in question to the couple. That may have been some sort of family speculation based on dates, but there’s always the chance William Clark was able to be home at some point on leave or was passing through this area for a few days.
Anyway, William Clark died tragically, so Grandpa Clark and his two brothers were sent to live with a really mean uncle. If they misbehaved at all they were put down in an old well and left for long periods of time. My grandpa believed this was part of why Grandpa Clark was so rough.
Grandpa Clark had a couple of sisters. I don’t actually know what happened to them after their father’s death. According to my grandpa, one of them later ran a brothel in Ohio. I’m not sure how much truth there is to that either. I did find an obituary stating that one of them ran a hotel in New Madison, Ohio. It might not have been a brothel, as my grandpa believed.
Grandpa Clark’s widowed mother remarried a West from around Spartanburg. She had another child, and my grandpa and his family apparently knew this half-uncle.
Grandpa Clark’s Honeymoon from Heck
My grandpa’s favorite story about his Grandpa Clark was the one about Grandpa Clark’s wedding night. Apparently, Grandpa Clark had a very brief marriage to his first wife. On their wedding night, his new bride told him she was pregnant and that the baby belonged to either him or his brother (I can’t remember which brother was the possible baby daddy). Grandpa Clark “climbed out the window and never went back.”
Supposedly, one of Grandpa Clark’s sisters took an interest in the child and left her some stuff in her will because it was her niece no matter which brother fathered the child. The child’s last name was Blackburn or possibly Bradburn (I’m pretty sure her first name was Mae), and she was married to an African American man named Dutch White and lived just a mile to the south of me (diagonal across the field) over on the Wayne County line when my grandpa was growing up.
Grandpa Clark and His Next Wife
Grandpa Clark later married my great-great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth Noggle. She was also from Darke County, Ohio. She was married to a Schlecty and widowed at a young age. She had a child with her first husband, but the child was raised by the father’s family.
My grandpa said that seems odd to us now, but it was normal then. Today we would expect the children to stay with the widowed mother, but it was actually very typical in that day to divide them between relatives. Women rarely had the means to care for a child alone, so the deceased father’s family generally took custody of the children.
James B Clark and Mary Elizabeth (Noggle) Clark had three children together – my great grandma Clara Mildred (Clark) Bales, Ruby (Clark) Bertram, and Lester Clark. You met my Granny (Clara) in Gender-Confused, Transgender, or Just Messing Around?.
Was Grandpa Clark Just a Tall Tale?
Grandpa Clark almost had a sort of tall tale status with my grandpa. All the wildest stories were about Grandpa Clark. I used to wonder how much was truth and how much was myth. Then my grandpa showed me a story about Grandpa Clark in one of Lloyd Whitehead’s books. Based on that story, I’m inclined to think Grandpa Clark really was just that rough. There’s been a discussion about Lloyd Whitehead, local author and historian, happening on one of the Randolph County History Facebook groups. Hopefully, I can find that story about Grandpa Clark to share next week.
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