Thomas Clark Biography
Transcribed by Debbie Axtman,


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Thomas Clark, Biography

Thomas Clark was the third settler. He was a native of Rutland Co., VT, and removed from that place with his parents to Saratoga Co., NY, where he subsequently married Miss Rebecca Wing, and with her removed to the town of Butternuts, in Otsego County, in that State. He afterwards removed to the town of Lorraine, and four years later to the town of Lyme, in the same county, where he lived fourteen years, the first seven of them on Grenadier Island. From the town of Lyme he came to Michigan in the spring of 1836, starting for his new location in the then far West on the 4th day of May. The company, consisting of Mr. Clark, his wife, Rebecca, two sons, and two daughters, embarked on a schooner, and sailing the length of Lake Ontario, disembarked at the mouth of the Niagara River, and continued the journey with their own conveyance, traveling by way of Buffalo, Cleveland, Toledo, Adrian, and Clinton, to a small settlement near the latter place, known by the euphonious appellation of Slab City. Here the family remained until the month of August.

In the mean time Mr. Clark went to Detroit to get from the land-office the plat of a township in the southern part of the State, where he was intending to settle. That department of the office was closed at the time of his arrival, and he had to wait until the next day before he could obtain the desired plat. While he was waiting he met a man named Asa Davis (of whom we shall speak hereafter), who had come there to locate some land. Entering into conversation with him, he questioned him about the land in this part of the State, and was well pleased with the description of two hundred acres of what he given of it. Davis offered for $7.00 to give him the description of two hundred acres of what he considered as good land as there was in the township. The offer was accepted, the description given, and, trusting to the honesty as well as the judgment of his new acquaintance, Mr. Clark entered the west half of the northeast quarter, the east half of the northwest quarter, and the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section 22, and decided to make Genesee County his future home. In August he brought his family and they, the third family in the town, became the first permanent residents.

Their house was constructed of logs. Two apartments were built eighteen feet square, with a space of about eight feet between them. Basswood poles of the proper length were split, hollowed into troughs, and made into a roof that covered both apartments and converted the space between them into a sort of hall. A puncheon floor also made of basswood, was laid down, and the family began living in their new domicile, having the satisfaction of knowing that they were living in the best house in town.

The work of moving was performed with a team of horses, and several trips were made to get the goods, nearly all of which had been shipped by way of the lakes from Sackett's Harbor to Detroit, and had to be brought here by team from the latter place. The work of moving necessarily occupied considerable time. On the last trip the horses were traded for a yoke of oxen. During the time which had thus elapsed between the arrival of the family and the setting in of winter the two oldest sons, Pheroras and Sullivan, had cleared about one and a half acres of ground, and sowed it to wheat. This was the first winter wheat sown in Richfield. Pheroras had brought some apple seeds with him from the East, and these he sowed that fall and from them raised a few apple-trees, which he set out as soon as they had attained a suitable size. This was certainly the first orchard set out in Richfield, and with the possible exception of a few trees brought in by Rial Irish, were the first apple-trees brought into town. Some of these trees may still be seen on Mr. Clark's farm, where they are still furnishing their supply of fruit in its season.

Late in the fall it became evident that there was not a possibility of getting enough fodder to keep both of the oxen through the winter, so the one that was in the best condition was killed and packed in the beef-barrel to help furnish sustenance for the family. Early in the spring another ox was purchased of George Oliver, but this was quite weakly and was killed by the wolves, leaving both of the settlers without a team. All of the plowing and dragging done for Clark and Oliver that spring was done with the one ox, for which a single yoke was made. In the early part of the following summer the stock of provisions began to run low, and it was found that no flour could be obtained nearer than Detroit, so a cart was improvised from the hind wheels of the wagon, to which a box and a pair of shafts were attached, and to this the ox was hitched and the journey made.  It occupied about a week's time, and two barrels of flour, one for himself and one for Oliver, were procured and brought home. This ox was very much afraid of Indians, many of whom it saw in Detroit, and this circumstance caused it to present a very spirited appearance, which attracted the attention of the numerous cartmen, who frequently bantered Mr. Clark for a trade.

Thomas Clark remained a honored citizen of the town to the time of his death, July 10, 1864, and departed this life at the age of eighty-six years, mourned by a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. His wife died Nov. 7, 1855, aged eighty-four years. Of his children, five are dead, three - - Pheroras, Otis, and Mrs. Elizabeth Warren - - are still living in Richfield. Sullivan is a resident of the State of Kansas, Asa W. of New York, and Mrs. Thurza Pixley of Illinois. Pheroras married Harriet A., a daughter of Joseph French, and is now living on a portion of the old homestead. To him we are indebted for valuable assistance in the work of compiling this history. (History of Richfield, Genesee, Michigan, by Franklin Ellis, 1879:
Page 409 - 410.)

Note: I was able to visit the grave of Thomas and Rebecca Wing Clark in July of this year. To see their gravestones, located in Richfield Union Cemetery, please click on the links in the biography above.

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 Debbie Axtman

Page Created 8/29/99

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