Cooperstown, Otsego, NY
Edward Clark Biography
By Holice and Debbie

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EDWARD CLARK

The subject of his sketch was born at Athens, Greene county, N. Y., Dec. 19, 1811. His father, Nathan Clark, who was a successful manufacturer, is still living and in good health, at the advanced age of nearly ninety-one years. His mother, who was the youngest of a family of twelve children, was the daughter of John Nichols, of Waterbury, Conn., and he was of the same family as Richard Nichols, commander of the expeditionary force by which the city of New York was taken from the Dutch.

The earliest school instruction which Mr. Clark can recollect was received from a Mr. Bosworth, a placid old bachelor, who knit his own stockings, and had a talent for teaching very small children. The rudiments of Latin were mastered under the instruction of E. King, Esq., who then kept an academy at Hudson. Mr. King was one of the earliest graduates of Williams college, and belonged to the same class as William Cullen Bryant. Subsequently, and when the boy was about twelve years of age, he was transferred to the academy at Lenox, Mass., then under the direction of John Hotchkin, a very thorough and successful teacher. He remained at Lenox for about four years, and had beaten into him in the usual way a reasonable amount of Latin and Greek, with other learning more or less useful. While there he acquired a taste for indiscriminate reading. A small library of about five hundred volumes belonged to the academy. The boy read every volume, and it was fortunate that the selection of books was not a bad one.

Perhaps the greatest advantage derived from this academic course by this boy came in a way and through circumstances not at all defensible. When young Clark first went to Lenox she had never been absent for any considerable period from home, and had been accustomed to be indulged by an admiring mother and aunts in every imaginable way. The abrupt change from home-life to the rough experience of a public school was not at all agreeable. It was not his habit at that time, to submit quietly to anything disagreeable. Therefore, one day not long after entering the school, he departed from Lenox without the formality of giving any one notice of his going, and took his course, on foot alone, for home, which he reached safely and in good time. He was received there very affectionately by his mother, but the sterner father quietly remarked, "Edward, you can take your supper and go to bed. To-morrow I shall take you back to school." The next day, accordingly, he was taken back to Lenox. And this same programme, during a period of about one year, was repeated over and over again, the disobedient hardihood of the boy being corrected by the patient persistence of the father. Finally, in consequence of new boys joining the school, who were pleasant companions, and perhaps a greater familiarity with things which had at first been unpleasant, the boy became reconciled to the school and its teachers, and the terrible feeling of home-sickness was overcome. The beneficial result of the struggle before hinted at was this: when it began the boy was o slight, delicate frame, and almost sickly in constitution: when it ended his muscles were like steel, and he was a trained athlete. He could, and several times did as a matter of choice, walk, without stopping and without refreshment, the entire distance from Lenox to Hudson, thirty miles, and was not fatigued at the end of the walk.

In the autumn of 1826 young Clark entered the Freshman _______________ 1830. Of the feats and follies ___ in college life, he was always ready to admit his full share, though he generally ___ sufficient ___ not to be found out in any infraction of college laws. He devoted himself more to literature than to ___ , and was successful in such studies as suited his natural tastes, but was dedicated in the mathematical branches.

Having selected the law as a profession, Mr. Clark, in the autumn of 1830, entered the law-offices of Ambrose L. Jordan, Esq., at Hudson, N. Y.

Hudson was at that time somewhat distinguished as a school for intended lawyers, and the fortnightly debates at the court-house, conducted by the younger members of the bar and by the law students were attended by all the cultivated people of the city, and are remembered to this day as ___ of the frequent display of great forensic ability. In the office of Mr. Jordan there were usually from ten to twelve students. After a course of three years' study, and a very extensive presence in the way of copying and copying and preparing law papers, Mr. Clark was admitted as an attorney, and is the ___ of 1833 opened an office and began the practice of law in the city of Poughkeepsie

In October 1835, Mr. Clark was married to Caroline, eldest daughter of Ambrose L. Jordan, Esq., and in May 1837, a law partnership was formed between Messrs. Jordan and Clark, which continued about sixteen years. On May 1, 1838, Jordan & Clark removed from Hudson to the city of New York, where they soon established a successful practice, and where Mr. Jordan fully sustained his great reputation as an advocate.

In the year 1848 Isaac M. singer was client of Jordan and Clark. He

was an erratic genius, having followed various occupations without much success, and having invented valuable mechanical devices, which had brought him no profit. One of them, a machine for carving wood and metal, which had been duly patented, had been involved by some injudicious contacts by Mr. Singer, and Mr. Clark was employed to recover the clear title to the invention. The object was accomplished; but before Mr. Singer was able to make his machine available, the bursting of a steam-boiler at a shop in Hague street, New York, utterly destroyed it. Shortly after this calamity, Mr. Singer made his great invention of the sewing machine. At first this was not profitable, and under the management of the inventor the title to the invention became involved , and was likely to be lost. In that emergency singer applied to his legal advisor, Clark, to advance the means to redeem an interest of one-third in the sewing-machine invention and business, and to hold that share as security for the money advanced. The requested was acceded to, and the purchase made. Subsequently; and when it had become apparent that a great amount of litigation would be required to sustain the sewing-machine patent, singer requested Clark to take and hold the one-third of the patent, and release Singer from the claim for money advanced.

This arrangement was carried out, and, afterwards, when an opportunity occurred, another one-third interest in the patent and business was bought by Mr. Clark for the benefit of ______________. half-over.The business was carried on by this firm with eminent success form 1851 to 1863. But, as was anticipated, Singer & Co., at once became involved in costly and vexatious lawsuits, which were directed and managed by Mr. Clark. During a period of about two year they were menaced by hostile injunctions of patents, which threatened to destroy the business entirely. But the contest was perseveringly maintained, and the business continued to prosper, until finally the time came when a compromise and adjustment of claims could be made, so that defensive litigation was terminated. When that was effected the splendid success of the business of singer & co. became an assured fact. All the numerous contracts of Singer & Co. were carefully drawn by Mr. Clark, and a great advantage thereby accrued to the firm, when, at a later period, it became expedient to purchase back certain territorial rights for the exclusive sale of the Singer machine. It was believed by both Singer and Clark that the successful management of the early patent-suits above referred to, and the contracts and compromises incident to such suits, involved millions of dollars, and the subsequent history of sewing-machine manufacturers has proved the correctness of that belief.

In the year 1863, Mr. Clark, wishing to be relieved from active dsuty, and to secure a continuos good management of the business, formed the scheme organizing the Singer manufacturing company, and although Mr. Singer was very much opposed to the formation of such company, he was induced to assent to it rather than have an application made to a court of law. The company was organized with a share capital of $500,000. Of this stock four-fifths was retained by Singer and Clark, and the residue was sold to several person prominently employed in the business at $200 for each $100 share. The capital of this company was afterwards enlarged to $1,000,000, and after that again expanded to $10,000,000, the whole of which increase consisted of the accumulated profits of the business. Directly upon the formation of this company, Mr. Clark retired from the active management, though he continued to be a director, and during several years spent considerable time abroad, having on three different occasions occupied a house in Paris, and also passed a winter in Rome. In his travels over the principal countries of Europe, he examined whatever was worthy of notice in nature and art, and made extensive purchases of statuary and other works of art, which he brought home to New York.

In the autumn of 1854, a residence in the village of Cooperstown, which had long been known as "Apple Hill," then owned by Geo. A. Starkweather, Esq., was offered for sale, and was purchased by Mr. Clark. It was a rather large house, built of wood by Richard Cooper, Esq., and had been occupied at various times by Hon. John A. Dix, Hon. Samuel Nelson, Judge L. C. Turner, and others. The situation of this house in peculiarly fine, and the grounds about it attractive. Mr. Clark, with his family, occupied Apple Hill during the summer season for several years, and then, in the summer of 1869, had the old house taken down, and within the next three years had a very substantial mansion of cut stone erected on its site. Before the completion of the new home, the name of the place was changed to "Fernleigh." The interior of the home is finished and decorated with much taste and with liberal expense. The grounds have been much enlarged, an ornamental bridge thorn across the Susquehanna river, and various auxiliary improvements made so that Fernleigh is recognized as one of the attractive show-places of the country. In the guide-books it has been extravagantly praised, and few strangers visit Cooperstown without seeking to see it.

Within a few years Mr. Clark has purchased a farm of nearly 500 acres on the easterly bank of Lake Otsego, and has entered zealously into agricultural pursuits, rather for the purpose of having an amusing rural interest than with any intention of seeking profit. His eldest son, Mr. Ambrose J. Clark, has purchased and settled upon a farm on the westerly side of Otsego lake, which was formerly owned by the late Judge Nelson. Both of these farms have been stocked with imported cattle and sheep possessing rare strains of blood, and the buildings upon them improved in the best manner. Although Mr. Clark has a house in the city of New York, and passes a considerable portion of his time there, he considers his residence to be at Coopestown, and is identified with the interests of that village.

Caroline Jordan Clark, wife of Edward Clark, died at Fernleigh, on the 27th day of June, 1874, and was buried in Lakewood cemetery, where ao appropriate monument has been erected. (The History of Otsego, NY, Duane Hamilton Hurd, 1878)

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Transcribed by Holice B. Young

Copyright Debbie Axtman and Holice B. Young

December 24, 1999

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