JAMES HERVEY CLARK
"I, James Hervey Clark, was born May 24, 1830, in the town of Manchester, Bennington county, Vermont. In the year 1836 my father, with his family, moved to western New York, town of Protage, in a part of Allegany county that has since become a part of Wyoming county.
"Here I received a common school education and also a couple of terms of select school My father died in July, 1846. In the spring of 1847 I left home for the far west, with one dollar and six shillings in my pocket. I went by way of the Alleghany and Ohio rivers, traveling as far as Cincinnati on a raft. Here I took a steamer for St. Louis, in charge of some horses for the government. I got my transportation and board, but was defrauded out of my wages by the contractor.
"From St. Louis I went up the river as far as Peoria, I left there by stage for Dixon, Illinois, carrying my pack on my shoulder. From there, being pretty destitute, I took the road for Rockford, but my feet soon became blistered. After visiting friends at and near Rockford, I went to work on a farm till after harvest. I marketed meat in Chicago, a distance of eighty miles. Harvest being over, I again sought employment. I went to Chicago, as many a young man did then. I made an effort to get employment as apprentice to a harness maker, also as a tinsmith. I failed in both, so I went to cutting cordwood near Joliet, and got hurt while cutting my first cord. Then I went to driving team. at which I proved a failure. I began to feel rather blue. The Illinois canal was then under course of construction near Joliet. I offered my services at using pick and shovel or wheelbarrow. I became hungry and tired. I was given food and the privilege of sleeping on a bench in the cook shanty. I found relatives in Joliet who advised me to push on west to an uncle, who was a large farmer for that time. I embraced the first opportunity to do so, traveling part of the way on wagon and the rest on foot. I arrived safely and was taken in and my wants were provided for. I became acquainted with on Susan Dudley, the daughter of a blacksmith and farmer, and was married October 10, 1848. In the spring of 1849, in company with a cousin and a man by the name of John Coriell, I started overland for the gold mines of California by way of Salt Lake City.
"We lost three head of cattle before reaching Salt Lake, and traded the rest for horses and a pony. Soon afterwards we lost all but one pony on which we packed the effects we left while we footed it.
"Coriell had a sick horse soon after leaving Salt Lake, so that my cousin and I had only the pony, two years old. My days came near being ended on the desert. We started in with two canteens of water. One of them, unfortunately, was dropped and burst, leaving only one small canteen. It was eighty miles across the desert by the trail we took, I will say here that we had the second horse with us at the time, but he was so nearly played out that we had to hold him up. It seemed as it, whether you looked forward or back, you could walk on dead animals. Many a poor beast, being left by the way, after resting a few hours' would get up and take the back track in search of water. They know of no water but that which they had left behind, though there was water much nearer ahead.
"But to return to my scrape from death. On the desert, two-thirds of the way across, are the Black Rock springs, named so from a rock that 100ms up in the distance and still seems to near. We had heard of it and so longed to reach it, but it seemed to recede as we drew near. We gave up our horse to an emigrant with oxen. The pony stood it well. My cousin stood the hardship well, though he was not as strong as I. I finally gave out. I fell by the wayside and became unconscious. My companion could not arouse me, so he took the canteen with the pony and pushed on to get water. When he returned he found me as he had left me, still unconscious. He put the canteen to my lips, and I immediately revived. He could scarcely take the canteen from me. I soon became able to get on the pony, and my companion leading her, we moved on to the springs. On the way I became sick and nearly fell from the pony, as I had taken sulfur water on an empty, heated stomach. We finally reached the springs, where the water was all sulfur. We remained a few hours and then pushed on.
"That portion of the desert just crossed was coated with alkali, which took the place of saleratus (baking soda) in the manufacture of bread. The rest of the way across the desert was passed without mishap, although in many places smoke issued from the ground, showing that we were on a crust. It was said that occasionally an animal would break through. After suffering many privations, especially with hunger, we reached the headwaters of Feather River or its tributaries, down which we traveled into Sacramento valley, striking the Sacramento River and Marysville.
"We had by this time become very destitute. It was September, and the country looked like a desert, not a green thing to be seen except along the banks of streams. From here we pushed on to the mines. Gold, gold, gold was what we were after. We heard of the rich mines of the Yuba, so we took up the line of march thither, gathering up a little of the necessaries of life. The pony, we had found could live off the country. We first struck the Yuba at Ross's Bar. Here we sold our pony and prepared to do our packing. We found work here at $12 per day. We slept under a neighboring tree on the mountainside, to the music of the coyote.
"We remained in the employ of the dam builders for only a short time. Then we struck out for ourselves, going up the stream as the rainy season set in, to one of the branches called Deer Creek. We remained here till some time in February, when I started for the states, having been selected by the miners of Deer Creek to go east and carry gold dust to their families and friends. I returned by way of Panama, suffering from fever, and visited the families of those who had sent me.
"I visited Boston and places in New York, Ohio and Illinois, delivering in person whatever I had, even so small an amount as an ounce of gold dust. Those that received the least were the most pleased. They had heard from their relatives, which was better than gold. I remained until August with my mother in western New York when I again started for the gold fields, taking with me my brother and three neighbor boys. I returned by way of the isthmus. The steamer that we were to take up the Pacific was infested with cholera, and many turned back.
"We went on and arrived safely at San Francisco. Here we separated for a time. My brother and I pushed on for the mines. As we had interest in a company that was damming Deer Creek, we were anxious to get there, but I was so unwell that we were obliged to wait at Sacramento City to recuperate. Finally reached the mines, but found the dam a failure and our company scattered. I was taken with something like cholera and nearly died. My brother, who was a medical graduate, saved me. As soon as I was able to travel I set out on my return, with the cousin who had first come out with me. We left the rest to come when they had enough of mining. We returned this time by way of Mexico, taking the route that had been taken by General Scott. It was a hard trip and we were glad to see salt water once more. After a few days, we took passage on a steamer that was bound for New Orleans. It was only a four days' run, but wind and water were against us and were out 12 days. From New Orleans I took steamer to Cincinnati. Nothing happened by the way, except that we were racing most of the time. I returned to my mother's home, and was here joined by my wife, who had lived with her parents in Illinois.
"In 1854 the homestead was sold, and the family went west and was divided. I settled in Delville County, Illinois and turned my attention to farming till 1854 when we moved to St. Anthony, now Minneapolis. We remained here one year and then moved to Lake Minnetonka.
"We spent the winter of 1856 on a claim on the shore of Long Lake. In 1858 we settled in Excelsior, buying a lot and building a house. We had sold the claim at Long Lake, which now forms a part of Long Lake.
"Here in Excelsior we lived until 1860, when I returned to Galva, Illinois, to be followed by the family the next spring. Here I ran a farm of 320 acres The breaking out of the war made me very uneasy. In the fall I began to prepare for the front. I disposed of my crops at low figures, selling my wheat at 30 cents a bushel.
"The next spring found the fife and drum the principal music, and I could not remain passive longer. The 12th of July found me drilling for the war under the call for 300,000 men. From squad drill to company, then company organization by the election of officers. Other companies were formed in the near neighborhood to the number required for a regiment. We were ordered to rendezvous at Peoria. We were there mustered as a regiment. No. 112. As soon as outfits and transportation could be furnished, we were ordered to the front. Our first stop was made at Covington, Kentucky, on the sand and rocks without covering.
"We remained in the camp of instruction at Lexington during the winter. On the 24th of April, 1863, we became mounted infantry. On June 10th a raid was commenced under General Sanders into east Tennessee. I was not well and did not participate. Three of my company were drowned and three captured, one severely wounded. I had been promoted to lieutenant Aug. 24. We were now again in east Tennessee. After a hard fight, Nov. 18, 1863, we found ourselves hemmed in Knoxville by Longstreet. Our loss as a regiment was 76 killed, wounded, and missing. For 18 days we lived on parched corn, and brown bread.
"After our release and pursuit of Longstreet, with great loss to the army, on Feb. 4,1864, we turned over our horses and were again on foot. The march was taken up over the mountains from Knoxville to Mt. Sterling over the purpose of recruiting the regiment. We reached Mt. Sterling Feb. 24, having marched 232 miles. The return to Knoxville was made commencing Apr. 6, making the third trip over the mountains. Remember these long marches over the mountains were made in the mid-winter.
"On May 11 we joined Sherman in front of Dalton, and entered Georgia. I do not intend to enter into the particulars of this campaign. I would refer you to the history of it. On Aug. 6, 1864, I was severely wounded in the right shoulder in the battle of Entoz Creek, in front of Atlanta. I was moved from the field hospital to Marietta, from there to Knoxville. In course of time I secured leave of absence for thirty days, which I improved by returning home. I received an extension of leave on account of wound, and rejoined my regiment on Nov. 30, 1864, the date of the battle of Franklin. After Hood's defeat of Nashville, the regiment joined Sherman at Goldsborro, North Carolina, by way of Washington. April 26, 1865, Johnson surrendered to Sherman On the morning of the 12th we received news of Lee's surrender, and on the 17th the first news of the assassination of the president. The army was infuriated at this appalling intelligence.
"Thus ended the war, and we were mustered out at Greenboro and given transportation to Chicago, where we were discharged July 6, 1865. I returned to my family at Galva, Illinois, and returned my work until the winter of 1867, when we removed to my present home in Excelsior. In 1876 I was elected from this district to represent it in the House, and as reelected in 1877. I have filled nearly every office in the gift of the town. In the winter of '85 I visited the cotton exposition in New Orleans. In the spring of '87 I made a trip to southern California. In '88, in company with Wesley Beach I returned once more to California where I remained till April, 1891. My wife joined me during the winter of '91. Again in '91-92 1 spent the winter in Florida and made a number of voyages along the coast by schooner.
"Visited my son, Hervey, at Cullman, Alabama, and returned to Excelsior by way of Galesburg, Ill.
"Since the above was written have made Excelsior my home, this being June 22, 1904. I find myself at the present writing very much afflicted with palsy."
(From the MINNETONKA RECORD of November 3, 1905. Prepared and photographed by Stuart Dudley Dimond, Sr. 1945-46)
Compiled by Kari Rice, Excelsior, Minnesota, May 1975, Volume #3. Available through the Excelsior Historical Society