Clark County, Ohio

History and Genealogy



The Spelling of the Name Clark

From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 337


It is generally understood that this county was named in honor of Gen. George Rogers Clark, the well-known military leader and Indian fighter, who defeated the Shawnees at old Piqua in 1780. There is no evidence, except traditional, that he was the individual Clark designated to receive this honor, yet, as it has never been disputed, it will be safe to assume that he was the one. This being true, it follows that the name should be spelled as he spelled his name.

If the petition could be found which was drawn up, and signed by many of the people here, in the year 1814, praying the Legislature to set off and erect a new county, it miht, and most likely would, throw some light upon this point; but a tedious search fails to discover the document. The next in order is the result of the petition, viz.: the act of the Legislature authorizing the erection of a new county, to be called CLARK (see Chase's Statutes of Ohio, vol. III, page 2125). Here there is no final "e," neither is it often found in any of the early enactments. In the various official records of the county, the final "e" was not generally used in by far the greater portions of the early entries, though even there will be found a more or less promiscuous use of that letter. There seems to have been no real knowledge of how the name was spelled by Gen. Clark. In fact, the practice of some of the officers of the past, in this regard, amounts to little else than gross carelessness, as there are cases where the name is spelled both ways in the same legal notice, and so in other official papers. Therefore, the county records afford no more evidence of the truth of the matter than the opinions and habits of many of our intelligent citizens.

Having exhausted all accessible sources of information at home, especial efforts have been made to obtain from abroad the opinions and knowledge of those who, by kinship or by situation, are prepared to speak with authority upon this subject. To that end, a correspondence was opened with various persons who were presumed to know the facts, and the following letters have resulted therefrom:

Louisville, Ky., Dec. 22, 1880. HISTORIAN OF CLARK CO., OHIO, SPRINGFIELD, OHIO: Sir — Your letter of December 20, addressed to "Officer in charge of Locust Grove Cemetery," has been sent to me by the Postmaster, with request to answer. They could not find or hear about Locust Grove Cemetery.

I assisted my father, the late Judge Lewis Collins, of Maysville, Ky., in writing his "History of Kentucky," thirty-four years ago. My own "History of Kentucky," which I call a second edition of his...was published six years ago. They each contain a life of Gen. George Rogers Clark, which was transferred or copied bodily of Robert Clarke & Co., of Cincinnati, in their publication of "Col. George Rogers Clark's Sketch of his Campaign in Illinois in 1778-79." This life or sketch closed with saying he "was buried at Locust Grove, near Louisville." You seem to infer that Locust Grove is a cemetery. Not so; it is the name of the farm or plantation on which Gen. Clark spent the latter years of his life. The right spelling is Clark, without the final e. [see the fac similie of his signature in my history, Vol. 1, opposite page 16.]

The Legislature of Kentucky, on March 10, 1856, and again on March 10, 1869, authorized and directed the removal of Gen. Clark's remains to the State Cemtery, near Frankfort, and a monument to be erected. But the Clark family objected, and it was never done. About twelve years ago, his remains, together with those of two brothers and the wife of one of them, and other near relatives, were removed to a lot in Cave Hill Cemetery, near Louisville. Hither I went to-day, to accomodate you, several miles, through a deep snow, and after a tedious search, I found the lot and grave. On the small but handsome marble headstone is engraved,
GEN'L GEORGE ROGERS CLARK,
Born O.S. Nov. 9, 1752,
Died Feb'y 13, 1818.

Similar headstones, uniform and simple, mark the other graves... Very respectfully yours,
Richard H. Collins, LL.D.

By reference to the biographical sketch of Gen. Clark in this volume, it will be seen that Hon. Henry Pirtle, of Louisville, Ky., wrote the introduction to the "Sketches in Illinois" there mentioned. He, too, was addressed, and in due time the following answer was received:

Louisville, Ky., Jan. 3, 1881.
Dear Sir — Your letter of the 20th ulto., addressed to Hon. Henry Pirtle, was delivered to me as Executor of his estate. My father died in March last, having attained his eighty-second year. I have the original manuscript dictated by Gen. George Rogers Clark, and signed by him... his name, as signed, is Clark. I have inquired of a number of the Clark family, many of whom live here, if the General ever used the final e in writing his name, and learned that neither he nor any of the family ever wrote the name otherwise than Clark. You might write to Gen. Mereweather Lewis Clark, or Col. M. Lewis Clark, of Louisville, Ky.; or to Dr. Jonathan Clark, of Paducah, Ky. The two first are descendants (son and grandson) of Col. Williams Clark, and the latter a grandson of Jonathan Clark, brothers of Gen. G.R. Clark.
Very truly yours,
James S. Pirtle.

The Clarks mentioned in Mr. Pirtle's letter were written to, and a reply received from Dr. Jonathan Clark ends thus; "Jonathan Clark" — Clark without an 'e.'"

The final "e" is used by only three out of twenty-five of the various authors who have written concerning the early history of the territory where Gen. Clark's deeds are most conspicuous. The only explanation to offer for disturbing this question (for question indeed it has been, and yet is) is a desire to get at the truth, believing that the history of our county is a proper place to present it.














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