• Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

Mysterious case of Orange County saddler links generations; a family is looking for a burial place – Orange Leader

ByRandall B. Phelps

Apr 20, 2022

Family traditions carry values ​​and beliefs that are passed down from one generation to the next. Traditions help children feel a sense of belonging and consistency in their family.

For the Clark family, this is represented by an American Western saddle created by James William Clark Jr., their three-time great-grandfather. The saddle has been passed down from father to son for five generations. Gene Clark of Newton, Texas is now in possession of the inheritance.

When a chance encounter with another Clark relation occurs, the mysterious location of the saddle maker’s grave has become a source of intrigue. This motivated the Clark men to work together and discover their ancestor’s resting place in Orange County.

The problem? The grave rests on private property, and the last Clark to see the grave is deceased.

The handwritten lineage of James William Clark Jr.’s family tree is illustrated. (Sierra Kondos/Chef’s Special)

The Orange County Saddle Maker

“According to the census, James William Clark Jr. was a saddler, farmer and rancher,” said Newton County resident Gene Clark. “He arrived in Texas in 1835 with his wife, Caroline Bland Clark, of Vermillion Parish, Louisiana. They came with his whole family: his brothers, John and Peyton Bland (sometimes spelled Payton); his mother, Elizabeth Johnson, and his stepfather, Dick Johnson.

William Clark received a portion of land from the Lorenzo de Zavala grant. He later purchased an additional piece of land to expand his property near Adams Bayou in the west to Jack’s Island in the east and then south to present-day I-10. He put this land in his wife’s name, which would be an unusual thing to do in those days.

William and Caroline Clark built a log cabin on what is now called “Clark’s Lane”, (later named for another family of Clarks). At that time, however, it was located near the trail that led into Newton County. They had three children: Oliver, Robert (born in Orange County on October 30, 1840), and Rachel.

The elder Clarks lived in the log house for the rest of their lives. They were buried in Block Cemetery.

Upon their death, the William Clark investigation was left to their eldest son, Oliver Clark, whose descendants still live in the Mauriceville area.

The property of Caroline Bland Clark was left to the youngest son, Robert F. Clark. Caroline died without leaving a will, and since her estate owed $600, Clark had to sell the land to pay it off.

A map of the original land grant photo is shown. (Sierra Kondos/Chef’s Special)

Survive the Civil War

Oliver and Robert Clark were drafted to serve in the Confederate Army, but Oliver refused to go and was eventually used as a scout to lead Confederate troops through the Sabine River swamps. Robert agreed to serve in the Southern Army until he contracted pneumonia and was treated in Atlanta. While he was away, his wife and baby died; they are buried in Wilkerson Cemetery near Mauriceville.

“Oliver Clark’s family history is that while he was stationed at Galveston Island, his general told him he was going to take his horse and saddle and walk Clark,” Gene Clark said. “Oliver said to him, ‘No, you’re not. Me and this horse came here together and will go together. And the story goes that he held the general at gunpoint, then jumped on horseback into Galveston Bay, deserted the army and went into hiding. The army never caught him.

Oliver died in 1901 and the saddle was passed on to his son, Paten.

“He’s my dad’s grandfather,” Gene Clark said. “He died in 1964 before the birth of his son, Pate. My father, Wilbur W. Clark Sr., eventually moved to Newton County and received the saddle.

In 1997 Wilbur repaired the saddle after it had sat in the barn for 33 years.

“He removed the leather from the wooden structure,” Gene Clark said. “It’s a piece of our history and he wanted to give it new life.”

The saddle was then passed on to its current owner, Gene Clark.

Nice to meet you, Mr. Clark

Six years ago, Gene and Stephen Clark met at a TOTAL workplace safety meeting.

“We would respectively greet each other as Mr. Clark,” said Stephen Clark. “But one day we stopped joking about it, compared notes and realized we were related.”

Stephen Clark created a family tree using Ancestry.com.

“Stephen started ticking off names, and I said, ‘wait a minute,’ those are the names I knew,” Gene Clark recalled. “My dad had names saved from Ireland, so I could go back that far, and they were also members of his family.”

Stephen Clark and Gene Clark’s goal is to find the burial place of James William Clark Jr., take a photo, and submit it to their family tree.

There is a book to tell the story of the saddle.

Permission to enter private property

“In the late 1990s, Wilbur discovered James William Clark Jr.’s grave on Clark Circle off I-10 in Orange, Texas,” Gene Clark said. “All we want to do is take a photo and add it to the Clark family tree.”

If you have information regarding the location of James William Clark Jr.’s grave, call Stephen Clark at 337-912-1801 or Gene Clark at 409-293-7566.

— Sierra Kondos is a freelance journalist and historian.