Saturday, August 20, 2016

Wellington Clark of Minatare, Nebraska

Harry Clark's farm land

My recent trip to the Scotts Bluff County, Nebraska, centered on research into the life of my great-great-grandfather, Wellington Clark. He was born on January 5, 1847, to Roswell Bailey Clark and his wife Pauline "Polly" Pierce, in Climax, Kalamazoo County, Michigan.  He grew up in Climax, and at the age of 19 married Anna Adelaide Vose (May 12, 1866). Wellington and Anna had one son, Harry Albert Clark, born October 17, 1869.

While in Michigan, Wellington began working as an agent of the Kalamazoo Buggy Company. Kalamazoo was well-known in the late nineteenth century for it's horse-drawn carriage industry. By 1887 there were eighteen buggy companies, and Kalamazoo was nicknamed "Vehicle Square." By the early decades of the twentieth century, many of these companies moved to producing motorized vehicles, some with success, other without.

Sometime in the early 1880s, Wellington and Anna divorced. He later moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he married Lillie May Wynkoop in October, 1883. In 1885 Wellington left his position with the Buggy Company and, along with his wife, Lillie, began homesteading where the present town of Minatare, Nebraska, is located (southeast quarter of section 6, township 21, of range 53, containing 160 acres). He built a house and moved his wife, Lillie, into it in October 1885. His son, Harry, resided with his grandmother, Polly, who also began homesteading in Minatare and, because of her age, was not able to be left alone.

Wellington's house was a 20' x 40' soddie, habitable year-round, with a shingle roof, three doors, five windows. In the home he had two stoves, two beds, one book case, one dresser, two tables, six chairs, one organ, three rocking chairs, one commode, and one sofa cupboard.

Outbuildings included a 30' x 40' sod stable with a posts and sod roof, a cave 16' x 18', a 16' x 18' sod ice-house, a 10' x 12' sod hen house, a 7' x 14' corn crib of hewed logs, and fencing. He worked the farm with one wagon, two plows, two buggies, one mowing machine, one hay rake, two cultivators, one harrow and other small tools.

He kept 15 head of horses and 13 head of cattle on the land. In his first year his crop - 20 acres of millet - was killed by drouth. After that first year, he successfully raised and harvested corn, and in the fifth year tried his hand at oats, barley and wheat as well. He also planted 75 fruit trees.

Other family members also homesteaded in Minatare, including his mother-in-law, Maria Darker Wynkoop (SW quarter of section 5) and his mother, Polly Pierce Clark (NE quarter of section 7).

On Wellington's homestead paperwork, he states that he also had a timber claim in Minatare on the SE quarter of section 7.

Wellington later gave much of his attention to the real estate business, apparently as an assessor. He was a Republican, politically, and was a member of the Masonic Order and the Knights of Pythias.

Wellington was well-known and influential in Minatare and the surrounding area. One story that has come down involves Sam Cox, a newspaperman and a man strongly opposed to alcohol, who made it his mission to write and speak against a bar that hoped to open its doors in Minatare. Another man, named Kensington, took offense to Cox’s anti-alcohol stand, and confronted him. A scuffle ensued, and Kensington ended up killing Cox. Fearing that he would be lynched, Kensington ran to Wellington Clark’s house to seek refuge. At a later date, Kensington was tried and convicted for the murder of Cox.

This house is known, locally, as the "Wellington Clark House." It, obviously isn't the original soddy that was built on his homestead, but was apparently built later, on another piece of property. It has probably undergone many remodels, over the 125 years (plus or minus a few) that it has stood here. In fact, it has recently been purchased by a new owner, who is in the process of fixing it up, once again. The barn and other little framed structure may, however, be original.

In his later years Wellington Clark was bedridden with what was called "locomotor ataxia*," and was cared for by a "step-niece by marriage" named Eda R. Wynkoop. His wife, Lillie, preceded him in death, by about seven months, on November 10, 1917. After his death, on June 15, 1918, his will was probated and he left his worldly property and goods to the following heirs:

1. To his grandson, Wellington Wesley Clark (Harry's son and my grandfather), the North half of the East half of the southeast quarter of section 12. (This would have been 40 acres), including any buildings and improvements existing on the land. (WW Clark subsequently sold and conveyed this piece of property to his father, Harry A. Clark.)

2. To Eda R. Wynkoop, the "niece" who cared for him in his illness, lot #10 of block #7 in the town of East Minatare, including any existing buildings and improvements; plus a sum of $500.

3. To his son, Harry A. Clark, the remainder of his estate, after payment of any debts or encumbrances, which included:
South half of East half of SE quarter section 12
Lot 5 and Lot 6 of Block 2 of East Minatare
Sum of $112.00
A note for $3000.00 and a mortgage securing the same note upon the West half of the SE quarter of Section 12
Lot 35 of Section A of the East Lawn Cemetery of Scotts Bluff County
North half of lot 2310 in State Cemetery at Lincoln, NE, generally known as Wyuka Cemetery

This map shows all of the property for which I have documentation as being owned by Polly, Wellington and Harry Clark, and Wellington's mother-in-law, Maria Darker Wynkoop, as outlined in yellow. If you look closely you will see the current town of Minatare, with its city streets, in the NE quarter of Section 7, and you will see that nearly the entire current town was part of Polly Clark's homestead.

* Locomotor ataxia is the inability to precisely control one's own bodily movements. Persons afflicted with this disease may walk in a jerky, non-fluid manner. They will not know where their arms and legs are without looking, but can, for instance, feel and locate a hot object placed against their feet. It is caused by degeneration of the posterior white column of the spinal cord. (Citation from Wikipedia)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Passing It On

My grandmother Clark hand-crocheted this bedspread for Mom and Dad, many years ago. Mom passed it on to me, and I have kept it stored, safely, and moved it from Juneau, AK; to Salem, OR; to Newberg, OR; to Juneau, AK (again); to Albuquerque, NM; and to our home, now, in Temple, TX. Sadly, I have never had a double-bed that it would fit on.

Recently I contacted my cousin, Bonnie, to see if she might like to have it. She said that she was actually there, as a child, and saw our Grandma Clark working on it, and she has always remembered and loved it. So today I am boxing it up to send it to Bonnie, in Oregon. I'm so glad it will stay in the family. And since Grandma and Grandpa Clark lived for much of their lives in Yamhill Co., Oregon, it's nice that it's going back "home."

Think of all the individual stitches it took to make this!

Saturday, July 30, 2016


Here's a painting I've been working on for a la couple months. It's from a close-up photo I took of Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm, near Juneau.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Minatare, Nebraska - The Home of My Ancestors

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had been invited to Nebraska by someone I had corresponded with regarding my Nebraska ancestors. Wanda invited me to visit her in her home and offered to show me the land of my ancestors.

Little did I know what an amazing adventure this would be. Wanda was born the same year as my mother. If my math is right that means that she is just three months shy of 90 years old. She lives alone in the house she and her husband, who died a few years back, owned in Gering, NE. Gering is in Scotts Bluff County, the same county where my ancestors Wellington Clark (great-great-grandfather), Harry Clark (great grandfather) and Wellington Wesley Clark (my grandfather) lived beginning in 1885. 

Wanda is one of the busiest ladies I know. She is involved in activities of the Scottsbluff Presbyterian Church, a local book club, a quilting guild, and a water exercise class. She plays bridge with a group of friends a couple times a week, volunteers at the museum, regularly walks the trail near her house, and is an integral part of a committee of ladies who are writing a book on the history of the early founders of Minatare, Nebraska (including my Clark ancestors). The book-writing committee is what brought us together, as she emailed me seeking information on Wellington Clark. Her grandfather and my great-great-grandfather married sisters, Mamie and Lillie Wynkoop, although these marriages were both second marriages for the men, meaning that Wanda and I are not related by blood in any way.

I went to Gering with stereotypical expectations about the landscape I would see . . . probably nothing but flat prairie land planted in corn and wheat. So you can imagine how surprised I was to drive into Gering through a pass between breathtakingly beautiful, towering sandstone bluffs. 

I arrived on Thursday evening (July 21) and left on the next Tuesday morning (July 26). In those few days Wanda made sure that I saw as much of the area as possible . She first drove me to Minatare, where we identified some of the homestead properties belonging to the Clarks and Wynkoops. On one of those quarter-sections stands a house that the locals still call the Wellington Clark house.  The property and buildings have recently been purchased and the new owners are working on restoring the house.

The Wellington Clark house

We drove to the Minatare Cemetery where Wellington and his mother, Polly, are buried. Wanda feels sure that Wellington's wife, Lillie, is buried there, as well, although there is no stone and no record in the cemetery registry. We spent time at the Scotts Bluff County Courthouse, where I was able to get copies of Wellington's probate records, which answered some questions I had about the family.

We met with the Minatare book committee, which was really fun. I can't begin to tell you how much history is in the heads of these women who, themselves, have parents, grandparents and other ancestors who settled this county.  It is marvelous that they are putting together this book, so that history will be preserved. They are close to having the writing completed, but still need to find a publisher.

The Minatare Book Committee - Wanda in purple, on right.
While at the Scotts Bluff Museum, where the ladies met, Wanda showed me and the other ladies an historic early-twentieth-century quilt. This quilt commemorates the early days of the community of Minatare, and bears the embroidered names of many of the pioneer members. It was discovered back in 1958, at Pender, Nebraska, in the home of a man who had died. The woman who bought his house found the quilt and sent it to the Minatare Presbyterian Church. There, on this quilt, are the names of my great-grandfather (Harry A Clark), "Grandma Clark" (Polly Clark), and my grandfather, Wellington (who as a child was, apparently called Willie). The Steffensmeier names on this same square were Wanda's ancestors. This quilt will eventually be displayed at the Scotts Bluff Museum, where it is now being held

One of the highlights of my visit was going to the Scotts Bluff National Monument. At the base is a museum, situated beside the old roadbed of the Oregon Trail, which is marked by some covered wagons and cattle.

These wagons mark the Oregon Trail as it passes through the gap in the Monument bluffs

We drove the paved road to the top of the bluff and then walked the two trails on the summit, which extend from the parking area to two overlooks. I apologize for including so many shots from the top, but it really is an awesome view, whichever way one looks. The monument is composed of five rocks, known as Crown Rock, Dome Rock, Eagle Rock, Saddle Rock and Sentinel Rock.

Eagle Rock with the Scotts Bluff Museum in front

Some Random Views from The Top of the Monument:

Wanda at one of the lookouts

From down in the valley, the bluffs change shape, depending on your viewpoint:

The Oregon Trail passed  through the "U" shaped gap towards the left of the picture (just to the right of the inverted "V" shaped bluff)

Eagle Rock

Crown Rock

Saddle Rock
Dome Rock (left of center)

We also drove to Alliance, NE, primarily to tour the museum there, but also to visit Carhenge. Yes, I did say "Carhenge." Does it really need an explanation? I will say that the thirty-nine automobiles were carefully placed, by its creator, in the same proportions as Stonehenge. The circle is approximately 96 feet in diameter.

We took one more outing to Chimney Rock. First we drove up into the old Chimney Rock Cemetery, where Wanda has family buried.

Chimney Rock as seen from the cemetery
Then we went down to the visitor center, where we had a closer view of the rock. It is impressive, with a "spire" rising 325 feet from a conical base

Wanda had lots of memories of coming to Chimney Rock with her family, as a child, to watch the annual outdoor passion play that was performed on summer nights. She told me in great detail about how the angels stood on the rocks and were lit up, and of the fantastic costumes the performers wore. When we went into the museum, we were surprised and pleased to find this old poster advertising that very passion play.

It wasn't all sight-seeing. We also toured the research center where Wanda works on local history, and I even got to try a new-to-me cuisine - the "runza." For those of you who also are not familiar with a runza, it is a beef and cabbage mixture baked inside a homemade bun. And it really was delicious. Many people in this northwestern corner of Nebraska are of German-Russian descent, and the runza originated first in Russia, spread to Germany, and eventually came, with these immigrants, to America. Yum! It really was good.

On Tuesday morning I departed from Wanda's welcoming home. What a wonderful time I had, and what an amazing lady is my new friend, Wanda. These two pictures were taken as I headed out of town to begin my two-day return trip.

The early morning sun lights up a corn field in front of one of the many bluffs in this part of Nebraska

One more glimpse of Chimney Rock, shrouded in morning mist. Goodbye Nebraska!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Family Reunion

Though we were only "in-laws", we were happy to be invited to join in on some of the fun of Kelsey's family reunion (her mother's side of the family). We drove down to the Texas State University's Campground, near Wimberley, TX, yesterday. We got there around 2:15 in the afternoon and stayed until 8:30 p.m.

It's a beautiful part of Texas, known as The Hill Country, and the campground facilities are perfect for a large group like this. One of Kelsey's cousins, John, and his wife are the caretakers. The family had use of the bunkhouse, which had a kitchen, a large room for relaxing, talking and eating, and bunks and bathrooms for the entire family.

The Blanco River flows through the campground, and it was a huge hit with everyone, but especially the kids, who spent a good part of each of their days in the water.

This hole in the river is known as The Bath Tub, and it was a favorite spot for cooling off for Clara and Robert

Swim clothes drying on the fence

There was lots of food - snacks sitting around all day and lots to choose from at dinner time: grilled hot dogs, burgers, frito pie, and grilled vegetables. 

Do you see how close Clara is to my height?!

We thought we'd be heading home right after dinner, since it was a good two-hour drive, but when we learned that Robert was going to get his turn at the climbing wall and the zip line that evening, we had to stay to see that.

Before the zip line, though, we gathered the kids together for several sets of pictures. Here are a few of them from my camera. There were half-a-dozen cameras clicking away, so there are probably some better ones.

All of the cousins from this generation

They only sat still for the first picture because of the promise of a "silly picture" afterward
These are Kelsey's folks, Bev and Doug, and their eight grandchildren
And these are us with the two (very special) grands that we share with Bev and Doug

Clara and Robert

This is Clara and her Oregon cousin, Lilly. They are close to the same age and get along splendidly.
With the picture-taking out of the way, the kids were anxious to get to the zip line. Most of them had gotten a turn the evening before, but some - including Robert - had missed out when it got too dark to do it safely. John (Kelsey's caretaker cousin) and his wife are trained in the ropes course, and were running the show. Since we needed to get on the road, John agreed to let Robert be first this time around.

He had no hesitation, and tackled the challenge like a trooper!

Helmet on
Harnessed up

And away he goes!

Double-checking the harness

Waiting for the signal

And he's off!
A thumbs-up signal after his turn. He loved it, and came off of it saying, "That was FUN!"
Staying to see Robert meet his challenge was the high point of the day, and Dan and I both agreed that we wouldn't have missed it for the world, even though it made it 10:30 before we got home.

Family reunions like this are not something I grew up with, since my family was small and spread out from north to south. I'm so happy that Clara and Robert will grow up with tons of shared memories of summer reunions together with all their cousins.