Maria Wheeler Clark (1845-1930)

25 Sep

Both pictures are from the online version of a book held by Cornell University: The Pioneer History of Clarksfield (1908) by Frank Edgar Weeks (1857-1946), as is the following quotation: “During the war of the Revtdution the British sent ditferent expeditions which burned the towns alang the coast of Connecticut. Among these were the towns of New London, Nor-wnlk and Danbury.

To compensate the sufferers the state of Connecticur, in 1792, si’t
apart a portion of the Western R*– serve, containing a half million acres of land, and granted it to them. Thiswas called the ‘Sufferers” land, m-
“PIrelands,” and was set off from’ the  HISTORY OF CLARKSFIELD. 

Maria Wheeler Clark is someone I’ve carried in my heart a long time, although I never met her (she died in 1930 and I wasn’t born until 1953).  In the early eighties, before I started grad. school, I did some work on my mother’s side of the family tree.  Scott and I and a friend named Carol Anderson went separately and together to the Mormon Church in Golden Valley and started combing through the different census records.  The Mormons want people to take up their religion and believe that past generations can be blessed; therefore they are very welcoming.

Years before my mother had told me that my Grandfather Clark was never interested in looking into the Clark family geneaology.  His grandmother, Maria Wheeler Clark, had been deserted by her husband and had had a hard life as a result.  He already knew a great deal about his French Hugenot lineage and I guess he thought that would suffice.  Naturally that made me curious and that Clark line became the path I most wanted to follow.

Lately I’ve been poking into, but most of the links have led me to information I had already uncovered.  Still, that has me thinking about her.  She lived in Clarksfield, Ohio, which is part of Huron County, and south of Cleveland.  In Week’s history he explains how people from Connecticut moved to Clarksfield. That fits in with what we know about our branch of the Clark family.  He also mentions that in 1830 he [Edward Evelyn Husted] purchased from Asa Wheeler the farm now owned by James Gray, but sold it to Ezra B. Gray in 1842.”    Here is a snow-laden picture of Clarksfield:

On September 14, 1863 Maria Wheeler married Asel (also spelled Azel) Clark and bore him three children: Jenny, Jerry, and Charley (my ancestor).  In 1880, Maria is recorded as being 35, while Charley is recorded as being 7.  She is also recorded as being widowed, which I know is not true, but maybe it gave her a more solid status in the town to put it down that way.  Her occupation is listed as carpet weaver, and I know that she also took in laundry.  I do have Asel’s Civil War record from the National Archives, but he was only in for several months and it doesn’t explain his later abandonment of his wife. 

Mom told me that the family thought he moved to Iowa and Carol Anderson and I followed that trail years ago, searching all the Iowa cemeteries we could find and looking at the gravestones.  We had a malfunctioning air conditioner in our hotel room, with the consequence that it was very cold, and thought we thought the cold might be Asel’s ghost. (!!!)  It “felt” evil” to us.  We know that Asel was born to Era Clark and his wife, Harriet in 1839, but to this day don’t have the date of his death. Of course, I wonder if the town was named after Asel’s parents. According to Weeks, on November 9, 1808, allotments were made to James Clark ‘ 698  and Curtis Clark 924.  The number stands for the number of acres.  Maybe they were ancestors; who knows? As Weeks states, “The township was named from the [same James Clark], who was one of the greatest sufferers from the incursions of the British in the Revolutionary war.”

On the other hand, I have Maria’s death certificate that says she died of breast cancer in 1930 when she was eighty-five.  My mother went to the funeral with her parents and said Maria was the first dead person she had ever seen.  She does remember that a ray of sunlight washed across Maria in her coffin, giving the room a happy glow.  I guess I can’t blame her for not remembering more since she was only 4.

What I don’t know is how Maria made it through those many years by herself.  Her father, Anson Wheeler, was the local miller, (“Saw mills and grist mills were built along the streams as soon as there was a settlement large enough to support them, and they did quite a business while the water lasted.”  From Pioneer History) which is why I included the picture of the Clarksfield Mill at the top, thinking perhaps it was his.  He was recorded as being married twice.  I assume that his first wife and Maria’s mother, Jane Easterly, died in childbirth, but whatever happened, he had many mouths to feed and he was reported to be someone who moved often.  Probably not the most stable parent.

My brother and I both had Asel’s black eyes when we were born, but I wonder what we inherited from Maria.  I don’t have good manual dexterity, so I probably wouldn’t make a very good carpet weaver. I like to think she had someone to cosy up to during the cold and lonely Ohio nights–an errant mill hand or some other male figure.  Who knows?

4 Responses to “Maria Wheeler Clark (1845-1930)”

  1. claireaperez September 25, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

    an interesting story, I really like the photos that accompany it! So many lives just passin on through, nice you gave this one some thought.

  2. Linda October 9, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

    I am a descendant of Asa and Anson Wheeler. They are GGGG Grandfathers. I would love more information if it is available! I also have had breast cancer, so this connection is interesting. Linda Wheeler

    • How exciting to hear from you. I’m not sure where my recorded info. is, but I will look for it. Because my Grandfather Clark refused to look into his Clark heritage, I don’t have the info on the Wheelers and Clarks that I would like. My mother and I still have relatives in North Ridgeville, Ohio west of Cleveland ( a cousin who knows less than I do), so Mom and I have thought of visiting Clarksfield. At least we could find Maria’s gravesite. We have traced the Clarks back to Connecticut. I think the Wheelers might have come from there as well. We’re not sure that the Clarks who founded Clarksfield are our Clarks (very common name.) I assume that Maria’s father was probably not able to help Maria when her husband left her considering that he had quite a few children. Glad for any information you have.

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