The History of Otsego County, New York


D. Hamilton Hurd

Published by Everts & Fariss, Philadelphia


CLARK, Edward - Cooperstown

The subject of this sketch was born at Athens, Greene county, 
N. Y., Dec. 19, 1811. His father, Nathan CLARK, who was a 
successful manufacturer, is still living and in good health, at the 
advanced age of nearly ninety-one years. His mother, who was 
the youngest of a family of twelve children, was the daughter of 
John NICHOLS, of Waterbury, Conn., and he was of the same 
family as Richard NICHOLS, commander of the expeditionary force 
by which the city of New York was taken from the Dutch.
The earliest school instruction which Mr. Clark can recollect was 
received from a Mr. BOSWORTH, a placid old bachelor, who knit 
his own stockings, and had a talent for teaching very small children. 
The rudiments of Latin were mastered under the instruction of E. KING, 
Esq., who then kept an academy at Hudson. Mr. King was one of the 
earliest graduates of Williams college, and belonged to the same class 
as William Cullen Bryant. Subsequently, and when the boy was 
about twelve years of age, he was transferred to the academy at 
Lenox, Mass., then under the direction of John Hotchkin, a very 
thorough and successful teacher. He remained at Lenox about four 
years, and had beaten into him in the usual way a reasonable amount 
of Latin and Greek, with other learning more or less useful. While 
there he acquired a taste for indiscriminate reading. A small library 
of about five hundred volumes belonged to the academy. The boy 
read every volume, and it was fortunate that the selection of books 
was not a bad one.
Perhaps the greatest advantage derived from this academic course 
by this boy came in a way and through circumstances not at all 
defensible. When young Clark first went to Lenox he had never 
been absent for any considerable period from home, and had been 
accustomed to be indulged by an admiring mother and aunts in 
every imaginable way. The abrupt change from home-life to the 
rough experiences of a public school was not at all agreeable. It was 
not his habit, at that time, to submit quietly to anything disagreeable. 
Therefore, one day not long after entering the school, he departed 
from Lenox without the formality of giving any one notice of his 
going, and took his course, on foot and alone, for home, which he 
reached safely and in good time. He was received there very 
affectionately by his mother, but the sterner father quietly remarked, 
"Edward, you can take your supper and go to bed. To-morrow I 
shall take you back to school." The next day, accordingly, he was taken 
back to Lenox. And this same programme, during a period of about 
one year was repeated over and over again, the disobedient hardihood 
of the boy being corrected by the patient persistence of the father. 
Finally, in consequence of new boys joining the school, who were 
pleasant companions, and perhaps a greater familiarity with things 
which had at first been unpleasant, the boy became reconciled to the 
school and its teachers, and the terrible feeling of home-sickness was 
overcome. The beneficial result of the struggle before hinted at was 
this: when it began the boy was of slight, delicate frame, and almost 
sickly in constitution; when it ended his muscles were like steel, and 
he was a trained athlete. He could, and several times did as a matter 
of choice, walk, without stopping and without refreshment, the entire 
distance from Lenox to Hudson, thirty miles, and was not fatigued 
at the end of the walk.
In the autumn of 1826 young Clark entered the freshman class of 
Williams college, where he remained the following four years, and 
graduated with tolerable credit in 1830. Of the faults and follies 
incident to college life he was always ready to admit his full share, 
though he generally exercised sufficient caution not to be found out 
in any infraction of college laws. He devoted himself more to 
literature than to science, and was successful in such studies as suited 
his natural tastes, but was deficient in the mathematical branches.
Having selected the law as a profession Mr. Clark, in the autumn 
of 1830, entered the law-office of Ambrose L. Jordan, Esq., at 
Hudson, N.Y. Hudson was at that time somewhat distinguished as 
a school for intended lawyers, and the fortnightly debates at the 
court-house, conducted by the younger members of the bar and by 
the law-students, were attended by all the cultivated people of the
city, and are remembered to this day on account of the frequent display 
of great forensic ability. In the office of Mr. Jordan there were 
usually from ten to twelve students. After a course of three years' 
study, and a very extensive experience in the way of copying and 
preparing law papers, Mr. Clark was admitted as an attorney, and 
in the autumn of 1833 opened an office and began the practice of 
law in the city of Poughkeepsie.
In October, 1835, Mr. Clark was married to Caroline, eldest 
daughter of Ambrose L. JORDAN, Esq., and in May, 1837, a law 
partnership was formed between Messrs. Jordan and Clark, which 
continued about sixteen years. On May 1, 1838, Jordan & Clark 
removed from Hudson to the city of New York, where they soon 
established a successful practice, and where Mr. Jordan fully sustained 
his great reputation as an advocate.
In the year 1848 Isaac M. SINGER was a client of Jordan & Clark. 
He was an erratic genius, having followed various occupations without 
much success, and having invented valuable mechanical devices, which 
had brought him no profit. One of these, a machine for carving wood 
and metal, which had been duly patented, had been involved by some 
injudicious contracts of Mr. Singer, and Mr. Clark was employed to 
recover the clear title to the invention. The object was accomplished; 
but before Singer was able to make his machine available, the bursting 
of a steamboiler at a ship in Hague street, New York, utterly destroyed 
it. Shortly after this calamity Mr. Singer made his great invention of
the sewing-machine. At first this was not profitable, and under the 
management of the inventor the title to the invention became involved, 
and was likely to be lost. In that emergency Singer applied to his
adviser, Clark, to advance the means to redeem an interest of one-third 
in the sewing-machine invention and business, and to hold that share as 
security for the money advanced. The request was acceded to, and the 
purchase made. Subsequently, and when it had become apparent that a 
great amount of litigation would be required to sustain the
sewing-machine patent, Singer requested Clark to take and hold the
one-third of the patent, and release Singer from the claim for money
This arrangement was carried out, and afterwards, when an 
opportunity occurred, another one-third interest in the patent and 
business was bought by Clark for the benefit of Singer and himself. 
And thereupon was formed the copartnership of I. M. Singer & Co., in 
which Mr. Clark was half-owner. The business was carried on by 
this firm with eminent success from 1851 to 1863. But, as was 
anticipated, Singer & Co. at once became involved in costly and 
vexatious lawsuits, which were directed and managed by Mr. Clark. 
During a period of about two years they were menaced by hostile 
injunctions for infringement of patents, which threatened to destroy 
the business entirely. But the contest was perserveringly maintained, 
and the business continued to prosper, until finally the time came when 
a compromise and adjustment of claims could be made, so that defensive 
litigation was terminated. When that was effected the splendid success 
of the business of Singer & Co. became an assured fact. All the 
numerous contracts of Singer & Co. were carefully drawn by Mr. Clark, 
and a great advantage thereby accrued to the firm, when, at a later 
period, it became expedient to purchase back certain territorial rights 
for the exclusive sale of the Singer machine. It was believed by both 
Singer and Clark that the successful management of the early
above referred to, and the contracts and compromises incident to such 
suits, involved millions of dollars, and the subsequent history of
sewing-machine manufacturers has proved the correctness of that belief.
In the year 1863, Mr. Clark, wishing to be relieved from active 
duty, and to secure a continuous good management of the business, 
formed the scheme of organizing the Singer manufacturing company, 
and although Mr. Singer was very much opposed to the formation of 
such company, he was induced to assent to it rather than have an 
application made to a court of law. The company was organized 
with a share capital of $500,000. Of this stock four-fifths was 
retained by Singer and Clark, and the residue was sold to several 
persons prominently employed in the business at $200 for each $100 
share. The capital of this company was afterwards enlarged to
$1,000,000, and after that again expanded to $10,000,000, the whole of
which increase consisted of the accumulated profits of the business. 
Directly upon the formation of this company, Mr. Clark retired from the 
active management, though he continued to be a director, and during 
several years spent considerable time abroad, having on three different 
occasions occupied a house in Paris, and also passed a winter in Rome. 
In his travels over the principal counties of Europe he examined
was worthy of notice in nature and art, and made extensive purchases 
of statuary and other works of art, which he brought home to New York.
In the autumn of 1854 a residence in the village of Cooperstown, 
which had long been known as "Apple Hill," then owned by Geo. A. 
STARKWEATHER, Esq, was offered for sale, and was purchased 
by Mr. Clark. It was a rather large house, built of wood by Richard 
COOPER, Esq., and had been occupied at various times by Hon. 
John A. DIX, Hon. Samuel NELSON, Judge L. C. TURNER, and 
others. The situation of this house is peculiarly fine, and the grounds 
about it attractive. Mr. Clark, with his family, occupied Apple Hill 
during the summer season for several years, and then, in the summer 
of 1869, had the old house taken down, and within the next three 
years had a very substantial mansion of cut stone erected on its site. 
Before the completion of the new house the name of the place was 
changed to "Fernleigh." The interior of the house is finished and 
decorated with much taste and with liberal expense. The grounds 
have been much enlarged, an ornamental bridge thrown across the 
Susquehanna river, and various auxiliary improvements made, so 
that Fernleigh is recognized as one of the attractive show-places of 
the country. In the guide-books it has been extravagantly praised, 
and few strangers visit Cooperstown without seeking to see it.
Within a few years Mr. Clark had purchased a farm of nearly 
500 acres on the easterly bank of Lake Otsego, and has entered 
zealously into agricultural pursuits, rather for the purpose of having 
an amusing rural interest than with any intention of seeking profit. 
His eldest son, Mr. Ambrose J. Clark, has purchased and settled 
upon a farm on the westerly side of Otsego lake, which was formerly 
owned by the late Judge Nelson. Both of these farms have been 
stocked with imported cattle and sheep possessing rare strains of 
blood, and the buildings upon them improved in the best manner. 
Although Mr. Clark has a house in the city of New York, and passes 
a considerable portion of his time there, he considers his residence to 
be at Cooperstown, and is identified with the interests of that village.
Caroline Jordan Clark, wife of Edward Clark, died at Fernleigh, 
on the 27th day of June, 1874, and was buried in Lakewood 
cemetery, where an appropriate monument has been erected.

Excerpt from History of Otsego Co., NY, page 281


Return to Biography Index