10 March 2009

Samuel Clark

Congressman from New York and Michigan

Samuel Clark is the only Auburnian ever to have represented two states in the United States Congress.  He was born in January 1800 in Clarksville, a settlement founded by his father, Jehiel Clark, along the Owasco River in newly-established Cayuga County. Clarksville competed with Hardenbergh's Corners for settlers and for prominence in the town of Aurelius. In a few short years, the tiny community was subsumed into the more prosperous hamlet that in 1815 became the village of Auburn.  The village subsequently became a township apart from Aurelius.  The village of Auburn and the town of Auburn were dissolved upon the grant of a city charter in 1848. The name of Clark Street is now the only reminder of Jehiel Clark's settlement along the Owasco, and the only hint of the Auburn origins of Samuel Clark.

Clark attended Hamilton College, studied law, was admitted to the bar, and by 1826 was practicing law in Waterloo. He represented New York as a member of the "Jacksonian" party in the twenty-third Congress (1833-1835). He moved in 1842 to Michigan, where he practiced law at Kalamazoo. After serving as a delegate to the state constitutional conventioni in 1850, he was elected as a Democrat to the thirty-third Congress (1853-55). Unsuccessful in his bid for re-election, Clark inaugurated a land office at Buchanan, at the head of Lake Superior, and retired from law and politics. After his death at Kalamazoo on 2 October 1870, he was buried in Mountain Home Cemetery there.

The next time you enjoy fine Italian-American cuisine at the Hollywood Restaurant, look diagonally across the intersection of Clark Street and Aurelius Avenue. Point out to your dinner partner the site of Jehiel Clark's homestead and the nearby slave quarters. And know that you are in "Clarksville."