The creation of confusion concerning Clark

Published 8:50 am Friday, May 7, 2010

There are two places in Freeborn County where the name Clark predominates. One is Clark Street in Albert Lea. The second is the community of Clarks Grove. And, just for the heck of it, let’s start with Clarks Grove and what some folks could say is a grammatical error with its name.

The official name for this city is Clarks Grove (56016). Yet, to be really picky and technical there’s a possessive clearly indicated with that name. Thus, a apostrophe (like this ’) should be in the name of Clarks. As a result, we would have Clark’s Grove.

Then, to add even more confusion, some folks could insist this would make Clark’s Grove the only place in the nation with an apostrophe in its name. This self- promotion gimmick would collapse as soon as anyone mentioned Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, or L’Anse, Mich.

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The name of Clarks Grove is based on a man named J. Mead Clark whom the 1911 History of Freeborn County book said “settled in a grove a mile east of the present village” about 1858. This grove of mostly oak trees became a reference point or landmark for this portion of the county. Also, his farm home became a pioneer post office. Within a short time the area became known as Clarks Grove.

The present community of Clarks Grove didn’t become a reality until 1890 when the famous cooperative creamery was organized and started operations. And what gave this new town a real boost came in 1900 when the railroad line from Albert Lea north to Owatonna was completed.

J. Mead Clark lived in this part of the county for just a few years, then moved to what’s now Grafton, N.D., where he died on Aug. 8, 1884.

During this same period of time another person named J. Clark came to Freeborn County. By the way, these two men were not related.

Here’s what the 1911 History of Freeborn County book had to say about Julius Clark on page 749:

“The following word picture is given of an early figure in Freeborn County history: ‘As we drive along a crooked wagon track, not yet worn to dust, we pass a low log building. An old man of sixty years stands in the door looking over a beautiful prairie and the distant hills beyond, but not one sign does he see that man had ever visited his beautiful retreat. His long hair, once auburn, is sprinkled with gray, while his large protruding eyes glow through large steel-bowed glasses. He wears no beard, but is sadly in need of a shave, while his clothes are coarse and his cowhide boots are out at the toes. A huge quid of tobacco bulges his thin cheek so as to almost hide his Roman nose. In speech he drawls his words and one sees at once his education has been sadly neglected. Under this rough exterior, however, there is a kindly heart and he is liked by all who knew him.’ Such was Julius Clark, Albert Lea’s first merchant and first justice of the peace. His store was on East Clark Street. “He had been a merchant in Ohio when, in 1855, he saw adversity and quietly boxed up his goods, shipping them down the Ohio and up the Mississippi River to Brownsville, Minn., and in March, 1856, walked into the prospective village of Albert Lea. George S. Ruble soon made him believe he had reached the right place, making him a present of two lots, which today are worth thousands of dollars. When his goods arrived in May 1856, no building had been prepared and they were left on the prairie until a (building) ‘bee’ was gotten up and his log store erected, all giving a helping hand. …He was here but about three years, returning to his Ohio home, where he died some years ago.”

Now, to close off this column, here’s an interesting comment from Jim Hanson out at the Albert Lea Airport:

“With the advent of very accurate satellite surveying, elevations changed dramatically. Mount Everest has ‘grown’ three feet, and though I’ve climbed Mount Rainier near Seattle several times, the last time it had also ‘grown’ three feet, to 14,411. And I thought the extra exertion was from getting older!

“When I learned to fly in Albert Lea in 1962, the airport was 1,244 feet — as printed on the existing old hanger, and verified by an aeronautical chart from 1964. Subsequently, the airport became 1,256 feet. Today, it is 1,259 feet! Do you suppose there is a volcanic bulge beneath our feet, causing the earth to rise?”

Ed Shannon’s column has been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.