Jabez Clark, a sturdy, energetic pioneer of the Lowell area, was born in 1808 at Thomkins County, New York, one of the five children of Jabez Clark of Rhode Island and Deborah (Backus) Clark of Massachusetts.
He had a fine education in the East, and in 1832 was married to Marietta E. Barrows, born 1812 at Mansfield, Conn., the daughtrer of Andrew and Polly (Cummings) Barrows of Connecticut. Tempted by a rumor of good water and wood in Indiana, they traveled by boat through the Great Lakes to Michigan City and came to Lake County by covered wagon in 1837, many years before the platting of the Town of Lowell by Melvin Halsted. Jabez was 29, and Marietta 25, when they arrived with their two children, Perry, age two and a little girl, Cornelia, only seven months old.
The little family found an abandoned log cabin near what is now the northeast corner of Main St. and Mill St. in Lowell, where later in 1857, the first Baptist Church was built under the direction of Halsted. The building now on that corner, owned by Robert Corns, was the Presbyterian Church, built in 1907, on the same site, and once used by the Believers Church.
The family spent their first winter at that little cabin, and soon found that their nearest neighbors were three young bachelors living in a cabin on the west side of the present Lowell. They were Abram and Horatio Nichols and William Purdy. John Driscoll, another young bachelor, was living in a cabin of hickory logs on the east side, on the same site that later became the Driscoll Homestead on the present Joe Martin Rd., just across from Evergreen Park. The Clarks also had as neighbors friendly Indians who lived close to where the Livery Stable is now on Washington St.
Like most pioneers, the cooking in the Clark family was done at the fireplace, with bread baked in a kettle set on live coals raked out upon the hearth, with more coals on the cover. Clothing and cloth of every description were homemade, and spinning wheels and looms were in most of the early homes.
Several cabins in the area were abandoned because of homesickness and discontentment, and it was to another one of these one-room houses that the Clark family moved in the summer of 1838. This was north of the first cabin and near the stream, where they raised vegetables and sowed wheat for about seven years.
In about 1845, Jabez built the first frame house in the area, and for description of this much larger house, we quote from a story written by his daughter Cornelia when she was 81 years of age in 1918:
"This house consisted of four rooms: two below and two above over a basement in the side of the hill sloping to the south. It was built of oak hewn timbers, oak siding, and homemade shingles. Here "Uncle Jabe," as he came to be familiarly called, had the first hotel, for it was the only house large enough to accommodate the traveler. Here he had his physician's supplies, for be it known he had obtained a medical education in the east prior to pioneering, and was the only physician in this vicinity for fifteen years."
The location of this frame house was at the end of Burnham St., on the south side of the present Commercial Ave., where this writer remembers exploring some of the ruins of that building as a young boy.
Jabez also conducted a small general store, carrying only the absolute necessities. He must have been a very busy man, for he also was Justice of the Peace for many years, and by virtue of that office presided at most of the early weddings in the area. He also was the presiding judge for lawsuits, much to the disgust of his wife, who disliked the curious who gathered about, muddied up her floors and spat tobacco juice.
According to Cornelia, John Sanger was the only "Pettifogger" of that time, and when John wasn't on 'the right side," the Justice took a hand on the other side, and with a determined will took the part of the opposing lawyer and also the Judge in the case. (Webster says a pettifogger is "an inferior lawyer who employs petty trickery.")
Cornelia remembered the housewarming party for that first frame house. "The housewarming party is cheerfully remembered, and it also was the first dancing party. 'Uncle Warren Russell' was the only fiddler, and was the crier of the "figgers," and was the only one needed, for what he lacked in other musical instruments to assist him, he made up with his head "a bobbin'" and his foot "a pattin'" to the time, as he entered into the spirit of the frolic.
"The supper which followed even surpassed the feast described by Washington Irving in his "Legend of Sleepy Hollow"; and while the hostess was entitled to a proper degree of credit for putting on the party, all the girls and women of the countryside came right over, put on their aprons and turned right in to help."
The Warren Russell mentioned above was one of the characters depicted by the Three Creeks Historical Assn. actors in their "Walk with the Pioneers" historical tour in June 1983, and was an early carpenter in Lowell.
Justice Clark had acquired a quarter section of land that was to become a part of the Town of Lowell. This land started at Clark St. and included many acres east of there. He farmed this land in the early years, and later it was surveyed and laid out in lots and streets.
A copy of the plat of Clark's Addition to Lowell was dated July 4, 1856, just three years after the date on the original plat by Melvin Halsted. The Clark's Addition plat shows a drawing of the lots, including a large open space where part of the present Senior Citizens Park is now. He donated this land, and also gave land where a brick school house was built in 1862, and another school was built in 1896. That building now houses "The Old School House" Antiques, east of the Lowell Public Library on Main St.
There is a stone on the corner of that old school property which once held a bronze plaque. On the south side it read "Melvin Halsted, Founder of Lowell Public Schools, 1862 - Pioneer - Builder - Adventurer." On the east side of the stone it read "Jabez Clark, a Public Benefactor - First Physician - Merchant - Justice of the Peace - School Director - Earliest Married Settler in Cedar Creek Township." This plaque has been missing for many years.
The children of Jabez and Marietta (Barrows) Clark were: Perry, Cornelia, Jerome, Milo W., Florence C., Ambrose B., and Homer E.
Perry Decalvus Clark married Sarah Jane Thorn, born 1841, daughter of Jonah and Phoebe (Richmond) Thorn, who came to Lake County in 1842. Perry became the owner of the brick factory, started about 1859 north of Main St. at Liberty St. in Lowell. Clay from the six acres on the property and straw from his father's farm nearby were the materials used to build three brick buildings on the ridge, facing east.
There was a small house with a tile roof, a three-story house with a turret and gables, and a three-story brick factory. In the ravine stood three domed kilns to bake the bricks and tiles. Later, glassy hard bricks were made for some of the side walks in Lowell. At the turn of the century, after the big fire of 1898, Perry built a large building on Commercial Ave., the store building that for years was Grant's Dept. Store. He also built the long brick building that still stands behind that store. These were the last buildings he built before retiring and leaving the business to his sons. Perry died in Florida in 1904.
Perry and Sarah's children were: Harry Elwood, Franklin, who died as an infant, Wilbur F. and Marietta. Harry married Nellie Dresser, Wilbur's wife was Allie DuMond, and Marietta married James Vories.
In 1932 Thorne, eldest son of Wilbur and Allie Clark, moved back to Lowell and purchased the brickyard land from his uncle, Harry E. Clark, and his granddaughter now lives on the site. Wilbur Clark's children, Thorne's sisters and brothers, were: Elwood, Thomas, May, Jack, Blanche, Izetta, and Perry.
Thorne Clark married Grace Sisson and the family became the best known of the descendents of Jabez Clark. Their children were: Dale, who married Elnora Latta; Marian, who married Leonard WIlson; Verna, married to Gilbert Branham; Nellie Jayne, who married Elmer Gerner; Carroll, who married Mary Ann Hayden; Millard, married to Marcia Smith; Virginia, whose husband is Wayne Huebsch; and Margaret Ziembicki.
Cornelia, born in 1837, was the baby girl who came to Lake county with her parents in 1837. In her later years, she told a story about going to town when she was 15 years of age. She went to the little store run by Jonah Thorn, which was near the Halsted House, to buy some candy, the first she had ever seen, not having been away from her home settlement prior to that time.
She told about the time some Indians came right into the family house uninvited, and one of them took her brother Perry onto his lap; but the little sister was too shy to get scarcely near enough to see them. Her mother gave them some lunch, they appeared grateful, and in due time they peacefully departed.
In 1856 Cornelia married John M. Dwyer, born in 1834, the son of John Dwyer, Sr., of Maryland, who later settled in Ohio as a pioneer. John served in Co. 'B' 20th Illinois Infantry in the Civil War. He took part in many battles, was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg, and was again wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness. This resulted in the amputation of his left leg above the knee. Cornelia and John M. Dwyer were the parents of seven children: John Byron, who died at age three; twins who died as infants; Bessie Eliza, who died at 17 months; Cassius C.; Schuyler Colfax; and Sylvia May, who married Roy Abrams of Indianapolis.
Schuyler C. Dwyer was a well known attorney in Lowell for many years, and also was publisher of the Lowell Indiana Souvenir newspaper in the early 1900's. He married Sylvia L. Bacon, daughter of Dr. E. Reed Bacon and Martha B. (Sanger) Bacon of Lowell.
Milo, another son of Jabez and Marietta Clark, married Alice Northrop and their son was Philo W. Clark. Milo served in the Civil War, was wounded, and died from the effects two years later.
We have very little history of the other four children in the Jabez Clark family; Jerome, Florence, Ambrose and Homer. History books show that they all had died before 1882; it is probable that most of them died as children.
Thanks to all who helped with information for this story. Some facts were taken from a story written in 1952 by Nellie Jayne Clark Gerner.
We would like to quote from Weston A. Goodspeed's Counties of Porter and Lake, 1882: "The Clark family are among the oldest, best known and most respected of any in the community."
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