Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Drowned in James River, John W. Clarke of Williamsburg & Richmond, c. 1840-1893

John's middle name may have been Westley or William. He went to school as a child, learning to read and write. His parent apparently divorced when he was young and John lived with his father and stepmother after that time.

In April of 1861, John enlisted as a private in Capt. Jno. A. Henley's Co. C., 32nd Regiment Virginia Infantry, better known as the "Williamsburg Junior Guards." John served the Confederate army off and on until May of 1864 when listed in Richmond, Virginia's Chimborazo Hospital because of a gunshot wound to the flesh of his hip and thigh. He stayed in the hospital for about six months and returned to duty. John missed a few scattered months due to illness and went AWOL twice, once in February of 1862, the other at Christmas in 1864. Despite his absences, John served for the whole of the Civil War.

After the war, John returned to Williamsburg, Virginia where he owned $500 worth of real estate. However, his wife died and he left for Richmond in the early 1870s. John settled in the Tuckahoe district of Henrico County but ultimately made his home at 1505 W. Beverly Street in Richmond, now Idlewood Avenue near downtown.

Richmond Times, October 17, 1893:
"MR. JOHN W. CLARKE DROWNED. - HE AND HIS BOAT SWEPT OVER THE FALLS BY A STRONG CURRENT. - A very sad accident occurred Sunday morning between 11 and 12 o'clock, when Mr. John W. Clarke, of No. 1505 Beverly street, was drowned in James river. Last Thursday morning Mr. Clarke went up the river on a fishing trip near Williams' Island, about five miles above the city, and left his boat. Early Sunday morning he returned, accompanied by his son Thomas and Mr. Frank Wasmer, to remove the boat (which was in danger of being carried down the stream by the high water) into the canal. He did not have any oars, but getting into the boat, attempted to pull it around into the canal by catching hold of the branches of the bushes along the river bank. His companions offered their assistance, but Mr. Clarke said he thought he could manage the boat alone. He had not gone far, however, when the willow branch he had hold of broke, and the boat drifted out into the current, which is especially swift at that place. He was unable to control the boat without oars, and the craft rapidly went down the stream, and dashed with its occupant over the falls. The unfortunate man was seen standing in the boat some distance below the falls, the boat being nearly full of water. He sunk, and the boat floated ashore near the old pump-house. Searching parties dragged the river, and made ever effort to recover the body, but up to a late hour yesterday afternoon failed, as the water in the river was quite high. Mr. Clarke was about fifty-three years of age, and was a carpenter. He was a son-in-law of Deputy Collector of Customs Robert B. Pettis, and was twice married. He leaves a widow and nine children, five sons and four daughters. Mr. P. L. Clarke [sic.], a son of the deceased, who resided in Charleston, S. C., has been telegraphed for, and was expected to reach the city yesterday evening. The bereaved family have the sympathy of a wide circle of acquaintances and friends."

Richmond Dispatch, October 17, 1893:
"MR. CLARKE DROWNED ON SUNDAY - HIS BOAT DRIFTED OUT INTO THE CURRENT AND HE WAS LOST - Mr. John W. Clarke, of this city, was drowned in James river just below Williams's Island Sunday morning about 8 o'clock. Williams's Island is some five miles above Richmond, and near that place Mr. Clarke had a boat tied up to the river bank. Sunday morning early, in company with his son Thomas and Mr. Frank Wassmer, a neighbor, he left his home, No. 1501 Beverley street, for the purpose of transferring the boat form the river to the canal, as he feared that the high water would carry it away. Mr. Clarke, it seems, got into the boat alone and was pulling it by catching hold of the branches of the bushes along the bank to a place where it could be carried over to the canal without making it necessary to climb a steep hill. Suddenly, however, a branch that he was using in the maneuver described snapped, and the boat becoming unmanageable drifted out into the current and over a natural dam. The son and Mr. Wassmer ran down the canal bank for a considerable distance, and some five hundred yards below where the boat got adrift saw Mr. Clarke standing up in it. A cluster of trees then sent him out from their sight, and when they next caught a view of him he was in the water with his hands to his head and was sinking. Mr. Clarke was an excellent swimmer, but had on very thick clothing and a very heavy pair of boots. The deceased was a coach painter by trade; was 53 years old, and had been twice married. He leaves a wife and nine children. His son, O. L. Clarke, who resides in Charleston, S. C., has been telegraphed for. The news of the accident spread very rapidly in the section of the city in which Mr. Clarke resided, and a large number of persons went to the scene Sunday and remained there until nightfall, hoping the body would be washed up. At a late hour last night it had not been recovered."

Richmond Times, October 18, 1893:
"HIS BODY NOT RECOVERED. - All efforts to recover the body of Mr. John W. Clarke, an account of whose death by drowning was published in yesterday's Times, have proved futile. Up to a late hour yesterday the body had not been located."

Richmond Times, October 19, 1893:
"TWO MEN DROWNED. - ONE OF THEM WAS CAPT. PETE VAN HAME, AN OYSTER PLANTER. - WILLIAMSBURG, VA., - Oct. 18. - Special - During the great storm of Friday last, Captain Pete Van Hame, and a man by the name of Purcell, who were trying to secure a boat anchored out in the river, were capsized and both drowned. Captain Pete was an old oyster planter on York river, and was favorably known to a large number of people. Mr. John W. Clarke, notice of whose drowning appeared to-day in the Times, was a native of this place. He left here some where in the seventies to make Richmond his home. The new reservoir at the asylum has just been has just been completed and is now being filled with water, forced into it from the lower pump house. When filled the asylum will be in a better condition to extinguish fire than ever before. Mr. George Dabney Wootten, who died here recently, was buried yesterday in the cemetery of the asylum. Up to a few weeks ago the deceased was a familiar figure on our streets and will be much missed."

Richmond Times, October 20, 1893:
"WAS THIS MAN DROWNED? - THE BODY OF AN UNKNOWN MAN FOUND ON EPPES' ISLAND. - The remains of a white man, five feet ten inches in height, were found on Eppes' Island, on James river, opposite City Point. The body is supposed to have been washed ashore in Friday's storm. The man wore a pair of lace shoes, nearly new, brown socks, jeans drawers, blue striped cotton pants, blue checked shirt, short black coat. There was a silver dollar in the pants pocket. The right shoe was laced with a cotton string. The body was mutilated almost beyond recognition."

Richmond Times, October 21, 1893:
"THE BODY FOUND. - The body of John W. Clarke, who was drowned on Sunday last, was found yesterday at 2 o'clock by John Johnson opposite Six Gates, near Richmond. The body had drifted owing to the high water a distance of nearly four miles, and when found was in a very bruised condition. It was taken to Laube's, corner of First and Broad, to be properly prepared for burial. The funeral services will be held at 11 o'clock to-morrow at Lakeview [sic.] cemetery."

Richmond Dispatch, October 21, 1893:
"MR. CLARKE'S BODY FOUND - The body of Mr. John W. Clarke, who was drowned in the river just below Williams's Island last Sunday, was found yesterday afternoon wedged between two rocks in front of River View. Mr. Frank Wassmer, who went with Mr. Clarke up the river on the morning of the accident for the purpose of helping him remove his boat to the canal, discovered the body. The burial will be in River-View cemetery at 11 o'clock this morning."

Richmond Times, October 22, 1893:
"OBITUARY - JOHN CLARKE. - The funeral services of the late John Clarke were held at River View yesterday morning at 11 o'clock. The following gentleman acted as pall-bearers: C. A. Little, J. K. Groner, C. Grant, Mike Wosser, John Kemp and C. Heimline."

John is buried in plat F, half section 10, division 5, grave 1 of Riverview Cemetery.

No comments: