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2022 Clark Family Tour

The Family File

Hyrum Don Carlos Clark

by Elwin Clark

My Dear Relations and Friends:

It is my privilege today to make a few remarks about my father, to whom we are paying honor on this occasion.

I have gathered this information largely from accounts by my brother Heber D., my sisters Edna Erickson and Herma Smith, and from my own memory.

Hyrum Don Carlos Clark was born at Farmington, Utah, February 13, 1856, being the fifth son and sixth child of Ezra T. Clark and Mary Stevenson. He spent his childhood and youth largely in Farmington as part of his father's very large and prosperous family, suffering the privations and relishing the freedoms and joys of pioneer life. He was also occupied, at times, on his father's ranch at Georgetown, Idaho, as also at his holdings at Morgan, Utah. From what I have been able to learn, he was a good, active, friendly, obedient son. In other words, he was a good scout. On numerous occasions while I was growing up, either to chide or encourage me, he would say, and I quote, "When I was a boy" or "When I was your age," and then he would discourse at some length about some fine or extraordinary achievement -- so I would assume he was a normal boy.

Father's temporary sojourns in Morgan were only five miles from Porterville where my mother, Eliza Porter was growing up. They were married November 11, 1880 in the old Endowment House.

Hyrum Don Carlos Clark is shown just behind the young boy (on the boy's right shoulder) in this 1893 photo taken in Auburn.

The Ezra T. Clark family was a very patriarchal family. The children settled close around the parents in what was practically communal life, which lasted until just a few years before grandfather's death.

Father and Mother felt that they wanted to be away on their own; maybe they believed that "a man should leave his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife." So early in 1882, for better or for worse - sometimes it seemed for worse - they left the commune and move to Goose Creek in Idaho. Lots of sage brush, little water, lots of rocks and little soil: they nearly starved until 1887 when they abandoned their place with all its improvements, and with a little herd of stock and four children and two wagons, they moved to Star Valley in Wyoming.


I wish I could give you a good picture of Star Valley. Last winter, a man said, "The reason the weather man doesn't give you the temperature in Star Valley: no one would believe him. They can give you the temperature in Evanston or Randolph or Big Piney or Butte or Calgary or in Anchorage - it's probably colder in Star Valley."

HyD is shown in this leadership photo from Star Valley. The man in the photo could not be identified.
Star Valley, in the early days, was a hard life. The only road in or out was fifty miles through mountains and canyons and meadows to Montpelier, Idaho. In the wet season it seemed that there was no bottom to the road, just mud. Every manufactured thing had to be freighted in with wagons or sleighs. The professional freighters with good equipment would take four or more days for the round trip. There were all sorts of heartaches, break downs, stuck in the mud, etc. along the way. When cattle were marketed, they would be driven three days or more to Montpelier, then shipped to Omaha or Denver. People did not go outside of the valley unless there was a great need. I remember when I was a youngster, there were several people who never saw a train until they went to the Logan Temple to be married. There was no electric service, except in Afton, until 1937, so all the little chores were done by hand. We drew the water from the well with a rope and bucket. What a glorious day it was in about 1906 when Father drove a pipe for a well through the kitchen floor and clear down to good water. Then of all miracles, we had a pump right in the kitchen. A little later I saw Uncle Wilford's pump in his kitchen in Montpelier, only he had an electric motor with his pump.

The reason I am saying so much about Star Valley in my narrative is that Star Valley and Father, in my thoughts, are largely synonymous. It was here that Father really started - about the time that Star Valley was getting started; it was here that he built his empire - and it was quite an empire; it was here that he reached his zenith in power and influence, in property and wealth, and then into decline.

When Father went to Star Valley, he acquired squatter's rights to 160 acres with a log house on it. This house was home until 1900. Several of the children were born here. I was the last--1899--so I have one distinction in common with Abraham Lincoln: we were both born in log cabins.

About four years after arriving in Star Valley, Father started buying more land. It seemed that he wanted to get all the property that "joined him" and then the property that joined that, etc. All the while, his family was growing; there were nine children by 1900. He was growing financially; he was growing in influence in the community and in the church. He was a county commissioner, a counselor in the Bishopric; later he was on the Stake High Council and acting in the Stake Presidency. As a child, I can't recall ever seeing my father seated in the congregation, he was always on the stand. In 1900, he built a large two-story house--one of the largest and most prestigious in Star Valley--where he had room for his large family (Mother had thirteen children) and a place for visitors and church dignitaries (some of the Apostles stayed there when on assignment).

His policy of "buy more land to raise more hay to feed more cattle to buy more land to raise more hay to feed more cattle" resulted in his having a spread of about three thousand acres and a thousand cattle.

I want to interject here, some about the ranch. Soon after Father's arrival, the land surveys were made and Father was squeezed out of half of his meadow land and had to take foot hill land instead, so he was very cramped for hay land. He bought 160 acres from Ben Perry that joined him on the east. He then bought 320 acres on the east of that from Mark Bigler. This place was long north and south and straddled the Salt River, about two miles of river on this place, the game warden told me is some of the best stream fishing in Wyoming. It also had a full complement of ranch buildings including a huge barn. The barn has been gone for twenty or more years, but it is still referred to as "Clark's barn." Hack Miller, in his fishing column, mentions "Clark's barn" area on Salt River. Father then bought two Leavitt ranches, side by side which were a mile long east and west, one had a house and out buildings on it. He then tried to buy the Sessions place which joined on the south, but Sessions would not sell. So he skipped Sessions and bought the next 160 acres from Hebe Smith. He also acquired a lot of foothill land for grazing.

At one time, Grandfather Clark, noting that Father had a large debt at the bank, decided to go to Star Valley to see if everything was all right. He got to Montpelier where he conveyed his uneasiness to Uncle Wilford, whereupon Uncle Wilford told him, "You don't need to worry about Hyrum. He's all right." So Grandfather didn't make the strenuous trip to Star Valley.

Father's ranch was probably the largest single ranch ever owned in Star Valley. He was esteemed by his church and by his community. He had large powers and possessions, and a large family--surely he was a happy man. He maintained large holdings before, during, and through World War I and, with high prices for beef, was able to clear all of his debts.

About the turn of the century, at the prodding of some of the authorities, Father entered into the practice of polygamy. He married Mary Robinson of Farmington. Over the years they had a family of five children. Aunt Mary was maintained in Paris, Idaho and in Logan, where it was convenient for some of the older children to stay while attending school. About 1908, after much suffering from the cold winters and high altitude, my mother was moved to Farmington, into a new home which had been built for her. After this time, Aunt Mary was in the home on the ranch, and Father spent his time between the two places. Every summer, Father and some of us would drive to Star Valley to help with the haying and come back in the fall.

Hyrum T. and Heber D. Clark
On December 5, 1911, my oldest brother, Hyrum T., died as a result of a gunshot wound, suffered while hunting. This was a great loss and shock to all of the family--Father loved Hyrum T. like Abraham loved Isaac. One night in January, 1912, only a month after the death of Hyrum T., the folks were awakened by the house burning. The children had evidently built a fire on the wooden floor in the old log house, which was right behind the new big house. Both were completely destroyed.

One day, about four and a half years after the house was destroyed, we were in the field about a half mile east when we looked up and saw the big barn belching smoke out of the hay mow. Father was a little way from us. We had a hard time attracting his attention above the noise of the mower; when he saw it the barn was all in flames. There was a new, expensive grain binder stored in the barn. He said to Ralph Knowlton, who was then standing by him, "Ha jucks, and there's that new binder all burned up, and burned up but the irons and they're left." It was a sad day for Father. The whole farmstead was now obliterated, except for a few minor out-buildings and corrals.

As Father increased his attentions in Farmington, he decreased his ranch activities. He sold a 160 acre meadow and let out some of the other hay land; so his cattle herd was about half of what the peak had been but it was still a sizable operation.

Things went along about normal until 1919. There had been a very light winter, hence very little water as spring and summer arrived so Star Valley was in a very bad drought, much worse than people realized. Feed was very scarce and expensive. Some hay was actually sent to Star Valley by parcel post. Large debts were incurred to acquire feed and to ship stock to Nebraska to feed. This was a very severe winter, and most of the livestock died. Then the bottom dropped out of the cattle market.

Father had been endorsing notes at the bank for some of the boys to acquire property and livestock. They lost it all, and with Father's own debt, which he had incurred to carry himself over the crisis, he was in a bad financial bind. Then the value of land dropped severely. Father was now past sixty-five. Life had been strenuous for him; he did not have the vigor to recoup--always hoping the boys would pay their interest. Thus things drifted, with interest compounding the debt, until his property was all swallowed up, save only his brick home in Farmington.

This photo of Ann Eliza and Hyrum Don Carlos Clark was taken from an old tin and is undated. The use of tin would suggest a photo of 1870-1880 vintage.

Father was on a mission in 1927 when Mother died. He returned home, then in 1934-35, he filled another full-term mission in California; there he observed his 80th birthday.

In his younger days, Father had gone on a mission to Tennessee. After about six months, he was released and sent home because of poor health. His having to return home before filling a full-term mission worried Father; he would mention it on occasion all through his life. This mission to California in his later years seemed to compensate for his earlier lack of fulfillment. I have often heard him observe, "When the church calls you to do something, no matter what, it is better you do it and get it done, then you can always feel easy about it."

One can appreciate his family's sensitiveness about sick missionaries; they had already lost one boy on a mission (Ezra James?) and John A. died while at Haifa in Palestine while on a mission. I have heard that this is the only family in the church who has lost two boys on missions. In this connection, last year while on a tour, I visited the grave of John A. at Haifa.

After returning from his mission to California, Father lived out the remainder of his days in Farmington.

His daughter Herma said of him, "I guess I did not really know Father until the last years of his life. He was sweet and gentle and kind and had time to be friendly and considerate. He never said a word about his loss."

He passed away July 2, 1938, having known prosperity and hardship, happiness and sorrow, but having always kept the faith.

Here are a few related items I would like to mention. When in Haifa last year, we visited the grave of John A. Clark. The inscription on the headstone gave February 8, 1895 as his death date. The large family monument at Farmington list February 8, 1894. I have a letter in my hand, purporting to be from John A. to his father; dated August 22, 1894; so I would assume the date at Haifa to be the right one.

One would expect that father's posterity, to the last generation, would have learned to, "Never endorse another person's note at the bank, unless you are ready, willing, and able to pay all of it." One man has said, "Interest is that little device that was invented to make half of the world rich and the other half poor."

This story, I have heard father tell two or three times, once when I was just a little tike. I did not get the meaning of it for a few years, but if properly understood, I think it indicates something of Father's character. The story:

"The queen needed a new driver for her coach and six black horses. Her ministers interviewed several prospects. The first man said, 'I can drive the coach to within six inches of the brink of the chasm at dead man's point.' The second man said, 'I can drive so close the outside of the wheels are even with the edge of the chasm.' The third man said, 'I can drive with half the width of the tires over the edge of the chasm.' The fourth man was called and asked, 'How close can you drive to the edge of the chasm?' He replied with a little embarrassment, 'I don't know. When I go around that curve I stay as far from the edge as I can get.' He got the job!"

Wrecked by a Train-in Farmington
As related to Morrell by Elwin

Father had waited for an O.S.L. freight train to clear a crossing. He was driving our Model T. Ford. At least Elwin was with him. Just after clearing the crossing, and without any warning, the train backed up and smashed in the side of the car. Noting what had happened, the train pulled forward, stopped, and the train men came over to the car, frightened and expecting a tongue-lashing. Father looked at the car and at the men and said: "Huh, Jucks! Isn't that fortunate? We might have all been killed!"

(Soon after, by exerting leg muscles, they pushed outward the caved-in side of the car and it popped back into place.)

Hyrum Don Carlos Clark, second from right, is shown with some of his brothers in this photo including, from left, Amasa, Charles, Edward and Joseph.

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