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The Family File

The Forgotten Missionary
The Story of Elder Ezra James Clark

The First Clark Born in the New Covenant


He was named for his father and for his uncle James Stevenson and his coming highlighted a new generation born in the faith for the Clark family.

Ezra James Clark was born March 30, 1846 in Lee County, Iowa---the first Clark to be born into the new and everlasting covenant. His birth was the hallmark of a new era. Ezra Thompson Clark had joined the church in his early teens and been driven with his family and the Saints from Independence to Far West, Missouri and then from Far West to Lee County---across the river from Nauvoo.

Ezra T. Clark and Mary Stevenson Clark were married at Edward Stevenson's home, five miles west of Nauvoo by Ezra Thompson's uncle, William O. Clark, on the 18th of May 1845. They lived nearly one year in a log house rented from Uncle John Cooper about seven miles west of Nauvoo and about one mile southwest of Charleston, Iowa (Lee County), where Ezra James was born.

Less than three months after his birth, in June 1846, the young family started west with one wagon drawn by three yoke of cattle, also one cow that was giving milk. The cow was driven with stock owned by others of the wagon company. Apostle Amasa W. Lyman was captain. A couple of aunts and Porters were part of the group. The young family had a coop of four hens and one rooster attached to the back of the wagon box. The chickens were turned loose each evening for exercise. 6

There are few details of Ezra James' early years. His mother recorded his birth in a brief life history, compiled by her grandson Heber Clark, and noted it in reference to her Nauvoo experience.

"The Prophet Joseph Smith said, before his death, that we would go to the Rocky Mountains. My brother, Edward Stevenson, went with a company in 1847. My husband and I and babe in June 1848," Mary Stevenson Clark notes.

In notes written in her late years by her son, Timothy, Mary recalled portions of the journey west. She recalled the family crossed the Missouri River on July 15, 1846. After crossing the river on the ferry at Council Bluffs they camped about three-fourths of a mile south of the ferry in Winter Quarters, which is now Florence, Nebraska (then Indian territory). They stayed at the site longer than most of their party, since Brigham Young had asked Ezra T. to stay behind to tend the crops for those who would be following the initial trek west.

Ezra James' mother said she didn't remember whether the young family had a tent or not, but Ezra Thompson soon built a log house with logs obtained in Missouri. Their house was about four rods west of the riverbank. About one half-mile southwest and on the side of a hill was the cemetery. Edward Stevenson camped near the family and built his house only a few yards west of the Clark home. 7

While at Winter Quarters their second son, Timothy B. was born on Sunday, Nov. 21, 1947.

Started to Utah

The family started to Utah in 1848 with the company that left after the pioneers started and Benjamin Johnson and his family occupied their Winter Quarter's cabin. The town streets extended west from the river.

Two children and a western trek kept Mary occupied. She noted in her history that they saw many herds of buffalo and many Indians, but noted she had no time for fear. "I had all I could do caring for our children and cooking."

The family settled in the North Canyon the first two winters in the Salt Lake Valley and then moved to Farmington on April 3, 1850, where the family would become a fixture in the community and church.

Responded well

Ezra James apparently responded well to his new surroundings in Farmington and became active in church and local events. A biographical sketch8 on him done by Church Historian Andrew Jensen, notes that he was a much-respected youth and that he was reared in the midst of the Saints, under the influence of good teaching.

Picture in his teens? This photo was unidentified within the Clark family circle for years, but comparisons to a photo of him in later years, leads some to believe this is a photo of Ezra James as a teen-ager.
His early life in the church had been in the frontier but new surroundings brought new opportunities. He was baptized by Elder Jesse Hobson at the age of eight.

He seemed to be more mature than his years. Barrett Bass Clark, in "Clark Family History" described him as "a sober young man who seemed almost like a parent to his brothers and sisters."

His maturity seemed evident in the home and his response to his responsibilities around the home as the oldest sibling. His dad once bragged that his eldest son never went up the canyon for wood, but what he brought back a full load.

Loved the arts

Even a mature young man, however, has a need for outside interests and Ezra James seemed to throw his passion into the arts. He loved the theater and become involved with the Farmington Lyceum and Dramatic Association. His brother Timothy Baldwin and sister Mary seemed to follow his lead, and became involved in the Farmington drama organization as well.

"He was gifted in dramatics and socially well behaved," Barrett Clark said of Ezra T's oldest son. He also described Ezra James as being even six feet tall, well proportioned and with heavy dark brown hair.

The Clark home seemed to lack the acrimony of one in which children are all vying for attention and their own identity. One of Ezra's younger brothers, Edward B., notes a simple exchange between the two brothers that made a lasting impression.

"Another of my early recollections; was of my brother, Ezra James, the oldest of my mother's large family. He was always very considerate of me. One day, when but a little chap I fell off a wagon. He picked me up and was so kind to me that I never forgot him. These are but a few incidents that I can remember about him," 9

Life in "Zion" was better than life on the plains, but not without its challenges as well. The persecution that had compelled his father out of Missouri to Iowa and then to Utah followed. When the U.S. Army, under the command of General Albert S. Johnson, came to make war with Utah in 1858--Brigham Young urged the saints to abandon their homes.

Ezra James was just 12 when he and his siblings went south to Payson to await the outcome of the anticipated conflict in response to Brigham Young's declaration in late March to abandon their homes. 10 They returned to their home in Farmington later that year to find weeds growing in the normally well-maintained streets and the farm in need of the organizational care and attention that Ezra Thompson Clark demanded.

War would eventually strike very close to home for Ezra Thompson's oldest. While Utah had no direct involvement in the Civil War between the states, it felt is effects. The army needed recruits after the civil conflict to deal with growing Indian problems.

The Army sent a draft notice seeking the eldest in the family shortly after he had received his call to go to England. It must have been the ultimate irony for Ezra Thompson Clark to see his eldest son called to serve the country that had taken them to war, and a government that had been an enabler to his family's persecutions in Missouri. Even the everlasting hills could not shield their oldest from this intrusion.

No timeframe is given, but a solution within the family was found. Ezra's brother, Timothy Baldwin, persuaded his parents to let him take the army job; so his older brother could serve God. It worked. Timothy Baldwin Clark enrolled in the army at the age of 17; while 19-year-old Ezra James headed east, bound for England. 11

This selfless act of sacrifice by Timothy Baldwin deepened Ezra's love for his brother. The two years of journal entries kept by the missionary always noted whatever wrinkle occurred involving Timothy Baldwin, whether it was receiving or sending a letter, or his eventual marriage to Lucy Rice. No other family member is mentioned as often as T.B. in his journals----though many are mentioned sometimes at the end of entries.

6 Autobiography of Mary Stevenson
7 Autobiography of Mary Stevenson Clark
8 Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol III
9 Autobiography of William B. Clark, page 3
10 Autobiography of Mary Stevenson Clark
11 Timothy Baldwin Clark, Pioneer of 1848 by Ellen C. Henderson

Forgotten Missionary - Main Page
Bad News Dispels the Excitement of a Summer's Day
The First Clark Born in the New Covenant
Called to Serve
Making his way home
The final hours
Bringing the body home