In downtown Sutton, north of the tracks and on the west side of
Saunders Avenue, in the midst of row of red brick buildings sits a single gray, almost white building. High on the face of the building is the inscription “I N CLARK” referring to Isaac Newton Clark.
Few individuals get to face the challenges and opportunities of building a town. A long list of skills, knowledge, experience and talent were needed to develop a new town. Legal expertise was needed to formalize land ownership and to create and organize the town and its government. Brokers were needed to handle property exchanges. Merchants had to build stores, find sources of goods and create a business. Some products had to be manufactured locally. New towns needed all kinds of people. Sutton got I. N. Clark.
Isaac Newton Clark was born near
on June 18, 1836. He left the farm to attend a Teachers’ Institute at Cleveland, Ohio Hiram College where he received his certificate from James Garfield, President of the college, and later President of the . Clark taught school and farmed in United States Ohio and until June, 1861 when he enlisted and was mustered into the Twenty-fifth Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Within a few months, an inflammation seriously limited the vision in his left eye and he was honorably discharged. Illinois
He returned to
The drug and hardware businesses were vital to the early development of the town with customers from throughout the surrounding areas. Among those customers were the Omaha Indians. A band of about 400 Indians camped on School Creek on their annual hunt and traded with the
Clark hardware store for ammunition, hunter’s and trapper’s outfits and supplies. This roving band returned annually for several years afterwards camping near town for days and trading. The Indians campsite was in a popular picnic area for Sutton. It sat on about twelve acres of the French/Clark property where School Creek made a horseshoe bend. Negotiations began as early as 1872 to donate this area to the city for a park. The legal transfer of the park did not occur until 1883 but that’s another story, but a good one involving the railroad and a stubborn lady who loved trees. A monument in the center of the City Park commemorates the Clark brothers’ generosity to their adopted town.
As Sutton developed, Isaac Clark took on additional roles. He was elected a member of the Board of Village Trustees in 1876. Later that year when Sutton became a town, he was the first mayor and was reelected in 1878.
The Methodist Episcopal Church decided to build a new church in 1876 and chose Mr. Clark as Chairman of their Board of Trustees. He organized the Sutton Brick Company manufacturing bricks for that structure and others in the area. The kiln factory remains a Sutton attraction today, though fairly well hidden out on the north edge of town.
Dr. Martin Clark and
I. N. Clark’s property was quickly sold off to new arrivals in town. I. N. Clark pursued the real estate business vigorously developing the Clark Addition to the west and later a Second Clark Addition. His modestly named development on a branch of School Creek was used for boating and fishing and yielded hundreds of tons of ice annually, the primary source for the town. Glen Lake Glen Lake was later more properly named Clark’s Pond.
I. N. and Mary Clark had five children. Twins Harry and
Davie were born in Illinois though died in their first year. Davie Myra and Albert (Bertie) were also born in Illinois and was born in Sutton. Roy graduated in Sutton High’s first class in 1884 and Bertie graduated two years later. The Chancellor of the Myra State University attended ’s graduation and a special test that was given to her to determine if local graduates qualified for higher education. She was the first to enter the Myra with no further examination. Bertie continued in business in Sutton including operating the ice business for twenty years. He identified his occupation in the 1910 census as “ice dealer”. He married Mayme Wieden, perhaps the most interesting woman of early Sutton. She became deputy postmaster immediately upon high school graduation in 1894. There was almost no religious, social, civic or educational activity that she wasn’t deeply involved in. State University
Clark residences became Sutton landmarks. Isaac and Bertie’s houses still grace West Cedar Street. Isaac’s, the more modest, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an example of Gothic Revival architecture. Bertie’s house is a somewhat more substantial structure across the pond which looks down on that pond where Bertie collected and marketed his ice each winter.
All frontier towns need a variety of skilled and talented people. They needed merchants, developers, entrepreneurs, realtors, builders, politicians and visionaries. Sutton had a number of people who fit into some of those roles. But in Isaac Newton Clark, Sutton had all of those in one guy.
Mary Minor Clark died in 1916 at the age of 78. Dr. Martin Clark and Bertie Clark both died in 1922. Isaac Newton Clark died in 1927 at the age of 90. Mayme Wieden Clark lived to be 88 and died in 1963.
This posting first appeared as an article by Jerry Johnson in the October, 2009 issue of Sutton Life Magazine, 510 West Cedar, Sutton, NE 68979