Friday, July 12, 2013


As I was photographing the impressive monument of Seth Catlin at Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago (see previous post) I spotted another monument that looked interesting - that of George W. Clarke.  Clarke's monument is immediately to the west of Catlin's in Section H. 

Unlike Catlin's monument, Clarke's had something carved into all four sides of it.  Here's the front side:

This is what is carved into the front side of the monument:


Civil Engineer

Born Feb 8 AD 1810

Brownsville, Fayette Co, Penn

Died at Chicago

Aug 13 AD 1866

Age 56 Yrs. 6 Mos. & 8 D

Graduate of  Jefferson College


A Citizen of Chicago

From 1833 to 1866

Moving counter-clockwise around the monument, here is the second side:

and here is what is carved on this side:

Clarke's point So. Chicago
Clarke station P. FtW & C RR
Clarke's subd. W. Chicago

and the next side:

Carved on this side are the tools of a civil engineer

and on the last side:

Integer vitae
                        Scelerisque purus

Upright of Life
                                And Free from Wickedness

What, then, can we find out about George W. Clarke, "A Citizen of Chicago?"

George Washington Clarke was born February 8, 1810 in Brownsville, Pennsylvania.  His parents were Robert Clarke (1773-1840) and Sara, nee Hamilton (1789-1842).  He had five siblings - two brothers: General Henry Francis Clarke, the hero of Gettysburg (1820-1887), and Major Robert W. Clarke, the hero of Bull Run; and three sisters: Caroline M. Clarke (1830-????), Sarah Jane Clarke  (1818-1905) and Harriet Seville Clarke (1823-1895).  Sara and Harriet are buried with George in the plot at Rosehill.  

Interestingly, George's brother William married Helen Margaret Catlin (1818-1856) in Vermont in 1838.  Helen does not seem to be a direct relation of Seth Catlin but it would explain why George Clarke's plot is immediately adjacent to Seth Catlin's at Rosehill.  

George came to Chicago in 1833 when he was twenty-three and Chicago was not even a city yet.   On August 12, 1833, the Town of Chicago was organized with a population of around 200.  Within seven years it would grow to a population of over 4,000. On June 15, 1835, the first public land sales commenced.  The City of Chicago was incorporated on Saturday, March 4, 1837 and went on to become the fastest growing city in the world for several decades.

As a land agent and surveyor, Clarke was in the right place at the right time.  He knew that as the growth of Chicago exploded there would be a clamoring for honest land agents and surveyors.  Clarke was a believer in the expansion of Chicago to the south, and became one of the earliest investors in Lake County, Indiana, buying up large tracts of undeveloped land in that area.

His tombstone lists the three developments that Clarke was best known for:  Clarke's point in South Chicago, Clarke's subdivision of West Chicago and the Clarke station on the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway (near modern-day Gary, Indiana).  The P. FtW & C RR was a major part of the Pennsylvania Railroad system, extending the Pennsylvania Railroad west from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania via Fort Wayne, Indiana to Chicago, Illinois and on to Iowa.

The Directories of Chicago from the period of 1855-1866 list George W. Clarke as a Land Agent, living and working from the Tremont House hotel in downtown Chicago.  

Tremont House circa 1860

Readers of the Chicago Daily Tribune of Thursday, August 16, 1866 saw the following item:

DIED – George W. Clark (sic), one of the oldest residents of this city, having been identified with Chicago for over thirty years past, and owning considerable property in this city, died last evening of general debility, at the residence of Jacob Forsythe, Esq., No. 434 West Adams street.  The deceased was a bachelor, and about sixty years of age at the time of his death.  He was a native of Pennsylvania, coming from that state in this city.  He was a man who was loved and respected by all who knew him, very retiring in his disposition, and had he been more widely known, he would have been more universally beloved.  His funeral will take place at ten o’clock on Friday morning next, from No. 434 West Adams street.  

This follow-up appeared the next day:


In this city, on the evening of the 13th inst., GEORGE W. CLARKE, aged 56 years.

The funeral will leave the residence of his brother-in-law, Jacob Forsyth, 474 West Adams street, to-day (Friday) at 12 o’clock, for Rosehill Cemetery, by train.  His friends and the friends of his family are requested to attend without further notice.  Chicago Daily Tribune - Friday August 17, 1866

As with Seth Catlin's death records, the death records of George W. Clarke were lost in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  His obituary states that he died from "general debility" which is a broad term for loss of strength in the body.  Clarke was a pioneer and that took its toll on his body.  By age 56 he was just worn out.  

The death notice says that Jacob Forsyth was the brother-in-law of George Clarke.  Jacob Forsyth was married to the former Miss Caroline Clarke of Brownsville, Pennsylvania, so I thought she was also a sister of George Clarke.  However, Forsyth's own obituary says that he married a niece of George Clarke.  

George W. Clarke was buried in the seven-year-old Rosehill Cemetery in the plot next to that of Seth Catlin.  

Also buried in the plot with George are his sister Harriet Sevilla Clarke who died in 1895:

and his sister Sarah Jane Clarke who died in 1905:

Years ago, in a management training class, I had to write my own obituary.  Usually, as in the case of George W. Clarke, someone else writes it for us.  Of George W. Clarke they wrote:

"Integer vitae
Scelerisque purus"

"Upright of Life
And Free from Wickedness"

I think any of us would be satisfied with the same.

George W. Clarke, land agent, civil engineer and Chicago pioneer - May he rest in peace.

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