Henry S. Clark was born in Canton, New York. From a young age, he was trained to manufacture and merchandise footwear. During a business trip to Georgia he met and fell in love with Ellen Farley. After their wedding and the birth of their son, Henry Alanson Clark, they moved to Ft. Brooke (present day Tampa) where they met Josiah Gates. They followed the Gates family to Manatee, claiming land just west of theirs. They built a log home and opened the first store in the area in addition to a wharf on the Manatee River. Mary Gates and Ellen Clark became fast friends, being close in age, young mothers, and sharing the unique experience of the Florida frontier.
Henry and Ellen were actively involved in the budding community. They became charter members of the area's first Methodist Society. Their names are included in a commemorative stained glass window that is still at Manatee Methodist Church. A copy can be found inside the 1887 Manatee Methodist Church at Manatee Village Historical Park.
As the community grew, Henry took a position as Justice of the Peace and postmaster. He built a massive 40-ton schooner (named Atlanta) which sank on her maiden voyage in a hurricane so fierce that it washed away Clark's wharf and flooded his shop up to the counter tops.
Stained glass at Manatee Methodist Church showing Henry and Ellen Clark among the 1849 Charter Members.
Image: 1974, Courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collections
In 1850 the Clark family boarded a boat to return to New York in a final effort to alleviate Henry's failing health. He died before the boat reached the Gulf of Mexico. He was brought back to Manatee and is said to have been the first person buried in the Manatee Burying Ground. Charles Macy, a friend of Henry's, was so traumatized by Henry's funeral that Charles asked Ellen not to bury him here. When Charles died of tuberculosis sometime later, Ellen respected his request and stored his body in a barrel of whiskey at the back of the Clark store until his family could retrieve his body.
Ellen continued to run the store with the help of her teenage son after her husband's death. A few years later Ellen married again, this time to Archibald McNeill, and had several more children. Her burial location is unknown.
Over time, Henry S. Clark's headstone was dislodged by a large tree that was growing near its base. To ensure that the stone did not break, the tree was removed and the stone laid flat. This gives us a rare chance to see the stone maker's mark at the bottom of the stone. You can also see this in a few of the other headstones that have been placed flat for preservation purposes.
Henry S. and Ellen's son Henry Alanson Clark fought in the Seminole Wars. Later, during the Civil War, he helped keep the Confederacy fed by gathering livestock as a cow hunter. He was married twice and had several children. His son, Henry S. Clark II, married Gussie Smith in 1888 but their marriage was short lived. Gussie became sick a short while after their marriage and died of Yellow Fever. Henry S. Clark II is buried in Manatee Memorial Park.
Left to Right:
Gussie Smith Clark - Grave #22
Henry S Clark - Grave #23 (1955, Courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collections )
Henry S Clark - Grave #23
Henry A Clark - Grave #24
All images taken by MVHP staff in 2022 unless otherwise noted.