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A Tale of Ups and Downs - Oliver Clark

Oliver Stewart Clark’s life story is one that swings like a pendulum back and forth between success and tragedy.

The 1851 census states he was born in Ireland in 1839, but later records always say Canada. It is possible that he was unaware that he was born in Ireland, or the 1851 census taker was mistaken. He was baptised nine months later in Valleyfield, Quebec on February 24, 1840.

There is a missing period of time. I have not found record of Oliver during the 1860-1861 census cycle.

In 1870, he was married to Sebrina Richardson from New York. They were living in Cheboygan, Michigan along with three of Oliver’s siblings, John, Samuel, and Hannah. Oliver and John were working as blacksmiths.

In 1872 the pendulum begins to swing. Sebrina died on February 22 and was buried in Pine Hill Cemetery in Cheboygan. On May 21 Oliver married Alice McGinn a 31 year old Canadian-born resident of Cheboygan.

In 1873, Oliver became a father, but little Oliver died two days later. A second child Warren was born in 1874, but he too died less than a month later.

Oliver did a lot of advertising in the Northern Tribune paper in Cheboygan. He also has some favourable comments from the paper, calling him “genial”, and mentioning the “superior workmanship in every respect” for a fine three-seated sleigh that he had made.

April 26, 1876 Oliver’s wife Alice gave birth to their third son – O’Brien.

For Oliver, the pendulum begins to swing again. In May of 1876 a fire started in the forge of the blacksmith shop and wagon manufactory of Oliver and R.F. Howard. Not only was everything destroyed in their shop, the next door foundry, the dry kiln, the planing mill, an old copper mill and several other buildings were also destroyed.

And back again it swings. In August 1876, Oliver was commissioned to build the jail doors out of iron bars securely bolted together. By October he was laying the foundation for a new blacksmith shop. A year later, his advertisements in the paper show that he is in a partnership with Luke Ruddock, his brother-in-law. That partnership dissolved January 18, 1879 as Luke returned to working at the mills.

O’Brien died on August 2, 1877 at just 15 months of age. He is buried at Pine Hill Cemetery with his older two brothers and Oliver’s first wife Sebrina.

On December 20, 1878, Oliver and Alice gave birth to a girl. The birth record says Dalia. Later the census and other information show Emma Jane was born December 24th, 1878, so I will presume this is the same daughter. This is the first child that survived to adult hood.

The 1880 census shows Oliver with his wife, daughter Emma, brother Samuel, and a Lillian Taylor, who it says was adopted. Oliver’s brother John later marries Lillian’s sister Jennie Taylor in 1896.

The Willoughby’s from Loretto Abbey in Toronto used Oliver’s house on the east side of the river as a music class and select school. In March 1881, Oliver put the house up for sale. A year later, the advertisement was still being run in the paper. That same month, Oliver was remodeling his blacksmith shop to be a working area of 26 by 50 feet in size with the wagon shop downstairs.

On July 8, Oliver and Alice had a fourth son whom they name Stewart O’Brien Clark. He also survived to adulthood.

Another swing, in 1884 Oliver’s property was put up for a mortgage sale. By this time, they had moved to Arvon, Baraga county, Michigan.

In 1885, Oliver, Alice, Emma and Stewart moved to Elsinore Township, Riverside County, California southeast of Los Angeles where Oliver continued his trade as a Blacksmith.

His daughter Emma married John P. Downey in 1901, and had his only grandchild Dorothy in 1904.

In 1913, a final tragedy struck Oliver in the form of the six o’clock Sante Fe train from San Diego as he attempted to cross a bridge. Apparently he had wandered away from the county hospital where he had resided for the past year because of his feeble-minded condition. “He was very feeble and it is believed that when he heard the train coming he became confused and was unable to get off the track.” Apparently he was not missed at the hospital until after they heard of the accident.

Oliver died October 15, 1913. He was survived by his wife Alice, and son Stewart in Elsinore and a daughter Emma in San Bernardino. Alice died January 12, 1927 at the age of 85.

At least two of Oliver’s brothers also died in California in a notable way. For more information on Oliver and his family check out my Family Roots.