Clarke Family History

By Joyce Clarke Turvey

Water-right records for Highwood, MT show that my grandfather, Horace J. Clarke, homesteaded in 1875 by acquiring Indian land on what is now known as the Harris Ranch. The newspaper article in the Great Falls Tribune, September 23, 1962 titled “Highwood Area Settlement Started Century Ago”, stated, “some of the other old-timers in the mountains were Horace Clarke, Howell Harris, etc.”

Horace at Homestead House

Even though the Choteau County seat was only a few miles away at Ft. Benton, it wasn’t customary in those days to record every birth, death and marriage as they happened, and many Indian marriages were accepted until officially recognized later by a priest. Margaret, a Blackfeet Indian woman known among her people as First Kill, was born near Ft. Benton in 1849, and she and Horace were married on April 24, 1883.

Upon checking records for 1883 at the Ft. Benton courthouse, I found from the Highwood School files that there were five sons born out of this union that had died at an early age. In 1876, Robert was born and was listed in the 1880 census as 4 years old, but isn’t mentioned again in any other census so presumably he died before the next census in 1882. Malcolm William was born December 25, 1877 and lived 45 years, married Ella Hamilton and had four children who lived. He died February 19, 1922 in Browning and is buried at Willow Creek, MT.

Horace John is listed in the 1880 census as two years old and not listed again so also presumably died before the 1882 census and before the Clarke family moved to Midvale in 1888-89. Noted in the same Highwood article in the Great Falls Tribune as well as another article, “Ft. Benton Pioneer Tells of Early Life in Highwood” in the Glacier County Chief (now the Glacier Reporter in Browning) dated July 13, 1934, Abraham Bright and Mrs. Jessie Bright both state that “school was held in a small log cabin on the Charles Boyle Ranch on Highwood Creek (now the Walter Keaster Ranch) in 1885, and among the twelve students who attended first grade in this school, were Malcolm and Ned Clarke. The teacher was Ada Steele.”

Nathan is probably the ‘four month old baby’ listed in the 1880 census. He is not listed again either so must have died before the next census in 1882. My father John Louis Clarke was born March 10, 1881 and he is listed in the Highwood School census in the years 1882 – 1888. He passed away November 20, 1970 at 89 years, 8 months and is buried at the Clarke cemetery at East Glacier Park, MT. Bright also recalls that about that time, there was an epidemic of scarlet fever and among those seriously ill was John Clarke, younger brother of Malcolm and Ned. (No mention here by the Brights however, that four Clarke children had probably died by that time.)

In my research to confirm this was another notation in the River Press: “May 25, 1882 General Meade had chambermaid die of smallpox, effects burned at Rocky Point.” The seventh son, Thomas, is listed in the 1884 record and his was the only grave found on the Harris Ranch. In 1983, I visited my friends, Sharon and Bo McGowan, and had the pleasure of meeting Marge Harris Gray who showed me the grey rock slate with ‘Thomas 1882-1886’ scratched on it, marking his grave on her property.

Bo and one of their daughters drove me to the other two grave sites in Highwood, but we couldn’t find any more “Clarke” graves so assume that Robert, Horace, Edward and Nathan were also buried near Thomas on the Harris Ranch as it was customary in those days to bury family on the property, but the markers and all evidence have long since disappeared. It is also assumed (by me) that the children probably died of scarlet fever and/or smallpox.

[According to the Carlisle Indian School newspaper Feb. 10, 1893: “We are pained to learn through Malcolm Clarke of the death of his little brother Ned at his home in Montana on the 5th of January. Ned was for a few months a pupil of Carlisle.” This may be Nathan…]

Agnes “Maggie” was the last Clarke birth on December 24, 1883 and the only daughter born to Horace and Margaret; she died at 89 years, 9 months on September 5, 1973 in Browning, and is buried at Willow Creek. Agnes married Lomie Goss and they adopted a daughter, Leona Lahr (1911-1982). She was listed in the 1884 school records but not again, probably because her mother, Margaret, moved to Browning and took Agnes along.

Margaret and Horace were divorced and she later married Joseph Spanish about 1892, and they had a son, William J. (1893-1971). Margaret died September 17, 1940 at the age of 91 and she, along with Joseph and William are buried at the Holy Family Cemetery south of Browning on the Two Medicine River.

After such tragedy and sadness of burying five sons, the Clarke family left Highwood and had the distinction of being the first family to settle at Midvale (now East Glacier Park) in 1888-89. Horace ranched on land grants assigned to him in the Midvale vicinity where he acquired property north and west of what was then Great Northern Railway (now Amtrak). He later sold most of the property to the Great Northern on the site where the present Glacier Park Lodge and golf courses are, and to individuals who bought lots that were comprised from ‘Glacier Part Original’ land plots, including the more posh Clarke Drive.

Horace became a Tribal Leader from 1890-1900, and was one of the Blackfeet signers of the agreement of 1887-88 between the United States Government and the Blackfeet Indians of Montana, establishing the reservation boundary. Most of his life was spent on the reservation as a cowboy, army scout, guide and rancher. He never gave up riding saddle horses until the last year of his life when he was 87.

The original Clarke cattle brand was recorded in 1885, which is still in use. The brand was comprised of the first and last letter of the Clarke name, and called the C-lazy-E. Horace and his sister Helen made Midvale their permanent home – raising hay and cattle, where they remained until their deaths in the 1930s.

According to his death certificate, Horace John Clarke was born in Prickly Pear near Helena on March 20, 1842, but according to the 1870 census, and the Mellen research of the Clarke family tree that dates back to the 1640s, he was born in 1849. However, his sister, Helen P. Clarke, never referred to him as being her ‘younger’ brother in any of her writings about the Clarke family as she did her brother Nathan – who was indeed younger. If true, this would place Horace’s birth year as 1842 since Helen was born in 1846.

Horace passed away October 11, 1930 and is buried at the Clarke family cemetery, which is on the thirteen remaining acres of his original homestead property. Perhaps because of this discrepancy of birth dates, his grave has never had a headstone, as do all of the other graves. [Joyce Clarke Turvey indeed added a nice headstone]

Malcom ClarkeHorace’s father was Egbert Malcolm Clarke (1817-1869), a West Point cadet of English-Scottish descent who was with the American Fur Company at Ft. Benton in 1841-1864. Horace’s mother, Coth-co-co-na (1827-1895) was a full-blooded Piegan Indian.

Horace had a brother Nathan who was born May 30, 1852 or 53, and was killed by James Swan on September 16, 1872 according to a newspaper account in the Helena Weekly Herald dated September 26 of the same year. He had a sister, Isabel Agnes (1861-1935), who later married Thomas Erskine Dawson (1859-1953), youngest son of Andrew and for whom Dawson County, MT is named, and who was the last factor of the American Fur Company at Ft. Benton. The newly married Isabel and Thomas were the second family to settle at Midvale about 1891.

Horace also had a sister, Helen Piotopowaka (1846-1923); and a half-sister, Judith (1864-1899) who was the only child who lived from Malcolm’s second marriage to Aksenisk Good Singing (who was the daughter of Isidoro Sandoval I). They were married by Father DeSmet on June 29, 1862. The 1884 Highwood School records list Judith as twenty years old so she evidently lived with the Horace Clarke family around that time.

Later in 1893, Judith married William E. (Frederick) Patterson and had three children, Edward (Frederick William 1894-1902), Malcolm E. (1896-1959) and Helene Angela (1899-1936). Helene, Malcolm and Edward “Ned” were adopted by their birth aunt Isabel Clarke and Thomas Dawson as well as was Mary Lorena Young (Mrs. William Meade of Cut Bank, MT 1884-1967). Helene later married George Edkins (1895-1970) and lived at East Glacier Park until her death in 1986.

When Major Malcolm Clarke retired from the American Fur Company, he bought property in 1864 at the Little Prickly Pear Valley north of Helena, known then as the Clarke Ranch, which is now the Sieben Ranch and owned by the John Baucus family. The Clarke family was living there when Malcolm was murdered on August 17, 1869 by renegade Indians seeking revenge over some stolen livestock two years earlier.

When Horace’s father was murdered, Horace was shot by Pete Owl Child and left for dead, but later recovered from the wound in the head. This tragedy and Malcolm’s death led to the Piegan War or Baker Massacre in January 1870 for the United States Government demanded the surrender of Ne-tus-che-o who killed Malcolm Clarke. The Government sent a detachment of cavalry troops and 55 mounted infantry under the command of Major Eugene M. Baker from Ft. Shaw, which led to the wholesale slaughter of the Indians by firing on the wrong camps. Among the soldiers were Horace and his brother, Nathan, who had enlisted to avenge their father’s death.

Major Malcolm Clarke is buried at the Sieben Ranch in an unmarked grave with his second wife and their children, Phoebe, Robert Carol and Isidore (III). Also buried here were deceased infants, Mary (1851) and Mary A. (born May 9, 1855) by Coth-co-co-na.

After the death of their father, Horace went to Helena to recover and while there, sent Helen, Isabel and Judith to their aunts, Malcolm’s sisters, Mrs. Charlotte Van Cleve, a prominent family in St. Paul and Mrs. Mary Lincoln of Cincinnati, to be cared for and educated until he had a home for them. In 1875, they returned to Montana where Helen taught in the Helena schools and was the first County Superintendent of Public Instruction in Lewis & Clark County in 1882 and was re-elected in 1884.

Between 1891 and 1899, excluding two years, she was an agent in Oklahoma Territory making allotments to the Indians. It was during the time Helen was receiving her education in the east that she enjoyed a short but very successful stage career in Shakespearean repertoire with Sarah Bernhardt. She was also a charter member of the newly formed Montana Historical Society and made many contributions to it including the first-hand account of her father’s murder as she witnessed it, and what led up to it, which is published in Vol. II in the first Montana history books.

Isabel was a governess for Major Peter Ronan, Agent for the Flathead Indians and later was a teacher at Ft. Benton. Their mother, Coth-co-co-na, “Mary” (re: Sandoval history), never recovered from the shock she received when her husband was murdered and according to “Affidavit, April 12, 1909”, moved to Highwood in 1878 from the Clarke Ranch at Prickly Pear and lived with Horace until 1889 when she and the Clarke family moved to the Blackfeet Reservation [Midvale]. She, Judith, and Judith’s first-born Edward are buried in unmarked graves on a hill just east of East Glacier Park.
Horace’s son, John [and my father by adoption], lived at Glacier Park most of his life, except for early education. My father, John L. Clarke, became a fine artist of world renown, painter and wood carver, one of the best in his time, and is generally considered the best portrayer of western wildlife in the world for his time. He was still carving at the age of 89 and had the honor of exhibiting his carvings in fine galleries all over the world. Listed in Who’s Who, American Art Annual in 1918, he was awarded a gold medal and a silver medal in 1928, and perhaps more, but many records have been lost.

In 1977, I started the John L. Clarke Western Art Gallery & Memorial Museum in his honor, which features many find western artists’ works from all over Montana and out of state. Thus, intertwined with the Clarke family, evolving around Horace, from Ft. Benton to Helena to Highwood to Midvale and Glacier Park, and another chapter of Montana history unfolds.