Saturday, October 10, 2015

In honor of nonagenarians C. Robert (C. Bob) Brim and Josephine (Jo) (Brim) Ayers: The story of another James Clark of Lebanon, Connecticut 1730-1826

Dear Grandparents,
One of my cousins, Helen Peterson, posted a photograph of two of our family nonagenarians celebrating first cousin once removed C. Bob's 97th birthday with his younger sister Jo who is 94 in Seattle. In their honor, I thought I would write about one of our ancestors who also lived well into his 90s, James Clark of Lebanon, Connecticut.

Josephine Brim Ayers and brother, C. Bob Brim (photo courtesy of cousin Helen Peterson).
James Clark3 (Moses2, Daniel1, DanielA, SabbathB), sixth and youngest child of Moses and Elizabeth (Huntington) Clark, was born 15 September, 1730 in the family home which had been built by Moses about 1709. The house still stands today and is said to be the oldest structure in the community of Lebanon.

The Moses Clark house circa 1729 as it looked 28 September 2015.
The home is privately owned but still a treasure.
Image from author's personal collection 28 September 2015
James married on 20 January 1757 to Ann Gray, probably the daughter of Simeon and Ann (Hyde) Gray. She was born in Lebanon 29 July 1732.  They are said to have been the parents of two children James Junior and Ann. Some records include two other sons, Moses and Jacob. Ann Gray Clark died sometime between the birth of her daughter Ann in 1767 and James' remarriage to Keziah (surname unknown) about 1768. With Keziah, James had three children, Wealthy (1769-1775), Earnest (1772-1775) and Augustus (1773-1781). Of James' five children, only James Junior lived to adulthood and he died at age 32. Many researchers report that James Junior had no children but they have neglected to look at Leonard Labaree's, "Public Records of the State of Connecticut", Connecticut, 1948; VII:293, "Upon the Memorial of Anne Lyman Clark Widow and Relict of James Clark Junr late of Lebanon in the County of Windham Deceased and Administratrix of his Estate.... rendering said House Habitable for herself and two Young Children as per Memorial on file."

A paper written by Miss Mary Clarke Huntington of Lebanon and delivered to the New London County Historical Society 15 January 1902 by Colin S. Buell provides more information about James Clark and his roles in Lebanon and the Revolution. "His name appears upon the town records in various land grants while he was yet a young man, and he was given several town offices, being a Grand Juror in 1772. When in 1775, came the Lexington Alarm, he mustered a company of a hundred men and marched to the scene of the action. He took part in the battle of Bunker Hill 17 June 1775, and over and over told the story of that great battle to his great grandchildren, of whom my father was one, as they clustered about him before the open fire in "grandfather's room" at the old Clark homestead."

She then quoted "a bit of the old soldier's talk as it was given to me, a little child, sitting upon my father's knee, as he so many years before sat upon the knee of the old soldier." Jame Clark described the battle as follows, "Yes,yes, my boys and girls, it was a wonderful fight! The hundred men who with me had made the march from Lebanon to Charleston Neck in three days were brave fellows, every one. We were sent to help hold the Hill, but the men in the redoubt were so nearly out of powder that we could only cover their retreat. We kept back the redcoats, though. And everywhere at once was General Putnam, shouting and swearing through the smoke and noise urging ... to hold their ground so long as possible. He was a little man but a big soldier. Yes, yes, my boy and girls, it was a wonderful fight. Not one step did we retreat until our ammunition was gone."

Perhaps Miss Huntington's report of her second great grandfather's tale was embellished, but James' role at the Battle of Bunker Hill is well documented. It is because of his participation in that battle and his long life that we have his portrait.  The Marquis De Lafayette, who was on a tour of the United States, presided at the ceremony laying the cornerstone for a monument to the Battle of Bunker Hill 17 June 1825. Nearly 95 year old, James Clark was the oldest veteran who attended the ceremony having been carried by litter from his home in Lebanon.

Original is captioned "Col. James Clark
of Lebanon Conn. Aged 95
Thee oldest Survivor of the Battle of Bunker Hill, was present at the laying of the cornerstone
of the monument, June 17th, 1825."
From the collection of the Lebanon Historical Society, lithograph made by
T. Badger of Pendleton.
According to his headstone in the Old Cemetery in Lebanon, James lived to 96 years and 5 months. James also saw service in New York, at the Battles of White Plains and Harlem Heights. Miss Huntington reports that he was promoted to Major in December of 1776 and to honor his bravery he "came home a Major changed to Colonel-- an honorary title bestowed upon him at the expiration of his term of service, and as Colonel he was know to all his townsfolk afterward." His headstone reads:

To the Memory of
Who died on the 29th of Dec. 1826
Aged 96 years & 5 mos.
He was a soldier of the Revolution and 
dared to lead where any dared to follow.
The Battles of Bunker Hill, Harlem Heights and White Plains
witnessed his personal bravery, and his devotion to the cause of his
country. He here in death rests from his labors.
Col. James Clarke Headstone, Old Cemetery, Lebanon.
Image from authors personal collection 28 September 2015
My husband, daughter, Amanda, and I were able to visit Lebanon last month and received wonderful assistance from Donna at the Lebanon Historical Society with our research. None of James Clark's descendants have proven their linage so he is not a patriot recognized by Daughters or Sons of the American Revolution. I hope to take care of this situation.

Happy Birthday Cousin C. Bob! Hope you enjoy this story of your 5th great grandfather.


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