Biography of Robert F. Clarke
Buchanan County, IA Biographies





ROBERT F. CLARKE.
No history of Buchanan county would be complete without extended reference to Robert F. Clarke, so prominently, actively and helpfully has he been connected with its business enterprise and advancement. No man today occupies a more enviable position in commercial and financial circles, not by reason alone of the success which he has achieved but also owing to the straightforward, honorable business policy which he has ever followed, his course being guided by the rules which govern strict and unswerving integrity and industry.

He was born in Independence, April 12, 1868, a son of Asa B and Margaret (Hedges) Clarke, both of whom were natives of Massachusetts. The father's birth occurred in Conway, that state, in 1820, and the mother was born in 1830, near Westfield, in which town their marriage was celebrated. In the year 1849 the father made his way over the plains to California, attracted by the discovery of gold on the Pacific coast. He was educated in Amherst College and previous to his trip to the far west had engaged in teaching. In 1854 he removed to Iowa, establishing his home in Dubuque, where lived four brothers of the family. There he studied law and was soon admitted to the bar, becoming one of the pioneer lawyers of the state. At that time the railroad extended only as far west as Freeport, Illinois, and there were many districts of Iowa which bore all the evidences of pioneer life. With his brother Albert, Mr. Clarke came to Independence, where they engaged in the land business, entering large tracts of land with soldiers' warrants which they had purchased. In the sale of that property, after the increase in land values, they realized a handsome competence. After continuing in the business for a number of years Asa B. Clarke established a drug store on the west bank of the river, which he conducted for a considerable period. He erected the brick building now occupied by the West End Grocery Company and was otherwise identified with the material development and improvement of the city. About 1881 or 1882 he retired from active connection with commercial interests. However, many business affairs have profited by his cooperation and benefited by his sound judgment. He was interested in the flour mill company as treasurer for a number of years when that was one of the flourishing concerns of the city. He was one of the organizers of the Presbyterian church of Independence and was serving as an elder at the time of his death, which occurred December 18, 1882. His wife survived him for twenty four years, passing away in 1906. While an active business man, Asa B. Clarke was also prominent in connection with public affairs and filled various offices in his town. As justice of the peace he performed many marriage ceremonies in the early days.

To him and his wife were born four children: Virginia, now the wife of William S. Boggs, who is cashier of the California State Bank at San Bernardino, California; Fannie E., residing at the old home in Independence; Archer E., who at the time of his death was engaged in the wholesale lumber business at Los Angeles, California, where his family still reside; and Robert F., of this review.

The last named supplemented his public school education, acquired in Independence, by study in Ames College and in Coe College at Cedar Rapids. When twenty years of age he engaged in the grocery business in connection with the establishment that is now conducted under the name of the West End Grocery Company, this being the same store which had formerly been conducted by his father and older brother. He gave the business his attention until 1900 and then organized a stock company under the name of the West End Grocery Company, of which he became and still remains the president. His attention, however, is now divided among other business enterprises with which he is associated. In 1900 he entered the Peoples National Bank as cashier and in 1906 was elected president and still remains at the head of the institution. He is likewise a stockholder in the Wapsipinicon Mill Company, is president of the Brandon State Savings Bank and is identified with various other corporations. He is likewise a landowner in Buchanan and other counties of Iowa and in South Dakota and Canada.

On the 17th of June, 1890, Mr. Clarke was married to Miss Lillian Scareliff, who was born in Independence, a daughter of Thomas and Hattie (Crippen) Scarcliff. The father's birth occurred in Lincolnshire, England, in 1828, and when about eighteen years of age he came to the United States. A short time after his arrival on American shores he made his way to Janesville, Wisconsin, where he resided until about 1854. He then came to Iowa and purchased forty acres of land, borrowing the money to make the investment. He paid one hundred dollars for the land but had to pay forty per cent interest on the loan. He did not take up his abode upon that tract but settled on a farm which he had previously purchased that is now within the city limits. He platted and laid out the northeastern and southeastern portions of Independence, known as Scarcliff's additions, while Mr. Clarke's father laid out the southwestern part of the city, known as the A. and A. B. Clarke addition. The Clarke brothers were also largely instrumental in getting the state hospital located at Independence and thus both Mr. and Mrs. Robert Clarke are representatives of families who have taken a most helpful part in promoting the upbuilding and progress of the city. Her father is still a resident of Independence. He has recently sold a tract of land which he divided into lots. In early times he dealt in grain and on various occasions shipped as high as thirty thousand bushels. He it was who shipped the first carload of grain ever sent from this point. With the business development of the city he has been closely associated from pioneer times and for many years he has been the vice president of the Peoples National Bank of Independence His wife, a native of New York, passed away in 1911. They were the parents of three children, one of whom died in infancy. Mrs. Clarke was the eldest and the other surviving member of the family is Thomas Scarcliff, Jr., who is now engaged in the coal business in Independence.

To Mr. and Mrs. Clarke have been born three children: Margaret Scareliff, who was graduated from the Lake Forest College at Lake Forest, Illinois, in June, 1913; Harriet Daisy, who is now a senior in the same school; and Frances Josephine, who is attending high school in Independence.

Mr. Clarke is an independent republican in his political views but the honors and emoluments of office have no attraction for him. He and his wife hold membership in the First Presbyterian church, of which he is an elder, and he has been a generous contributor to its support. Throughout his entire career duty and honor have been his watchwords, and justice has been one of his strong characteristics. In business affairs he has long occupied a central place on the stage of activity, and he is today one of the most prominent and representative citizens of Independence, his labors having found culmination in success that success which is as well a feature in public progress and prosperity.

From:
History of Bachanan County, Iowa
And its People
By Harry Church and Katharyn J. Chappell
Vol II
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chicago 1914


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