Austin Clark


AUSTIN CLARK, for a number of years an able lawyer of Kittanning and one of the most creditable members of the Armstrong county bar, belongs to a family which has had many prominent representatives in this section of Pennsylvania. His father, Joseph Clark, was at one time sheriff of Armstrong county and for many years prominent in politics here. He was a first cousin of Judge Silas M. Clark, a justice of the Supreme court of Pennsylvania. The family is of Scotch-Irish origin.

Capt. James Clark, who established this family in western Pennsylvania, was an officer in the Revolutionary war, taking part in a number of battles. He came into this region from the Cumberland valley, where the family occupied an honorable position in the early days of the Commonwealth. Settling in Westmoreland county, Pa., about the time (1782) of the burning of Hannastown (that county) - noted as the first place west of the Allegheny mountains where justice was administered according to the forms of law, he was one of those who sought refuge in the fort near by and prepared to defend it against the expected attack. The Indians under the famous Seneca chief had invaded the settlement, burned the town and massacred a large part of the population, but after plundering the town and reducing it to ashes they withdrew. Soon after this event Captain Clark removed to South Bend, Armstrong Co., Pa., where he resided many years, and died leaving a numerous and respected progeny.

William Clark, son of Capt. James Clark, was born in 1778 and died in 1823. He lived near South Bend, in Armstrong county, where Clark's blockhouse or station (so named in honor of his father) stood in the days when it was necessary for the settlers to protect themselves against the Indians. His wife, Sarah (Woodward), born 1786, died in 1821. One of their sons was James, the father of Judge Silas M. Clark.

Joseph Clark, another son of William and Sarah (Woodward) Clark, was born March 3, 1813, at South Bend, Armstrong county, and died at Kittanning Oct. 26, 1885. For a short time he lived at Shelocta, Indiana Co., Pa., where he built a hotel. In 1842 he removed to Kittanning, Armstrong county, where he was in the hotel business, conducting the "Pritner Hotel" and the "Nulton House," and in 1850 he went to Freeport, to take a position of supervisor of the Pennsylvania canal. A lifelong Democrat and always active in political affairs, he was honored by his party a number of times, and in 1852 was elected sheriff of Armstrong county, serving a term of three years in that office. His services were characterized by the distinguished ability typical of members of this family, and in 1857 he was appointed by Governor Packer as revenue inspector of the port of Philadelphia. In that position also he gave universal satisfaction, discharging his duties ably and faithfully. In 1865 he returned to Kittanning, where the remainder of his days was passed. He was a valued worker in his party, served as delegate to several State conventions, and kept his name above suspicion in all the relations of life. Fraternally he was a Mason, and his religious connection was with the M. E. Church. Joseph Clark married Pauline Kelley, who was born in March, 1819, daughter of Hon. Meek and Jane (Morehead) Kelley, the latter a daughter of Absalom Moorhead. Hon. Meek Kelley was a surveyor of high reputation, and it was he who ran the boundary lines, and laid out the counties of Potter and McKean (Pa.) into townships. He served as State senator, and later as associate judge of Indiana county. Two of his sons, James and Pliny, were in the Mexican war, and the latter served as captain of a California company under Sheridan in the Civil war. To Joseph and Pauline (Kelly) Clark were born four sons and two daughters: Meek; Emma, who died in infancy; Sarah, who died when seventeen years old; Joseph, who was the youngest enlisted soldier in the Civil war, being but twelve years and three months old when he was sworn into the service; Ney; and Austin.

Austin Clark was born July 20, 1854, in the sheriff's residence at Kittanning, Armstrong Co., Pa., his father being sheriff at the time. He began his education in the public schools of his native borough, later attended Blairsville Academy and the State Normal School at Indiana, Pa., and taught school for several terms, serving as assistant principal of the Blairsville Academy. He left the teacher's profession to engage in the study of law. After passing the preliminary examination he registered in 1878 as a law student with his cousin, Silas M. Clark, of Indiana, who in 1882 became a justice of the Supreme court of the State. In 1879 Mr. Clark came to Kittanning, where he completed his legal course with James B. Neale, being admitted to the bar of Armstrong county Sept. 20, 1880. He at once entered upon practice, and with the exception of the period he was in the service to his country during the Spanish-American war continued to be actively engaged in professional work until January, 1912, when he suffered a stroke of paralysis, causing him to give up his practice and go to live with his brother, Joseph.

As an attorney Mr. Clark was one of the most successful of his day in Kittanning, establishing an extensive patronage among the most substantial people of the borough, and his reputation was well deserved. His studious attention to every case intrusted to his care, his ability in presenting the cause of his client at court, his fluency and logic in argument, and evident sincerity in everything he undertook, won him not only the confidence of his patrons, but the respectful attention of his fellow practitioners and the judges of the various courts where his work called him.

Politically Mr. Clark has been a Democrat like his father, and a leader in local party circles for a number of years, his judgement, decision and energy qualifying him for responsible duties. He took an active part in the work of the party, and in 1888 was a delegate to the National convention at St. Louis, when Cleveland was nominated for president.

At the outbreak of the Spanish-American war Mr. Clark mustered Company G, 16th Pennsylvania Volunteers (Col. George C. Rickards), and was commissioned captain by Governor Hastings. He was mustered into the service in July, 1898, serving until the end of the war, and was mustered out Dec. 28, 1898. Mr. Clark's honorable discharge of that date reads, "Service honorable and faithful." Returning to Kittanning he resumed legal practice.

Mr. Clark was entitled to membership in the Sons of the American Revolution, though he neglected to join that order. In fact, every war since the founding of the country found some member of the Clark family serving in one capacity or another. Fraternally he was a past exalted ruler of Kittanning Lodge, B. P. O. Elks.

Source: Pages 970-972, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J.H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed November 1998 by Joyce Sherry for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

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