Clarke #1344

English St George flag animationJoseph Clarke (1618-1694)

Born in England.  Arrived first in Massachusetts in about 1636, later settling in Rhode Island by 1638 and

Margaret (1621?-1694)

Her date of birth is not known, although several published sources list the year as 1621.  If this is the case, then she was most likely born in England.  It is also not known (if she was born in England) when she made the trip to America.  She was in Rhode Island by 1658 or so, which is the date she married Joseph.

Clarke 1344

 

Title page from "The American Ancestors of Oratio Dyer Clark and his wife Laura Ann King, etc." by John Edwin Salisbury (published 1917)

Title page from “The American Ancestors of Oratio Dyer Clark and his wife Laura Ann King, etc.” by John Edwin Salisbury (published 1917)

English Origins

Most of the details on the English origins of Joseph Clarke are taken from Gary Boyd Roberts’ Genealogies of Rhode Island Families, Vol. II (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company) 1989 (p. 348) and John Edwin Salisbury’s The American Ancestors of Oratio Dyer Clark and of his Wife Laura Ann King, together with the ancestry of Anne Hutchinson, Ancestress of Oratio Dyer Clark (Asbury Park, New Jersey: Martin & Allardyce) 1917.

The first of this family of whom record exists was John Clark, who, according to the old family Bible, printed in 1608 and now preserved in the library of Rochester University, was interred 3 Mar 1559, aged about 41 years.  Known children are: (1) John Clarke, born 2 Feb 1541 (baptized 11 Feb 1541) and (2) Thomas, baptized 4 Jan 1543.  John Clarke married Catherine, daughter of John CookeJohn died 4 Apr 1598 and was interred on the 7th day of that month.

The children of John Clarke and Catherine Cooke are listed as follows:

  1. John, born on St. Mary’s Day and baptized 1 May 1569.
  2. Thomas Clarke, see below.
  3. Carew, baptized 17 Aug 1572.
  4. Pason, baptized 6 Dec 1574.
  5. John, baptized 17 May 1577.
County of Suffolk, England

County of Suffolk, England

The father of Joseph Clarke is Thomas Clarke, who was born on All Saints’ Day (1 Nov 1570), baptized 3 Nov 1570 and died 29 Jul 1627, all in Westhorpe, Suffolk (or Westrup, Bedfordshire), England.  The parents of Thomas Clarke are John Clarke (1541-1598) and Catherine Cooke (1546-1598).  Thomas Clarke was a very prosperous yeoman, and his ancestry has been traced to his grandfather, another John Clarke, a well-to-do yeoman who occurs in the adjoining parish of Finningham in the Subsidy of 1524.  The Clarkes came into Westhorpe when John Clarke, father of Thomas and grandfather of Joseph married Katherine Cooke alias Carew, daughter of John Cooke alias Carew of that parish.  William Cooke alias Carew, gentleman, brother of John, held an office in the household of Queen Elizabeth.  He bore as arms: Sable, on a chevron silver, between 3 demi-lions rampant gold, as many cinquefoils azure (Blois Mss. of 1655, ex penes Suffolk Archaeological Society, Bury St. Edmunds).  Thomas also had a sister, Joan Clarke, born in 1578, who is my paternal 12th g-grandmother.  Joan’s granddaughter[1], Mary Elizabeth Waters (1654-1697) is the wife of William Overton (1638-1697), my paternal 10th great grandfather.  This English immigrant to Virginia (about 1670) is discussed under his own heading.

The mother of Joseph Clarke is Rose Kerrich (Herrige) of Westhorpe, Suffolk, England.  The Kerrich family were wealthy yeomen living in the parish of Saxsted, Suffolk, and their ancestry is traced to William Kerrich of Saxsted, who occurs in 1470.  Rose was the daughter of John Kerrich (Herrige), who died 19 Sep 1627.

The children of Thomas Clarke and Rose Kerrich (Herrige) are listed as follows:

  1. Margaret, born 1 Feb 1600.
  2. Carew, born 3 Feb 1602, baptized at Walpole, England 17 Feb 1602 and died after 1679.
  3. Thomas, born 1605 and died 2 Dec 1674.
  4. Mary, born 1607; married John Peckham.
  5. John, born 8 Oct 1609 and died 20 Apr 1676.
  6. William, born 1611
  7. Joseph Clarke, see below.

Joseph Clarke was born 9 Dec 1618 in Westhorpe, Suffolk, England.  He died in 1694.   He is known to have married twice, but the name of his first wife, whom he married about 1641, is unknown.  I am descended through his second wife, Margaret, and they were married in Newport, Rhode Island in about 1658.  The maiden name of his second wife is not definitively known, although some researchers suppose it to be “Turner”.

Welcome to Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Welcome to Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Joseph Clarke, with his three brothers and two sisters, emigrated to New England as early as 1636.  He arrived first in Boston.  His brother, John Clarke, was disarmed with others as associates of Anne Hutchinson at Boston on 20 Nov 1637.  His brothers, John and Thomas, left the Massachusetts Bay Colony with the Coddington party and were signers of the Aquidneck Agreement on 7 Mar 1638.  Joseph Clarke first appears on the record in Rhode Island when he was admitted an inhabitant of the Island of Aquidneck (at Portsmouth) on 24 Jan 1638/9.

He soon left Portsmouth for Newport, newly founded by his brother, John Clarke, and others dissatisfied with the government of Portsmouth.  He was admitted as an inhabitant of Aquidneck (Newport) in 1638.  He was made a Freeman at the General Quarter Court held in Newport on 17 Dec 1639 (other sources say 17 Dec 1641).

Joseph Clarke appears in the records of Newport, Rhode Island from 1639 on, as he held various positions in local courts and government, engaged in land dealings, etc. He married about 1641 (1st) Unknown spouse, in Newport, Newport, Rhode Island, and he married about 1656 (2nd) Margaret (Turner?) in Newport, Rhode Island.  In 1663, his name appears on the Royal Charter granted Rhode Island by King Charles II.  Joseph’s brother, John Clarke, was among those who accompanied Roger Williams to England and obtained from Charles II a charter.

Joseph appears to have lived in Newport for the rest of his life, where he held the follwing offices:

  • 1640. Member of the General Court of Elections
  • 1648. Member of the General Court of Trials
  • 1655. Commissioner. Also in 1657, 1658 and 1659
  • 1658. Governor’s Assistant. Also in 1663, 1664, 1665, 1678 and 1679
  • 1668. Deputy. Also in 1669, 1670, 1671, 1672 and 1690
  • 1667. Member of the Court of Justices of the Peace

Some histories say he removed to Westerly, but a detailed study of the Rhode Island Colony Records shows that it was his son, Joseph, who was made a freeman of Westerly in 1668, and appears there in 1669, 1671, and 1679.

Joseph was very active in the efforts of Rhode Island to thwart the designs of Massachusetts and Connecticut to take the lands of the Narragansett region.  On 20 Mar 1664/5, Joseph Clarke was among fourteen men chosen at Pettasquamscutt to exercise the powers of Justices of the Peace or Magistrates for the Naragansett Country, or the King’s Province, by order of the King’s Commissioners. On 2 May 1677, Joseph Clarke was elected and engaged as an Assistant at a General Assembly and Election held at Newport and was appointed to a Court of Justices of the Peace to be held in the Narragansett (or King’s) Province on the 15 May for the speedy and peaceful settling of the inhabitants of that region.  He was an Assistant at the General Court of Trials held at Newport on 7 May 1677, and shortly thereafter took the acknowledgement of Thomas and Liddia Burge of Newport on a sale of land in Dartmouth, Plymouth Colony, to Thomas Ward of Newport on 27 June 1677, in the capacity of an Assistant.  He was an Assistant at the General Court of Trials held at Newport on 24 Oct 1677, 6 May 1678, 23 Oct 1678, 17 May 1679 and 22 Oct 1679, and at General Assemblies held at Newport on 30 Apr 1678, 1 May 1678, 25 Mar 1679, 6 May 1679, 17 Sep 1679 (at Westerly), and 4 May 1680.  On 9 Jul 1679, he was among four men, including the Governor and Deputy Governor, who supplied 18 pounds, 8 shillings in partial payment to Mr. Arnold of 60 pounds the later paid to Capt. Randall Howldon and Capt. John Greene of Warwick on behalf of the Colony.  On 23 Jun 1681, these four petitioned the General Assembly for repayment of the moneys they paid, which was granted.

A mr. Clarke mentioned as holding 17 acres at Stony River in Newport on behalf of John Alcock, deceased, for the son of the latter in an inventory dated 8 Aug 1677, may have been Joseph Clarke, as he held land near Stony River.  In 1680, Joseph Clarke of Newport was taxed £1 13s 3d.  Mr. Joseph Clarke, my loving friend, was made an overseer of the estate of Rev. Obadiah Holmes in the will of the latter, dated 9 Apr 1681.  On 25 Sep 1685, Joseph Clarke, of Newport, and his wife, Margaret, sold a 1/54th part of Conanicut Island, consisting of 89 acres, and a 1/54th part of Dutch Island (which lies to the west of Conanicut, or Jamestown) to Francis Brinley of Newport for £100.  This is the last official record of Joseph Clarke.  He may have been mentioned with other early church members in a letter from Rev. Samuel Hubbard to John Thornton of Providence, dated 19 December 1686.

Joseph Clarke left no will that has been found, but his death is recorded in the family Bible held by the descendants of his son, John.  In the will of Dr. John Clarke, dated 20 Apr 1676, Joseph Clarke is said to have had two wives, his son John being by the first.  The will of Thomas Clarke, dated 28 Jul 1674, mentions Margaret, wife of his brother Joseph Clarke.  An addendum to the will of Thomas Clarke names the children of Joseph Clarke that were alive on 19 Dec 1674: Joseph Clarke, John Clarke, William Clarke, Susannah (surname struck-out), Mary(surname struck-out), Joshua Clarke, Sarah Clarke, Thomas Clarke, Kary (Carew) Clarke, and Elizabeth Clarke.  Joseph Clarke may have had more children who died young, before 1674, or were born after 1674, although the latter is considered unlikely.

Joseph died on 1 Jun 1694 in Newport, Rhode Island.

Children of Joseph Clarke and Unknown Wife (1st):

  1. Joseph Clarke. Born 11 Feb 1641/42 in Newport, Rhode Island.  He married Bethia Hubbard on 16 Nov 1664 in Westerly, Rhode Island.  He died on 11 Jan 1725/26 in Westerly, Rhode Island.
  2. John Clarke.  Born about 1645 in Newport, Rhode Island.  He married Rebecca.  He died on 11 Apr 1704 in Newport, Rhode Island.
  3. William Clarke.  Born about 1647 in Newport, Rhode Island.  He married Hannah Weeden.  He died 30 Sep 1683 in Jamestown, Rhode Island.
  4. Susannah or Susanna Clarke.  Born about 1650 in Newport, Rhode Island. She may have married before 19 Dec1674, as her maiden name is crossed out in the list of Joseph Clarke‘s children attached to the will of Thomas Clarke.  She died after 1674.
  5. Mary Clarke.  Born about 1652 in Newport, Rhode Island.  She married William Peckham.  She died about 1695 in Jamestown, Rhode Island.

Wife (2nd): Margaret (Turner?).  Born about 1621.  Sources indicate place of birth as Westerly, Rhode Island, but England or Massachusetts would seem more likely.  She married Joseph Carke about 1656 in Newport, Rhode Island.  Margaret Clarke, wife of Joseph Clarke, was mentioned in the will of her brother-in-law, Thomas Clarke, dated 28 Jul 1674, and Joseph Clarke is said to have had two wives in the will of his other brother, John Clarke, dated 20 Apr 1676.  Therefore, Margaret must have been his second wife.  Several secondary sources list her as “Margaret Turner”, but there is no known evidence to support this contention.  She died in 1694 in Newport, Rhode Island.

Children of Joseph Clarke and Margaret (Turner?):

  1. (son) Clarke.  Born about 1657 in Newport, Rhode Island.  Died in 1662 in Newport, Rhode Island.
  2. Joshua Clarke.  Born about 1660 in Newport, Rhode Island. He married Alice Phillips.  He died in 1702 in Newport, Rhode Island.
  3. Thomas Clarke.  Born about 1666 in Newport, Rhode Island.  He married Elizabeth.  He died after 1702 in Rhode Island.
  4. Sarah Clarke.  Born on 29 Jan 1662/63 in Westerly, Rhode Island. She married Thomas Reynolds on 11 Oct 1683 in Westerly (Kings Town), Rhode Island.  She died in 1695.
  5. Carew Clarke.  Born about 1665 in Newport, Rhode Island.  He married Anne Dyer[2] on 14 Feb 1694 in Newport, Rhode Island.  He died on 5 Jun 1759 in Newport, Rhode Island.
  6. Elizabeth Clarke.  Born about 1667 in Newport, Rhode Island.

 

John Clarke (1609-1676), my 8th g-grand uncle

John Clarke (1609-1676), my 8th g-grand uncle

Joseph Clarke‘s brother, John – an important man in the history of early Rhode Island:

Having discussed Joseph Clarke, it is worthwhile to take a brief detour to discuss his brother, John Clarke[3], who was an important man in the history of early Rhode Island.

John Clarke (1609-1676) was a medical doctor, Baptist minister, co-founder of the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, author of its influential charter and a leading advocate of religious freedom in the Americas.

Refer to my Family History Library for a book-length treatment of this subject: Bicknell, Thomas Williams. Story of Dr. John Clarke: the founder of the first free commonwealth of the world on the basis of “full liberty in religious concernments” (Providence, Rhode Island: published by the author) 1915.  Bicknell gives the reader a sense of the purpose and scope of his project in the Preface, in which he places John Clarke’s contributions in context:

Thomas W. Bicknell (left) and others in front of Dr. John Clarke's grave in Newport (1915)

Thomas W. Bicknell (left) and others in front of Dr. John Clarke’s grave in Newport (1915)

“The Honorable Le Baron Bradford Colt, a Senator from the State of Rhode Island in the Senate of the United States declared, The Rhode Island doctrine of religious freedom stands as the first amendment to the Federal Constitution, and is incorporated into the organic law of every American state. This is the immortal principle which Rhode Island has added to the structure of our government, — to the making of America. It is my purpose to show, when, where and by whom the Lively Experiment of a Free Commonwealth, on the basis of soul-Liberty, was first successfully and permanently made. I shall attempt to prove by the most conclusive evidence, that, at Portsmouth (Pocasset) in 1638, and at Newport in 1639, William Coddington, John Clarke and their associates established a well organized Bodie Polticke on the broad foundations of DEMOCRACIE and that in 1640, by the political union of the two towns, a colony was set up, styled the Colony of Rhode Island, on the island of Aquidneck, which in its declared principles and in its vital character, illustrated and enforced, in due magisterial form and procedure, for the first time in the world’s history, the full, clear, comprehensive Doctrine of Civil and Religious Liberty in the conduct of a Free Commonwealth.

“Yet more clearly will the great concerns of these English planters be made manifest to the world, when it will appear that Dr. John Clarke, the leader of the Aquidneck Plantation, procured, by wise diplomacy, from King Charles the Second, in July, 1663, the most liberal charter ever given to men, securing to Rhode Island and Providence Plantations full liberty in civil and religious concernments.

“Yet more, the highest honor belongs to Dr. John Clarke, the author and inspirer of the Royal Charter, whose mind dictated and whose pen wrote the imperishable sentiment, That it is much on their HEARTS (if They may be permitted) to hold forth A LIVELY Experiment, that a most flourishing CIVIL STATE MAY STAND AND BEST BE MAINTAINED, AND THAT AMONG OUR ENGLISH SUBJECTS, WITH A FULL LIBERTY IN RELIGIOUS CONCERNMENTS.

“These words, cut in enduring marble on the west facade of our beautiful Capitol at Providence, constitute it a living moniunent to perpetuate the spotless name and the matchless fame of Dr. John Clarke of Aquidneck.

“To the Grand Jury of the World, I submit the evidence of historic facts.

“Thomas W. Bicknell, Providence, R. I., Sept. 6, 1915.”

 

Early life

John Clarke was born at Westhorpe in the county of Suffolk, England on 8 Oct 1609, to Thomas Clarke and Rose Kerrich.  He was one of eight children, six of whom moved to America and settled in New England.  According to the well-known genealogical work One Hundred and Sixty Allied Families, by John Osborne Austin (Salem, Massachusetts 1893), Clarke’s first wife was Elizabeth Harges, daughter of John Harges.  John Clarke was married three times according to this source.  His second wife was Jane Fletcher, a widow, and his third wife was Sarah Davis, widow of Nicholas Davis.  The source of Clarke’s education remains unknown (though some say the University of Leiden), but before arriving in America he had studied theology, languages, and medicine.

 

The Portsmouth Compact

Immigration to New England

John Clarke first immigrated to Massachusetts Bay in 1637 and then went south to Rhode Island.  Clarke immediately sided with Anne Hutchinson and the “Antinomians” and was one of those forced into exile by Massachusetts Bay.  Clarke learned from Roger Williams that Aquidneck Island (Rhode Island) was available.  He, William Coddington, and other settlers purchased it from the Narragansetts.  They left Massachusetts and established Portsmouth, Rhode Island in 1638.  John Clarke is one of the signers[4] of the Portsmouth Compact on 7 Mar 1638 that established the settlement of Portsmouth, which is now a town in the state of Rhode Island. It was the first document in history that severed both political and religious ties with mother England.  The document was written and signed in Boston by a group of men who followed Anne Hutchinson, a banished Christian dissident from Massachusetts, to seek religious freedom in Rhode Island.  The signers were ready to move to Aquidneck Island to set up a new colony and had been disarmed by the Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  The purpose of the Portsmouth Compact was to set up a new, independent colony that was Christian in character but non-sectarian in governance. It has been called “the first instrument for governing as a true democracy.”  The text of the Compact reads as follows:

The 7th Day of the First Month, 1638.

We whose names are underwritten do hereby solemnly in the presence of Jehovah incorporate ourselves into a Bodie Politick and as He shall help, will submit our persons, lives and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, and to all those perfect and most absolute laws of His given in His Holy Word of truth, to be guided and judged thereby. 

(In the margin are the following Bible citations: Exodus 24:3-4; Second Chronicles 11:3 and Second Kings 11:17).

In 1639 when William Coddington lost control of the Portsmouth settlement, he, John Clarke and seven other major householders left to found Newport, Rhode Island.  Clarke headed the church in Newport , which was Puritan/Separatist congregation, but he had a religious and political falling out with Coddington.  The church split with Clarke taking part and eventually [about 1644] emerging with a Baptist church, while most of the others eventually became Quakers when that movement arrived in Rhode Island in the 1650s.

 

 

Dr. John Clark, Baptist minister, charter author, physician, city co-founder. This portrait was probably made in the 1650s.

Dr. John Clark, Baptist minister, charter author, physician, city co-founder. This portrait was probably made in the 1650s.

Establishment of the American Baptist Denomination

Earlier in late 1638, Roger Williams, John Clarke’s compatriot in the cause of religious freedom in the New World, had established a Baptist church in Providence, Rhode Island, known as First Baptist Church in America (also known as First Baptist Meeting House).  This church is still in existence[5], and it is the oldest Baptist congregation in America. For the next sixty years, the congregation met outside in nice weather or in congregants’ homes. Baptists in Rhode Island through most of the 17th century declined to erect meetinghouses because they felt that buildings reflected vanity. Eventually, however, they came to see the utility of some gathering place, and they erected severely plain-style meetinghouses like the Quakers.

The present church building was erected in 1774-1775 and held its first meetings in May 1775. Roger Williams was a Calvinist, but within a few years of its founding, the congregation became more Arminian, and was clearly a General Six-Principle Baptist church by 1652.  It remained a General Baptist church until it switched back to a Calvinist variety under the leadership of James Manning in the 1770s.  Following Williams as pastor of the church was Rev. Chad Brown, founder of the famous Brown family of Rhode Island.  A number of the streets in Providence bear the names of pastors of First Baptist Church, including Williams, Brown, Gregory Dexter, Thomas Olney[6], William Wickenden, Manning, and Stephen Gano.  In 1700 Reverend Pardon Tillinghast[7] built the first church building, a 400-square-foot structure, near the corner of Smith and North Main Streets.  In 1711 he donated the building and land to the church in a deed describing the church as General Six-Principle Baptist in theology.  In 1736 the congregation built its second meetinghouse on an adjoining lot at the corner of Smith and North Main Streets. This building was about 40 x 40 feet square.

In 1651, John Clarke, John Crandall and Obadiah Holmes were arrested and imprisoned in Lynn, Massachusetts for conducting an illegal worship service.  This event (and others like it) served as the basis for Clarke’s Ill Newes from New England, or a Narrative of New England ‘s Persecutions (1652).  Ill Newes contained Clarke’s argument for religious freedom.  He wrote that “it is not the will of the Lord than any one should have dominion over another man’s conscience…. [Conscience] is such a sparkling beam from the Father of lights and spirits that it cannot be lorded over, commanded, or forced, either by men, devils, or angels.” One Baptist historian described Clarke as “the Baptist drum major for freedom in seventeenth century America .”[8]

 

The Royal Charter of 1663 was written by John Clarke and given by King Charles II of England, guaranteeing the Rhode Island settlers freedom of religion and the freedom to govern their own colony.

The Royal Charter of 1663 was written by John Clarke and given by King Charles II of England, guaranteeing the Rhode Island settlers freedom of religion and the freedom to govern their own colony.

King Charles II Charter for Rhode Island and Providence Plantations

In November 1651, John Clarke traveled to London with Roger Williams to cancel William Coddington’s special patent that made Coddington “Governor for Life” over Aquidneck and Conanicut Islands and to secure a new charter for the colony of Rhode Island. Having succeeded in getting Coddington’s charter revoked, Williams returned to Rhode Island in 1654, but Clarke stayed in England as the colony’s agent.  When the monarchy was restored in 1660 and Rhode Island ‘s charter of 1644 was voided, Clarke worked against great odds to obtain a new charter.  On 8 Jul 1663, Charles II of England granted a Royal Charter to Rhode Island .  John Clarke wrote the charter, and it contained an explicit guarantee of religious freedom:

…that no person within the said colony, at any time hereafter shall be any wise molested [harassed], punished, disquieted, or called in question, for any differences in opinion in matters of religion, and do not actually disturb the civil peace of our said colony; but that all and every person and persons may, from time to time, and at all times hereafter, freely and fully have and enjoy his and their own judgments and consciences, in matters of religious concernments, throughout the tract of land hereafter mentioned, they behaving themselves peaceable and quietly…

The royal charter’s words are carved on the frieze of the Rhode Island State House: “…to hold forth a lively experiment, that a most flourishing civil state may stand and best be maintained…with a full liberty in religious concernments.”  That charter remained the foundation of government in Rhode Island until 1842.

Rhode Island’s Colonial Charter holds a unique place in the evolution of human rights in the modern world. When King Charles II approved the Charter in July 1663, it marked the first time in modern history that a monarch signed a charter guaranteeing that individuals within a society were free to practice the religion of their choice without any interference from the government. This freedom was extremely radical in an age marked by wars of religion and persecution of people for religious beliefs.

Like the Declaration of Independence, Rhode Island’s Charter was a product of an amazing confluence of stubborn resolve, diplomatic skill, and ability to capitalize on a moment of opportunity. Roger Williams had secured a charter from Parliament in 1644 when the monarchy was overthrown, but this charter was voided by King Charles II when the monarchy was restored in 1660. John Clarke, who had been in England since 1651 serving as an agent to protect Rhode Island’s interests against the attempts of the neighboring colonies to dismember and subvert the colony, was able to obtain a new charter for Rhode Island despite great obstacles and opposition. His charter was unique in its grant of “freedom of religious concernments” and its language soon echoed in the charters of other colonies. It’s principles were subsequently written into the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

(Dr. Stanley Lemons, Professor Emeritus, Rhode Island College)

Rhode Island’s Colonial Charter holds a unique place in the evolution of human rights in the modern world. When King Charles II approved the Charter in July 1663, it marked the first time in modern history that a monarch signed a charter guaranteeing that individuals within a society were free to practice the religion of their choice without any interference from the government. This freedom was extremely radical in an age marked by wars of religion and persecution of people for religious beliefs. Like the Declaration of Independence, Rhode Island’s Charter was a product of an amazing confluence of stubborn resolve, diplomatic skill, and ability to capitalize on a moment of opportunity. Roger Williams had secured a charter from Parliament in 1644 when the monarchy was overthrown, but this charter was voided by King Charles II when the monarchy was restored in 1660. John Clarke, who had been in England since 1651 serving as an agent to protect Rhode Island’s interests against the attempts of the neighboring colonies to dismember and subvert the colony, was able to obtain a new charter for Rhode Island despite great obstacles and opposition. His charter was unique in its grant of “freedom of religious concernments” and its language soon echoed in the charters of other colonies. It’s principles were subsequently written into the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Charter arrived in Newport, in November 1663, where it remained until removed to the new State House in Providence when it was occupied in 1900. (Dr. Stanley Lemons - Professor Emeritus, Rhode Island College)

The Charter arrived in Newport, in November 1663, where it remained until removed to the new State House in Providence when it was occupied in 1900.

 

john-clark-marker2John Clarke and Roger Williams continued to labor together for the cause of religious liberty.  While Williams was a Baptist only for a few months, Clarke remained faithful for nearly forty years.  Williams concluded that no visible church was valid until Christ sent a new apostle to restore it; therefore, he never affiliated with any other church.  Clarke, however, continued as the pastor of his church in Newport until his death.  He also practiced medicine as a means of financial support.  He also served on the General Assembly from 1664 to 1669 and three terms as deputy governor (1669–1672).  Clarke died in Newport on 20 Apr 1676 and is buried in the cemetery on Dr. Marcus Wheatland Boulevard across the street from the rear of the Newport Police Station.

John Clarke's grave memorial in Newport, Rhode Island. The inscription reads: To the memory of Doct. John Clarke One of the original purchasers and proprietors of this island and one of the founders of the First Baptist Church of Newport, its first pastor and munificent benefactor; He was a native of Redfordshire, England, and a practitioner of physic in London. He, with his associates, came to this island from Mass., in March, 1638, O. S., and on the 24th of the same month obtained a deed thereof from the Indians. He shortly after gathered the church aforesaid and became its pastor. In 1651, he, with Roger Williams, was sent to England, by the people of Rhode Island colony, to negotiate the business of the colony with the British ministry. Mr. Clarke was instrumental in obtaining the Charter of 1663 from Charles II, which secured to the people of the State free and full enjoyment of judgment and conscience in matters of religion. He remained in England to watch over the interests of the Colony until 1664, and then returned to Newport and resumed the pastoral care of his church. Mr. Clarke and Mr. Williams, two fathers of the Colony, strenuously and fearlessly maintained that none but Jesus Christ had authority over the affairs of conscience. He died April 20, 1676, in the 66th year of his age, and is here interred.

John Clarke’s grave memorial in Newport, Rhode Island.

The inscription on John Clarke’s grave memorial reads as follows:

To the memory of Doct. John Clarke
One of the original purchasers and proprietors of this island and one of the founders of the First Baptist Church of Newport, its first pastor and munificent benefactor; He was a native of Redfordshire, England, and a practitioner of physic in London. He, with his associates, came to this island from Mass., in March, 1638, O. S., and on the 24th of the same month obtained a deed thereof from the Indians. He shortly after gathered the church aforesaid and became its pastor. In 1651, he, with Roger Williams, was sent to England, by the people of Rhode Island colony, to negotiate the business of the colony with the British ministry. Mr. Clarke was instrumental in obtaining the Charter of 1663 from Charles II, which secured to the people of the State free and full enjoyment of judgment and conscience in matters of religion. He remained in England to watch over the interests of the Colony until 1664, and then returned to Newport and resumed the pastoral care of his church. Mr. Clarke and Mr. Williams, two fathers of the Colony, strenuously and fearlessly maintained that none but Jesus Christ had authority over the affairs of conscience. He died April 20, 1676, in the 66th year of his age, and is here interred.

 

Philanthropy

John Clarke’s will set up a trust to be used for the relief of the poor or bringing up of children unto learning from time to time forever.  This trust is generally considered to be the oldest educational trust fund in the United States.[9]

 

My lineage continues from Joseph Clarke through his son Carew Clarke and Anne Dyer.  They were married 4 Feb 1693.  The ceremony was performed by Benedict Arnold, Assistant, in Newport.  Carew died at Quidnessett, North Kingston, in 1759, and his will, which was offered for probate 5 June of that year, was admitted for probate 14 Jul 1760.  Joseph Clarke, Carew‘s son, was made administrator for the estate of his brother, Hutchinson Clarke, in January 1763.  The children of Carew Clarke and Anne Dyer are listed as follows:

  1. Carew, born 20 Sep 1696
  2. Anne, or Ann, born 8 Sep 1698
  3. Joseph Clarke, see below
  4. Mary, born 8 Aug 1700
  5. Caleb, born 22 May 1703
  6. Jonathan, born 12 Aug 1705
  7. William, born 15 Jan 1707
  8. Elisha, born 6 May 1709
  9. Samuel, born 1 Oct 1711
  10. Margaret, born 24 Oct 1713
  11. Hutchinson, born 1 May 1715
  12. James, born ? Feb ????

Of these children, Carew married Judith Duccineer; Anne married Samuel Dunn (my 7th g-grandparents – their lineage is discussed under the heading of Richard Dunn and [unknown] Bowditch); Mary married [unknown] Whitman; Caleb married Dinah {surname unknown], Jonathan married Mary Lillibridge; William married Ann Green; Elisha married Abigail Tillinghast and Margaret married [unknown] Spencer.

The son of Carew and Anne is Joseph Clarke, who was born 20 Oct 1699 in Newport, Rhode Island.  He married Elizabeth Nichols, born 16 Mar 1695.  At the time of his marriage, at East Greenwich, Rhode Island on 6 Nov 1718, he resided in Warwick.  The marriage was performed by Thomas Spencer, Justice.  Joseph Clarke lived on “Potowomut Neck”, Warwick, near the line that separated that suburb of Warwick from East Kingston, since built upon, and now part of East Greenwich.  His property there was deeded 27 Dec 1756 to jabez Reynolds, and soon after that date Joseph was recorded as a resident of North Kingston, where he was living as late as 9 Mar 1765.

The children of Joseph Clarke and Elizabeth Nichols are listed as follows:

  1. Mary, born 16 Aug 1719 in East Greenwich
  2. Benjamin Clarke, see below
  3. Elizabeth, born 28 May 1724 in Warwick
  4. Ann, born 13 Jun 1727 in Warwick
  5. Ruth, born 2 Aug 1730 in Warwick
  6. Mercy, born 24 Aug 1733 in Warwick
  7. Lydia, born 16 Jul 1735 in Warwick.  She married Richard Smith.
  8. Hannah, born 5 Sep 1737 in Warwick.

The son of Joseph and Elizabeth is Benjamin Clarke, who was born 3 Sep 1721 in Warwick, Rhode Island and died in 1790 in Rhode Island.  He married (1st) Elizabeth Brown, of Newport, who died on 28 Mar 1753, in her 25th year.  He married (2nd) Phebe (or Phoebe), daughter of John and Desire (Joyce) Arnold of East Greenwich.  In 1780 he married (3rd) Patience Rathbun, born 22 Jan 1742 in New Shoreham, Rhode Island and died about 1840.  She was the daughter of John Rathbun of Exeter.  This marriage was performed by Jonathan Bates, Justice, at Exeter (2 Jan 1780).  Benjamin Clarke was admitted a freeman of Warwick in 1741.  About the time of his marriage to Phebe Arnold (1 Jan 1755), he removed to East Greenwich and later went to North Kingston where he remained until the time of his third marriage.  Benjamin was a sea captain, and he made many voyages across the Atlantic.  He and his third wife were living as late as 20 Feb 1786, when they gave a mortgage on 36 acres of land inherited by Patience from her father.  This mortgage was cancelled only one month after it was executed, and the land remained in Patience‘s possession until 29 Mar 1789, when she deeded it to Samuel Spencer.  Family tradition has it that Benjamin served during the Revolution under Colonel Babcock, who was in command at Norfolk, but this has not been confirmed.  He entered in his mother’s prayer book (published in 1743) the birth dates of his sisters as well as his own record and those of his children.

Children of Benjamin Clarke (and 1st wife):

  1. Benjamin, born 1753

Children of Benjamin Clarke (and 2nd wife):

  1. Lucy, born 5 Apr 1755 in East Greenwich
  2. Desire, born 1 Jul 1756 in East Greenwich
  3. John, born 7 Jun 1758 in East Greenwich
  4. Elizabeth, born 22 Jan 1760 in East Greenwich
  5. Mary, born 29 Mar 1763 in East Greenwich
  6. Joseph

Children of Benjamin Clarke (and 3rd wife):

  1. John Clarke, see below
  2. Lydia, born 7 Mar 1783 in Exeter, Rhode Island

Of these children, Lucy married James Sweet; Desire married William Tallman, and the first John died young.

The son of Benjamin and Patience is John Clarke, who was born 22 Sep 1780 in Exeter, Rhode Island and died 29 Jun 1865 in Sandy Creek, New York.  In 1803 he married Phoebe Pearce, born 25 Sep 1779 in East Greenwich, Rhode Island and died 28 Sep 1872 in Sandy Creek, New York.  She was the daughter of John Pearce and Freelove Dyer.  Soon after their marriage, John and Phoebe went to White Creek, Washington County, New York, where their first child was born.  They moved to Shaftsbury, Vermont, then to Arlington, Vermont, before retruning to White Creek, where their fifth child was born.  In 1819, they moved to Sandy Creek, New York, a then-new settlement in Oswego County, where John died 29 Jun 1865 and was interred in the Sandy Creek Cemetery.  They are known to have been resident in Sandy Creek, New York at the time of the 1850 census.  Phoebe died 28 Sep 1872, aged 93 years.  Their children are listed as follows:

  1. Betsy, born 4 Aug 1804
  2. Benjamin, born 22 Feb 1807
  3. John Pearce, born 8 Feb 1809
  4. Oratio Dyer Clarke, see below
  5. Phebe Ann, born 24 Apr 1815
  6. Joseph Arnold, born 29 Dec 1817
  7. Ira, for 19 May 1820

Of these children, Betsy married Zebulon Baldwin; Benjamin did not marry; John married Amanda Allen; Phoebe married Dewey Child Salisbury; Joseph married Sarah Greenwood and Ira died in infancy.

The son of John and Phoebe is Oratio Dyer Clarke, who was born 27 Jul 1811 in Arlington, Vermont and died 29 May 1899 in Manchester, Iowa.  In 1837 he married Laura Ann King in Pulaski, New York.  She was born 18 Sep 1811 in Ellisburg, New York and died 15 Jan 1882 in Manchester, Iowa.  From New York, they moved to Illinois at some time prior to 1860, when they appear in the census records of Belvidere, Illinois.  They were still in Belvedere, Illinois in 1870, but by 1880, they had moved further west to Manchester, Iowa, where they both lived up until their deaths.

Senator Clarence Don Clark (1851-1930), photo credit: Nils M. Solsvik Jr.

Senator Clarence Don Clark (1851-1930), photo credit: Nils M. Solsvik Jr.

The children of Oratio Dyer Clarke and Laura Ann King are listed as follows:

  1. Prudence A., born 18 Mar 1838 and died in infancy.
  2. Harriet Allen Clarke, see below.
  3. Dyer O., born 31 Dec 1841.
  4. Amanda B., born 14 Feb 1843.
  5. Frances Gertrude, born 4 May 1845 and died in infancy.
  6. De Alton, born 25 Jan 1847.
  7. Gertrude Emily, born 18 Nov 1848 and died in infancy.
  8. Clarence Don, born 16 Apr 1851 and died 18 Nov 1930.  He is my 2nd g-grand uncle, and he was an important political leader in the early days of the Territory (later State) of Wyoming in the late 19th century.  For more information, refer to the article for Clarence Don Clark  under “Notable Kin”.

The “Clarke” line, which began in this country with Joseph Clarke, born (England) 1618, and the “Allen” line which began in this country with George Allen, born (England) 1568, converge (appropriately) in the person of Harriet Allen Clark, born 21 May 1839 in Sandy Creek, New York and died 21 Mar 1898 in Manchester, Iowa.  She was the daughter of Oratio Dyer Clarke and Laura Ann King.  In 1857 she married Henry Fayayette Hamlin.  He was born 14 Apr 1834 in Pennsylvania and died 29 Jul 1901 in Manchester, Iowa.

The Clarke lineage ends with Harriet Allen Clarke, and the lineage of Harriet and Henry Fayette Hamlin is continued under the under the heading of James Hamlin (Hamblen) (1606-1690).


[1] Mary Elizabeth Waters (1654 – 1697), granddaughter – Ann Peake (1619 – 1700) – Joan Clarke (1578 – )

[2] Anne Dyer is the granddaughter of Mary Barret and William Dyer.  Mary Barrett, known in history as Mary Dyer, was the English Puritan turned Quaker who was hanged in Boston (Massachusetts Bay Colony) in 1660 for repeatedly defying a Puritan law banning Quakers from the colony.  Her story is related at length under her own heading.

[3] My 8th g-grand uncle

[4] Direct ancestors of mine who were signers of the Portmouth Compact are: William Dyer (husband of Mary Dyer), William Freeborn, William Hutchinson (husband of Anne Hutchinson), Edward Hutchinson, Jr. (eldest son of William and Anne Hutchinson, called “Jr.” to distinguish him from his uncle Edward Hutchinson Sr.), and John Walker, all of whom are discussed under their own headings.  John Clarke and his brother Thomas (my 8th g-grand uncles – brothers of Joseph Clarke), John Coggeshall (father of my 7th g-grand uncle Samuel Rathbun, brother of Thomas Rathbun), Edward Hutchinson Sr. (my 10th g-grand uncle), and Thomas Savage (husband of my 9th g-grand aunt Faith Hutchinson, brother of Edward Hutchinson Jr.) were also signers.

[5] The First Baptist Church in America is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches of Rhode Island (ABCORI) and the American Baptist Churches/USA (ABCUSA). The church actively supports the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches, the World Baptist Alliance, and the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty. Many members have served in various denominational, academic, and divinity school positions, including the presidency of Brown University.

[6] My paternal 10th g-grandfather, discussed under his own heading

[7] My paternal 9th g-grandfather, discussed under his own heading

[8] Shurden, Walter B.  “Baptist Freedom and the Turn toward a Free Conscience: 1612–1652”, in Turning Points in Baptist History (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press) 2008.

[9] Sydney V. James.  John Clarke and His Legacies: Religion and Law in Colonial Rhode Island, 1638–1750.

 

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3 comments

  • John Dumaliang

    I bought the house of Col. John F. Clarke in Cumberland Rhode Island built in 1882 just wondering if you can give me some insight of where he was buried and the lineage of the family.
    Thank you very much

    John Dumaliang

  • I am descended from Hannah Weeden (1649-1723) and William Clarke (1647-1683) son of Joseph Clark (1618-1694) and his unknown first wife. I have been researching the Clarke side of my family for months. The information you have provided is a wonderful break through. One of my Clarke descendants, James Clarke, married Polly Theresa Sackett – direct descendant from Simon Sackett the Colonist who arrived on New England shores in 1630. Fascinating to follow these settlers through history and discover how they met each other. Thank you for your meticulous research. Eva

  • Mark Mathison

    I am descended from Carew and Ann’s son, Elisha (1709-1755). The information that you have collected has provided me with our ties back to England which I had been searching for. I am still looking for an exact timing of their immigration to America and hopefully the ship’s name. Thank you for your hard work.
    Mark Mathison

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