Biography of Henry Bernard Clark

Henry Bernard Clark. Life is a great drama, and many men play various roles and on many stages of activity. Such has been the experience of Henry Bernard Clark, a veteran jeweler, now living retired from a long business career at Rantoul.

Mr. Clark is probably the only man in Champaign County and perhaps the only one in Illinois whose birthplace was the historic Isle of St. Helena, associated in the memories of men chiefly because it was the prison home of Napoleon Bonaparte and also the place where he died. He was born there, a son of Thomas and Louisa (Lowden) Clark. His father was a native of England and the mother was born at St. Helena of Scotch parents. When H. B. Clark was a few days old his father died, and when he was seven years of age his widowed mother came to America. His mother was a school teacher, and the English Government gave her the management of the fortified village of Longwood, where Napoleon had had his home. A strong guard of English troops had been kept at Longwood while Napoleon was there in order to prevent his escape and foil any attempts made by the French to spirit him away from the island. In such surroundings Mr. Clark spent the first seven years of his life. His brothers were James, Thomas, William and John. He retains many memories of his early life at St. Helena. Perhaps the chief incident of his early memory was when he and some playmates filled the bathtub in the old home at Longwood which the French had built for Napoleon and played on the water some ducklings and watched their antics with great enthusiasm.

Mrs. Clark was an ambitious, energetic mother, and recognizing in the advantages of America such as were not found in Europe she came to this country hoping to better the conditions of her sons. Her oldest son, James, kept the only bakery at St. Helena, and also came to America, but was taken ill on the voyage and died three days after landing in New York. Her sons William and Thomas took to the sea while at St. Helena, and afterward became captains of vessels. Mrs. Clark brought with her to America her two sons H. B. and John. The other three sons followed her some years later. William became a captain on the Great Lakes, sailing a vessel from Buffalo to Chicago. The family were eighty days in making the voyage on a sailing vessel from St. Helena to New Bedford, Connecticut. From there Mrs. Clark went to Chicago. Her friend, Mrs. Blachford, had offered inducements which caused Mrs. Clark to come west with her sons, and she took up her home at St. Charles, Illinois, where she educated her younger boys.

H. B. Clark was only sixteen years of age when the Civil War broke out. His brothers Thomas and John enlisted in 1861. John was stricken with the measles while in the army, and while still convalescent went into action at the battle of Pea Ridge. After the strenuous exertions of that day’s fighting and while stooping to enter his tent at night he dropped dead. Thomas was in the Nineteenth Illinois Infantry, was wounded three times, and died a few years ago at Chicago.

H. B. Clark enlisted in the One Hundred and Forty-first Regiment of Illinois Infantry and was first sent to Cairo, Illinois, and then into Kentucky to retard the raid of General Forrest against Illinois. He was with the troops that proceeded up the Tennessee River and drove Forrest’s cavalry back to Memphis. Mr. Clark saw fourteen months of active service and witnessed some of the heavy fighting and arduous campaigning in the Mississippi Valley. He was mustered out at Memphis, Tennessee, and given his honorable discharge at Springfield. He then returned to Chicago.

In 1873 he married Jessie Person, a native of St. Charles, Illinois, and a daughter of James and Mary (Hall) Person. Her father was born in New Hampshire and her mother in Vermont. The Person children were John H., Mary A., Louisa, Julia and Jessie. They were all educated at St. Charles, Illinois.

After his marriage Mr. Clark set up a home in Chicago, where he had become identified with the jewelry business. In 1876 they came to Rantoul and Mr. Clark was continuously engaged in the jewelry business in that city for forty years. He finally retired in 1916.

To their union were born two children, one son and one daughter, James P. and Edna. Edna married Dr. W. J. Fernald, who formerly practiced in Champaign County and subsequently removed to Frankfort, Indiana. Mrs. Pernald died in Prankfort. There were four children in the Fernald family, two sons and two daughters, named Bernice, Mildred, Paul and Leroy. Bernice and Mildred graduated from the Frankfort public schools. The former is now the wife of Lieutenant Morse of the United States army and assistant band master. Their wedding was celebrated at the home of his commanding officer in Hartford, Connecticut.

The son, James P. Clark, has distinguished himself as a very capable and ambitious student and later as a successful lawyer. He attended the Rantoul High School, and then entered the law department of the University of Michigan, where he was graduated LL. B. He is now in successful practice at Rantoul and has won a fine clientage. He married Miss Eunice Craigmile, a daughter of Alexander Craigmile, a prominent citizen of Champaign County, now living at Rantoul. Mr. and Mrs. Clark have two bright young daughters, j Elizabeth and Janis.

Mr. and Mrs. Clark are active members of the Congregational Church. She possesses an unusually well cultivated and perfect singing voice, and for years sang and took an active part in musical affairs in various Chicago churches and since coming to Rantoul has been an active member of the choir of her church. Fraternally Mr. Clark is affiliated with the Masonic order, ‘the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias and the Grand Army of the Republic. In this brief review Mr. Clark’s long and active career has been followed from his boyhood days in St. Helena until he is now, with his wife, enjoying, the comforts and happiness of a good home in Rantoul and surrounded with children and grandchildren and hosts of friends.


Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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