Volume 6, Number 8 - Summer 1978

John C. and Volney "Vol." Clark
Brothers and Lifelong Partners

The partnership of the Clark brothers, farmers who lived on Swan Creek two miles east of the Swan Post Office, began in the days before the Civil War and ended with the death of Vol. in 1925. Their father William Franklin Clark, born 1826 in Smith County, Tennessee, was about six when his parents, John C. and Benita (Hughes) Clark moved their family to Simpson County, Kentucky. It was in that county that William Franklin Clark grew to manhood and on October 13, 1852 married Martha Ann Hammond, born 1834 to Thomas and Ann (Cook) Hammond.

Martha Ann’s father had died in the fall of 1849, and in 1852 the widow Hammond and her five youngest children started in a covered wagon for Taney County, Missouri where her father James Cook, Sr. had settled in 1838. William Franklin Clark was crushed when his sweetheart left and his mother suggested he ride out and bring her back. Following this suggestion he caught up with the travelers on the trail and persuaded Martha Ann to return and marry him. The newly-weds began housekeeping in Simpson County, but soon the young bride longed to be nearer her family. Riding horseback and leading a packhorse with their few possessions, they made the long hazardous journey to Missouri and settled near the Hammon and Cook families.

The first child of William Franklin and Martha Ann Clark was born September 14, 1853, and named John C., probably for his grandfather Clark. Volney or Vol. was born April 15, 1855, and their sister Louisa, later known as "Aunt Lou," was born October 11, 1858. The happiness of this little family was cut short by the tragic death of the father in the turbulent days preceeding the Civil War.

During the following war years Martha Ann and her children lived in the Barber Hollow area, where, under extreme difficulties, she was able to keep her family together. In later years interesting stories of their experiences during this period were related. One of special interest was about the time when soldiers passed through the area and confiscated all the food and grain the family had stored for its own use, paying for it with an army voucher. Martha Ann was forced to leave the children alone while she rode horseback to Springfield, a distance of some forty-five miles, where she could cash the voucher at the army headquarters. The three children lived on wild greens the four days she was gone, and it was a happy time when the courageous mother returned with food and needed supplies. There was also the fear of guerrilla bands or outlaws using the war as a pretext to rob and plunder. When strangers were seen approaching their cabin, the mother would hide the children with the livestock in the nearby woods until any danger had passed. One of the daily chores for the boys was gathering acorns in their pockets to bring home to help feed the pig, as this meant table meat for the family if it could be hidden from roving scavengers.

After the war ended, Martha Ann Clark married John Warren on May 9, 1865 and they remained in Christian County until sometime after 1870, when they moved into Taney County, settling near a spring about half a mile from where Powersite Dam is now located. The family then consisted of the three Clark children and four Warren children, namely; Mary Frances, Erastus Green, Louis Burdett and James Thomas. Shortly after the youngest was born, about 1874, John Warren started across the White River to look for work. He did not return to his family and it was never known what happened to him.

At this time, the Clark boys were just entering manhood and they now had the responsibility of caring for their mother, sister, and the four Warren children. The brothers moved the family to a cabin north of what is now Taneyville, where they might find work. In 1878, by working at day labor whenever they could find it, the brothers were able to purchase a small acreage in Section 4, Township 24, in Range 19 at a tax sale.

One farmer for whom they worked was Preston T. Moody living on a large farm in the Swan Creek bottom southeast of Garrison in Christian County. He had several pretty daughters and on November 19, 1882, a double wedding ceremony was held in the Moody home when the Clark brothers married Moody sisters. John married Isabel, born September 29, 1863, and Vol. married Serilda, born December 12, 1860. Preston T. Moody was born in East Tennessee in 1822, a son of Thomas and Elizabeth (Belyeu) Moody, and when a young man came to Missouri where


he followed rafting on the Big Piney River for several years. In 1847, he married Sarah Ann Elrod, a daughter of Thomas and Mary Jane (Blevins) Elrod, who brought their family to Missouri in the early 1840’s from Lawrence County, Indiana, to settle along the Gasconade River in Osage County. This area later became part of Manes County, and Preston and Sarah Ann Moody lived there until they moved to Christian County in 1869.

After the marriage of John and Isabel and Volney and Serilda, the two couples shared the same house the boys had built a few miles down the creek from the Moody’s, but in Taney County. They continued to live together until there were three children in each family. By that time the brothers had acquired adjoining land, and a similar house was built farther up the hill, where John Clark moved his family.

The children of John and Isabel (Moody) Clark were:

Lonnie Burton

born November 7, 1884

married Anna Wood

William Preston

born August 24, 1887

married Lora Park

Nancy Ann

born March 8, 1890

married George Burger

John Ervin

born December 24, 1891

married Myrtle Morgan

Franklin McKinley

born July 1, 1895


Etta May

born September 15, 1897

married Earl Burkhart

The children of Volney (Vol.) and Serilda (Moody) Clark were:

William Franklin

born February 29, 1884

married Etta Thurmond

Minnie Myrtle

born August 30, 1886

married John Workman

Ella May

born January 28, 1889

married James Morgan

Volney Benjamin

born August 27, 1891

married Martha Goodwin

Olive Bell

born February 26, 1894

married William Andrew

Nellie Frances

born August 19, 1897


Bertha Lea

born July 31, 1901

married Raymond Cook

Robert Merrill

born October 5, 1904

married Ruby Dukes


Through the years John and Vol. conducted a farming operation which made them almost independent of outside help. They owned land and livestock jointly and continued to carry on all business as one. In 1887, a Taney County Tax Assessment listed property belonging to John and Volney Clark as 128 acres, in three different locations 8 horses, 1 mule, 55 neat cattle, 80 sheep and 25 hogs, one sewing machine and household furniture.

The brothers and their families were self sustaining to a remarkable extent. They maintained their own mill to grind grain for themselves and their neighbors. They operated a saw mill to make the lumber of buildings erected on their land. They raised horses, mules, hogs, and large herds of cattle that were branded and let out on open range. In the fall of the year molasses was made and stored in barrels and many hogs were butchered and hung to be smoked and cured in the smoke house. They practiced diversified farming and even grew and dried their own tobacco.

The women raised chickens, turkeys and geese, picking the feathers to make huge, warm beds for the family. There were large gardens and two orchards from which ample provisions were stored in the cellars for winter. This food was served on large tables in the kitchens of each home, where any neighbor, friend or stranger who happened to be passing by was always invited and welcomed to come in and eat.

Vol. Clark was the blacksmith of the partnership and had a well equipped shop where the ring of his hammer on the anvil could often be heard. A granddaughter recalls a visit to this shop, which to her seemed enormous. To her great joy, she was allowed to pull the handle of the bellows a few times, but was then told to sit where she could watch the sparks fly, yet not close enough to be burned.

The children of both families attended Middleton School, and the two couples became members of the Christian church which met in the same school house. John served as Elder and Sunday


School Superintendent of this congregation for twenty-five years. His wife, Isabel, faithfully prepared the Communion bread and fruit of the vine. Each week she packed these items along with the Cup and Plate in a small basket covered with a snowy white cloth. Later they were placed on the Communion table and served reverently to the congregation. One day in the absence of a minister at Middleton, John was asked to Baptize Henry Smith, a neighbor who was both ill and blind. Feeling very humble and unworthy, John consented to perform the Rites of Baptism as a lay person from the church. The service was conducted in Swan Creek with several relatives and neighbors as spectators. The candidate was large and quite helpless so John asked his eldest son Lonnie to come out into the water in case he needed assistance. Needless to say, all went well.

In 1921, when 58 years old, Isabel became totally blind following eye surgery, a condition which remained throughout the rest of her life. Serilda made many trips up the hill to see her sister during these dark years. Besides enjoying these visits, Isabel kept busy with knitting, patching, and helping with simple kitchen tasks. She enjoyed her family and recognized each by voice or sound of their footsteps.

The long time partnership of these brothers ended with the death of Volney, October 13, 1925.

Shortly before his death he had requested that his team of mules pull the wagon to take his body to the cemetery. This request was honored, and observers reported that the two mules walked all the way in stately, dignified fashion as if they knew the solemnity and importance of their task. John Clark died September 15, 1931, Serilda passed away November 8, 1940 and Isabel on February 7, 1947. They are all buried in the Helphrey Cemetery, north of Taneyville.

For more than twenty-five years, the sons and daughters of John and Vol. Clark, and their descendants, have met each summer for a family reunion. It has been a real joy for the grandchildren to hear the brothers and sisters and cousins talk and laugh about the days when they were young and of the pranks they played on one another. Growing up in two such closely operated households caused the double cousins to be more like brothers and sister, as their lives were greatly influenced by both sets of parents. This annual family reunion is still continued in an attempt to acquaint the younger generations with their pioneer background.

Submitted by Mildred Howard of Republic and Gladys Comstock of Strafford, granddaughters of John and Isabel Clark, and Violet Ridge of Columbia and William L. Wood of Strafford, grandchildren of Vol. and Serilda Clark.


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