With Independence Day approaching, it's time to address this Marietta history mystery. Why was a American Revolutionary War soldier who became governor of Georgia buried in the Marietta National Cemetery, which wasn't established until after the Civil War in 1866? And why were he and his wife buried there nearly 100 years after their deaths?
Yes, you read that correctly. Former Georgia Governor and Revolutionary War soldier John Clark was buried in Marietta in 1923, nearly 100 years after his death in 1832. .
Clark was born in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, in 1766. He moved to Georgia with his family in 1773. At the age of 15, he joined the American patriot militia under the command of his father, Elijah Clarke.
Clark served in several battles during the Revolutionary War, including the Battle of Kettle Creek, which was a significant victory in Georgia for the American patriots in 1779. He also fought in 1780 at the Battle of Musgrove Mill in South Carolina. He was promoted to captain in 1781, and he was awarded a sword by the Continental Congress for his service.
After the Revolutionary War, Clark settled in Wilkes County, Georgia, became a planter and entered the political arena, too. He was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1801, and served in the US House of Representatives from 1807 to 1813. Then, he was elected governor of Georgia by the state legislature and served two terms from 1819 to 1823. He ran for re-election a third time in 1823, in the first governor's election decided by popular vote of the citizens. He lost that election by 683 votes -- perhaps starting the history of closely-contested (and sometimes challenged) general elections in Georgia.
"So great was his chagrin," reported the Marietta Journal, "that he withdrew from state politics forever."
Following the loss, Clark was appointed to a new federal position -- Keeper of the Public Forests in Florida -- by his political ally, President Andrew Jackson. He served in that position until he died from yellow fever in St. Andrews Bay, Florida, on October 12, 1832. His wife, Nancy, died there two weeks later, and both were buried in Florida.
Today, both Clarks rest in peace in the Marietta National Cemetery, according to cemetery records. In fact, they represent the two oldest individuals at rest at the historic cemetery.
But how and why?
Well, originally, both Clarks were buried in a private cemetery in St. Andrews, FL, on property owned by the Clark's son, Judge Willis E. Clark. The cemetery, located on the banks of the St. Mary's River about 10 miles from the Georgia border, was poorly maintained and fell into neglect. The land was subdivided, and Clark's grave, along with those of this wife and two grandsons, became part of the back yard behind a small cottage. "Above his grave, a rubbish heap and firewood lay," reported the Marietta Journal. "No care was taken of the spot, and it was merely a portion of a back yard, to be forgotten at will and used for any utilitarian purpose."
Thus, to honor Clark's service to Georgia and provide a more fitting resting place, the Daughters of the American Revolution raised money to reinter the Clarks in Marietta.
Clark's remains were exhumed from the Florida cemetery, and accompanied by a military escort to Marietta. In a large ceremony attended by Georgia Governor Clifford Walker and other state officials, Clark was reinterred at Marietta National Cemetery on April 6, 1923. Nancy Clark was reinterred at Marietta later in a smaller ceremony. The Clarks are buried in Section D, Site 10391.
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