Aurore Eaton's Looking Back: John B. Clarke leads the good life
John B. Clarke worked tirelessly, focusing on building his publishing business.
According to a biographical sketch written in his lifetime, "His work is steady, like a good fire, throwing out light and heat constantly and continually...He never does anything lukewarmly; whatever cause he espouses he enters into heartily, bending all his efforts to bring about success and make certain the desired end."
He owned and produced one of the most widely circulated and influential newspapers in New England, the Daily Mirror and America, plus several other popular papers and a thriving book and job printing operation. He thoroughly enjoyed his achievements in the business world and also in the world of public opinion, and he greatly relished his financial success.
A few months before he bought the Mirror in October 1852 , John married Susan Greeley Moulton of Gilmanton, New Hampshire. They would have two sons, Arthur Eastman Clarke, born in 1854, and William Cogswell Clarke (named after John's brother, a prominent Manchester attorney), born in 1856. John's great wealth enabled him to provide his family with all the good things in life. He built a large and elegant house on Lowell Street, about two blocks east of Elm Street. His home was only a short distance from his office, and one can easily imagine the tall, burly publisher stopping to chat with friends and neighbors about the news of the day as he made his way to work.
John Clarke supported many local charities and was a pillar of the Franklin Street Congregational Church, which was located across Market Street from City Hall. Historian George F. Willey wrote of him, "He was a free giver and a good liver. He valued money only for what it would bring. He turned no one away who asked for help for a cause that commended itself to him. He bought whatever he wanted, (and) as he thought his family or friends needed. His home was the home of luxury and comfort."
Having been raised on a farm in Atkinson, New Hampshire, John had farming in his blood. He kept a farm on the outskirts of the city where he enjoyed experimenting with agricultural techniques. His newspapers, the New Hampshire Journal of Agriculture and later the Mirror and Farmer, served farming interests throughout the region.
John was known for his fine horses and delved into the breeding trade. He owned a famous stallion named Len Rodgers. This beautiful black horse was born in Kentucky in 1857. At the beginning of the Civil War he was brought north to prevent being stolen by the Confederates. The horse had an impressive pedigree. His sire was Telegraph, a champion trotting stallion in Kentucky. His mother's sire was Grey Eagle, known for winning several two-mile and four-mile races, also in Kentucky. A sportswriter wrote of Grey Eagle, "His form indicates more power of endurance than any other horse we ever saw in Kentucky…"
Len Rodgers had been used as a private driving horse, and was also as a successful competitive racing trotter. He gained a reputation for siring fine foals. After several years of owning and managing the horse, John Clarke decided in 1871 to send him to be managed at the stable of the Vermont House hotel in Bradford, Vermont. To encourage business, John Clarke produced a booklet to promote Len Rodgers. The booklet included a detailed look at his heritage, plus testimonials that gave glowing descriptions of the horse and his offspring.
John Ferguson of Manchester wrote, "In form, limbs and style, the (Len Rodgers') colt is a masterpiece," and a local man, W. N. Chamberlin exclaimed, "I had rather have a colt from Len Rodgers than any other stock horse in America."
John was also very fond of dogs, especially hunting dogs. He was an avid outdoorsman and advocated for the preservation of New Hampshire's woodlands and fisheries. He was a founder of the State Fish and Game League, and served as its president. He was, of course, a man of letters as well as a man of action. He sponsored competitions to award excellence in elocution (public speaking) in Manchester public schools, and at his alma mater, Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
Next Week: The death of John B. Clarke and the next generation.
Aurore Eaton is executive director of Manchester Historic Association; email her at email@example.com