Buried in the Valley Cemetery in Manchester are two men named William Cogswell Clarke.
The first, whose story has been told in this column, was the William C. Clarke (1810-1872), who was the formidable Attorney General of the State of New Hampshire. The second was his nephew William C. Clarke. This William was the son of John Badger Clarke, the editor and proprietor of the famous Daily Mirror and American newspaper published in Manchester. After his father's death in 1891, William and his older brother Arthur Eastman Clarke continued to ably run the bustling business.
The younger William C. Clarke was born in Manchester in 1856. He attended local public schools, and then studied at Phillips Andover Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where he prepared for college. Like his father and uncle before him, he attended Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where his brother Arthur was already enrolled. William graduated in 1876. In his senior year he won first prize in the school's elocutionary (public speaking) contest. After college he apprenticed in his father's publishing business, and after two years became a reporter for the Daily Mirror and American. He was later named City Editor.
After eight years covering the city beat, he was put in charge of the "special departments" of the Daily Mirror and of the Weekly Mirror and Farmer newspapers. Like his father before him, William had an abiding interest in horses. He served on the boards of the New Hampshire Road and Trotting Horse Breeder's Association, and also with a similar New England-wide organization. He took particular interest in writing and editing for the horse department of the newspapers. His excellent reporting on horse racing and breeding gained national attention.
William also wrote popular articles for the sports department under the name Joe English. Joe English was a Native American who lived in New Boston, New Hampshire, in the 18th century, and about whom many tales have been told. William's interest in sports writing emerged from his enjoyment of baseball, track and other sports. He was a star baseball player at Andover Academy, and was captain of the Dartmouth team for two years. He held the championship record for ball throwing at the college, with his amazing throw of 358 feet 11 inches. He was well-known for being a New Hampshire baseball pioneer, having played on the early professional teams in Manchester and beyond. He also was a winner in 100-yard dash and hurdle competitions. Baseball was his greatest love, however, and he excelled in reporting about this sport.
William's brother Arthur is also buried at the Valley Cemetery. The two men had a great deal in common. They were both superb athletes, and Arthur had also excelled in baseball. He was legendary for having hit three home runs in a game played at the North End fair grounds. He was also an outstanding roller and ice skater, one of the best in both sports in the state. Arthur's professional interest, however, was in supporting talent in the performing arts. He was the editor of the drama and music departments at the Mirror for many years.
Arthur developed many friendships with well-known actors and actresses. His reviews of performances were so well written and perceptive that they were picked up by newspapers around the country. He was known, in particular, for helping to establish the career of actor and playwright Denman Thompson. Mr. Thompson, who grew up in West Swanzey, New Hampshire, was an obscure actor touring with a variety company when Arthur took notice of him and wrote, according to historian George F. Willey, "…the first noticeably long, analytical, and complimentary criticism of his work that was ever vouchsafed to this eminent actor."
William C. Clarke was elected Mayor of Manchester in 1895, and would be reelected three more times, serving until 1902. While Mayor, William focused on improving public education and he also remodeled City Hall, which was showing signs of wear and tear. Perhaps no job was more important to him, however, than presiding over the city's grand Semi-Centennial Celebration that took place on September 6, 7, 8 and 9, 1896. The City of Manchester was now 50 years old!
Next Week: A Valley Cemetery Story — Manchester's Semi-Centennial Celebration of 1896.
Aurore Eaton is executive director of Manchester Historic Association; email her at firstname.lastname@example.org