8th Virginia captain and major Jonathan Clark was the oldest of ten siblings in a family that left a powerful impact on American history. No other family can claim a larger role in the history of the War for Independence, the conquest of the old frontier (the “Northwest Territory”), and the exploration of the post-Louisiana purchase frontier than the Clarks can.
Today, the most famous of them is William, who was twenty years younger than Jonathan. Each of them, however, contributed to the founding and expansion of the nation in his or her own way.
Jonathan (1750 – 1811) was the oldest. A Captain in the 8th Virginia, he was later promoted to major and then lieutenant colonel and held a post-war rank of major general in the Virginia militia. He was at Brandywine, Germantown, Valley Forge, Monmouth, Paulus Hook, and the siege of Charleston--where he was taken prisoner. He lived his later years near Louisville, Kentucky.
George Rogers (1752 – 1818) was, during his life, the most famous sibling, known as the “Conqueror of the Northwest.” He led successful western campaigns against the Shawnee, who were allied with the British. Control of that Northwest Territory (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and a bit of Minnesota) was no small matter. Following the French and Indian War, the British Crown considered this territory to be part of Quebec. This territory would likely be part of Canada today were it not for George.
Ann Rogers (1755 – 1822) married Owen Gwathmey, an early settler of Louisville.
John (1757 – 1784) was, at the age of 19, awarded a commission in the 8th Virginia as a 2nd Lieutenant in Robert Higgins’ 1777 replacement company. He served only a short while. He was captured three weeks after his twentieth birthday at the Battle of Germantown. Held for much of the time in terrible conditions, he returned to his parents' home sick with "consumption" (pulmonary tuberculosis) in 1781. He was sent for a while to the Caribbean in the hope that the climate would help him. It didn't work. He returned home and continued to waste away until his death in 1784.
Richard Henry (1760 – 1784) served under George Rogers in several western engagements, starting at the age of nineteen. He died while traveling alone on horseback from the falls of the Ohio (Louisville) to Vincennes or Kaskaskia (Illinois). He is presumed to have drowned, though the family hoped for many years that he would turn up alive.
Edmund (1762 – 1815) served in the 4th Virginia Regiment as a young sergeant. This was the regiment the 8th Virginia merged with (and took the number of) in 1778. He received an ensign's commission in the 6th Virginia shortly before the siege of Charleston. He was taken prisoner there along with Jonathan and promoted to lieutenant while in captivity and released after Yorktown. He was received a captain's commission during the Quasi-War with France. He moved to Kentucky with the rest of the family and died there as a lifelong bachelor in 1815.
Lucy (1765 – 1838) married 8th Virginia Captain William Croghan. The Croghans lived and prospered on their estate “Locust Grove” east of Louisville, Kentucky. Jonathan lived close by and George came to live with Lucy in his later years, struggling toward his eventual death with an amputated leg and the effects of a stroke.
Elizabeth (1768 – 1795) married Richard Clough Anderson, a well-regarded officer in the Virginia Line and surveyor of Kentucky military bounty lands. She died young. Her husband remarried. One of his children from that marriage was Colonel Robert Anderson, the Union commander of Fort Sumpter at the outbreak of the Civil War.
William (1770 – 1838) explored the new frontier with Meriwether Lewis at the head of the Corps of Discovery from 1804 to 1806, co-leading the first overland journey all the way to the Pacific Ocean. He is now, by far, the most famous of the Clark siblings. He was later made governor of Missouri.
Frances Eleanor (1773 – 1825) married three times, the second time to Charles Mynn Thruston, Jr. Thruston’s father had been the rector of Berkeley Parish (Berkeley County), Virginia, and a colonel in the Continental Army. Berkeley County played an important role in the life of the 8th Virginia. The life of the elder Thruston holds strong parallels to the life of 8th Virginia Colonel Peter Muhlenberg—they were both “fighting parsons” from the Shenandoah Valley. Frances died in 1825 in St. Louis, Mo., at the home of her son, Col. John O'Fallon.
Jonathan and his wife Sarah Hite Clark lie in the center of six Clark family graves fronting a family monument at Louisville's Cave Hill Cemetery. Flags adorn the graves of Jonathan, George, and Edmund, who fought in the Revolutionary War. Their famous younger brother, William, is buried in St. Louis, Missouri. (Author)
is researching the history of the Revolutionary War's 8th Virginia Regiment. Its ten companies formed on the frontier, from the Cumberland Gap to Pittsburgh.
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