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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Sunday June 16th 2024

Descendants of Mayflower’s John and Priscilla Alden Illness and poverty plagued Anna and Fred Clark centuries later

Bob Clark, Anna and Fred Clark’s great grandson, became a member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants and Founders of Patriots of America. He and his cousin Wally purchased grave markers for Anna and Fred eight decades later.

By Sue Hunter Weir

On January 8, 2017, Friends of the Cemetery lost one of its earliest friends when Bob Clark passed away. Bob was the great-grandson of Fred and Anna Clark who are buried in Lot 101, Block A.  I met Bob in the cemetery many years ago when he and his cousin were visiting Fred and Anna’s graves.

Anna was one of the first people buried in the cemetery whose story caught my attention.  It wasn’t hard.  Anna committed suicide in the cemetery on September 15, 1909, at the age of 53.  She shot herself on Fred’s grave. Three suicide notes were found in her purse.  Parts of two notes and the circumstances of Anna’s life were printed in the Minneapolis Tribune the day after Anna died.

The first note, written to her daughter Cora, begins:” I am tired of life, dear Cora, and need a rest.” Anna continued by expressing her love and concern for her grandchildren.

The second letter, addressed to her daughter Caroline, was even more heartbreaking: “Do not blame anyone for this I do.  I am tired and the sorrow and agony in my heart is too great to bear.  Bury me beside papa, if you think I am worthy of it.  Good-bye.  God bless you, Mama.”

‘Papa’ was Anna’s husband.  Fred Clark had died four years earlier, on July 25, 1905, from progressive spinal atrophy, a neuromuscular disease characterized by muscle weakening and loss of mobility. He was undoubtedly ill for some time before he died.

Bob also told me that Anna had been pregnant sixteen times but that only eight of those babies survived.

Based on the content of the notes that she left behind, the Tribune reporter attributed Anna’s suicide to ‘despondency’.  And she had certainly endured an enormous amount of loss in her life for which there were few resources available to help her.  There was no medication or therapy to help her in 1909.

She appears to have been poor.  As a 53-year-old widow who most likely had not worked outside of her home while raising eight children, there were was no financial support for her.  If the Tribune’s story was correct, she used her last nickel for streetcar fare to travel from her home in North Minneapolis to the cemetery.

Anna got off of the streetcar at Cedar Avenue and Lake Street and was seen walking into the cemetery about 9 p.m. Passersby heard two gunshots but didn’t think anything of it.  Her body was discovered about 6 a.m. the following morning.  She was still holding the gun and her purse containing her three suicide notes was next to her. The coroner decided that no inquest was necessary.

Her family decided that she was indeed worthy of being buried next to her husband and her funeral was held two days after she died.

Anna and Fred’s graves remained unmarked until sometime in the 1990s when Bob Clark and his cousin Wally, purchased markers for them.  Bob was an Air Force veteran, a retired plumber and an avid genealogist, a fact that was mentioned in his obituary.  One of Bob’s proudest accomplishments was being admitted to the Society of Mayflower Descendants and Founders of Patriots of America.  It turns out that Anna and Fred (who were first cousins) were descendants of John and Priscilla Alden, who arrived in what would become the United States in 1620 and were among those who founded the Plymouth Colony.

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