Our story starts with William and Harriet Folson Clarke who along with their four children; William, Jemina, Elizabeth and John, came to the United States in 1854 from Bury St. Edmunds, Surrey, England. They traveled aboard the steamship, Victoria, and arrived in New York City May 10, 1855. The family moved to Albany, New York where William quickly established
himself as a plumber and a tinsmith.
William Clarke was born 27 March 1843 and was eleven years old when he arrived in the United States. The Clarke family was enumerated in the 1860 census for Albany, New York, taken in January 1861: William Clarke, age 54, tinsmith, Harriet age 49, William age 17, plumber apprentice, Jemina, age 14, Elizabeth, age 12, and John, age 10. All were born in England.
In 1864, during the Civil War, William Clarke, the son, enlisted as a Private in the Union Army on 31 August 1864 in Albany, New York. He served in Captain William L. Horwith's company, Co. F, 91 st Regiment "Albany Regiment" New York Infantry. William was twenty-one years old.
The 91 st Regiment saw duty at Key West, Pensacola, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Appomattox Court House. After Lee's surrender, the Regiment returned to Baltimore where Company F was mustered out.
According to William's pension record, he enlisted August 31, 1864 and was discharged 10 June 1865 at Baltimore, Maryland. William returned home to Albany where he met and married Elizabeth C. Gladding 16 May 1867. William and Elizabeth had three children: Grace Elizabeth born 16 May 1868 in Georgia, William Edward born 2 June 1870 in Florida; died 12 November 1870, and Clara Anna Lydia born 15 March 1872.
William and Elizabeth came to Florida in 1869 because of chronic bronchial trouble that plagued William most of his life. He remembered the warm
climate from serving in Florida during the Civil War and felt his health would benefit from it. The couple is included in the 1870 Federal census for Mandarin. However, William stated that Elizabeth died in Homer, Cortland County, New York where she passed away August 4, 1873. They had been married for six years.
William started a successful plumbing business in Jacksonville and also married again. He met Clara A. Baxley in Jacksonville who was a domestic servant in 1870 and lived next door to William and his first wife. William and Clara were married at her home 23 April 1874 in Lake City, Florida. William and Clara had one daughter, Lizzie born 24 January 1875. Clara did not survive the effects of childbirth and died February 9, 1875 only two weeks after giving birth to Lizzie. This little girl lived only two months and died March 12, 1875 in Jacksonville.
William was once again a widower with two children. He met Luella Martha Dawkins and they were married on February 22, 1876. They had two daughters, Luella born May 1877 and Frances born November 22, 1879. In 1877, William involved himself in community affairs and became an alderman in the 5th ward of Jacksonville and a few years later was elected president of the city council. W. Stokes Boyd was the Mayor of Jacksonville at that time.
Then tragedy struck this family on October 5th , 1880. That morning, while William was at his business, a stove fire started and swept through his home. His wife, Luella, and daughters, Grace Elizabeth, Clara Ann Lydia and Luella died in the blaze. At this point in his life, William had lost three wives and five children. He was only 38 year old. A lesser man would have bowed down by grief, but William was a resilient man. Shortly before her death, Luella is said to have told William that if anything happened to her, she would want him to marry her sister, Fannie, because Fannie was the kindest person she had ever known. Fannie was born July 24, 1859 in Greenwood, Florida. William followed her advice and asked Fannie to marry him.
Reverend R. H. Weller married William and Fannie Denna Dawkins August 1, 1881 in St. Johns Episcopal Church and they had a long and happy marriage. William and Fannie had four children, Luella Harriet born September 18, 1882, William Francis born May 12, 1884, Edward Dawkins born August 3, 1886, and Marion born January 14, 1889. All of the children lived to adulthood.
In 1887, William served as an alderman from the 5th Ward and a few years later was elected as president of the City council. His daughter, Francis, married Willis E. Gerard, Luella Harriet married Hayward Randolph, William Francis married Caroline [Carrie] Stewart Kellogg and Marion married H. L. Dolive. The name of Edward Dawkins Clarke's spouse is not known.
William continued to operate his heating and plumbing company at the corner of Neunan and Ocean streets in Jacksonville. His company became known as "Old Reliable." William was an astute business man and was well liked among his peers because of his honesty and integrity.
Leaving the business in the care of his son, William Francis, William and Fannie went to Colorado in 1909 hoping the climate would be good for his persistent bronchial problems. They lived for a while at 1848 Broadway in Denver and later moved La Plata where he appears on the 1910 census as living on a new farm. By 1912, they were back in Jacksonville.
His health began to fail and he decided to retire, so the business was transferred to his son, William Francis Clarke, who operated it until his death in 1943. When the company was sold, it had been in business for 90 years.
Fannie nursed and cared for William until he passed away at his home 2780
Riverside Avenue November 4, 1927. Fannie passed away six years later January 28, 1934. Both were interred with the rest of their family in the Old City Cemetery, Jacksonville, Florida.

William Clarke, Death Claims Pioneer Here
William Clarke, Once Head of Council Expires
Death claimed William Clarke, pioneer Jacksonville citizen, at his home, 2780 Riverside Avenue early yesterday morning.
He came to Florida in October 1869. In 1887 he served as alderman of the fifth ward, and a few years later was elected president of the city council.
He started his plumbing business upon his arrival in Florida. Retiring from business twenty years ago, he left the management of the establishment to his son, William F. Clarke.
Mr. Clarke was born in Bury St. Edmonds, Suffolk, England. His parents brought him to America when he was 11 years old. He lived in Albany, N.Y., until the Civil War when he served with a New York regiment.
Surviving him are his wife, Mrs. Fannie Dawkins Clarke, and five children, Mrs. Francis Gerow, Mrs. Luella C. Randolph, and William F. Clarke, all of
Jacksonville; Edward D. Clarke, Aurora, Ill., and Mrs. Marion C. Doliva of Tampa.
He also leaves the following grandchildren: Mrs. J. Woodruff McCook of Natchitoches, La.; Miss. Elizabeth Randolph, John Hayward Randolph and William E. Clarke of Jacksonville; Eleanor Rowe Clarke of Aurora, Ill.; and Clarke and Mary Doliva of Tampa, and a great grandchild, Daniel Gerow McCook of Natchitoches, La.
Mr. Clarke was a member of the First Church of Christ, Scientist.
Services will be held from the family residence, the time to be announced later. Interment will be in the family plot in the Old City cemetery. The Marcus Conant Company is directing the arrangements.
Obituary, Florida Times-Union Sunday, November 6, 1927.

Researched and compiled by:
Faye Kennedy Irvin
Clay County Historical Commission, 2009