Biography of Isaac Asbury Clarke

Professor Isaac Asbury Clarke, who for years was principal of Clarke's Academy of Berryville and was one of the most widely known and ablest educators of the state, was born in Overton County, Tennessee, March 22, 1837. He acquired his early education in Rhea's Academy at Berryville, which he attended for several years, and he later became a student in the University of Missouri at Columbia in the year 1860. He left school the following year, however, to enlist in the Confederate army, with which he served until the close of the war. He was on duty with the First Creek Regiment of the Indian Territory under General Standwatie and participated in the battle of Pea Ridge and of Honey Springs. He received his discharge at the close of the war, at which time he had risen to the rank of captain.

It was less than two years after the close of hostilities that Professor Clarke opened an academy at Berryville. The institution began with twenty-five pupils on the 14th of January, 1867, and such was the success of the new enterprise that the number of pupils had increased to one hundred before the first term had closed. From the beginning the school was a success and Professor Clarke continued his educational work until within a year and a half of his death. He was a most capable educator, imparting clearly and readily to others the knowledge that he had acquired, and many of the ablest men of the state and of the west received at least a part of their training under his direction and bear testimony to the thoroughness of the work and the inspiration of his own career over their lives.

In 1871 Professor Clarke was united in marriage to Miss Virginia G. Layton and they became the parents of a son and two daughters. The mother, Mrs. Clarke, was killed on the 8th of August, 1879, while on an outing trip with her husband and children. They were camped at Eureka Springs when a tree fell upon Mrs. Clarke, causing her death almost instantly. Professor Clarke remained true to her memory, never marrying again. His son, Cuthbert Clarke, resided for a time at Victor, Colorado, but is now deceased. The daughters are: Vinnie, now the wife of Malone Lewis of Denver, Colorado; and Fannie, the wife of Digby John West of Berryville. In the summer of 1905 Professor Clarke made an extended trip through the west and at every stop was greeted and entertained by his old students, many of whom are now men of prominence in business circles and in the councils of state and federal government. It was the arduous duty that he imposed upon himself in carrying on the school and in writing nights and evenings concerning his western trip that finally caused the breakdown resulting in his death. He was for many years teacher of the Bible class in the Sunday school of the Methodist Episcopal church, South, and his entire life was guided by a most earnest belief in the Christian faith, although he did not unite with any church. However, he closely followed the Golden Rule and there are few men whose lives have been such a force for intellectual and moral advancement in the state of Arkansas. One of the local papers said: "He has, through his personal influence and the influence of his school, done more to advance the educational interests of the county than any other individual. It would be an impossibility to estimate the loss Carroll County has sustained in the death of Professor Clarke. Always public-spirited, he was ready at all times to give of his effort and his means to any enterprise that promised good to his county or state, and his voice will be missed in those councils that are called upon to act for the good of the people. The moment of his death unset as emblematic, for with the going out of this life a source of both light and warmth was withdrawn from a large section of the earth." He lived and labored long for the benefit of his fellowmen and his influence remains as a power and a benediction among those with whom he was associated.


Herndon, Dallas Tabor. Centennial History of Arkansas. 3 vols. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1922.

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