Lewis Hine caption: Wilfred Clark, 10 years old, 24 Key St., going home at noon, after cutting five boxes of fish during the morning. Incidentally, he cuts his fingers. See left fore-finger. Two other boys with him had fingers badly cut and healed up. Location: Eastport, Maine. August 1911.
“We called him Biddy. Before my sister Evelina married him, he worked in a paper mill in Westbrook. He slipped into one of the machines, and it near took his arm off. Then he drove a taxi in Eastport. He was a good worker, but he was disabled. He had asthma, and he smoked a lot, too.” -Annie Smith, sister-in-law of Wilford Clark Jr.
“The canning of sardines in the United States was begun at Eastport, Maine, in 1875. During that year one cannery was operated. In each of the four succeeding years one factory was added to the number, so that in 1879 there were five in operation. From that time the industry grew rapidly until, in 1886, there were forty-five factories in the State, of which number thirty-two bordered on Passamaquoddy Bay and its tributary waters and thirteen factories were located along the coast from Cutler westward.”
“At Eastport and Lubec the sardine industry, during the first ten years of its existence, increased to such proportions as to outrank all other branches of business in importance. A large amount of capital was invested and a majority of the people in the capacity either of fishermen, boatmen or factory employees, engaged in it. From 1886 to 1892 there was no increase in the number of factories, but since 1892 there has been a steady increase in the numbers of factories and in the quantity of sardines packed. In 1898 there were sixty-nine sardine factories in Maine.” -Annual Report of the Bureau of Industrial and Labor Statistics, 1901
One of the sardine factories named in the report was L. D. Clark & Sons, of Eastport. L.D. Clark was Lewis D. Clark, the grandfather of Wilford Clark Jr, and the sons who were partners in the company were Andrew and Judson, older brothers of Wilford’s father, Wilford Clark Sr. According to an article in the New York Times on November 3, 1901:
“Several of the largest sardine factories on the coast of Maine have been shut down…on account of the low prices now prevailing for the product. Lewis D. Clark & Sons of Eastport have suspended operations, throwing 300 hands out of work.”
The factory resumed its operations later.
In the 1900 census, Wilford Clark Sr., Maggie, his bride of two years, and Lucy, their one-year-old daughter, lived with Wilford’s father, Lewis D. Clark, listed as “proprietor of sardine factory.” Wilford was listed as a sardine factory worker, most likely with his father’s company. In 1901, a year after son Wilford Jr. was born, it is likely that his father was laid off, due to the shut down. Lewis D. Clark died on May 19, 1909. Shortly after his death, the administrator of Clark’s estate filed a lawsuit against Andrew and Judson, claiming that Andrew, in December, 1908:
“procured of Lewis D. Clark bills of sale of all his interest in the sardines of the firm of L. D. Clark & Sons, also all his right and interest in and to all personal property used and occupied by said L. D. Clark & Sons, and also all his right, title, and interest in and to all boats and gearing…that when said bills of sale were executed said Lewis D. Clark had not sufficient mental capacity to execute legal conveyances of his said property, and that said Lewis D. Clark was unduly influenced by said Andrew to make the conveyances, and that said conveyances were given without sufficient and valuable consideration, and procured by the said Andrew Clark in fraud of said Lewis D. Clark, his estate, and his legal representative.” -Atlantic Reporter, Vol. 88
I could find no clear evidence of the outcome of the case.
Wilford Clark Jr. (not Wilfred, as Hine claimed) was born on December 28, 1900. When he was photographed in front of his house, it’s doubtful that much of the above information would have been on his mind, although he must have known that his grandfather owned a factory, and he must have remembered him dying two years earlier. As my research eventually revealed, he would live only another 32 years. In his short life, Wilford was married twice, had one child, was seriously injured working in a paper mill, drove a taxi, and suffered from numerous health problems. Other than his 89-year-old sister-in-law, Annie Smith, I could find no one who had even heard of him. He might have been entirely forgotten had Lewis Hine not encountered him on a summer day in 1911.
Searching for information about him was frustrating, but thanks to retired city clerk Helen Archer, Quoddy Tides reporter Susan Esposito, and some persistence and patience on my part, I was able to get a sense of who he was and what his life might have been like.
In the 1910 census, Wilford was living at 38 Key Street, with his sister Lucy, and his parents, who owned the house. His father was still working at a sardine factory. In 1917, in his WWI draft registration, Wilford Sr. stated his occupation as a can maker for the American Can Company, and he gave his address as 18 Lincoln Street, Eastport. In the 1920 census, the family, now with the addition of eight-year-old Randall, was still at 18 Lincoln Street, where they owned their house. Both Wilfords, father and son, worked at American Can.
On August 28, 1922, Wilford Jr. married Rena Trott, in Eastport. Sixteen months later, they had their only child, Helen Flora Clark. Rena died (date not known), and Wilford moved to Westbrook, Maine (near Portland), where he worked at the S.D. Warren Co. paper mill. On October 12, 1933, he married Evelina Brackett, a native of Perry, Maine (near Eastport). They were to have no children.
After Wilford was injured at the paper mill, he returned to Eastport and, according to Annie Smith, Evelina’s sister, the couple separated. Wilford got a job as a taxi driver, probably working for his father, who owned a cab company in his later years. His father died in 1935. Wilford Jr. died in Eastport on November 30, 1943, at the age of 42. He is buried at Hillside Cemetery in Eastport. His widow, Evelina, died in Massachusetts in 1987.
Wilford’s daughter, Helen Clark, never married and had no children. For many years, she owned the Friendly Restaurant (not the ice cream chain), in Pembroke, Maine (near Eastport). After a fire, Helen moved the restaurant to Perry, and called it the New Friendly Restaurant. It is still in business, under different management. Helen died in Calais, Maine on August 10, 2002, at the age of 78. She served in WWII, and is buried in the Veterans section of Bayside Cemetery in Eastport. She was Wilford’s last direct descendant.
Obituary for Wilford Clark Sr.
“Death came suddently and unexpectedly to Wilford Clark of this city at the Chipman Hospital, St. Stephen, N.B., last Saturday morning at 4:00 o’clock due to cancer of the heart. His daughter, Mrs. Ralph McPhail of Westbrook, was at his side when the end came.”
“Mr. Clark was born at Trescott, Maine, January 7, 1879, the son of the late Lewis D. and Flora Tucker Clark. His parents moved to Eastport in 1881, and since that time he has made his home here. He married Miss Margaret Lewis at Welshpool, Campobello, N.B., December 7, 1898. For some years Mr. Clark was associated with his brother in the L.D. Clark & Sons Sardine Factory, later being employed at the local branch of the American Can Company, and finally conducting a taxi business with his son, Randall, up to the time of his death Saturday.”
“Of an amiable disposition, friendly and kind hearted, Mr. Clark led a quiet and unassuming life. He made many friends who deeply regret his passing. Although he had been troubled for the past year by the disease that caused his demise, Wilford Clark never complained despite prolonged and intense pain suffered by him for weeks.”
“He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Margaret Lewis Clark; a daughter, Mrs. Ralph McPhail of Westbrook; two sons, Wilford Jr. of Portland and Randall of this city; and three brothers, George and Lewis of Eastport, and Judson of Augusta.”
“The funeral services were held from his late residence on 18 Lincoln Street, Eastport, Monday afternoon, at 1:30 o’clock, Rev. Joseph Lambert officiating. The bearers were: Levi Sullivan, Philip Ross, William Peel and Hollis Murphy. His daughter, Mrs. Ralph McPhail of Westbrook, and son, Wilford Jr., of Portland, attended the services. The latter will make his home here with his mother, Mrs. Margaret Clark.” -Eastport Sentinel May 8, 1935
Obituary for Wilford Clark, Jr.
“Funeral services for Wilford Clark, whose death caused by heart trouble occurred here late Tuesday night, Nov. 30, was held on Friday at the home of his mother, Rev. C.R. Brooks officiating. The bearers were Alonzo Ramsdell, Samuel Price, John Brackett and Arthur McPhail, Present from out of town were Mrs. Lucy McPhail of Westbrook, Maine, and Mrs. Rena Bunker and Miss Helen Clark of Springfield, Mass.”
“Wilford Clark (Jr.) was a son of Mrs. Margaret (Lewis) Clark and the later Wilford Clark, Sr. and was born here Dec. 28, 1900. He attended the local schools and worked for many years at the American Can Co’s Sea Street plant. After it closed, he went to Westbrook where he was employed by the S.D. Warren Co. During the past year, his health compelled him to retire from any active employment.”
“In 1923, he married Miss Rena Trott, and after her death he married Miss Evelena Brackett, who survives him. He also leaves a daughter, Miss Helen Clark of 48 Wilbraham Ave., Springfield, Mass., a brother, Randall Clark of Eastport, and a sister, Mrs. Lucy McPhail of Westbrook, Maine.” -Eastport Sentinel, December 8, 1943
*Story published in 2010.