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William A. Clark

The world's progress is due to the combined efforts of the workers. They may not be conspicuous in the battle of life, because they are "the men behind the guns." They are the men that succeed, and in their success not only obtain the benefit of their labor, but contribute to the benefit of others. Every enterprise that is the means of private gain must have for its secondary object the public good, and every man who establishes himself in a legitimate vocation, and builds his business until it is a helpful concern in the development of the country, is a very useful member of society.

W. A. Clark belongs to this class of men. He is a member of the firm of Tanner & Clark, owning and conducting the largest lumber business in Northwestern Alaska. The foundation of this large concern, owning its sawmill plant and timber lands in Washington, and lumber yards in Nome, Alaska, where from five million feet to six million feet of lumber is kept in stock, was laid by L. B. Tanner, the senior member of the firm, in 1900. Mr. Clark's association with the business dates from 1902. The undertaking that Mr. Tanner had started in a modest way had grown to considerable magnitude, and the new firm planned to supply the people of the Nome country with lumber direct from the saw mill, thereby eliminating the expense resulting from a commodity being handled by middle men, permitting a reduction in selling price without curtailment of profits. The prominent position in Nome that this firm occupies, its reputation for fair dealing and honest methods, and its constantly increasing business, are evidence of a successful career.

Mr. Clark is a native of Youngstown, Ohio. He was born October 10, 1870. When six years old he moved with his parents to Portland, Oregon, where he attended public school. When eighteen he began an apprenticeship to learn the iron molder's trade. After serving his time he took a course in a business college at Seattle, and then worked for about six years at his trade. In 1897 he caught the Klondike fever, and started for Dawson. He went over the White Pass route, and had an arduous and a perilous trip. The condition of the trail during this first great rush was almost indescribable. He and a companion packed 1 ,200 pounds over the pass on their backs the greater part of the distance to Bennett, thirty-seven miles. They made eleven round-trips for every relay, and were from the middle of July until October 9 accomplishing this task. After reaching Bennett a boat was purchased, and a start was made to cross the lakes and descend the Yukon. The second day out they were wrecked in Windy Arm, on Lake Tagish, but escaped without a more serious mishap than the wetting of all their supplies. They had some exciting adventures in Thirty-Mile River, and their boat almost filled with water when they shot the White Horse Rapids. A disaster was narrowly averted at Five Fingers further down the Yukon. Ice began to form in the Yukon before they got half way down the river to their destination, and they encountered many snow storms. Sixty miles above Dawson at the mouth of Stewart River, ice blocked the river, and they went into camp. Three days later the ice broke, and they started with it down stream, arriving in Dawson November 2. The following day the ice froze solidly, and their boat had to be chopped out of the ice to get it ashore.

That winter Mr. Clark mined on Bonanza. The following spring he went out and bought a stock of merchandise, which he took into Dawson. He made three round-trips that season, taking each time a stock of goods to Dawson, and was fairly successful in these ventures. During the last trip he and Miss Laura Johnson were married in Seattle. Mrs. Clark did not accompany her husband to Dawson but he came out after her in the spring of 1899. Returning to Dawson, he found the Nome excitement at its height, and determined to go to the new camp. He arrived in Nome September 22, 1899, and earned his first money in this town ferrying people across Snake River. The receipts from his ferry in seven days were $190. He was in some of the stampedes the following winter, and staked a lot of ground. In the spring of 1900 he opened a road-house on Anvil Creek, and later in the season built a home in Nome. During the winter he also mined on the beach. He followed mining and conducted the road-house until the fall of 1901, when he went to Nome and went into partnership with L. B. Tanner. One member of the firm lives in Seattle and attends to the manufacturing and forwarding of the lumber; the other in Nome attends to the sales and distribution. In 1902-'03 Mr. Tanner was at the manufacturing end of the line; this season, 1904-'05, Mr. Clark is in Seattle, where he owns a pretty home. As noted in the outset of this sketch, Mr. Clark is a worker, and somebody has said that "industry is a species of genius." The domestic trait of his character is conspicuous. He loves home, wife and children. In the commercial world he is known as an honest man, and among his friends as a companionable associate, an ethically honorable man and a good citizen.  

Source: Nome and Seward Peninsula by R. S. Harrison. Seattle: The Metropolitan Press, 1905.




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