Patriot John Clarke
Patriot John Clarke, the namesake of our DAR Chapter, received little formal education, yet he became a Major General in the Georgia Militia in the Revolutionary War, a state representative, a U. S. Indian Agent, and the 31st governor of Georgia from 1819-1823.
John Clarke, often called Jack, was born on February 28, 1766, in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. He was the eldest son of Hannah Arrington and Elijah Clarke. Clarke’s father was a Revolutionary War hero, a frontiersman, an Indian fighter, and land speculator who retired from the war as a Brigadier General. John Clarke had five siblings, and all the children received a good education except John, who by reason of the Revolution, was deprived of it.
In 1773, when John was seven years old, his father moved the family to the northeast Georgia area (later Wilkes County). Finding no schools, John was sent back to North Carolina where he attended school until he was about 13 years old. It was while John was in North Carolina that his father’s involvement in the Revolutionary War grew.
When John returned to Georgia, he joined his father’s patriot militia unit and became a colonial scout. At 13 years old, John Clarke was the youngest soldier whose name appears on the roster of Kettle Creek. At age 14 he was wounded while caught up in a skirmish. Although just a boy at the time, he performed the services of the best of soldiers in the Battle of Kettle Creek in Wilkes County in 1779, the Battle of Musgrove Mill in South Carolina in 1780, and the siege of Augusta in 1781. At age 15, John became a lieutenant and was promoted to the rank of captain at age 16. By this time, he had earned the reputation as a fierce Indian fighter.
John Clarke was known for his temper, loyalty, bravery, and strong will. He was a rugged individualist and was considered fearless by all who knew him. Still eager for military preferment, at age 21 John Clarke achieved the rank of Major General in the state militia. During this time, the Georgia frontier was still a very dangerous place, and Major Clarke spent much of his time protecting frontier settlements. His most distinguished action was under the command of his father in a 1787 militia victory over Creek Indians at Jacks Creek–in present-day Walton County. Clarke was wounded in this battle. The Matthew Talbot Chapter of DAR erected a granite marker in 1925 in downtown Monroe on the site of the Battle of Jacks Creek.
Years later, in the War of 1812, he was given command of the forces assigned to protect the seacoast and the southern boundary of Georgia. In recognition of his service in the American Revolution, he received 800 acres of land as his reward for “devotion to the cause of liberty.”
Clarke married Nancy Williamson in 1787, and they had two children. In 1819 he bought a plantation called Woodville, located in Milledgeville, Georgia, and became a planter.
Major Clarke became a forceful figure in Georgia, entering politics in 1801. He was commissioned to lay out the new state capital in Milledgeville in 1803. Major Clarke served in the Georgia House of Representatives and was elected the 31st Governor of Georgia from 1819-1823. During his tenure as governor, Clarke oversaw the Treaty of 1821, which opened Creek Indian Lands between the Flint and Ocmulgee Rivers for settlement. As governor, he set aside a half million dollars for internal improvements to the state, and for the establishment of public schools. To offset a devastating fire in Savannah in 1810, he also provided $10,000 to the city from the state treasury.
After losing bid for governor in 1825, Governor Clarke retired from politics and accepted a job offer from President Andrew Jackson to be a Federal Indian Agent and Keeper of Public Forests in Florida. This lucrative job entrusted Clarke with protecting the live oak forests along the Gulf Coast for the U. S. Navy, which used the lumber extensively or shipbuilding.
Governor John Clarke died of yellow fever in St. Andrews Bay, Florida on October 12, 1832. His wife Nancy died two weeks later. Both were buried at St. Andrews Bay.
In 1923 The National Society of the DAR relocated their graves to the Marietta National Cemetery. A NSDAR Marker was placed at the grave site by the Bullock Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Clarkesville, Georgia, the county seat of Habersham County, is named in his honor.