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Clark, Eli P. 1847-1931


Posted By: Marilyn Holmes (email)
Date: 11/14/2011 at 18:05:51

The Grinnell (IA) Herald; March 1931

Early Resident of Grinnell and Good Friend of Grinnell College Dies In Los Angeles
Was a Big Figure in Civic and Financial Life of Los Angeles But Never Lost Interest in Grinnell

The death of Eli P. Clark at Los Angeles takes from life one of the big figures in the civic and financial life of that big city. Mr. Clark's early life was spent in Grinnell. The old home on Park street opposite the schoolhouse still stands and a large tree said to have been planted by Mr. Clark before 1860 has been marked with a proper medalion.

Mr. Clark was here at the last commencement, a man strong and active, and had a delightful time with the few early freinds of his boyhood days still living here.

His death occurred last Friday at 11:15 and the Herald almost immediately received word from Mr. S.H. Herrick of Riverside of the death of this man, certainly one of the most successful of all the business men who have lived in Grinnell. Mr. Herrick sent us by airmail a story of his life as published in the Los Angeles Times and in the same mail came a story of his life taken from the Los Angeles Herald and sent us by Ella Cravath a former resident of Grinnell and a friend of everything that is good in this city.

The story as contained in the Los Angeles Times is somewhat longer than the other story and we are pleased to clip it entire. Mr. Clark's father for sometime lived on the farm one-half mile south of the old fairground more recently owned by William Harris. The story from the Times is a follows:

Eli P. Clark, for many years an outstanding figure in the development of Los Angeles, pioneer railway builder of Southern California and a leader in civic, philanthropic and social activities of the city, died yesterday at 11:15 a.m. at his home, 9 St. James Park, following a heart attack with which he was stricken last Saturday night. With him at the time of his death was his wife, Mrs. Lucy H. Clark.

Mr. Clark, who was 83 years of age, had been in good health prior to his fatal illness. He was in the habit of going to his office every day and had had no indication of heart disease. Throughout Saturday morning he worked at his desk, attended a luncheon at noon and it was not until late that evening that he became ill. Sunday it was realized that his condition was serious.

Funeral services will be conducted Monday at 2 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 845 South Hope street, with Dr. Carl S. Patton and Dr. James A. Blaisdell officiating. Burial will be in the family mausoleum in Forrest Lawn Memorial Park. The body was taken to the W.A. Brown undertaking parlors, 1815 South Flower street, last night.


Coming to Los Angeles in 1891 from Arizona, Mr. Clark at once became identified with the business life of the city and during his residence founded and developed many of the important and constructive enterprises of the community. Chief among these was the Los Angeles Consolidated Railway Company, now the Los Angeles Railway, in which he was associated with his brother-in-law, Gen. M.H. Sherman, and the story of its development also is the story of the development of the whole foothill country from Los Angeles to the sea.

The company was formed with Gen. Sherman as president and Mr. Clark as vice-president and general manager. It contracted with the Pacific Rolling Mill Company of San Francisco to build and equip 110 miles of electric street railway with adequate power plant and cars. By July 1, 1891, the first section had been constructed and put into operation and by August, 1893, consolidation of all the horsecar and cable lines of the city into one system and their conversion into the new electric railway organization had been accomplished.


At this time there were but three successful electric railway systems in the United States, which used generators of only 150 horsepower capacity. After studying these systems, Mr. Clark insisted upon at least 250 horsepower generators for the Los Angeles Consolidated Electric Railway, and also had one 500-horsepower generator built by the Westinghouse company, which was the first generator of that size ever built.

Early in 1894 Mr. Clark urged the building of a line between Los Angeles and Pasadena, and soon acquired the horse-car lines of the foothill city. The Los Angeles and Pasadena Electric Railway was formed, construction pushed forward and on May 5, 1895, the road was opened for operation. Subsequently, in 1898, this became the first unit of the Pacific Electric system.


In 1895 Mr. Clark took the first steps for an electric line to the beaches by acquiring the property of the old steam railroad from this city to Santa Monica. This road, the Los Angeles Pacific Railway, was rebuilt and equipped and opened for traffic April 1, 1896. Mr. Clark was president and manager of this latter company from its organization until the fall of 1909, when the property passed to the control of the Southern Pacific Company.

During this period Mr. Clark and Gen. Sherman had devoted their entire resources to the development of the Los Angeles Pacific lines until they had constructed more than 200 miles of suburban and interurban railway through Colegrove and Hollywood, with four connecting lines to the beaches from Santa Monica to Redondo, skirting the ocean for approximately twenty-five miles. It was this time which became Mr. Clark's especial pride, for it was magnificently built, equipped with the finest class of rolling stock ever placed in service and is recognized as the most valuable railway property in California.

In 1903 the site of the presesnt Subway Terminal Building was pruchased and by the fall of 1905 Mr. Clark and Gen. Sherman, realizing that the building of a subway would some day, be a necessity, had acquired a right of way in the purchase of property from Hill street to the Vineyard powerhouse for the first subway projected for Los Angeles.

When Mr. Clark first came here Los Angeles was a city of less than 50,000 inhabitants and on the verge of bankruptcy due to the financial depression which followed the collapse of the real estate boom of 1887, but with the building of the first electric railroad, a new hope was born which was reflected in increased real estate values, the coming of new residents and the growth of manufacturing industries, all of which started the city on the way to its present size and position.

The rapid transit facilities also resulted in thickly populating the entire country immediately surrounding the city of Los Angeles, thereby increasing its city limits to nearly three times its original area.


In 1906 Mr. Clark organized at Portland, Or., the Mount Hood Railway and Power Company, of which he was president and principal owner. This consisted of twenty-five miles of road and a large hydro-electric power plant. After this project was in successful operation Mr. Clark disposed of his interest in the Portland General Light and Power company in 1911.

In 1913 Mr. Clark built and equiped the Hotel Clark and he was vice-president of the Subway Terminal Corporation, which erected and completed in 1926 the Subway Terminal Building, one of the finest and largest in the city.

Always intensely interested in civic organizations for the improvement of Los Angeles in cultural, educational and spiritual lines, Mr. Clark had been actively identified with numerous movements of this character. He was a member and vice-president of the board of trustees of Pomona college, a member of the First Congregational Church of this city and served on its board of directors, and was vice-president and chairman of the finance committee of the Y.M.C.A.

After he severed his railway connections, Mr. Clark devoted his time to private investments and at the time of his death he was president of the Eli P. Clark Company, the Clark and Sherman Land Company, the Del Rey Company, the Main Street Company, the Capitol Crude Oil Company and the Empire Oil Co.


Mr. Clark was born on a farm at Solon, near Iowa City, Johnson county, Iowa, November 25, 1847. He was a scion of one of America's oldest families, the progenitor of which in this country was Lieut. William Clarke, who emigrated from Borsetshire, Eng., in 1630. In about 1750 the "e" was dropped from the family name, since which time it has been written in its present form. Mr. Clark was of the seventh generation in direct descent from Lieut. Clarke.

Taught as a boy that he should always have a definite aim before him, early in life Eli P. Clark made work and yet more work his guide in life until his interest became broad and numerous. As a youth he attended public schools and later studied at Grinnell College. For one year he was master of a country school near Grinnell, where because of his youth, vigor and athletic prowess he was called "the boy school-teacher."

In 1867 he went with his father's family to Southwest Missouri, where he farmed near Granby and taught school during the winter months. However, when he was 26 years of age he contracted sciatica and decided to go to Arizona for his health. He left home with his own team and $20, plus plenty of grit and ambition, and drove across the plains with a small band of pioneers until he reached Prescott, Ariz., on August 11, 1875.


Mr. Clark's first employment in Prescott was as a clerk and deputy postmaster, and since he worked on the theory that work never killed anyone, it is small wonder that at 26 he was appointed territorial auditor which position he held for ten years. During this period he formed a friendship with Gen. John C. Fremont, then
Governor of Arizona, which continued until the death of the great "pathfinder." While in Prescott, Mr. Clark also served one year as assistant postmaster and was engaged in the sawmill and lumber business there as well.

It was while he was in Prescott that he met Gen. Sherman and his sister *Lucy, whom Mr. Clark married in 1880. On April 30, 1930, Mr. and Mrs. Clark celebrated their golden wedding anniversary.

During 1897 Mr. Clark was honored by Iowa College when the degree of master of arts was conferred upon him in recognition of his many useful activities.

Mr. Clark was a member of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, Los Angeles Country Club, the Uulifters' Club, the Better America Frederation and various other clubs and organizations.

He leaves his widow and four children, Mrs. Katherine Clark Barnard, Mrs. Mary Clark Eversole, Miss Lucy Mason Clark and Eugene Payson Clark.

Transcriber Note: *Lucy Helen Sherman, married 8 Apr 1880 in Prescott, Yavapai, AZ (Source: FamilySearch.org Arizona Marriages 1888-1908 for Eli P. Clark


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