The Church at home and abroad, Volume 24 By Presbyterian Church
A Home-Mission Enthusiast
The Rev. Seth Gold Clark, who died at his home in Appleton City, Mo., on Friday, April 22, 1898, was one of the most enthusiastic and indefatigable home mission pioneers in the central West. For over fifty years incessantly active in the work he loved, he was one of the best examples of a missionary type now fast disappearing.
He was born in Delaware county, N. Y., August 13, 1817, and, after a boyhood spent on farms in New York and Ohio, graduated at Western Reserve College in 1843 and Western Reserve Seminary in 1846. He was licensed by the Presbytery of Cleveland, October 7, 1845, and began at once supplying three little mission churches in Ohio. From there he went to Bainbridge, O., where he was ordained in May, 1847, and remained two years. During his next pastorate, at Aurora, O., his health failed. Then followed eleven years' service as district secretary of the A. B. C. F. M., and three as chaplain of the 10th
Ohio Vounteer Cavalry, from 1862 to 1865. Ten days before Atlanta was taken, he was captured, but was soon released as a noncombatant. The twenty days' furlough he was then given to visit his family he " spent in helping reelect Lincoln." The mayor of Cleveland telegraphed the President to keep him in Ohio till after election, which he did. Unable on his return to the army to reach his regiment, then on its march to the sea, he was assigned by Gen. Thomas to the work of raising funds for the Sanitary Commission. In August, 1865, he became chaplain of the House of Correction in Detroit and of the Seamen's Friend Society. This he kept but a short time until, on January 2, 1866, he left his home to take up the work in which he was to become most successful, and for which he is best known.
At the close of the war, western Missouri, which had been repeatedly ravaged by both armies, retained but few of its former inhabitants and scarcely any churches. At the request of Dr. Henry Kendall, Mr. Clark came to Missouri to assist in reorganizing Presbyterian work. Of his beginnings here he once wrote: " The Board, by my request, made full provision for my salary the first year. I told them that if I went to such a burned-over country I did not want to intimate to any man, woman or child that a missionary needed anything to eat, drink or wear. I did not say money for a year, except when I paid my bills. The people were just as modest as I was—they never said money to me. I obtained a hardy mustang pony, and went in all directions, preaching the gospel wherever I found an opening." Does that seem a haphazard method, not to be reasonably expected to produce good results ? In less than three years he organized churches at Holden in Johnson county: Greenwood in Jackson county; Harrisonville and Austin in Cass county; Butler, Lone Oak and Papinsville in Bates county; Hudson (now Appleton City) in 8t. Clair county, and Lamar in Barton county. Each of these churches he supplied until they were able to obtain regular services otherwise. Some years later two of these towns, unable to obtain expected railroads, died a natural death, as did their churches. Two other churches were outstripped by later organizations by other Presbyterian denominations. There remain to-day five good churches organized before 1870 by that one missionary " settled on horseback."
From 1871-76 Mr. Clark was financial agent for Highland University. The last two summers of that time were spent with a missionary tent outfit, furnished by Sunday schools in the East. He traveled through northern Kansas and southern Nebraska, preaching daily to congregations averaging 100 on week nights and from 150 to 300 on Sundays. This was strictly pioneer work in regions beyond ministers and churches. He was everywhere gladly welcomed. This tent work he was accustomed to regard as the most successful work of his life. During 1877-78 he supplied the churches of Iola and Carlyle, Kans.; 1879-80, Baxter Springs, Galena and Empire, Kans.; 1881-5, Rich Hill, Rockvilie and Hume, Mo., all three of which he organized. He then spent ten years in southwestern Kansas, where he found nine counties adjoining, in neither of which was an organized church. During those years he organized eight churches, seven of which, in spite of drought and consequent depopulation of large districts, are still on our " Minutes." The year 1895 was spent with the Church of Raymore, Mo., which under his labors was much revived, and built a beautiful house of worship.
At last, when nearly eighty, with mind and voice unimpaired, he was forced by physical infirmities to give up his active ministry. It was an affecting scene, when by vote of Presbytery he was " honorably retired," and recommended to the Board of Relief. All knew of his active life, and realized that it was not boastfulness which led him to rise and say that, able as he then supposed to preach better than ever before, he would gladly sacrifice his right arm rather than go onto the Board, if only he were physically able to continue in the ministry. No service did he ever shirk as too hard, no field as too unattractive. Always and everywhere he loved to proclaim salvation to the uttermost through Jesus Christ. Like every other true missionary, he recognized no bounds of race or clime, but worked and prayed for the universal spread of the gospel. No wonder Miss Mary Clark, the daughter of such a home missionary, should be found to-day a foreign missionary in distant Persia.
Mr. Clark was twice married; in 1866 to Miss Lucy Peck, who died in 1873, leaving five children; and, in 1875, to Miss Emma Perry, who survives him.
What a record! It will never be fully written on earth. His mission work in at least five states, the organization of 31 churches, most of which during the time of his ministry erected houses of worship, his army chaplaincy, his evangelistic work in prisons, battle fields, mining camps, frontier settlements, and in well-established communities east and west, his vigorous advocacy of education at home and abroad—these are a few reasons why he will be long held in grateful remembrance. A few months ago he modestly wrote of himself that his had been “a very busy, checkered life; possibly some good may result.”