that is how most fairy tales begin, yet it is also how stories of real people begin. The story of one of the oldest homesteads in Lake County and of the family who loved and cherished the home was resurrected in 1999 by Mayor James D. Metros when he established The Old Homestead Preservation Society and initiated the restoration of this notable house. As worthy and more personal accounts of the history of the homestead have been published in the past, the current narrative is meant to give the reader an insight to some architectural significance of the house and a limited biography of the family who built and revered the home for 118 years and who resided in what Avis Bryant Brown described as “simplicity that was grandeur.” A letter from the Department of Natural Resources February 14, 2001 to Sherry Nagel-Smith and James D. Smith contained the comment “what an interesting little house” and a statement that “no one seems to have seen anything like it.”
A simple frame house built in 1847 and located in the Crown Point Historic District just south of the Old Lake County Courthouse, the Wellington A. Clark home is one of Lake County’s only surviving examples of architecture of the pioneer era. The house is practically in its original state and, when erected, was one of the best homes in town. A basic Greek Revival, vernacular in construction, the house was framed with rough-hewn timbers and covered with cedar clapboards. The home was a sophisticated structure in a time when logs were normally utilized for residential and civic construction. Like many hall and parlor homes, the front portion of the house consists of two rooms side by side with a single entry. The house has a rear extension in the shape of an “L” that was built concurrently with the front portion. The “L” extension includes a full width parlor/dining area with a small bedroom off the southwest end and a galley kitchen at the northwest end that leads to a cooking and storage area at the far west end. An attic is accessible through a doorway in the front main entry room and covers only that area. A small brick-walled basement approximately six feet deep is below part of the front main entry room with access from the adjoining parlor/dining area. The foundation and structural system consist of heavy timbers sitting on brick piers with intermediate joists spanning between the beams.
One can view The Old Homestead house within several vernacular traditions. On the one hand, the house seems to be within the hall and parlor vernacular. In other ways, however, it seems that the builder combined elements of the upright and wing, and gable front traditions to arrive at this plan. In this context, it is not surprising that the owners came from Upstate New York. Certainly, the early settlement period homes of Lake County owe much to the influx of Yankee builders and pioneers. Most came (ultimately) from Connecticut, New York, and other New England States, where these types germinated in the early 19th century.
The New England influences show in The Old Homestead in the placement of the stairs and relationships of the rooms to one another. The Old Homestead resembles in many ways the “wing” portion of an upright and wing. While industrialization has removed many traces of these early homes, a number can be seen in Center Township, and in other more rural portions of Lake County. As many as twelve examples, in varying states of repair, still stand in the southern Townships of Lake County such as Winfield Township, Eagle Creek Township, and Cedar Creek Township. Neighboring Porter County has more examples of the upright and wing type. In several cases, the wing has a projecting end room seen in The Old Homestead. Besides hall and parlor houses, these upright and wing houses are the closest comparable vernacular type in the county. The Old Homestead has equal or better integrity than most of them. The home clearly reflects the early settlement era of Lake County and the New England influences on its early homes.
The era during which The Old Homestead was built ushered in a long period of growth for the county and thriving economic development for the city of Crown Point. In October 1834 Solon Robinson came to the area and built a log house of the site that was to become Crown Point. Others followed and by 1835 the settlement numbered 21 people. In March 1836, a post office, known as Lake Court House, was established. In 1840 the newly platted town of Crown Point, Indiana was designated the county seat. By 1847, when The Old Homestead was erected, Crown Point flourished with two churches, two general stores, a hotel, a school and a population of 150.
The home was built for one of the earliest and better-known citizens of Lake County and Crown Point, Wellington A. Clark who was born September 2, 1815. Mr. Clark relocated to west Creek Township in 1839 from Naples, New York, where it is reported that his father, Benjamin Clark erected the first grist mill in 1795 or 1796. His father was a soldier and became an officer in the Revolutionary War. Tradition is that the ancestors of his mother, Thankful Watkins, came over in the Mayflower, but the full line has not been established.
Initially, Mr. Clark settled in West Creek Township in 1839, where reportedly he had made arrangements for a claim to be entered in his name after a visit to his brother, Sanford D. Clark, in Ohio in 1837 or 1838. During that visit Wellington made a trip to Chicago, then Lake County, where he discovered some relatives and acquaintances. In 1839 his name was placed among the list of settlers in West Creek Township, where he had acquired three hundred and eighty-four acres at a land sale.
Mary C. Hackley was born May 8 (or 3), 1819 in Richfield, New York. In the summer of 1843 Wellington met Mary, a member of a family of early settlers in West Creek Township, at a camp meeting at Cedar Point Bluff on the east bank of Cedar Lake. A courtship started and on December 7, 1843, the two were united in marriage. According to a narrative in Reverend T.H. Ball’s Encyclopedia of Genealogy and Biography of Lake County, Indiana, the marriage was solemnized by Judge Robert Wilkinson who, in “true pioneer style," took his rifle with him on his way to the ceremony. As he circled the woodland near the west border of Lake Prairie, he shot a “fine deer” near the home of the bride! No account mentions what happened to the dear! Perhaps it was a wedding present or the guests had a grand wedding feast!
Around 1846, the Clarks left their farm in West Creek Township and removed to Crown Point where he became an agent for some large eastern houses. Records indicate that when he came to Crown Point he built “a good dwelling house,” which is known as the “The Old Homestead.” The lot on which the home is built is recorded as Lot 54 in the plat of the original Town, now the City of Crown Point. The lot was originally owned by Solon Robinson and his wife, Mariah. Around the time of 1841 Mr. Robinson along with three other Crown Point pioneers, owned a majority of the land in the area. Mr. Robinson sold the lot to Daniel and Louisa May in 1842 who, in turn, sold the lot to Alexander and Mary McDonald in 1843. Mr. McDonald was the first lawyer to practice in Crown Point. Finally, in 1846 the McDonalds sold the lot to Wellington and Mary Clark. An original Warrantee Deed found proudly displayed in the home indicates that Wellington Clark purchased the adjacent Lot 53 from Solon Robinson on February 25, 1847 for the sum of $50.00. Currently, Lot 53 is owned by the First Presbyterian church. Wellington and Mary Clark were faithful members of the First Presbyterian Church.
Between 1846 and 1875 the Clarks alternated living in their home in Crown Point and on their farm in West Creek Township. In 1867 Mr. Clark erected and started the first cheese factory in Lake County. In the Lake County, Indiana 1884: Account of The Semicentennial Celebration of Lake County, September 3 and 4 with Historical Papers and Other Interesting Records of The Old Settlers Association of Lake County, edited and published by Reverend T. H. Ball, an account of an escapade involving the old log Court House is described by Wellington Clark. Mr. Clark indicated that around 1849, when the prison room of the Court House was considered no longer useful, “certain citizens” of Crown Point made a raid upon the prison room armed with various implements. The people tore out the jail appendages with little difficulty and transformed the area into a temperance hall room without the interference of public authorities.
In 1875 Wellington and Mary returned to The Old Homestead permanently, residing in Crown Point until their deaths. Upon his return to Crown Point in 1875, Mr. Clark was instrumental in the organization of the Old Settler and Historical Association. He became the first president and delivered the inaugural address at the first annual gathering of the pioneers on September 25, 1875 at what was then the fairground. He held the office of president of the organization for many years. Mr. Clark was a charter member of the first Masonic Lodge of Lake County.
Records indicate that on October 6, 1875 the house and lot were deeded to John W. and Cornelia A. Dwyer, who in turn, the same day deeded the house and lot back to only Mary Hackley Clark.
History records indicate that the Clarks had four children, three sons and one daughter. The oldest son, Henry Augustus Clark, was born October 9, 1844 in West Creek Township. According to family Bible records, Henry married Carrie Dyer on November 14, 1868. Information obtained from the Julia Watkins Brass Chapter of the NSDAR of Crown Point, Indiana indicates that he married “Clara” Dyer who was born in May 1852. The Reverend T.H. Ball’s Encyclopedia of Genealogy and Biography of Lake County, Indiana indicates that Henry Clark “commenced business in south Chicago.” Henry and Carrie Dyer Clark had two children, Charles A. (or T.) Clark, born April 6, 1870 and Claribel Clark, born August 17, 1872 in Muskegon, Muskegon County, Michigan. Subsequently Carrie Dyer Clark died November 4, 1872. Henry Clark remarried on September 29, 1874 to Eunace Ross. The union produced two children, Maude M. Clark, born August 31, 1875 and Claud Clark, born December 2, 1877. Henry Augustus Clark died July 19, 1877.
Helen D. Clark, the only daughter, was born January 16, 1846. Family Bible records indicate that she was married to a Henry O. Buck March 16, 18(90) and had four children, Jessie L., Robert C., Jessie C. and Maggie Rose. Notation in the Bible states that she divorced Mr. Buck and had her name and all the names of the children changed to Clark.
Charles S. Clark was born October 28, 1847 and died January 21, 1863.
The youngest son, James Frederick Dyer Clark, was born January 11, 1859 and died August 29, 1879. According to the Reverend T. H. Ball’s Encyclopedia of Genealogy and Biography of Lake County, Indiana, James “died of typhoid fever while studying the science of medicine.”
On December 7, 1893, soon after the close of the Columbian Exposition, Mr. and Mrs. Clark commemorated the golden anniversary of their marriage, a celebration that was considered the first “Golden Wedding” anniversary of Lake County.
Mary Hackley Clark died December 21, 1906 at which time the home and lot were deeded to Claribel Clark Rockwell. The 1909 Lake County Directory indicates that Wellington Clark and his daughter, Miss Helen Clark, resided in the home which, at that time, had an address of 217 South Court Street. Wellington Clark continued to live in the home until his death on July 25, 1912.
Reportedly, after the death of her father, Henry A. Clark, in 1877, Claribel Clark went to live with her grandparents, Wellington and Mary. Little information is available relative to Claribel’s youth and young adult years. On November 11, 1889, Claribel married Min B. Rockwell. Mr. Rockwell was the son of T. C. Rockwell who owned hotel property in Crown Point which was well known for many years as the Rockwell House. Min Rockwell’s grandfather was William Rockwell, another early settler in Crown Point and who, for some time was County Commissioner. Information regarding Claribel Clark Rockwell’s life during her marriage to Min Rockwell is not readily available. In the Lake County Directory of 1909, the address of Min and Claribel Rockwell is listed as 219 South Court Street, a house owned by Wellington Clark just south of The Old Homestead. In 1923 Claribel Clark Rockwell became a charter member of the Julia Watkins Brass Chapter, NSDAR, of Crown Point, Indiana.
In 1925 Min B. Rockwell and Claribel Clark Rockwell divorced. Sometime between 1926 and 1927 Claribel Clark Rockwell was married to James Albert Bevan, as Mr. Bevan is listed as a single person in the 1925-1926 Gary City Directory, while in the 1927 Gary City Directory Claribel is listed as his spouse. Voter registration records reveal that Mr. Bevan was from Wales and became a naturalized citizen in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1906. Claribel and James Bevan continue to be listed in the Gary City Directory until 1937. In 1938 records indicate that Mr. Bevan was registered and voted at the address of The Old Homestead, so it can be speculated that they moved from Gary to Crown Point somewhere between 1937 and 1938. Information is not readily available relative to the occupants of the home between the time of Wellington’s death and when Claribel Clark Bevan and James Bevan moved into the home. Mary B. Johnston indicated that she and her husband J. Hiram and their son Jim lived in the house from February 1931 until early spring 1932. Mrs. Johnston remembers that coldness of the back of the house and that they had to purchase a coal stove to heat the home.
When Claribel Clark Rockwell became a widow is not known. On November 2, 1959, Claribel Clark Rockwell Bevan deeded The Old Homestead to the City of Crown Point, Indiana as a life estate. The life estate was released by Mrs. Bevan July 15, 1963 and the City of Crown point became the owner of one of the oldest landmarks in Lake County. Claribel Clark Rockwell Bevan joined her ancestors on January 1, 1965.
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