James Clack, Rev. (c.1658 - 1723) MP

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Birthplace: Marden, Wilts, Wiltshire, England
Death: Died in Ware Parish, Gloucester, Virginia, United States
Occupation: Parson
Managed by: Martin Eriksen
Last Updated:

About James Clack, Rev.

Born in Marden, Wilts, Wiltshire, England -------------------- Rev. James was born in 1655 in Marden Parish, Wilts, Eng. to William Clack and Mary Spencer. His Clack ancestry dates back to the Vikings and it is believed a Viking invasion around A.D. 634 brought the family to England. His mother was a Spencer, a family whose lineage includes all the Saxon, Norman, Plantaganet and Tudor kings of Britain, all the Scottish Kings, and French Kings back to Charlemagne and beyond.


He matriculated to Magdalen Hall, Oxford at the age of 16 on Dec. 12, 1671 and was ordained a minister on Sept. 29, 1675 in the Salisbury Cathedral. He married Mary Rivers sometime in either 1675 or 1676. She is presumed to have died before 1678. Rev James immigrated to the Colonies in August 1678 and arrived Jan. 1, 1679. He settled in Ware Parish, Gloucester, VA. (perhaps the death of Mary Rivers is the reason he migrated) They are not known to have any children together. It is said the he settled in Ware Parish around Easter in 1679 as a rector, a position he held for 45 years until he died on December 20, 1723. At the time the Rev. James migrated he is said to have had an uncle Nicholas Spencer who may have gotten his the rector's job for Ware Parish. Nicholas Spencer lived in "Nominy" Westmoreland Co., VA and was prominent in local affairs and in the affairs of the colony. Nicholas Spencer served as burgess to the House of Burgesses, was a member of the Governor's Council, Secretary of State and was the Acting Governor of Virginia in 1683 before the arrival of the new governor, Lord Howard of Effingham. Due to having such a prominent uncle already in the Colonies and on the Governor's council was a definate advantage for the young minister and may have contributed to his appointment to Ware Church by then governor Lord Culpepper. A family record indicates that an older brother, Nicholas Clack, was also in Virginia but its is not known if he came before or at the same time as Rev. James did. He married for a second time Jane Bolling in 1695. There is a record that he traveled to England and returned to the Colonies in 1695. (Perhaps this was a honeymoon trip?)


According to "The Colonial Clergy of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina" by The Reverend Frederick Lewis Weis, Th.D. historian of the Society of the Descendants fo the Colonial Clergy, published in 1955, Boston, MA; Rev. James is listed as: JAMES CLACK, b. England; K.B. for Md., 10 Dec. 1695; sett. Ware Par.(Gloucester) VA., 1679-1723; Ep.; d. Ware Parish, VA., 1723. An explanation for "K.B." is i.e. passage money paid to America. Basically he received approximately L20 (20 pounds) to return to America from the King. Could it be that he didn't want to return and therefore was paid to do so? Or is it possible that due to his financial status at the time, this was the only way he could afford the return trip? Whatever the situation was, he returned to America in 1695 and proceeded to have 3 children:


1. Capt. James b. abt. 1696/98 - married Mary Sterling. Died June 29, 1757.


2. Jane b. abt. 1700 - married Robert Ballard. Died?


3. Dorothy b. Aug. 24, 1714. Married Hinchea Mabry. Died May 1797.


As far as the assertion that Rev. James married a third time Jane Macklin/Maclin, I have found no evidence that this ever occurred. There was a Jane Maclin that married a later Clack, and it is my opinion that this is the only Jane Maclin married to a Clack, unfortunately his first name has been lost in the annals of history. Rev. James is reputed to have served on the commission that founded William and Mary College. He died December 20, 1723 and was buried on the grounds of Ware Parish. His tombstone reads as follows:


[Her]e lyeth the Body of [Jame]s Clack son of William and Mary Clack [who wa]s born in the Parish of Marden ***** Miles from the Devizes [In] the county of Wilts [He] came out of England in August [16]78, Arrived in Virginia upon New Years day following came into the Parish of Ware [on] Easter Where he continued Minister near forty five years till he Dyed He departed this life on the 20th day of December in the year of our Lord God 1723 in hopes of a joyful Resurection to Eternal Life which God grant him for his Blessed Redeemer's Sake, Amen.

Still a mystery which may never be solved remains the answer to this question, "Whom did the Rev. Clack marry?" And right along with it lies the possibility that his wife, and the mother of his sons and daughters, was a descendant of Pocahontas, the famed Indian Princess of legend who, it is said, saved Capt. John Smith when her father, Powhatan, was about to smash his skull with a huge war club. Family researchers in the past have always stumbled over this one without coming up with a consensus answer of "yes" or "no". As a result of the loss of Gloucester County and Ware Parish records because of overzealous concern for their safety during the Civil War, written proof is lacking to support either thesis, so one must turn to more remote and sometimes circumstantial evidence in search of an answer. It is conflicting. In the end one may decide to go along with any of several family historians who have divided their opinions. One bit of believable data has survived, and it may be taken as demonstrated that the Rev. Clack's wife's given name was Jane, and that this may be considered weak circumstantial evidence arguing that Jane was descended from the Bollings, as she would have had to be to claim Pocahontas as an ancestor, since that name appeared in several generations of the Bollings, and from then on was common in generations of Clack descendants, along with those of Pocahontas, Powhatan and Bolling. This evidence is an extract from the Bible of the Rev. Robert Read as published in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 21, p. 326: "The Rev’d Thomas Read is the son of Gwyn and Dorothy Read, who was the daughter of the Rev’d Mr. Clack & Jane his wife, born 24 August 1714". The Rev. Read's mother, Dorothy Clack, was born in 1714, nine years before the death of her father, who was a man of 59 at the time of her birth. But Dorothy was not the last child in the family. Even younger was her sister, Ann, who was probably born about 1716. The birth date of Jane, wife of the Rev. James, is not known, but she must have been 20 years or more younger than her husband in order to have had a baby as late as that, which could be important in placing her at the proper place in the Bolling family to have been a descendant of Pocahontas. Dorothy Read, who would certainly have known her mother's maiden name, lived to be 83 years old, dying in May, 1797, long after her son made his entry in the Bible. Unfortunately, the Rev. Read made no mention of his mother's lineage, nor his father's, either, for that matter. Incidentally, Dorothy may have been named for Dorothea Rolfe, mother of John Rolfe. There is some circumstantial evidence to add to the weight afforded by the entry in the Read Bible. The given name "Jane" did not appear in either Clack or Spencer families prior to the emigration of the Rev. James Clack to Virginia. He named his oldest daughter, Jane, and she, in turned, gave her oldest girl the same. James Clack, Jr., named his oldest daughter Jane, as well. The name kept cropping up for several generations. What stronger evidence could there be of the assumption that the Rev. James' wife bore the given name "Jane"! The name Jane also crops up among the known descendants of Pocahontas, too. Her son, Thomas Rolfe, married Jane Poythress, daughter of Lt. William Poythress of Jamestown, and they had one child, a daughter, Jane Rolfe, who married, in 1675, a Col. Robert Bolling. Col. Robert Boiling and his wife, Jane Rolfe Bolling, are known to have had a son, born in January, 1676, whom they named John. He, in turn, had a daughter Jane Bolling, known to have married Col. Richard Randolph, member of a well-known colonial family. Descendants of John and Jane Randolph played important roles in the early history of the United States. The above is the generally accepted lineage from Pocahontas in the 17th century. But records of this family are in not much better supply than those of the Clacks. For instance, the date of Jane's death is not entirely certain. Some place it as in 1676, others as late as 1678. It is possible she could have had a son in January, 1676, a daughter in December, 1676, and died in childbirth, also in 1676. In the "Compendium of American Genealogy" by Virkus, Jane's death is placed in 1678. This renders it logical that the Jane who married the Rev. James Clack, whose birth, based upon the birth of children, was most likely between 1675 and 1678, could have been a daughter of Robert and Jane Boiling. Additional circumstantial evidence of a date for Jane Rolfe Bolling's death later than 1676 may be the fact that Robert did not marry his second wife until 1681, as remarriages among Virginia gentry with small children seldom was delayed so long after the death of the first spouse. Still another possibility is that during the interval between the death of Jane and the second marriage to Ann, Robert's toddler son and infant daughter (if he had one) were cared for by someone else, and that only the son returned to live with his father after he established his second marriage, so that the daughter did not appear in family records thereafter. There is, of course, another possibility to consider -that of the Rev. Clack's wife, Jane, being a descendant of Thomas Rolfe, Pocahontas' only son, through an illegitimate son or daughter. This, however, is only mentioned as possible. Thomas could certainly have fathered an illegitimate child, but that an illegitimate granddaughter would have borne the given name of his legitimate wife and his legitimate daughter, even by coincidence, seems far-fetched. If actual records of the lineage of the Rev. Clack's wife, Jane, do not exist, a belief that she was descended from Pocahontas is supported by family tradition almost strong enough to be accepted as more likely correct than not. In Col. Harlee's "Kinfolks" (he was a Clack descendant) he wrote: "In a letter dated Branden, La., March 15, 1927, Mrs. Margaret M. Bell (born McWaters) who was near neighbor to James Sterling Clack (4th generation) for many years, wrote to Mrs. Bond, saying 'Everyone knew he was of an extraordinarily fine family... I do know most positively that Mr. James Sterling Clack was connected in some near relationship to the Bollings. His eldest daughter was named Ann Bolling...the old gentleman came nearly every morning to our house and sat on our big front gallery and talked to my mother about his family - this is how I came in possession of all this information. I did hear something of Mr. Clack being a descendant of Pocahontas - but it has been so long ago that I can't give any explanation of it." Mrs. Olivia Zollicoffer Bond (a descendant) in her "Family Chronicle and Kinship Book" quoted a letter written to Commodore Samuel Powhatan Carter USN by M. Alolan dated "Ocean Mills, February 9, 1881". "My grandmother Maclin, Sarah Clack before her marriage, (daughter of James and Mary Sterling Clack and granddaughter of the Rev. James Clack and his wife, Jane) was connected with many of the old families of Virginia. She claims to have descended from Pocahontas, of which she is very proud. She probably stood in the fourth or fifth degree. My grandmother was very exclusive, and permitted association but with those who could trace their origin to a high respected source". In a letter printed in Harlee's "Kinfolks", Mrs. Allie Louise Webber Spain, great-granddaughter of William and Sarah Clack Maclin, wrote: "The Maclins and Their descendants claim, through the Clacks and Bollings, to be descendants of Pocahontas. I have too often heard my grandmother say we are descendants from the Bollings to doubt it". The features of the older living descendants and the portraits of the older ones show remarkably the traces of Indian blood. The Rev. William Blount Carter, whose father was a grandson of Sarah Clack Maclin and was of mature age before she died, wrote to Mrs. Bond that he had been told from infancy that he was descended from the Princess Pocahontas. Mrs. Bond, who herself was a great, great granddaughter of Sarah Clack Maclin, wrote Col. Harlee, "My mother, Louise Pocahontas Gordon Zollicoffer, owned a pair of painted wooden earrings said to have belonged to Pocahontas". Mrs. Anna Ford of Kansas City, who had researched the Clack family, of which she was a descendant, wrote as follows to Mrs. Marilyn Gross: "I had always been told by my mother that we had some Indian ancestry. When I found these statements (the ones quoted above) I asked her if she had ever heard that we descended from Pocahontas. She said she had, then I asked her why she had never told me. She said I would not have believed her." This statement by Mrs. Ford is highly significant. She is a descendant of the second son of James Clack, Jr., who went to North Carolina before the Revolution, and whose line had little or no contact with the Maclin line for more than 150 years. Yet the Pocahontas connection was a legend with them, too. Mrs. Gross (nee Marilyn Haggard, great granddaughter of Elizabeth Clack Graham) is a researcher who accepts the validity of the descent from Pocahontas. So does Robert Clack of San Diego, California, who has done a great deal of work on family history. Mrs. Octavia Bond, although quoting opinions of others which were contrary to her own, finally concluded "Hence, although the walls of the old building (Ware Church) are intact, all recorded data concerning the parishioners is lost, and with it the name of the wife of the Rev. James Clack, circumstances point to the conclusion that he married into one of the prominent families of his parish (as was usual with the early ministers of the Established Church in Virginia.) And the indications are that his wife was a Thornton, or a Willis or a Sterling which would account for the assertion in some quarters that his grandchildren, in two lines, married double cousins." No one can prove whether or not the descendants of the Rev. Clack are also descendants of Pocahontas; at least no one who has yet come forward. But the evidence may be summed up in this fashion. It may not be sufficient to sustain a finding which meets the requirement of "beyond a reasonable doubt" needed in a criminal case, but may be enough to justify a verdict of "according to the weight of the testimony" as specified in a civil one. Actually, had not the question of a link to someone like Pocahontas be involved, most genealogists would probably have concluded a presumption of descent is justified. When the Rev. Clack took his Jane as his second wife is not known, but that trip back to England in 1695 may be a clue. James had money for it available to him as a part of the inducement offered young ministers in order to provide clergy for the colonies. Jane would have been 18 or 19 years old, certainly old enough to be married, though less than half the age of her husband, who, as an educated man, with ties of blood of nobility and a minister of the Established Church was nevertheless a matrimonial prize in spite of his age and lack of extensive landholdings. A sea voyage back to England to show off his pretty young bride to his English relatives and a return to Maryland where he could introduce her to his Spencer cousins in Westmoreland County across the Potomac from Maryland would have constituted a proper honeymoon trip. And this it may well have been. That date of 1695 also fits well with the birth of his two sons, William and James, both born before 1700, but not too much before then. James and Jane Clack are known to have had five children who survived childhood. William and James, the two sons, followed by three daughters, Jane, Dorothy and Anne. Dorothy's marriage to Gwyn Read took place before 1734, and they became the parents of thirteen children. Anne the youngest daughter, married first a man whose last name was Courtney. They had a son. Clack Courtney. Following Courtney's death, Anne married Hincha Mabry. The elder, Jane, who died early, married twice, to Robert Ballard and Mathew Hubbard. William, the oldest son, named for his English grandfather, led an adventurous life as a trader and the captain of sailing ships plying the Atlantic between England and the colonies. He brought in salt and manufactured goods of all kinds, took cargoes of tobacco, staves and furs back to England. Two of his ships were the Speedwell and the Mercury. One of his voyages in 1741 was an unlucky one indeed. In a ship based on Plymouth, England, he was sailing with a cargo worth 14,000 pounds - a very real fortune in that era - was chased and captured by a Spanish privateer, who, after making off with both ship and cargo, put him and presumably his crew ashore in Bermuda, unharmed, and as he later reported to Governor Gooch in Virginia "the Spaniards used them well". The commodore of a British flotilla which was supposed to protect the merchant ships in the convoy was censured for cowardice by the Governor's Council for failing to take the privateer with his two ships of war. Following the death of his childless older brother, Nicholas Clack, the Rev. James Clack became his father's heir, and, upon his death in 1723, Capt. William became heir to the property of his English grandfather. It is believed he left Virginia when he inherited property in Wiltshire, and made it his home for the remainder of his life, although he could have made other voyages. Whether Jane survived her husband, the minister, is not known. If so, she may have remarried and left Ware parish, or have moved with her son, James, to Brunswick County. Either would account for the fact she was not buried at Ware beside the Rev. James. At any rate, nothing more is known of her history following the birth of her children. Once again the loss of Ware and Gloucester records have left a gap in family history.

James Clack, b. 1655, Marsden Parish, Wiltshire, England

          Graduated from Oxford University, England with BA in 1671
          Occupation: Minister of Ware Parish, Wiltshire, England
          Married 1st- in 1675, Mary Rivers
          Married 2nd- in 1695, Jane Bolling, b. ~ 1675, d. 24 August 1714, VA
          Married 3rd- Jane Macklin
          Note: Left England in 1678, arrived in America 1 January 1679
          Came to Virginia with his uncle, Nicholas Spencer
          Settled in Ware Parish, Gloucester, VA
          Helped establish William and Mary College in VA
          d. 20 December 1723, Buried in Ware Churchyard, Gloucester, VA
          Children:

1. James Clack, b. ~ 1696

2. Jane Clack, b, ~ 1700

3. Dorothy Clack, b. 24 August 1714

4. William Clack, b. 1697, VA

5. Anne Clack, b. ~ 1716

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Rev. James Clack, Sr.'s Timeline

1658
1658
Marden, Wilts, Wiltshire, England
1679
1679
- 1723
Age 21
Gloucester Co., Virginia, England
1694
1694
Age 36
1695
1695
Age 37
Gloucester County, Province of Virginia, (Present USA)
1697
1697
Age 39
Ware, Gloucester, VA, USA
1698
1698
Age 40
1698
Age 40
Ware Parish, Gloucester, Virginia
1714
1714
Age 56
1716
1716
Age 58
1723
December 20, 1723
Age 65
Ware Parish, Gloucester, Virginia, United States