New York State Library
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Myron Holley Clark
Papers, 1809-1899; bulk, 1829-1867


Quantity: 8 boxes (2.50 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Gift; Ormond Plater, June 1956; subsequent accretions purchased from a'Gatherin, and by trade from Stephen Resnick, 1999.
Processed By: Fred Bassett, Senior Librarian, Manuscripts and Special Collections, December 1999

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Biographical Note:

New York State's seventeenth governor, Myron Holley Clark, was its only Prohibition executive. He was born October 23, 1806, at Naples, Ontario County, New York, a son of Maj. Joseph and Mary (Sutton) Clark and grandson of Col. William Clark, who had migrated from Berkshire County, Massachusetts, after the Revolution. He was educated in the common schools and served an apprenticeship as a cabinet-maker. Early in life he married Zilpha Watkins and, about the same time, became interested in public affairs. In 1837 he was elected sheriff of Ontario County and moved to Canandaigua.

After completing his term of office, Clark entered the hardware business in Canandaigua. Taking a position in the temperance and other reform movements of the day, he gradually extended his reputation beyond local borders.  He was one of a small group of Whig politicians prepared to unite the several diverse groups of radical voters to at least a temporary victory.  His opportunity came when his state senate district sent him to Albany in 1851 to uphold the cause of prohibition in the legislature. He was re-elected in 1853.

Clark received the chief credit for a prohibition bill which passed both the state senate and assembly (1854) but was vetoed by Gov. Horatio Seymour.  He was also largely responsible for a measure limiting the passenger fare on the railways within the state to two cents a mile. This law continued in effect until World War I, when it was changed to permit an increase to three cents.

In 1854 Clark was proposed for the governorship by the Temperance Party. When Clark expressed approval of the platform written by Horace Greeley and adopted by the Anti-Nebraska party at a mass meeting at Saratoga in August, he was nominated by that party. He also was endorsed by the Whig Party and the Free Soil Democrats.  Clark accepted all four nominations and, because the Whig Party, the state Temperance Party and the Free Soil Democrats subsequently consolidated as the Republican Party, he always held that the Republican Party of New York was thereby originated and, thus, he was the last Whig nominated to a state office and the first Republican official in the state and nation.

The ensuing campaign for the governorship was one of the most complicated in the history of New York State politics.  The Clark coalition won the election by a plurality of 309 votes.  Clark thus came to the governor's chair as an avowed radical in the politics of that day, bent on the placing of a law in the statute books that prohibited the sale of intoxicating liquor.  Such a bill was passed, signed by Clark, and partially enforced for about eight months, until it was declared unconstitutional by a bare majority of the state Court of Appeals.  The construction of a bridge across the Hudson River at Albany was authorized during his administration. In 1856 he refused to call the legislature into extra session to pass the appropriations bills, which had been delayed for the purpose of forcing such a session. Clark was not re-nominated at the end of his term because the leaders of his party were convinced that he could not be elected because sentiment on the liquor question had changed. 

President Abraham Lincoln appointed Clark the first collector of internal revenue of the Port of New York.  After serving in that office for some years he lived in retirement at Canandaigua, emerging as a third-party Prohibition candidate for governor in 1874, his last public appearance. He died at Canandaigua on August 22, 1892.

Scope and Content Note:

The papers of Myron Holley Clark relate chiefly to his official duties as sheriff of Ontario County, New York, and later as governor of the same state. Papers from the sheriff's office begin with his service as deputy for the Naples area from 1832 to 1837, before moving on to Canandaigua in 1838. Official papers include correspondence, court orders, depositions, writs of execution, summonses, and warrants that relate to various law enforcement activities. It appears that foreclosure and tax-sale auctions of real property were his chief responsibility. A few letters concern the apprehension of criminals and the conditions of the county jail. Gubernatorial papers consist mostly of correspondence and petitions relating to matters of patronage. The issue of temperance and the formation of the Republican Party are discussed in some letters. Notable correspondents include William H. Seward, William Curtis Noyes, David Dudley Field, and Abraham Oakey Hall. In addition, Clark's gubernatorial papers include petitions and court proceedings relative to the pardoning of Robert Graham, a physician convicted of murder, and commuting the sentence of John Dunnigan from first-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter. Also included are reports of the state engineer and surveyor in regards to the operations of the Champlain and Hudson Canal. Other papers of interest include Clark's correspondence as a member of the New York State Senate concerning temperance and other political issues; and correspondence with his immediate family and siblings in regards to business ventures as well as personal and family matters.

Box and Folder List:

Box Folder Contents
    Family Correspondence, 1829-1867
1 1 Stephen W. Clark, 1829-1842 (10 items)
1 2 William S. Clark, 1835-1842 (4 items)
1 3 William S. Clark, 1835-1842 (8 items)
1 4 Joseph N. Clark, 1835-1842 (5 items)
1 5 Zilpha Watkins Clark, 1842-1848 (4 items)
1 6 Lorenzo Clark, 1846-1858 (11 items)
1 7 Zilpha Sutten Clark, 1853-1856 (8 items)
1 8 Mary Clark, 1853-1867 (12 items)
1 9 Correspondence with other relatives, 1829-1842 (7 items)
    Ontario County Sheriff – Correspondence, 1832-1841
1 10 1832 (10 items)
1 11 1833-1834 (9 items)
1 12 1835-1837 (7 items)
2 1 January-April 1838 (11 items)
2 2 May-September 1838 (9 items)
2 3 October-December 1838 (9 items)
2 4 March-April 1839 (4 items)
2 5 August-September 1839 (11 items)
2 6 October-December 1839 (8 items)
2 7 January-April 1840 (12 items)
2 8 May 1840 (9 items)
2 9 September-November 1840 (17 items)
2 10 1841 (6 items)
2 11 1841 (6 items)
    Ontario County Sheriff - Official Papers, 1834-1841
3 1 Land tax schedules, 1834-1838 (16 items)
3 2 Notice of rates, 1839-1841 (12 items)
3   Executions, summons, warrants, and writs, 1838-1841
  3 1838 (12 items)
  4 1839 (10 items)
  5 1840 (21 items)
  6 1841(26 items)
3 7 Bill of Complaint, New York Court of Chancery, 1839. William Law and James Todd vs. John Sears Jr., Alanson Barber, and Leonard Sears (4 items)
3 8 Inventory and sales invoice of goods, 1839. Norton, Bastle, and McNeil (General Store) (3 items)
3 9 Petition (copy) to Governor William H. Seward regarding the Office of Surrogate for Ontario County, New York, 1839 (2 items)
    Business and Political Correspondence, 1838-1892
4 1 Copies and drafts of letters regarding Whig Party politics, 1838-1840 (7 items)
4 2 Copies of letters regarding interest in being appointed postmaster at Canandaigua, 1841 (11 items)
4 3 Correspondence regarding hardware business, 1841 (12 items)
4 4 Correspondence regarding hardware business, 1842 (7 items)
4 5 Copies of letter recommending Lorenzo Clark for a position in the Post Office at Mill Creek, Ohio, 1850 (8 items)
4 6 Correspondence with E.S. Gregory regarding hardware business, 1850 (12 items)
4 7 New York State Senate correspondence, January 1853 (23 items)
4 8 New York State Senate correspondence, February 1853 (19 items)
4 9 New York State Senate correspondence, March-April 1853 (19 items)
4 10 Miscellaneous political correspondence, 1857-1899 (7 items)
    Governor of New York State - Correspondence, 1855-1856
5 1 January-February 1855 (14 items)
5 2 March-April 1855 (23 items)
5 3 May-June 1855 (25 items)
5 4 July-December 1855 (14 items)
5 5 January-June 1856 (8 items)
5 6 July 1856 (16 items)
5 7 August 1856 (15 items)
5 8 September-October 1856 (18 items)
5 9 November-December 1856 (12 items)
5 10 Correspondence with Joseph J. Chambers, 1855-1856 (22 items)
    Governor of New York State - Papers, 1855-1856
6 1 Correspondence, petitions, and other papers relative to the pardoning of Dr. Robert Graham, 1855-1856 (9 items)
6 2 Correspondence, petitions, and other papers relative to the pardoning of Dr. Robert Graham, 1855-1856 (10 items)
6 3 Correspondence, petitions, and other papers relative to the pardoning of Dr. Robert Graham, 1855-1856 (17 items)
6 4 Correspondence and petitions relative to commuting the sentence of John Dunnigan, 1855 (15 items)
6 5 Proceedings of the case before the Court of Oyer and Terminer, Albany, 1855: The People vs. John Dunnigan (41 p.)
6 6 Court proceedings of New York State vs. Arthur M. Mahon, judgment for murder, 1855 (68 p.)
6 7 Proceedings of John B. Goodenough vs. Anson Hungerford (negligence in selling furs), Jefferson County Court of General Sessions, 1855 (ca. 60 p.)
6 8 Reports of the Office of the State Engineer and Surveyor relative to administration of canals, 1856 (3 items)
6 9 Report of the State Treasurer relative to the State Engineer's report on canals, 1856 (2 items)
6 10 Papers relative to the pardon of Catherine Duffy, 1856 (8 items)
    Governor of New York State - Letters and Petitions, 1855
7 1 Cayuga and Chautauqua counties, 1855 (21 items)
7 2 Chemung County, 1855 (26 items)
7 3 Chenango, Cortland, and Delaware counties, 1855 (23 items)
7 4 Dutchess County and the City of Poughkeepsie, 1855 (27 items)
7 5 Erie County and the City of Buffalo, 1855 (18 items)
7 6 Franklin, Genesee, Greene, Herkimer, and Jefferson counties, 1855 (27 items)
7 7 Kings County and the City of Brooklyn, 1855 (15 items)
7 8 Lewis, Oswego, and Putnam counties, 1855 (18 items)
7 9 Queens, Richmond, Rockland, and Saint Lawrence counties, 1855 (17 items)
    Miscellaneous Papers
8 1 Motto on temperance written by Myron H. Clark, February 18th, 1861: "Rum and tobacco I always eschew/And I respectfully commend the same course to you." (1 item)
8 2
  1. Letter of Horace Greeley to William H. Seward, February 11, 1837, introducing John Thompson, "an acquaintance of ten years"
  2. Letter of [    ] to F.N. Thompson, July 16, 1887, regarding the health of President James A. Garfield
8 3 Promissory notes and receipts, 1838-1855 (14 items)
8 4 Account memoranda book, 1809-1818, of Dr. Thomas Williams (1 v.)
8 5 Building contracts and other papers related to Myron Holley's service on the New York State Canal Commission, 1817-1819 (7 items)
8 6 Deeds and other legal papers for lands held by Elbert Humphrey in East Bloomfield, Ontario County, New York, 1825-1866 (7 items)
8 7 Record of voting pluralities received by Whig Party candidates in Ontario County, 1840 (1 item)
8 8 Printed circulars and broadsides, 1839-1871 (10 items)
8 9
  1. Confederate soldier's railway pass, 1864
  2. Certificate of Appointment of Clement W. Bennett, October 7, 1850
8 10 Annual report of the Superintendent of Salt in Onondaga County. New York State Assembly Document No. 41, January 20, 1841 (1 item)
8 11 Newspaper clippings from the Staten Islander related to court proceedings in Richmond County, New York, 1856 (3 items)
Last Updated: January 24, 2022