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Mary Bateman Clark
- Mary Clark was a slave born in 1795 near Louisville, Kentucky when she was purchased in 1815 by Benjamin J. Harrison as a slave for life. She was about 20. He took her to Vincennes, probably by river boat and horse-drawn wagon. After serving Harrison for less than a year, he created documents showing she was emancipated and then indentured but on the same day sold the indenture to his mother’s brother, General Washington Johnston. She married Samuel Clark in Vincennes on July 12, 1817. She had 12 children. She was a founder of Bethel AME Church. We believe she received extreme repercussions.
- Mary died Aug. 24, 1840 and was buried at Greenlawn Cemetery in Vincennes. The origin of her maiden name, Bateman (sometimes shown in records as Barkman) is unknown, but perhaps reflects the name of the plantation owner from whom she was purchased.
- Samuel Clark was born in Kentucky. There is little information about his early days but according to a History of Bethel AME Church written by William H. Stewart and published in 1895 (Available through the Indiana Historical Society) Clark went back to Kentucky from Indiana in 1814 then returned the next year, probably with Benjamin J. Harrison, with Mary. A newspaper account states Clark was a hostler for William Henry Harrison during the Battle of Tippecanoe. A hostler is a person who takes care of horses. Another clip in the Vincennes Commercial says Clark was once a slave of Luke Decker, son of a Revolutionary War soldier who settled in southern Knox County. Decker was a slave owner, legislator, a founder of Vincennes University and veteran of the Battle of Tippecanoe. Clark was instrumental in founding Bethel AME before 1839. Records showed he bought and sold land.
- The Vincennes Western Sun newspaper reports Clark died Nov. 26, 1869 at the age of 96 years, 7 months and 21 days. News reported he was once a slave of the father of the late Mr. H. Decker, who was Luke Decker. The newspaper clipping states:
Death of an Old Resident – Samuel Clark, a venerable and well known colored man, and whose face and form were familiar to our oldest citizens, died suddenly on Monday morning. He was once held as a slave by the father of the late Dr. H. Decker – had resided here more than 60 years, and was at the time of his death, not less than 95 years old.
General Washington Johnston
- Johnston was from Virginia and migrated to Indiana in the early 1800s. He was also an officer in the Battle of Tippecanoe. He was one of the first lawyers in Indiana and served as a territorial and state legislator. A legislative report against slavery is signed by him as chair of the committee. "Petition of the Vincennes Convention" in Jacob Piatt Dunn, Slavery Petitions and Papers (Indiana Historical Society Publications, Vol. II, No. 12; Indianapolis, 1894), 461. "The Report of General W. Johnston," 523.
- Johnston was also a judge and uncle of Benjamin J. Harrison. His sister was Harrison’s mother and the J in his name was for Johnston. Johnston also is credited with bringing masonry to Indiana. A huge monument marking his grave towers above other plots at the Greenlawn Cemetery in Vincennes. For information about Johnston’s association with masonry, click here.
- Born at Bethel, Washington County Vermont, Amory Kinney, the son of a Congregational clergyman, moved to Vincennes after studying law under Samuel Nelson, who became a judge of the U.S. Supreme Court. The most pressing issue of the time was slavery and whether Missouri would be a free or slave state.
- Kinney’s law partners were his brother-in-law John Wilson Osborn, owner of Terre Haute’s first newspaper; Moses Tabb, who was the son-in-law of Charles Carroll, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence; and Col. George McDonald, mentor and father-in-law of Judge Isaac Blackford, who ruled in Mary Clark’s case before the Supreme Court.
- While newspaper stories hint at what her attorney Amory Kinney endured for handling the case --- he was attacked by a mob and survived only because some friends intervened, and he eventually moved to Terre Haute in 1826 to lead a successful life as an attorney, state representative and 7th Circuit Court presiding judge --- little is documented about Clark’s life.
William Henry Harrison