~ THE CLARK BROTHERS ~
Dempsey and Bristow Clark
Dempsey Clark born 1822 and his brother Bristow Clark born 1825 in North Carolina. In 1850 these two brothers and their mother, Creasy, were brought to Houston County by slave traders, along with thousands of other slaves. Dempsey and Bristow found themselves standing on a slave auction block in Hawkinsville, Ga. A rumor spread among the slaves that the slaveowner, Mr. Coley, was mean and treated his workers harshly.
The Clark brothers stood erect, side by side, on the auction block in the full embodiment of their blackness. The dreaded slaveowner, Mr. Coley, prepared to bid for them. The Clark brothers interrupted the auctioneer and said:
“We don’t like you Mr. Coley and you need not buy us,
cause we ain’t gonna live with you.”
“Oh well,” Mr. Coley replied, “I got plenty of nigger dogs.”
When the transaction was completed Dempsey and Bristow were sent to Coley’s plantation. On the third day, the Clark brothers, true to their word, headed for the woods. Coley sent his bloodhounds into the woods after them. They were captured, but on the trip back to Coley’s plantation, the Clark brothers escaped again. They swore they “would die before going back to Coley’s plantation.”
The slaveowner Coley, was about as stubborn as the Clark brothers. He kept a team of “Negro hunters” with bloodhounds on the Clark brothers trail. Coley’s hunters chased the Clarks “into the cypress jungle, and among the lagoons just below big creek near where the creek runs into the Okmulgee. The swamp was almost impenetrable, but the hunters followed their dogs and approached within fifty yards. Whereupon, Dempsey and Bristow fired at Coley’s Negro hunters and dogs. The hunters gave up the chase for the evening and the Clarks descended further and further into the swamp where they lived for over three years.
After a time, which Coley admitted that the Clark brothers had meant every word they had spoken from the slave auction block; he sold them while they were still in the woods to a slaveowner remembered only as Mr. Brown of Houston County.
When the word got out in the county that Coley no longer had legal title to the Clark Brothers, they emerged from the swamp, walked into Hawkinsville under their own power and turned themselves in to Mr. Brown and worked on his plantation until emancipation.
Dempsey Clark was considered one of the wealthiest Negroes in the county. He was a prosperous farmer who owned 600 acres of land and various livestock. He donated a liberal amount of money to start a school for Black children in Hawkinsville, Georgia. The doors opened to that school in July 1888 and the school was named in his honor, “The Dempsey Clark Institute." The school opened with six students, the teacher was Thomas Marshall Dent, a professor who graduated from Atlanta University and Howard University. Dempsey also donated land for the Piney Grove School – in which his home sat not far from it. Dempsey Clark died on January 6, 1896 at 74 years old.
Bristow Clark left Houston County and never returned. It is stated that he moved his family to Colorado where he owned “large mining interests. But I found a death certificate for him in Florida, where he died in 1915 at 90 years of age.