By Larry Upthegrove
Oakland Resident, Clark Howell was born in Cabarrus County, North Carolina in 1811 with his given name being inspired by the famous explorer of the Louisiana Territory, William Clark. Ten years later his father, Evan Howell, moved the family to a large farm in the, newly-ceded, Creek Indian territory, at Warsaw, near the future town of Duluth, Georgia. In this area, Evan Howell built and operated a mill on John’s Creek in Gwinnett County where Clark and his brother Archibald learned the milling trade.
At age 22, Clark took a fourteen year old bride. Tragically, both she and the baby died in childbirth. Five years later he remarried to Effiah Jane Park who delivered eight children to the marriage over the years. Two were lost in infancy, and again tragedy struck, she also died in childbirth. He later married Miss Mary Hook who gave him two more children and was his partner for the remainder of his substantial life.
In spite of the tragedies with his family, Clark prospered as a businessman. He and Archibald bought and operated the Lebanon Mill on Big Creek near Roswell, Georgia. Clark ran and was elected to the State Legislature from Cobb County during this time.
He moved back to Gwinnet County for a while, before moving to Atlanta in 1851, where he bought the unfinished home of Dr Crawford Long who was moving to Athens.
In 1852, he bought several thousand acres on Peachtree and Nancy Creeks where they enter the Chattahoochee River. Over the next few years he built and operated two mills: a sawmill on Nancy Creek, just downstream from the Paces Ferry bridge; and a combination sawmill and gristmill on Peachtree creek, just downstream from today’s Howell Mill Road bridge.
As if his milling and farming interests weren’t enough to keep him busy, he became the first inferior court justice for the newly created county of Fulton in 1854.
His mills and his farms prospered and he acquired more land and by the time of his death in 1882 he had over 4,000 acres. During the Civil War, his mills escaped destruction, probably because the Yankees needed corn and wheat milled too, and considered them an asset.
His home on the Chattahoochee River was burned by the Federals, and he built another new one near the Peachtree Creek mill near today’s Howell Mill Rd after the war.
Judge Howell died on May 14, 1882 and was buried at Historic Oakland Cemetery straight back from the front gate and under a nice tree near the Boulevard wall.
He was a fair, generous, and kind man. In the “Atlanta Constitution” of May 16, 1882 Judge Hoyt is quoted as follows: “No man will ever know the extent of his charities. He was always abundantly supplied with the world’s goods and he gave freely. I know of many families that he supported entirely just after the war and many a widow and orphan he has saved from hunger and cold and starvation.”
By Larry Upthegrove