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Legacy Spotlight: Israel Justus Clark, Missionary, Pioneer, Settler, Indian Interpreter

Mar 03 ,2014




There are few born into this world who can claim the number of interesting and diverse experiences as Israel Justus Clark.  Born into afamily of thirteen children on Christmas day 1821 in Dansville, New York, I.J. Clark could never have imagined where his life would take him.  After his father passed away when he was just seven, he and his mother were left in the care of his oldest brother.  His formal education was brief, culminating in only seven months total.  While this seems lacking by today’s modern standards, his love of learning never dimmed throughout his life, often working all day and reading books at night by candlelight.  Israel Justus was known for his white hair, which turned white early in life, his clear voice, blue eyes and striking gaze.Fort Lemhi


His childhood and adolescent years were as he called it, “all work and no play”, as he labored on the farm left by his father.  At the age of thirteen he attended a meeting held by Mormon missionaries and later he and his wife were baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at the age of 22.  After enduring many persecutions, including the burning of their home, they crossed the plains and settled in the Salt Lake Valley.


After the establishment of the saints in the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young, president of the Mormon church, sent out settlers to establish small farming communities and to further establish the church among the Native American Indians.  Among these early settlers and missionaries was Israel Justus Clark.  On May 15, 1855 he and his fellow missionaries left northbound, arriving June 18th near present day Salmon, Idaho.  They dubbed their new settlement Fort Limhi, which later became Fort Lemhi.


Fort Lemhi became the very first farming community in Idaho and grew to over 100 settlers.  Upon their initial arrival, settlers were forced to construct the fort due to skirmishes with certain Indian tribes concerning livestock.  During this time, I.J. Clark was actively engaged in missionary work, farming, and construction of fence and other structures.  While they enjoyed great relationships with many of the tribes in the area, hostilities continued to increase with others, ending in a skirmish that would leave two settlers dead and the theft of many of their cows and horses.  Israel’s Journal entry of February 24, 1858 records the events of that fateful day:

Israel Justice Clark Fort Lemhi Experience Part 1Israel Justice Clark Fort Lemhi Experience Part 2

 After being driven out of Fort Lemhi, I.J. Clark returned home to his family in Farmington, Utah.  A few years later in 1867 they moved to the Cache Valley in the same state and formed a settlement, which honors his name today as Clarkston, Utah.  Here he became the first Bishop of the Mormon church in Clarkston. Furthermore, I.J. Clark was a great friend to the Indians in the area. In Clarkston, Israel was repeatedly called up to Logan, Utah where he served as an Indian interpreter between the settlers and the Ute Indian tribes.  In addition, he also spoke fluently the languages of Shoshone Indians, a skill he acquired from his mission at fort Lemhi. This talent would prove invaluable to him all his life in all the areas he helped to settle.  His daughter wrote of one experience:

Daughter's experience

He later served a second mission to the Indians in the area known as Corinne, Utah which during that time was an Indian reservation. After this mission, he relocated his family to the Ashley Valley or Vernal, Utah.  It is here he used his long time skills as a carpenter to construct most of the coffins there, including the very first coffin required in that valley. It was in Vernal Utah that Israel Justus would bring his rich legacy to a close. He passed away September 13, 1905 at the age of 83. Cause of death, as recorded by his death certificate, being typhoid fever.  Through Israel Justus Clark, generations have been blessed with a lasting heritage and an example of a life well lived. His was a legacy of faith, integrity, learning, and hard work.  Indeed a legacy from which countless people have benefitted and for which we will be ever grateful.


For more Information of Israel Justus Clark and his Legacy, visit


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