Jackson County

Biography - Frank Clements

FRANK CLEMENTS. The successful son of a distinguished and venerated father, and the scion of families resident in this country from very early colonial times, and strong factors in all phases of its history in many localities and all worthy walks of life, Frank Clements, of Carbondale, has shown himself to be fully entitled to the high and general esteem in which he is held by his exemplification in his own life and the manly spirit of his ancestors.

Mr. Clements was born in Carbondale on September 17, 1865, and grew to manhood in that city, attending the public schools for a time and completing his academic education at the Southern Illinois Normal University. After leaving the University he clerked in a dry goods store in Carbondale a short time, then passed ten years in the same capacity in the employ of John V. Farwell, of Chicago. In the great metropolis of the West, which is one of the modern wonders of the world, he manifested the same qualities of upright and elevated manhood that have since distinguished him in his long residence in Carbondale and won the admiration or the friendship of every acquaintance he had there.

In 1893 he returned to his native city and bought an interest in the business of A. F. Bridges, which subsequently became the firm of Clements & Etherton. Mr. Clements is also connected in a leading way with other business institutions in Carbondale with benefit to them and the public. He is one of the directors of the First National Bank and secretary of the Carbondale Mill and Elevator Company. He has taken a warm and serviceable interest, too, in the public affairs of the community, having served as alderman two years and as a member of the board of school trustees twelve years. In these offices he has kept his eye firmly on the interests of the people and done all he could to protect and promote them.

In religious faith and alliance he is connected with the Methodist Episcopal church, and faithfully serves the congregation to which he belongs as its treasurer. Fraternally he is a Freemason, and is the treasurer, also, of his lodge in the order. Politically he is a Republican, always loyal to his party, but not an active partisan and never desirous of the honors or emoluments of public office, although he is everywhere recognized as capable in a high degree of discharging official duties in a manner most beneficial and satisfactory to all for whom they are performed.

Mr. Clements is a son of Isaac and Josephine (Nutt) Clements, the former born in Franklin county, Indiana, on March 31, 1837. The mother's father was Rev. Cyrus Nutt, D. D. LL., D., at the time of her marriage president of the Indiana University, and one of the prominent and distinguished educators of the country, everywhere recognized as such and everywhere revered for his high character as a man, his unaffected and impressive piety, and his great intellectual powers, as well as for his exact and exhaustive learning.

Isaac Clements, the father of Frank, at the time of his death, which occurred on May 30, 1909, was governor of the Soldiers' Home at Danville in this state, a position which he accepted on January 6, 1899, after a long and brilliant career in other departments of the public service and in professional life. It is high praise but only a just tribute to demonstrated merit of a high order, and to a disposition that always radiated genial sunshine, brightening and warming all with whom it came in contact, to state that during his ten years' tenure of this trying office he was not known to make one enemy, and he was known to seal to himself the cordial devotion and loyal friendship of thousands of persons, including not only the inmates of the Home and all their friends, but also all the residents of Danville who were brought into association with him or heard of his genuine kindness of heart, unvarying courtesy and seasoned wisdom.

The ancestors of Isaac Clements were among the founders of Maryland, being members of the colony which made the first settlement in that state under the lead of Cecilius Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore. They received a large grant of land in the new colony by a "king's patent" which made them owners of "sixteen square miles anywhere within Lord Baltimore's domain." They selected as their portion and as the home of the family in the new world a tract of the designated size on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake bay, on which they located and began to take a leading part in the activities of the first palatinate on this side of the Atlantic.

The grandfather of the late governor of the Soldiers' Home fought under Washington in the Revolution and felt that great commander lean on him for support, even though he walked serenely under his mighty burden of care. The father of the governor, whose name was Isaac also, was a valiant soldier in the "War of 1812, and in that short but significant contest with the mother country well maintained the reputation of the family and the glory of the "Old Maryland Line," for both he and his wife, whose maiden name was Nancy Burt, were born in Maryland in 1790, and lived there until sometime after the war.

They then moved to Lebanon, Ohio, and some years later to Franklin county, Indiana, where their son Isaac was born, as has been stated, on March 31, 1837. He attended the common schools of the time and place, but was not satisfied with the education they could afford him, and determined to secure a better one. When he was but fourteen he entered a private school, sawing wood and sweeping the school room to pay his tuition. In this way he prepared himself for college, and in the fall of 1854 matriculated in what was then Asbury but is now De Pauw University, at Greencastle in his native state, from which he was graduated with high honors in 1859, delivering the Latin oration for his class as a mark of his exalted rank in it.

During vacations he taught school to pay his way through the University, and after his graduation continued to teach to prepare himself for the law. This he did in Illinois, moving to this state a short time after he received his diploma. In 1860 he opened a law office in Carbondale, and at once began, taking an active part in politics. In the exciting presidential election of that year he supported Mr. Douglas for the presidency, but after the election showed his loyalty to the Union by opposing the secession sentiment then prevalent in Southern Illinois in public speeches vigorous in argument and ardent with patriotism.

Before the call for troops to defend the Union was made Mr. Clements organized a company of infantry which afterward became Company G of the Ninth Illinois regiment, and was chosen its second lieutenant. He wag mustered into the service on July 27, 1861, and remained in it three years, being mustered out on August 3, 1864. His regiment took part in some of the bloodiest battles of the war, and he was wounded three times, twice at the battle of Shiloh and once at the battle of Corinth.

From the close of the war until his death he was almost continuously in office, so well was he qualified for executive and' administrative duties. In 1868 he was appointed register in bankruptcy, and in 1872 was elected to congress. A political upheaval defeated him for re-election in 1874, and President Grant at once appointed him pension agent for the Southern Illinois district. An act of congress consolidated the two districts in the state in 1878, and Mr. Clements retired from office for a few months. Before the end of the year, however, Governor Cullom appointed him commissioner of the Southern Illinois Penitentiary, and he held this position until President Harrison appointed him pension agent for Illinois.

Soon after the accession of Cleveland to the presidency Mr. Clements again became a private citizen, and he remained one until 1897, when Governor Tanner appointed him superintendent of the Soldiers' Orphans' Home at Normal, and thereby found a way out of great difficulties he had in connection with the management of that institution. He served the state well and wisely in that position until he received his last appointment as governor of the Federal Soldiers' Home at Danville. In all these various offices he rendered service so signal and satisfactory that there was never a word of criticism of his administration of them even by innuendo.

Mr. Clements became a member of the Methodist Episcopal church while yet a young man, and during all his subsequent years was devout, sincere and consistent in his daily exemplification of the teachings of Christianity. He was a charter member of John W. Lawrence Post, No. 297, Grand Army of the Republic, and its commander several years and a member of the Loyal Legion. He also belonged for many years to Shekinah Lodge, No. 241, A. F. and A. M., and for two years served as grand orator of the Grand Lodge of Illinois in the Masonic order. He was the life and soul of the Grand Army post while commanding it, and a luminous and eloquent expounder of the ritual and principles of Freemasonry while serving as grand orator of the order in this state.

When his remains were laid to rest amid the lamentations of the whole community, and with the highest funeral honors his companions in arms and all other soldiers at hand could pay him, the bench and bar of the city and the fraternal organizations to which he had given so much life and light attended the funeral in a body, and they all afterward placed on enduring record strong tributes to his merits as a man and citizen; his capacity and fidelity to duty in office; his loyalty to every obligation he ever took; his obedience to the behests of honor, truth, humanity and duty, which exists in the nature of things and need not be expressed in formal codes and creeds, and the powerful influence for good of his example wherever he had been known and in connection with every line of human endeavor in which he had ever been employed.

"Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace."

Extracted from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, volume 2, pages 633-636.

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