Uriel L. Clark
A distinct line of the lumber industry which has grown to large proportions in recent years, more particularly in the Southwest, is the buying and selling of timber lands. This field has attracted from manufacturing itself many who, by their training and enterprise, have been successful in building up large and important business houses. Uriel Lee Clark, of St. Louis, Missouri, is widely known as a timber expert and has had considerable influence in the development of lumber manufacture in Arkansas and Louisiana.
Mr. Clark served his apprenticeship in the lumber business as a yard hand at a mill belonging to his father, at Hunters Creek, Michigan. He was born in the Wolverine State, and in his earlier experience he learned much about the white pine production of the North. Less than two decades ago he left his native State to follow the lumber business in the Southwest, and it is there he devoted his energies and gained an enviable reputation among lumbermen.
Uriel L. Clark was born October 1, 1854, at Hunters Creek, a town in Lapeer County, Michigan, on the Bay City division of the Michigan Central Railroad, about fifty-five miles north of Detroit. His father was John Clark, an Englishman, and his mother was Elizabeth Townsend Clark, who came of Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry. The father was the owner of a farm, and, by his thrift and industry, made it a valuable property and saved sufficient money to enable him to engage in the manufacture of lumber. Young Clark spent his youthful days on the farm and in acquiring an education such as is afforded by the district school in a farming community.
When Uriel Clark was eighteen years old his father built a sawmill and began the manufacture of lumber. The mill was of circular type and was a good-sized plant for that period, having a capacity of from 40,000 to 50,000 feet a day. When the mill was put into operation young Clark entered the employ of his father as a general hand in the yard, where he sorted and piled lumber, before going into the mill itself to study the details of manufacture. When winter came he went into the woods with the crews and took a hand in the cutting and skidding of logs. Five years spent about the mill and in the woods had well prepared him to take an interest in the business conducted by his father, so in 1877 he was taken into partnership and the firm continued as J. Clark & Son. Although the firm owned some timber the policy was followed of buying from various owners and conserving its own timber holdings as long as it was possible to secure a supply of logs for the mill from outside lumbermen. In the earlier stages logs were not hard to secure, but as white pine in that section began to be cut out, as much as $100 an acre was paid for timber lands. Mr. Clark disposed of his interest in the business in 1890 to his two younger brothers, Arthur J. and Ward B. Clark.
By this time little in the way of white pine that was not held at an extremely high figure was to be found in the section of country familiar to Mr. Clark. Yellow pine was coming more to the fore, and he had considered the southern field and its opportunities. Going to Missouri, he examined some timber lands and bought a considerable acreage for himself. In the same year he went South he undertook a sawmill operation at Winona, Shannon County, Missouri. It was in that State he began on a larger scale the buying and selling of timber lands, and he remained there cleaning up several timber deals until 1893, when he commenced investing in timber lands in Arkansas. In the latter State he bought considerable timber. Early in 1897 he sold a tract of yellow pine timber in Arkansas for $8.25 an acre, the price named being thought to be the highest that ever had been paid for yellow pine timber in Arkansas up to that time.
Later, Mr. Clark became interested in timber properties in Louisiana and he bought and sold much land in Winn and Natchitoches parishes. As an illustration of the rapid growth in the value of timber lands, Mr. Clark in 1899 sold some land for $10.25 an acre for which he had paid but $3 an acre the year before. Invariably his investments in timber land have been profitable, though the success which has attended his efforts can be ascribed partly to the training which he has had in the value of timber. One large deal of Mr. Clark's was the sale of 40,000 acres to northern parties. He has been active in acquiring timber tracts involving from 5,000 to 50,000 acres and his company now has 75,000 acres in a solid body in southwestern Arkansas. He owns other timber land and valuable mineral properties.
For the purpose of dealing in timber lands Mr. Clark, in 1896, organized the Detroit Timber & Lumber Company, with a capital stock of $10,000. Mr. Clark became president; John G. Ferguson, secretary, and W. B. Clark, Mr. Clark's brother, vice president. In 1898 the capital stock of the company was increased to $40,000. The business has grown steadily, so that, while several cash dividends have been paid to the stockholders, the company now has a paid-in capital of $500,000.
Mr. Clark's career has not been all in the direction of success. He has met with reverses, as has nearly every other man of enterprise, and one of these losing ventures was in the operation of a sawmill at Rochelle, Louisiana. He had $10,000 which he invested in this plant in 1896, but the proposition did not prove profitable and his capital was wiped out. However, more capital was put in, which enabled Mr. Clark in the following year to recoup his losses, and then he moved to St. Louis to direct his timber operations in the Southwest from that city.
One of the large deals made by Mr. Clark was consummated in 1901, when he bought the property of the Martin Alexander Lumber Company, which included 10,000 acres of timber, five miles of railroad, saw and planing mills. His company purchased 20,000 acres more, making a 30,000-acre tract, and a few months later this property was sold to Wisconsin people.
Mr. Clark has a beautiful home in St. Louis, at 4010 Lindell Avenue, where he resides with his wife and one daughter. He married, October 6, 1879, Miss Lillie M. Lamb, daughter of a banker of Imlay City, Michigan. He has a summer home near Detroit and a stock farm of 500 acres upon which is a herd of fine shorthorn cattle.
Mr. Clark is a member of the Mercantile Club and the Glen Echo Club, in St. Louis. Among his outside interests is the Earl Mining Company, of Detroit, Michigan.