Dorothy Gahring Clark was born August 24, 1900 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. At age twenty-one, she decided to become a Methodist deaconess and moved to Missouri in 1922 to attend the Kansas City National Training School for Deaconesses and Missionaries. After graduation in 1925, Dorothy Gahring served for three years at First Methodist Episcopal Church in Pittsburg, Kansas. She moved to Oskaloosa, Iowa, in 1928 to work as a parish worker and ministerial assistant at Central Methodist Episcopal Church under the direction of Dr. S. H. Turbeville. Although the deaconess position was eliminated in 1931, she remained active in church activities throughout her life, whether as an organist, Sunday school teacher or a member of the administrative board into the 1970s.
Dorothy Gahring married Stillman Clark on September 5, 1931. Stillman Clark was a postal worker for forty years and was an active member of the American Legion and Memorial Day Committee. The Clarks had two children: Charles, who died at birth, and Esther May Clark, who was born in 1935. Esther May Clark composed the Iowa Flag Song in 1946; it was adopted as the official state flag song by the Iowa Legislature on March 24, 1949.
Dorothy Clark was active in the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) beginning in 1942 and with the Children of the American Revolution (CAR) beginning in 1952. These organizations offered an outlet for her interests in local history and patriotism. She served as the Oskaloosa Chapter DAR regent from 1952 to 1954 and National Regional Vice President of CAR, 1955-1958.
Stillman and Dorothy Clark were directly involved in the formation of the Mahaska County Historical Society (MCHS) in 1940-1942 and during the acquisition of the Nelson Pioneer Farm in July 1958. Stillman Clark was president of the MCHS from 1947-52 and curator from 1952-1962, whilst Dorothy Clark was Historian and Editor of the News Bulletin from 1952-1962. After her husband's death in 1962, Dorothy Clark became president of MCHS, serving from 1962-65, and subsequently served as curator and museum director from 1965-1969, continuing to have various roles until 1977. During her tenure, the Nelson house was restored, the Craft Day Festival was created and the Iowa Local Historical and Museum Association (ILHMA) founded. Dorothy Clark conducted research and writing on Mahaska County history, focusing on pioneer and Indian heritage. She wrote extensively about Chief Mahaska, his descendants and Iowa Indians, and about the Iowa 33rd Regiment in the Civil War. Some of her completed works include; "Glendale Road," "Daniel Nelson, His Family and Homestead," "A Century of Marked and Dedicated Memorials," and "Chief Mahaska: Man of Peace." On March 8, 1968 the Aliso Canyon Chapter of the DAR in California awarded Dorothy Clark the Diamond Jubilee Award for her work on the Nelson Pioneer Farm and Museum. Dorothy Clark died November 12, 1986.
The Dorothy Clark papers date from 1850 to 1994 and measure 12.2 linear feet. The papers are arranged in ten series: Biographical, Deaconess Files, Family, Family Correspondence, Children of the American Revolution (CAR), Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Historical Societies, Research and Writing, Artifacts and Books, and Audiovisual.
The first series, Biographical (1906-1994), contains reminiscences, photographs, calendars and financial ledgers documenting the historical and political organizations Dorothy Clark contributed to, as well as a photograph of her graduation from Lake Harriet Elementary School in 1913 and her 1918 Minneapolis West High School yearbook.
The second series, Deaconess Files (1916-1994) consists of two sub-series: Kansas City National Training School and Central Methodist Episcopal Church. The Kansas City National Training School sub-series consists mainly of scrapbooks and newsletters. The scrapbooks include photographs, pamphlets of church services she attended and inspirational clippings. The Kansas City Deaconess Newsletters span the 1920s to 1960s; correspondence from alumnae shows that she remained involved with the institution through much of her life. Also, a biography of Anna Neiderheiser, a prominent deaconess of the time, is included amongst keepsakes such as a green handkerchief and sewing sampler book. The second sub-series, Central Methodist Episcopal Church contains news bulletins, certificates and clippings from the beginnings of Dorothy Clark's deaconess career. The 1925 probationers certificate of recognition, her 1927 deaconess license, and the certificate of honorable discharge in 1931 are among the certificates. Journey of Faith (1994) is a history of the Central Methodist Episcopal Church. Dorothy Clark's research and writings on John Wesley's pastoral strategy and the Methodist religion are included in the form of booklets and clippings.
The third series, Family (1920-1988)contains four sub-series: Stillman Clark, Harold Clark, Leola Clark and Esther Olin. The Stillman Clark sub-series consists of an essay written at John Fletcher College, University Park, Iowa in 1930 entitled "The Present Development of Television" as well as family condolences upon Stillman Clark's death in 1962. The Harold Clark sub-series concerns Stillman Clark's brother. A scrapbook documents vacations taken by Harold and his sister Leola Clark and includes correspondence with other members of the Clark family. In the 1920s Harold Clark took a National Radio Institute home study course; his notes, diagrams, and official papers detail radio construction and include advertisements for Bakelite. Stillman and Harold Clark worked at the Oskaloosa Post Office together; and various newspaper clippings and photographs document this. The Leola Clark sub-series consists of certificates, correspondence, photographs, and teaching guides concerning her forty-two year teaching career. A scrapbook records Leola and Dorothy Clark's trip to Israel and Egypt in 1974, while pamphlets and travel notes document Leola Clark's travels to Scandinavia in 1975.
The Esther Olin sub-series contains correspondence, clippings and photographs which give a general overview of Dorothy Clark's daughter from childhood to college life at Wheaton College, Illinois and later Malone College, Ohio where she met her husband Harvey Olin. Esther and Harvey Olin had two children, Tami and Mark. Also included are the original sheet music for the Iowa Flag Song (composed by Esther Olin in 1946) and related correspondence and newspaper clippings.
The fourth series, Family Correspondence (1867-1986) contains family letters written from 1867 to 1891. Letters between Dorothy Clark and her husband Stillman, his brother Harold Clark, and their sister-in law Leola Clark from 1929-1962 are included, along with condolences to Leola upon Stillman Clark's death. Dorothy Clark's letters to her parents (the Gahrings) in the early 1940s document her early days as a mother. Also included is correspondence between Esther May Clark and her grandparents until 1959, with her parents while she was a student at Wheaton College (1955-1957) and after her marriage to Harvey Olin. The series also contains correspondence between Dorothy Clark and family friends.
The fifth series, CAR (1948-1974) contains correspondence, programs for conventions and awards and certificates relating to the Children of the American Revolution organization, whose motto is "For God and My County." One award recognizes Dorothy Clark as Honorary Senior State President in 1954-1955 and another appreciates her cooperation and promotion of CAR in 1959. Dorothy Clark was the senior president of the Thomas Stout Society, honorary senior state president and national area vice-president for the Oskaloosa Chapter from 1957-1965.
The sixth series, DAR (1891-1986), reflects Dorothy Clark's involvement with the Daughters of the American Revolution, a national organization which focuses on American history. This series contains yearbooks spanning forty-five years, detailing important members and events during the time. Dorothy Clark was involved with two chapters of DAR, the Oskaloosa Chapter in Iowa and the Aliso Canyon Chapter in California. In 1968 the Diamond Jubilee Administration awarded Dorothy Clark the magazine advertising award for the Nelson Pioneer Museum. Newspaper clippings, correspondence and yearbooks document Dorothy's membership in the Aliso Canyon Chapter of DAR during her time in California, including a 1969-1972 effort to preserve the Torrey pine trees in a state reserve and her attendance at a DAR luncheon at Nixon's "Western White House" in 1971.
The seventh series, Historical Societies (1937-1990) consists of four sub-series: Mahaska County Historical Society, Nelson Pioneer Farm, Iowa Local Historical Museum Association and Other Historical Societies. The Mahaska County Historical Society sub-series contains by-laws, meeting minutes, museum guidelines such as "How to Study County History" and "Fund Raising Ideas" and news bulletins which cover a period of twenty years, most of which were written by Dorothy Clark. Also included are materials documenting Dorothy Clark's travel to give patriotic speeches about American historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln and her trip to Cooperstown, New York, in 1963 to attend seminars on American culture and "Managing Small Museum Collections."
The Nelson Pioneer Farm sub-series contains correspondence between Dorothy Clark and William Wagner, a Des Moines architect and artist, about the construction of the Nelson Pioneer Farm. Much of this correspondence is illustrated and is accompanied by architectural drawings of the Nelson Pioneer Farm site. William Wagner was known for his sketches of other prominent Iowa landmarks, some of which are part of this sub-series. Correspondence, newspaper clippings and programs about annual Crafts Day celebrations concern demonstrations of pioneer activities such as dying yarns and fabrics. Photographs, clippings, speech notes, and correspondence relate to memorials at Nelson Pioneer Farm dedicated to Stillman and Dorothy Clark in 1965 and 1989, respectively.
The Iowa Local Historical Museum Association sub-series contains by-laws, correspondence, meeting agendas and minutes of a small organization Dorothy Clark and other colleagues founded on January 17, 1966. The newsletter contains a calendar of upcoming events, summaries of workshops, and bills in the Iowa legislature pertaining to museums. The Other Historical Societies sub-series concerns the Oskaloosa Women's Club, the Service Star Legion, and Republican and historical organizations in which Dorothy Clark was active.
The eighth series, Research and Writing (1850-1986) contains five sub-series: Mahaska County, American Indians--General, American Indians-Iowa, Music, and Travel. The Mahaska County sub-series focuses on Dorothy Clark's historical research and writing, including a Civil War Centennial booklet about the 33rd regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry with maps and diagrams of markers that commemorate the Civil War in Mahaska County. Among the publications edited or written by Dorothy Clark in "Our Rich Pioneer Heritage Series" were a journal of Loring Samuel Comstock's travels across the Plains in 1855; the story of Daniel Nelson and his family entitled "The Glendale Road-A Mill Named It"; and "The Bicentennial Historical Tour of Mahaska County," which covers twenty-one memorials in the area. A collection of oral history vignettes, taped in 1977 of early Mahaska County residents, include discussion life on early farms and railroading. Photographs in an illustrated Oskaloosa Times souvenir book from 1896 depict the last buffalo in Mahaska County, a woman in a hoop skirt, and the Ku Klux Klan in Mahaska County in 1923, among other subjects.
The American Indians General sub-series consists of various clippings, notes and magazines that Dorothy Clark collected to better understand American Indian traditions. The American Hobbyist magazine which Dorothy subscribed to from 1955-1962 focuses on clothing and crafts of American Indians with topics such as "beadwork design" and "corn husk bags". The American Indians Iowa sub-series contains notes made by Clark on Indian place names in Iowa, and "How the Indians lose Iowa." Some newspaper clippings and photographs concern cultural activities such as powwows and political issues such as Indian school closings in the Tama area. However, the focus of Clark's Iowa Indian research was on Chief Mahaska; the manuscript and notes for her book, "Chief Mahaska: Man of Peace" are included as well as his family genealogy and correspondence between Dorothy Clark and Chief Mahaska's descendants. Also included are correspondence, plans, and photographs of the Chief Mahaska statue by Sherry Fry in 1965. The Music sub-series contains general clippings and correspondence relating to Iowa music. The focus is on original sheet music such as "By the Waters of Minnetonka" and "Home Again With You" and notes made on Oskaloosa composers Thurlow Lieurance and Frederic Knight Logan. The Travel sub-series document research trips Dorothy made with family and friends. Some trips are more historical in nature, such as her visit to the Herbert Hoover and Abraham Lincoln's historic sites. The pamphlets she collected and the notes she made during these trips show the influence of these historic sites on her own Mahaska County Historical Society. Dorothy Clark also went on a religious pilgrimage to Israel and Egypt with Leola Clark; the scrapbook she created is included in this sub-series.
The ninth series is Artifacts and Books which contains rubber stamps of Chief Mahaska and a western wagon. Two books documenting the history of Mahaska County, both written in the early 1900s, discuss the first Iowa explorers and what they found, railroads and industrial growth. Five Hundred Days in Rebel Prisons by Charles Fosdick was published in 1887 and is about the poor treatment of men in the prisons of the South during the Civil War. Three books pertaining to John Wesley and the Methodist religion published around 1901 and a collection of small prayer cards from the 1930s to 1960s are also part of this series.
The tenth series is Audiovisual, which contains 27 cassette tapes including recordings of oral histories with local residents of Mahaska County made during the 1960s and 1970s, a 1964 interview with Herbert Neff who was the second grandson of Chief Mahaska, and the dedication speech for the Dorothy Clark memorial in 1989. Magnetic sound recording tapes document Dorothy Clark speaking as curator at various events such as at the 1966 Pioneer Crafts Day. Slides of Dorothy Clark's family and of her travels to Israel, Egypt, Hawaii, and London are also included.