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The Issaquah Press
Issaquah, Washington
February 25, 2009     The Issaquah Press
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February 25, 2009
 

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A6 WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 25, 2009 THE IS SAQUAH PRES S HISTORY Rights march inspires, life of activism BY WARREN KAGARISE In 1962, three years before demonstrators marched across Alabama from Selma to Montgomery, Bob Gray took a roOU p of high school students m conservative Spokane to a civil fights march in Seattle. Gray, an Issaquah resident since 1966, recalled sleeping on the basement floor of an African Methodist Episcopal church and marching through downtown while singing "We Shall Overcome." He joined civil fights leader Andrew Young, a confidant of Martin Luther King Jr. Gray, 72, founded Pine Lake Presbyterian Church and served as the minister there for 25 years before retiring in 1991. His com- mitment to social activism, which evolved over the years from civil fights to anti-war protests, lasts to this day. , I didn t talk party politics in sermons, but I certainly let people know where I stood," he said. His years as a student at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey helped make him aware of the challenges facing the country in the early 1960s. "I didn't realize what was going on in the South until I got to sem- inary," he said; A turning point came while he was assigned to a church in New Jersey. He was dispatched to help a family of migrant workers whose home was a one-room :shack. "How can this be happening?" he wondered. Other exam- ples of dis- crimination and despair were less obvi- ous. Gray and his wife, Patty McInnis Gray, who are white, moved into a BOb {]fay house next door to one of the only black residents in Issaquah. Other residents often called the Grays' black neighbors to let them know they were unwelcome. Through his activism, Gray set out to change attitudes. There didn t seem to be nearly the problems here," he said. "There were some, but not nearly as many as in the South." A November 1969 protest at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was an exception. Black construction workers were demonstrating against employ- ment discrimination. Gray and other clergymen attended the protest as observers. Rumors swirled about the pos- sibility of a group of white radi- cals disrupting the peaceful protest. Radicals never showed; police wearing riot gear arrived at the terminal instead. Police hauled organizer Tyree Scott away from other demonstrators and, as Gray and another minister looked on, beat him. Gray helped Scott to a waiting car. In 2006, the Issaquah History Museums tapped Gray for an oral- history project in which 25 people discussed aspects of the city's his- tory. Museums Director Erica Maniez said Issaquah was quiet during the height of the civil rights struggle. Issaquah has a long history as a fairly socially conservative, white town," Maniez said. She described the onetime logging and mining hub as "a tight com- munity that historically has not spent a long time looking out at the greater world." Looking back, Gray said he believes law enforcement authori- ties likely kept information and photographs of him and other demonstrators. But he prefers to focus on the successes of the civil rights era. He points to the sign- ing of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 as one such triumph. "As I watched these events on "IV, I was applauding from a dis- tance," he said. Gray also demonstrated against the Vietnam War, apartheid in South Africa and, most recently, the war in Iraq. He considers him- self to be a strong supporter of President Barack Obama, for whom he voted last fall. Gray said the election represented a shift in attitudes about race. But chal- lenges remain, he said. "It's sad for people to think we've arrived," he continued, "because we're a long way from that." Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392- 6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress, com. Press article brings more Civil War vet facts to light Editor's note: After The Press ran a story in December about the grave of black Civil War veteran Clark Harris, a writer from Seattle contacted the paper with the news that she had found one of his descendants. She had much more, and more correct, information than was on file with the Issaquah History Museums. BY CYNTHIA WILSON AND DONNA KENNEDY lark Harris, a former slave of John Harris, a wealthy farmer and slave owner in Covington, Ga., was born to Clara Cunningham along with three brothers and two sisters. When Union soldiers came through, 14-year-old Clark ran off and enlisted in Tennessee as a steward in the Union Army. At the time, he was described as 5 feet, 3 inches tall, black eyes and hair, and a yellow complexion. He was assigned to Company B, 15th Regiment, of the United States Colored Troops as a drummer for three years at a bounty of $300. After mustering out of the Army in 1866, he went to Minnesota via the Mississippi River as a steam- boat worker. It was during one of his stops in Clarksville, Mo., that he met, courted and married Maude Susan Graves, daughter of Lewis and Emma Graves. L'yntbia Wilson Donna Kennedy Clark and Maude moved to Lacrosse, Wis., where they had five children: Josephine, Clark M., Maude, Walter C. and Louis Harris. With problems brewing between them, Clark left the family and moved to St. Paul, Minn. On Nov. 23, 1892, Clark married again, without the prerequisite divorce from Maude. His second wife, Elizabeth Eunice Felstead, was the daughter of William and Elizabeth Felstead, of England. Elizabeth was born in 1874 in Ontario, Canada. On Dec. 2, 1892, her enraged father went to the St. Paul courts and asked that Clark be arrested for bigamy and thrown into jail. Clark s first wife went to St. Paul from Lacrosse to testify. At the time, she was very ill, suffering from the effects of measles. The ultimate deci- sion of the court was to release Clark on a legal techni- cality -- h:ives cannot testify against their husbands. Clark and Elizabeth stayed in St. Paul for the next four or five years and became the parents of three children: David, Effie and Elizabeth. The decision to move the family was major. The quest for a better life led the family to move to Seattle in 1898. Here, they had 10 additional children: Ruth, Grace, Dorothy, Edward, Clarence and Ralph; the last child, Andrew, was born the year following Clark's death; three chil- dren (Rebecka, Carroline and Jennie) died between 1898 and 1901. The family lived in the Seattle area until November 1910, when Clark and Elizabeth purchased a ranch in the Upper Valley of Issaquah with a mortgage of $2,500. The ranch was a place where the children had a chance to grow up strong and healthy. But this dream was short lived. Clark died suddenly July 22, 1911, of a heart attack. In a ceremony by the Grand Army of the Republic, Clark was buried at Hillside Cemetery in Issaquah. Clark left behind nine children, a pregnant wife, a mortgaged ranch and debts. Elizabeth struggled to keep the ranch by selling eggs and butter, but the Introducing White Elizabeth Hards expenses were overwhelming. She appealed to lending institutions for help but was refused. Attorney Charles Owens, holder of the mortgage, was forced to foreclose; the family moved back to Seattle. There, Elizabeth took a job as a grocery clerk to support her family. As the wife of a Civil War soldier, she was entitled to Clark's Civil War pension of $12 per month and $2 per month per minor child; Elizabeth applied Aug. 19, 1911. There were searches by the Pension Board's special examiner to those familiar with the family's history and current situation, including soliciting information from Walter C. and Maude S. Harris, chil- dren of Clark's first wife. The witnesses were asked about the situation regarding the first marriage of Clark Harris to Maud, e Susan. The witnesses acknowledged they knew Clark s first wife, but nothing about a divorce. Eaheth was asked by the examiner to produce proof that hr hus- band had been divorced from Mande Susan before she could be accepted as the legal wife of Clark. The problem Elizabeth encountered was that Maude Susan died Sept. 28, 1907. Maude's older chil- dren testified they knew of no effort of their mother to secure a divorce:from Clark. In fact, her son Walter stated that if she had not died so early, his mother would have applied for the pension. On Oct. 1913, Elizabeth received a rejection letter from the Pension Board, because her marriage to Clark was not legal and the state of Washington did not acknowledge common-law marriages. Subsequent letters were written on her behalf, requesting another look at her application. Again, the Pension Board referred her to the letter of 1913 with the reason for the rejection. Her children grew up and moved out of Seattle. The oldest, David, lived in Seattle until about 1931. He assisted the family with burial of Elizabeth's parents. William (deceased in 1931) and Elizabeth Felstead (deceased in 1926) are buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle. Elizabeth lived until 1956, when she succumbed to a cerebral incident. She, too, is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery. Donna Kennedy is Clark Harris" great-granddaughter. Reach Cynthia Wilson at seeb@yahoo.com. Glove Service. MAKE A DONATION join us in our unwavering support for youth and families. Your news comments welcome! 00PRE ISSAQUAH SS.,00m