Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Orange Park Plans Carrie Clarke Day

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Orange Park Plans Carrie Clarke Day

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Maraghy, Clay County Line staff writer

In the early 1900s, Carrie Clarke founded a Sunday school for children, a Baptist church, a woman's club and a garden club in Orange Park.

She hosted most of the town's wedding receptions and was known to give money to families in need or anyone who asked.

To celebrate her contributions, Orange Park is hosting Carrie Clarke Day Sunday, March 21, at Clarke House Park on Kingsley Avenue.

"It will be an old-fashioned community dinner on the grounds" said organizer Steve Jones, who is Orange Park's mayor. "We expect anywhere from 800 to 2,000 people. It will be a fun day."

"I'm just tickled pink," said Gerald McKinley, another organizer. "Women have never gotten their fair share of recognition. The more I have dug in and learned, the more fascinated I have become in a lady so young to have so much drive."

William Clarke owned and operated the Old Reliable Plumbing Company, a thriving business in Jacksonville established in 1869 by his father. He and his wife, Carrie, built a two-story home and pecan farm on Kingsley Avenue. They had one son, William.

Carrie Clarke decided to start a Sunday school on her porch for children in the area. For several years, she taught them about the Bible and then she finagled land for the first sanctuary at a county bankruptcy sale with a bid of $1.

The Clarke House is still standing today and will be open for tours during the event. The town recently fixed the plumbing, put on a new roof and tore down some dilapidated buildings surrounding the house.

The Carrie Clarke Day celebration started off small.

First Baptist Church of Orange Park recently began putting names of its former pastors on brick pavers in front of its new family life center. The first paver is engraved with Clarke's name -- misspelled as Clark -- crediting her as founder of the church in 1921. …

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