Daughter of Connellsville’s controversial billionaire dies
Longtime recluse multimillionaire Huguette Marcelle Clark, 104, died Tuesday, May 24, 2011, in New York City.
Huguette was married briefly in the 1930s, divorced, and had no children.
She was born in Paris, France, on June 9, 1906, the daughter of William Andrews Clark, 67, and his second wife Anna Eugenia La Chapelle Clark, 28. Huguette’s father William Andrews Clark was born in 1839 along the Arch Bridge Road in Dunbar Township, just outside of today’s Connellsville’s city limits.
At his death in 1925 in New York City’s largest mansion, he was near equal in wealth to America’s richest man, John D. Rockefeller. In today’s dollars — about $3 billion.
Clark willed Huguette a fortune in real estate, art, and money.
While living in Dunbar Township, the young William Andrews Clark would haul farm produce into New Haven, now Connellsville’s West Side, and bargain for the highest price — a trait that would later deliver a fortune for him. The Clarks attended the Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church in Dunbar Township, where Clark’s father John was an elder.
William Andrews Clark and his family left the Connellsville area before the Civil War for Iowa, but Clark eventually moved to Montana and the Wild West, where he amassed a fortune from copper mining and expanded into banking, real estate, sugar beets, gold and lumber.
He allegedly bribed the Montana legislature to be named senator at the time when state legislatures elected senators. Historians cite the bribery scandal as one reason for the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, which provides for direct election of senators by the votes of the people in a state.
Mark Twain once said of Clark: “He is as rotten a human being as can be found … he is a shame to the American nation, and no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary, with a ball and chain on his legs.”
To service his new railroad from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles, Clark built a railroad depot in the middle of nowhere in a Nevada desert, sold lots, and called the new town Las Vegas. It’s in Clark County, named for him. He also owned large amounts of land in California and Arizona plus 32,000 acres in Mexico.
When Clark’s mother, Mary Andrews Clark, who was born in Connellsville, died in 1907, son William built a huge boarding house hotel for working women in Los Angeles, and named it after her. Still standing, well-preserved, and on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s the largest monument built to anyone from Connellsville. Serving occasionally as a film set, it’s been seen by millions of people all over the world in motion pictures and television shows.
Clark’s first wife was Connellsville’s Katherine “Kate” Stauffer, whose father Martin Stauffer was a partner in Boyts & Porter Machine Co. on North Arch Street until his death in 1876. The family lived on Peach Street, across from where Molinaro’s law offices are today. Kate Stauffer and William Andrews Clark were married in Connellsville in 1869, when Clark was returning from a trip to New York City.
Kate was descended from Jacob Stauffer, the leader of the Mennonite colony that came West and settled on farm land north of Connellsville and into present-day Scottdale. She was a cousin of local coal magnate Henry Clay Frick, who lived near the Clark’s New York City mansion. Kate’s parents, Martin and Charlotte Hough Stauffer, were buried in Connellsville’s Hill Grove Cemetery.
Katherine Louise Stauffer Clark died in 1893 in New York City, while on a visit to the United States from the Clark mansion in France. Clark then began an affair with his teenage ward, 40 years younger, who would become his second wife. No record of their supposed French marriage was ever found after the birth of their first child, which caused scandal on top of scandal.
Daughter Huguette Clark was rarely seen by anyone since the 1930s, and talked to rare visitors through closed doors. She owned or bought multimillion dollar mansions she never visited or lived in. She owned the largest and most expensive apartment, 42 rooms, on New York’s prestigious Fifth Avenue, filled with expensive artwork inherited from her father.
But she hadn’t lived there in 20 years, preferring living in hospitals under fake names and in guarded rooms with private nurses, playing with her collection of French dolls she had since a child.
Before World War II, a longtime William Andrews Clark associate published a highly detailed, tell-all book about Clark, his second wife and Clark’s children. The book portrayed the family as dysfunctional, affected by Clark’s power and control. The family attempted to buy all copies of the book, and nearly succeeded, but not before copies made it into libraries.