Public photo from ancestry.com website 
Berdie Clark poses with younger sister Carla on the front porch of a cabin in Hope, circa 1941. The siblings were both child of longtime Hope residents Emma and Carl Clark.

Public photo from ancestry.com website Berdie Clark poses with younger sister Carla on the front porch of a cabin in Hope, circa 1941. The siblings were both child of longtime Hope residents Emma and Carl Clark.

Emma Clark: Becoming a Hope pioneer

For 50 years, Emma and Carl had been central to the story of Hope

On June 25, 1984, Emma Clark and her husband Carl were feted in a crowded Hope Social Hall. The cause for the surprise celebration was the Clarks’ golden wedding anniversary and five decades of most-favored status in the tiny community at the mouth of Resurrection Creek.

For 50 years, Emma and Carl had been central to the story of Hope. Carl had lived in town since arriving with his parents at age 5 in 1913. Together, the Clarks had homesteaded on the hillside west of the creek mouth in the early 1940s. They had worked in Hope, raised a family there, socialized there, and served their fellow residents there.

At the social hall, perhaps a hundred people had gathered, cards and presents and potluck food in their hands, good cheer in their hearts. The Clarks had listened to praise and stories from various friends and neighbors. One old friend had referred to Carl as “the salt of the earth,” and then added, “Him and Emma both.”

At some point, Carl took center stage. According to a We Alaskans story the following month, Carl was asked the secret to a successful half-century of marriage, and he replied, “The first 25 (years) are the hardest. The next 25 you don’t pay any attention to.” When it was Emma’s turn, she said, “They called Carl the salt of the earth. That must make me the pepper.”

Her response drew a wave of chuckles.

But her metaphor did more than just reveal her good sense of humor.

In Anchorage more than a half-century earlier, before Emma had ever been to Hope, one person suspected that she might be just the “seasoning” Carl needed.

It was 1932, and Emma Sneve was working as a registered nurse in the government hospital in Anchorage when she met an older patient who took a liking to her. The patient was Annette “Tet” Clark, who saw Nurse Sneve as a nice young woman who someday might make a good daughter-in-law.

Tet attempted a little matchmaking. As she was leaving the hospital after her treatment, the patient invited the nurse to visit her in Hope. There, she introduced Emma to Carl, the younger of her two sons.

Emma and Carl hit off, and Emma repeated her visit more than once.

By the end of June 1934, Nurse Sneve had resigned her position at the hospital, moved to Hope, and become Mrs. Emma Clark.

LIFE IN HOPE

Nearly two years after their Anchorage nuptials, their first daughter, Annette Bredine “Berdie” Clark, was born in Seward in April 1936. Their second daughter, Carla Mae Clark, was born in October 1938, also in Seward.

Although she left her nursing career behind her, Emma Clark did not abandon her health-care training. According to Hope historian Diane Olthuis, Emma brought with her to Hope a wicker baby scale and a wealth of medical knowledge important in a community with no resident physician.

“In addition to weighing babies,” wrote Olthuis, “she assisted neighbors with medical emergencies.”

In the summer of 1938, Erv Rheingens, a neighbor, badly needed the care that Emma could provide.

Rheingens, according to his daughter Arlene’s 2002 memoir, “The Dragline Kid” (written under her professional name, Lisa Augustine), was injured in a mining accident when he attempted to hand-crank an engine. The crank snapped back, caught Erv in the groin and hurled him into the air.

“His penis and testicles were terribly swollen and rapidly turning back,” wrote his daughter, after being told the story by her mother. “Emma said they were filled with blood. Fortunately, she had some morphine on hand for emergencies, and they (Emma and Erv’s wife, Joyce) figured this more than qualified.”

Erv Rheingens required weeks of convalescence before he could even walk again, and he missed out on the remainder of the mining season, but eventually his “parts” were once again in working order. He and Joyce conceived Arlene shortly afterward.

Emma assisted Joyce throughout the pregnancy, and their daughters, Carla and Arlene, went on to become close childhood friends during the few years before the Rheingenses moved to Seward and then Kenai. Arlene said she grew up referring to her neighbor as “Auntie Emma.”

Other than special-occasion medical assignments — she was hired by the government to administer typhoid vaccinations after the flooding and destruction following 1964’s Great Alaska Earthquake — the only time Emma accepted official nursing duties occurred in the summer of 1953. In need of medical personnel for the commercial salmon season, a Kasilof firm hired her as a cannery nurse.

At the time, Carl was fishing out of Cordova, Carla was staying with her paternal grandparents in Hope, and Berdie had just gotten married and moved out of the house.

BEFORE ALASKA

Emma Judith Caroline Sneve was born in Minot, N.D., on Aug. 25, 1904, as one of the eight children of Johan and Bredine Sneve. Her father, a Lutheran minister, baptized her three months later, and soon after that, the family moved westward.

At the time of the U.S. Census in 1910 and 1920, the Sneves were residing in Oregon, but by 1925 Emma was in Seattle, working as a domestic and planning a career in medicine. By 1926, she was enrolled in nurse’s training at Swedish Hospital, from which she graduated in 1928.

At the bidding of a schoolmate who was working in Anchorage, Emma, age 25, moved there in 1930. Two years later, she met Tet Clark.

Emma and Carl lived first on Main Street, near the Territorial School. Both buildings burned in 1937, so the Clarks moved across the street to the Coon/Banic Cabin. They then purchased the Dan Wolfe homestead, where they were still living at the time of their 50th-anniversary bash.

Carl Clark spent most of his early adult life mining locally for gold, commercial fishing in Prince William Sound, hauling freight by ship and dog team, and acting as a hunting guide for rich clientele. Emma, meanwhile, guided her daughters lives and education and tended thriving flower and vegetable gardens at their home on the hill.

The Clarks lived a mostly subsistence lifestyle, surviving on the produce from Emma’s gardens, plus meat from domesticated pigs and chickens, Carl’s commercial salmon harvest, and jellies and jams concocted from the bountiful area wild berries.

The minister’s daughter remained a devout Christian for the remainder of her life. With her daughters, Emma attended the local Methodist church, the only house of worship in town for many years. “Dad never did go to church,” said Carla, who, at age 84, still lives on a portion of the old homestead.

Emma, a member of the Hope Homemakers Club, also taught Sunday school, and, until the Clarks got electricity in the late 1960s, read her Bible at night by kerosene lantern.

Meanwhile, the Hope population was in decline. From 1958 to 1963, the local school was shuttered because the town lacked the requisite number of students to keep it open.

By the early 1980s, the Clarks were the longest-tenured residents of Hope and among the only “old-timers” remaining from the period after the town’s gold-rush days. Visitors to Hope were curious about these peninsula pioneers, but Carl, in particular, resisted comparisons to popular portrayals of western patriarchs.

In October 1990, Emma, at age 86, suffered a stroke that diminished her memory and made it difficult for her to tend to the physical demands of homestead life. She moved in with her daughter, Berdie, in Eagle River as she recuperated.

A few years later, Carl moved into a nursing home in Peters Creek, and Emma joined him, remaining there until Carl died in January 1996. Emma then moved back to Eagle River to live with a caregiver, and she died on Jan. 13, 2000.

Emma and Carl may have resisted the pioneer image, but their long legacy in the community of Hope solidified that notion, as the memories of those who knew them, and as the photos and articles in the Clark Collection at the Hope and Sunrise Historical and Mining Museum, continue to attest.

Photo 210.029.055, from the Clark Collection, courtesy of Hope and Sunrise Historical and Mining Museum 
Members of the Hope Homemakers Club pose for a circa 1940 group shot. Emma Clark, holding daughter Carla, is standing third from the left in the back row; Emma’s older daughter Berdie is in front of her, sitting on the lap of an unidentified woman who is seated in the front row.

Photo 210.029.055, from the Clark Collection, courtesy of Hope and Sunrise Historical and Mining Museum Members of the Hope Homemakers Club pose for a circa 1940 group shot. Emma Clark, holding daughter Carla, is standing third from the left in the back row; Emma’s older daughter Berdie is in front of her, sitting on the lap of an unidentified woman who is seated in the front row.

Photo 210.029.072, from the Clark Collection, courtesy of Hope and Sunrise Historical and Mining Museum 
Carl and Emma Clark pose near their home in Hope in 1986.

Photo 210.029.072, from the Clark Collection, courtesy of Hope and Sunrise Historical and Mining Museum Carl and Emma Clark pose near their home in Hope in 1986.

Photo 210.029.122, from the Clark Collection, courtesy of Hope and Sunrise Historical and Mining Museum 
After marrying in June 1934, Emma and Carl Clark spent their honeymoon in this cabin on Hope Mining Company property.

Photo 210.029.122, from the Clark Collection, courtesy of Hope and Sunrise Historical and Mining Museum After marrying in June 1934, Emma and Carl Clark spent their honeymoon in this cabin on Hope Mining Company property.

Photo 210.029.161, from the Clark Collection, courtesy of Hope and Sunrise Historical and Mining Museum 
In the seats of honor at the 1988 Hope Centennial Parade are (L-R) Helen DeFrance, Annie Hatch, and Emma and Carl Clark.

Photo 210.029.161, from the Clark Collection, courtesy of Hope and Sunrise Historical and Mining Museum In the seats of honor at the 1988 Hope Centennial Parade are (L-R) Helen DeFrance, Annie Hatch, and Emma and Carl Clark.

The Emma and Carl Clark house dominated the hillside west of the mouth of Resurrection Creek in Hope for many decades. This photo was taken in 1991. (Photo 210.029.164, from the Clark Collection, courtesy of Hope and Sunrise Historical and Mining Museum)

The Emma and Carl Clark house dominated the hillside west of the mouth of Resurrection Creek in Hope for many decades. This photo was taken in 1991. (Photo 210.029.164, from the Clark Collection, courtesy of Hope and Sunrise Historical and Mining Museum)

This undated image of Emma Sneve (later Emma Clark) shows her as a young woman, likely about the time she served as a registered nurse in Anchorage. (Public photo from ancestry.com website)

This undated image of Emma Sneve (later Emma Clark) shows her as a young woman, likely about the time she served as a registered nurse in Anchorage. (Public photo from ancestry.com website)

Emma Clark’s father, the Rev. Johann Svendson Sneve, was a Lutheran minister in North Dakota before moving the family west. (Public photo from ancestry.com website)

Emma Clark’s father, the Rev. Johann Svendson Sneve, was a Lutheran minister in North Dakota before moving the family west. (Public photo from ancestry.com website)

Emma Clark feeds the Clark “pet” moose named Spook in 1981. At the urging of state wildlife officials, Carl Clark had agreed to care for this calf at their home in Hope. (Photo 210.029.162, from the Clark Collection, courtesy of Hope and Sunrise Historical and Mining Museum)

Emma Clark feeds the Clark “pet” moose named Spook in 1981. At the urging of state wildlife officials, Carl Clark had agreed to care for this calf at their home in Hope. (Photo 210.029.162, from the Clark Collection, courtesy of Hope and Sunrise Historical and Mining Museum)

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