Rewriting the ending

Bulletin courtesy photo

Edith Clark, a former Johnson County homesteader and educator, has been buried in an unmarked grave since 1936. Johnson County residents recently helped purchase a gravestone for Clark.

On her way home from Thanksgiving dinner, Patty Myers stopped by the Lakeview Cemetery in Cheyenne to pay respects to an old friend.

It’s true that Myers has never actually met Edith K.O. Clark, but after years of researching Clark and reading her words, she said that it feels like she has.

“She was just so adventurous, brave and strong, and I think that’s what attracted me to her,” Myers said. “She really was one of a kind.”

Clark served as the state superintendent of public instruction from 1915 to 1919, but after she died in 1936, she was buried in an unmarked grave in Cheyenne. While Clark had personally bought the headstones for both her brother, Clifford, and sister, Eleanor, nobody had returned the favor – until now.

“I first found out that she was in an unmarked grave maybe three years ago, and it has been driving me crazy ever since,” Myers said. “About a year ago, I decided that I should actually do something about it rather than just staying angry.”

Earlier this month, a headstone for Clark was put in place at the Cheyenne cemetery after fundraising efforts by Myers. Myers said that Johnson County residents paid for the bulk of the $1,900 headstone, with half of the cost paid by the Johnson County Historical Society.

“Edith may be buried in Cheyenne, but I think a lot of Johnson County residents really feel like she is one of us,” Myers said.

Clark, who was then a 25-year-old Washington, D.C., native, started her educational career in Johnson County in 1906 as a Kaycee-based teacher in the EK Mountain School District, which was eventually renamed the Johnson County School District.

Clark left Johnson County for Sheridan County, where she taught and was elected county superintendent of schools in 1908. She also formed the Sheridan County Association of School District Trustees and pioneered a countywide effort toward quality and equal education for all students.

Her experience in Sheridan County aided Clark’s campaign to be elected to the state superintendent office in 1914. She was the third woman to be elected to the office.

“During that time in Wyoming, it really was a man’s world,” Myers said. “So it is really incredible to see everything she accomplished.”

While serving as state superintendent, Clark made it her goal to visit every school in the state and meet with county superintendents, as well as teachers, school trustees and the public. Some of the issues that Clark prioritized in her term included an emphasis on school libraries, the education of immigrants and maintaining school buildings.

Clark’s accomplishments don’t begin and end in the education world, Myers said. She was a small-business owner in Cheyenne and served in France and Great Britain as a YMCA volunteer during World War I.

Clark never lost her love of Johnson County, according to Myers. In 1929, Clark moved back to the county and homesteaded some property in the Bighorn Mountains just outside of Buffalo. She lived there until shortly before her death in 1936.

While Clark’s story seemed to come to an end in an unmarked grave, Myers said she was glad she could help rewrite the ending of Clark’s story and draw attention to one of the state’s premier educators.

“When I saw her gravestone for the first time this past weekend, I just felt really satisfied,” Myers said. “I feel like Edith is truly laid to rest now. We’re the Equality State, and we have to pay attention to the contributions made by women in this state. I’m glad that Edith is finally getting her due.”

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