Biography of Asa Clark

In reviewing the list of officials who have devoted their energies and best efforts to some particular department of the state government, there is no one who stands out more prominently than Dr. Asa Clark, the honored superintendent of the state hospital at Stockton. All those who have been familiar with the conduct of the institution since its inception unite in the statement that its development under the present management has been little short of marvelous, and its high ranking among similar institutions of the United States is unquestionably due to the executive ability combined with the thorough knowledge and unflagging zeal of Dr. Clark.

He is a native of Essex county, New York, born June 29, 1824, and a son of Curtis and Electa (Meacham) Clark, both deceased. The father followed agricultural pursuits and move to Minnesota, where he died at an advanced age. When twelve years of age our subject was attending public school in Chicago. After a grammar school course he started the study of medicine at Rush Medical College, the famous Dr. Brainerd being one of his instructors. He was graduated in the class of 1849, and in the same year came to California, locating at Placerville. A bad attack of fever decided him to leave this locality and for some time he practiced in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, but in 1853 he returned to Placerville, where he remained until 1861, at which time he located in Stockton. He went there as assistant superintendent of the state hospital, which position he occupied for ten years. In 1871 he established the pacific hospital (now known as Clark’s Sanitarium). It was originally intended for the care of insane patients from the territory of Nevada and a more detailed description is given in the following sketch of Dr. F. P. Clark, a son of our subject. In 1892 he was elected superintendent of the state hospital, which position he is still filling. In 1856 he married Mary Elizabeth Mountjoy, a native of Ohio, and three living children and one deceased is the result of the union. Hattie Electa is now the wife of Montgomery Boggs, of San Francisco; Dr. Fred P. and Geraldine are the other living children.

Dr. Clark is a member of the California Medical Association, the San Joaquin Medical Association and the American Medical Association. He is a Republican in politics.

The results accomplished by Dr. Clark in the improvement of the state hospital have not been accomplished without a large amount of painstaking endeavor. As is common with the majority of institutions of that character, the amount of appropriations for improvement has always been totally deficient and the natural consequence has been somewhat lax methods in its conduct. When Dr. Clark took the management, the institution was not a pride to the state, but very much the contrary. Appropriations sufficient to meet the growing demands were impossible to obtain and the only money available was the small amount of contingent fund allowed. In the face of all this, however, Dr. Clark started out in a systematic plan for remodeling the entire institution–a work which a man of less energy, ability and foresight would not have undertaken. One point to illustrate: He found the female inmates without employment of any kind,–a condition of affairs bed for both the mental and physical health of the patients and also bad from a financial standpoint. Provisions were made to provide them with material for all descriptions of fancy work and some of the most magnificent articles of this description in the state have been manufactured in the hospital. These have always found a ready sale, and with the proceeds derived, a complete revolution has been made in the woman’s department.. Necessary luxuries were then purchased and the natural beautifying of the environments of the place have worked wonders in both the condition of the patients and the appearance of the hospital. It was Dr. Clark who devised the irrigation system now in use on the ground which hitherto did not exist, but which is now producing the vegetables, berries, etc., used at the hospital. The new bakery and kitchen were designed by him and there is no institution in the state either public or private that can show anything more complete from every standpoint. Sanitary conditions have been closely adhered to in connection with economy and convenience so that out of the contingent fund that no one but Dr. Clark figured on as amounting to much of anything, improvements have been made that are a source of marvel to all concerned. To-day the institution as reconstructed by him, is one in which every citizen of the state can take honest pride and when it is considered that these results have been obtained in the face of what appeared to be insurmountable obstacles the name of Dr. Clark will ever be remembered as an official who probably has done as much or more for the department entrusted to his care as ny official of the state, and who will leave behind him an enduring monument of the crowning glory of his life’s labors.

Source: Leigh H. Irvine; A History of the New California Its Resources and People, 2 Volumes; New York and Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1903.

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