Originally from Pennsylvania, both the families of Tillie Wise and Sam Clark moved west. Most of the Wise family settled around Wenona Station, Illinois, which they fondly referred to as Prairie Eden. The Clarks went on to Southeast Iowa where they lived in the Mt. Pleasant/Winfield area. Before their marriage in March 1865, Matilda taught school in Pennsylvania and Illinois. Sam Clark, after teaching for a short while, took over his uncle's farm during the war. His uncle was Captain Samuel McFarland, 11th Regiment Infantry, Iowa Volunteers--Mt. Pleasant Zoaves and was later promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the 19th Iowa Volunteers. In 1864 Clark served a term as a clerk for the state legislature in Des Moines and later that year joined the 45th Regiment, Iowa Volunteers for a ninety day enlistment as a quartermaster sergeant. After their marriage he farmed near Winfield, Iowa, and became a breeder of Poland China pigs. They had three children, Edwin (1866-1867), Ella (1868- ), and Wahneetah.
Their large and close knit familes were prolific correspondents and vivid letters were exchanged, especially during the war. A number of Matilda's relatives and friends fought in the seige of Murfreesboro, Tennessee in 1862 and 1863. Her nephew, Thomas Jefferson Hoge, and close friend, Will Kemp, both serving in an Illinois Regiment, were wounded during the Perryville, Kentucky, battle of Chaplin Hills (1862), part of the larger assault on Murfreesboro. Kemp, who was shot in the foot, later rejoined his regiment. Hoge's injury kept him in military hospitals for many months. He returned to duty, first with the 77th Company Invalid Corps in Kentucky, then as a lieutenant in the 125th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment. Tillie's brother, George Wise, and brother-in-law, Irv Colvin, probably belonged to the 104th Illinois Regiment. During the struggle Wise was hurt while Colvin survived without injury to take part in the Stone's River campaign of 1863. Lycurgus Grim, Matilda's nephew, was a captain in Company C, 101st U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment. His letters described Murfreesboro after the conflict. Her cousin, William Ream, who also saw action there, was later promoted to lieutenant in the 12th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment. He and his wife Hattie were frequent correspondents.
In May of 1865, George Wise was stationed in Washington D.C. where he guarded Lincoln's accused assassins. He wrote his sister a detailed description of the prisoners and his own role in the proceedings.
Other major correspondents in the Wise-Clark family papers include Matilda's sisters, Bell Wise, Mag Colvin, and Elizabeth Grim. Sam Clark's sisters, Jennie Grant and Debbie McClelland were also frequent letter writers. Exchanges between friends, relations, and business acquaintances from 1855-1923 make up the bulk of this collection.