Joseph Clemens (1862-1936)

Joseph Clemens, 1894

Joseph Clemens was born on December 9, 1862, in the rugged county of Cornwall in England. His family of Cornish iron miners migrated to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and then to Eichelberger, Pennsylvania. He was the only one of five brothers who did not follow the family tradition and become a miner.

In 1890, at the age of 28, Clemens entered Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania after preparation at the Williamsport Seminary. At Dickinson, he pursued the philosophical course and studied to be a missionary. While at Dickinson, he was a charter member of the Sigma Chi chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. A very hard-working student, he was the treasurer for the Union Philosophical Society and the treasurer of the Dickinson Prohibition Club. He also played in the College orchestra and sang in the College choir, at the same time serving as a member of the Missionary committee of the college Y.M.C.A. and as class poet.

After graduation in 1894, Clemens was a pastor for the Central Pennsylvania Methodist Episcopal Conference; until 1900 he served as circuit minister for such towns as Mont Alto, Rouzerville, and Blue Rock. In 1896 he married Mary Knapp Strong, whom he had met at the Williamsport Seminary. The following year he earned his master's degree in cursu from Dickinson.

In 1901, Clemens became a chaplain for the United States Army after visiting troops in Cuba; he and Mary were stationed in the Philippine Islands. Although his main duties centered upon being a religious leader, he was also expected to help keep morale up by organizing various social activities and fraternizing with his fellow officers. However, Clemens felt that his social duties conflicted with his spiritual ones; this conflict eventually led to his retirement in 1918. After a brief sojourn back in the United States, Clemens and his wife returned to the Philippines in 1922 and devoted their lives to botanical research and missionary work. In August 1935, the couple traveled to New Guinea to advance their missionary pursuits. While there, Joseph Clemens apparently contracted food poisoning early in the new year; he died on January 21, 1936.

For further information, see "Joseph Clemens: Soldier, Scientist, and Missionary" completed by Amy Hanners and Gregory Webb for History 204 during the fall 1999 semester.

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Dickinson College Archives
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