Robert M. Clarke – Republican, Elected

2nd Nevada Attorney General

Term:  January 7, 1867 - January 2, 1871  


Robert M. Clarke, born June 26, 1837, lived his early years in Lancaster, Fairfield County, Ohio.  

After Congress admitted Nevada to the Union on October 31, 1864, and "[u]pon the organization of the state government, President Lincoln appointed Robert M. Clarke United States Attorney for the District of Nevada."[1]   

In one of Clark's personal business ventures, he sold a land parcel in Carson City to the Virginia and Truckee (V&T) Railroad:

The site for the V. & T.'s Carson City shops was selected several blocks north of the railroad's mail line through Carson City.  The actual building was located on blocks 15 and 17 of Vanwinkle and Proctors Addition straddling what later became known as Fall Street.  The west end of the building on block 16 was acquired on September 14, 1871 by William Sharon from local civil engineer, former State Assemblyman and later Ormsby County Surveyor Horace H. Bence.  Sharon acquired the east parcel, block 17, on July 5, 1870 from local attorney and Nevada Attorney General Robert M. Clarke. (Emphasis added).

V&T Historical Narrative  by Stephen E. Drew, Virginia and Truckee Railroad Historical Society.

Clarke later teamed with Attorney Thomas Wells to form the law firm Clarke & Wells, whose clients included the Wells Fargo Company and the Virginia and Truckee Railroad.

Former Nevada Attorney General George A. Nourse challenged Clarke's election as Attorney General in 1866 (see State of Nevada ex rel. George A. Nourse v. Robert M. Clarke , 3 Nev. 566 (Nev. 1868)) over Clarke's eligibility to serve as Nevada Attorney General.  (See Nourse's biography for details).  After his term as Nevada Attorney General ended in January 1871, Clarke gained admittance to the Nevada State Bar on October 27, 1871.[2]

In 1893, Clarke served as special counsel to Charles A. Jones, the United States Attorney for Nevada, and together, they successfully prosecuted a high-profile criminal case against Assistant Melter/Refiner John T. Jones (Assistant Melter/Refiner)  and James Heany (Silver Dissolver) for stealing $23,000 of gold bullion from the Carson City Mint.  Both Jones and Heany were sentenced to eight years' imprisonment and fined $5,000.  A detailed report of the theft can be found in the Annual Report of the Director of the Mint to the Secretary of the Treasury for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1896 , pp 92-96.

Election of 1866  

Elected as Nevada's second Attorney General on November 6, 1866, Clarke (Republican) received 5,193 (56.1%) of the 9,249 votes cast, and W.H. Rhodes (Democrat) received 4,056 (43.9%) votes.[3]  

Office Administration and Duties  

Clarke had no deputies or other office support staff, and like his predecessor, Clarke had an appropriation for office space because construction had not yet been completed on the state capitol building.  It is interesting to note that the State Controller's Accounting Books do not list any payments for office rent. However, as shown in the Nevada Attorney General's budgets for the 1867-1869 and 1869-1871 state biennial fiscal periods, there is a line item for "office space rent" in the 1867-1869 Budget: 

1867-1869 Budget




Attorney General's Salary


$   250

Office Space Rent


$   100

Postage and other sundry expenses


1869-1871 Budget:




Attorney General's Salary


$   250

For postage, expressage, and contingent expenses of Attorney General's Office

In addition to his regular duties, state statute designated that the Nevada Attorney General serve as a member of the Nevada Board of Examiners, Board of State Prison Commissioners, Parole Board, and the Board of Directors for the Nevada State Library.  Like Attorney General Nourse before him, Clarke also provided oversight to the various toll road franchises, granted in the Washoe City, Carson City, Virginia City, Steamboat, and Dayton areas. 

[1]  O'Brien, J.P.  History of the Bench and Bar of Nevada  (1913): p. 45. Web. 23, Sept. 2015.
[2]  Nevada Reports, Number 22, p. 11.
[3]  Political History of Nevada, 2006, p. 354.

    • Image of NevadaMap of Nevada, 1866 - Public Domain