Think Like a Historian…

To all my blog readers, I hope this finds you well and staying safe at home.

I just received a message from Jonathan Clark House director Nina Look and I thought I’d share it with you:

Dear Friends-

As you might imagine, the Clark House is closed at this time, but we continue to think about the history of our early settlers and how important it is to share that history with our children. I prepared the attached guide with the help of JCH Education Coordinator Margaret Bussone and JCH Curator Fred Derr.

Feel free to pass it on to a young person who may want to “Think like a historian.”

Nina Look, Director

CLARK HOUSE Think Like a Historian image

Click this link to open the CLARK HOUSE Guide for Young Visitors

Thanks to Nina, Margaret and Fred for the excellent information and sample “think like a historian” questions. Please take a moment to share with young (or not so young!) history lovers in your life.

I’ve had extra time for Jonathan Clark House history, too, and I’ve been making lots of discoveries. (Too many, perhaps! Sometimes one trove of information leads to another, and soon you have a few Big Projects that need time to sort out and make sense of.)

Some of my current Clark House Historian projects include:

• Fact-checking the latest versions of the Jonathan Clark House docent guide and study guide. These guides are a big part of our educational mission and are filled with many interesting facts and details about Mequon, the Clark family, the neighbors, and the house, some of which were news to me.  (Nice job, y’all!) I’m working with Nina and the other volunteers to proofread and incorporate the latest findings into our historical materials.

• Where was Jonathan born, Vermont or Canada? I’ve got so many Clark families to sort through in northern Vermont and adjacent townships in southern Quebec. I’m currently sorting through hundreds of scraps of information and making many “Clark” family trees just to eliminate the Clarks that are not related to Jonathan. (I’ve also learned more about the very different record-keeping systems of French-speaking Canada. There is a lot of available information, but the way the documents were created, and how they are stored have made for a steeper-than-usual learning and finding process.)

• Wait a minute! How could JMC think he was born in Canada, but be “from” Vermont? Actually this is not as bizarre as you might think. I have theories (and documents, of course!) and will have suggested answers to this in coming blog posts.

• What happened to Jonathan and Mary Clark’s eight children? Did they have families? What happened to them? Are there any living descendants? Supported by the great research of the Clark House museum team, I’m also working with Clark descendant and Jonathan Clark House museum friend Liz Hickman to find (correct) answers to all these questions. (Spoiler alert: yes, there are some living Clark family descendants, but more than a few may not know it!)*

• What happened to the Clark family after Jonathan M. Clark died in 1857? Oh, boy! Have I got information. So many documents, including census schedules, newspaper clippings, probate files, wills, will inventories and guardianship papers from the 1860s through the 1880s and beyond. There are many stories here, with many details about their lives after Mequon, and it’s taking time to sort through all the new information.

It wouldn’t be a proper blog post without a cliffhanger-ending. So, do you know:

• Which Clark children went to Alaska for the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush?

• Which Clark daughter was a “single mom” and practicing dentist for almost 50 years?

• Which Clark daughter married a disabled Civil War veteran and then the two of them went on to establish a home and successful businesses in the Pacific Northwest?

• Which Clark daughter endured a divorce that made the national newspapers with accusations of  peculiar religious practices, communal living, and free love?

• Which Clark daughters fostered or adopted children?

• Which Clark daughter was a nationally-known speaker and activist for the suffrage and temperance movements?

• And what happened to Henry, the Clark’s only son?

Who says history is dull? More coming soon. Be well and stay safe.


* P. S. Just a reminder, but I will always protect the privacy of blog readers and living members of any of the Clark or other families that I research. Living descendants will not be identified unless I have their prior permission.

2 thoughts on “Think Like a Historian…

  1. My mother, Pearl Kresse nee Cashin, said we had a connection to the Clark House. Her father was Henry Cashin from Granville/Brown Deer and her mother was Norma Hollnagel from Mequon on 76 St. mother’s grandfather was Michael Cashin and her grandmother was Ellen Cashin nee Clark, daughter of Luke Clark in Brown Deer. Maybe the Clark House was owned by the Hollnagels at some point… I’d appreciate any insight you have. Thanks, Joe Kresse


    • Hello, Joe!

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the questions. I did some quick research in my files and online (including some helpful document links you have posted at, and the short answer is no, I don’t believe the Hollnagel’s ever owned or occupied the Jonathan Clark house in Mequon.

      While I was researching, I did discover a few interesting facts—and a few additional questions—about your Hollnagel and Clark families and where they did (and didn’t) live in Mequon and Granville. I believe your Hollnagel relatives lived just a few miles south of the Clark house, just south of the center of Thiensville. I’ll try and post a few details and clarifications (and maps!) for you here on the blog. Stay tuned.



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