History Mystery! – No. 4

Who was Arthur Clark?

And what can he tell us about Jonathan’s Vermont (or Lower Canada) roots?

We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the Clark family on the 1850 federal census, and using that document to tease out as much information as possible about Jonathan, Mary, their children and their life in Mequon, circa 1850. If you missed the earlier posts, you can catch up here, here, here, and here. Yet after all that, we are still left with one intriguing question from that census: Who was Arthur Clark?

To date, the only source that connects any “Arthur Clark” to the Jonathan Clark family is line 23 of this page of the 1850 census. What do we find there?

Arthur Clark on 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Mequon Dist. 15, Washington Co., Wisconsin (detail of header and line 23) Click to open larger image in a new window.
  • first name is Arthur.
  • surname Clark is carried down by symbol ( ” ) from line 15, surname of presumed head of household J. M. Clark
  • he is a 16 year old male 
  • he is about 22 years younger than Jonathan M. Clark
  • he was born in Vermont
  • he did not attend school in the past year
  • he can read and write
  • he is not deaf, mute, blind or developmentally impaired
  • he has no occupation listed on the 1850 census

That’s all we’ve got. We may reasonably assume that even without an occupation listed in column 7—which is not unusual for this enumerator in 1850—Arthur probably helped on the farm or did other local work. Or, it’s possible that he was only a temporary visitor to the Clark house and was counted as living with the Clarks when the census was taken (either on the official enumeration day of June 1, or the actual day the information was recorded, October 7, 1850.)

Being 16 years of age on this 1850 census suggests a birthdate for Arthur of either:

  • Oct 8, 1833 to Oct. 7, 1834 (based on the actual date of enumeration of this census), or
  • June 1, 1833 to June 1, 1834 (based on the official date of enumeration of the 1850 census), or
  • by lumping these two more-precise methods of date calculation together we get a more general estimate of a birthdate anywhere from early June, 1833 to early October, 1834

(For more on calculating Arthur’s probable birthdate, and how the actual and official dates of enumeration for this Mequon census might change the results, see this earlier post.)

 All of which brings us to our most tantalizing question: who is Arthur to the Jonathan M. Clark family? Is he related to Jonathan? brother? cousin? in-law? Is Arthur a link to solving the puzzle of who Jonathan Clark’s parents were, and where he was really born?

A survey of online indexes of birth records and family genealogies for Clarks in Vermont, New Hampshire and Lower Canada does not find relevant records. Perhaps Arthur is related to one of the other Clark families in the Mequon area? Maybe nearby neighbors and early settlers Cyrus and Sarah (neé Strickland) Clark?

No, Arthur probably was not Cyrus and Sarah Clark’s child. They were married in Mequon on March 1, 1841, seven or eight years after Arthur’s birth. Cyrus was born in Massachusetts in 1815, Sarah in Nova Scotia in 1823, and Arthur in Vermont in 1833 or ’34. It’s not impossible that Arthur and Cyrus were brothers or cousins, but it seems pretty unlikely.

In 1850 there were several other Clark families in old Washington County. Was Arthur (or Jonathan) related to any of them? Four of the 1850 Clark families in Washington county were headed by immigrants from the Old World. These include:

  • Patrick Clark, Richfield Township, born in Ireland
  • John Clark, Richfield Twp., born in Ireland
  • John C. Clark, Wayne Twp., born in Ireland
  • L. Clark, North [sic, i.e., West?] Bend [later renamed Kewaskum]2, born in either Germany or New York (the census here shows both places, one written over the other; it’s not clear which is correct). Married to Ellen Clark, born in New York. (Is Ellen a second wife? Line 13 of the 1850 census Mortality Schedule for the Mequon area—Dist. 15, enumerated by J. I. Loomis—reports the death of Wilhelmina Clark, 26, married, living on a farm, born in Prussia. She died in childbirth in (September?-the month is obscured by an ink blot).

But according to almost all the biographical evidence we have, Jonathan Clark, born in Vermont—or possibly Lower Canada—was the descendent of American patriots. It seems unlikely that he would be related to these more recent immigrant Clarks, though it is possible—but unlikely—that they could be related to Arthur. We would need to know more about each Clark family’s migration route, and whether they spent any time in Vermont when Arthur was born there circa 1833-’34.

On the other hand, there are two Clark families of New England origin in Washington Co. in 1850, and either of them could be related to Arthur, Jonathan, or both. For example, might Arthur (or Jonathan?) be related to:

  • Leman (age 67) and Catherine (neé Mott) Clark (44) of “Heartford [sic] Dist.,” Washington County? Leman Clark is a farmer. He and Catherine were both born in Vermont. He claimed to have served in the War of 1812. Leman is old enough and from the right part of New England to be either Jonathan’s or Arthur’s father or close relative. But he and Catherine were married in Franklin Co., New York, on July 27, 1843—a decade after Arthur’s birth—so Catherine cannot be Arthur Clark’s mother. Leman and Catherine moved to Dodge Co., Wisconsin before the 1860 census. Leman died there in 1863. Catherine then went to live with family in Franklin Co., New York, and she died there in 1883.

So Catherine (Mott) Clark is not Arthur or Jonathan’s mother. Could Leman be the father of either man, with an earlier wife? I don’t know. It is possible, but the evidence I’ve seen so far does not connect Arthur or Jonathan to Leman Clark. One beguiling clue is an 1840 federal census that has a Leman Clark in Prairie Ville (later known as Waukesha), Milwaukee Co., Wisconsin as the head of this household:

  • One white male, aged 50-59
  • One white male, aged 15-19
  • One white female, aged 60-69

The older man would be Leman; he was 57 in 1840. The woman was, presumably—but not necessarily—his previous wife, before he married Catherine Mott in 1843. The young man could be a son, nephew, random relative or just a non-related boarder or hired hand. His age suggests a birth year of 1821-1825, too young to be Jonathan M. Clark (who was living in Mequon in 1840), and too old by a decade to be Arthur Clark.

Another New England Clark family enumerated in “Heartford,” district, Washington county in 1850 was:

  • D. Clark (53), born in Connecticut and Phebe Clark (56), born in Massachusetts. Unlike Jonathan and Arthur, neither was born in Vermont. But it is very typical for Vermonters of the late-1700s and early-1800s to have migrated there from other New England states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut. So D. and Phebe Clark could be Jonathan’s parents, but if so, they were very young parents, as Jonathan was born in late-1811 or 1812. Given their ages, they are more likely to have had children of Arthur’s age. Either way, I cannot find any more information on this couple. I have not searched through Connecticut and Massachusetts records to see where they were before 1850 (looking for a specific “D. Clark” in pre-1850 New England is too much of a “needle in a haystack” challenge for now), but as far as I can tell, they are not in southeast Wisconsin prior to 1850, and they disappear after the 1850 census.

Other 1850 census Clarks living nearby in “Grafton, Dist. 15.” were:

  • B. P. Clark (49) and Susan Clark (54), both born in New York, as were the three younger Clarks in their home, presumably their children. They could possibly be related to Arthur, but likely not to Jonathan; as far as we know, Jonathan does not have any family connection to New York state. This couple appears to be the same as Ben P. and Susannah Clark enumerated in Grafton on the 1860 census, and he may well be head-of-household Benjamin P. Clark enumerated with a large family in Skaneateles, Onondaga Co., New York in 1830 and 1840.

Could Arthur have been related to one of these 1850 Mequon-area Clark families? It’s possible, but at this point, unlikely. Perhaps teen-aged Arthur struck out on his own and left his parents behind in Vermont. Or was he the orphaned child of unknown Clarks that moved to Wisconsin prior to the all-name 1850 federal census and died, leaving Arthur to live with relatives and no trace of his origins.

For additional clues, I’ve done a survey of online 1840 federal census indexes for the surname Clark or Clarke in Milwaukee and adjacent Wisconsin Territory counties. In addition to Leman Clark in Prairie Ville, and Jonathan M. Clark in Mequon, the census enumerates only eight other 1840 households headed by a Clark or Clarke:

  • Milwaukee County: Asa Clark (Pewaukee), Justis Clark (Wauwautosa), Jno. Clark (Lake), Ottom or Ottain Clarke (Milwaukee East Ward)
  • Racine County: Jeremiah M.Clark, Norman Clark, James Clark, Joseph Clark

The Joseph Clark household of 1840 had only two persons enumerated. All the other Clark(e) households in the region had anywhere from 3 to 7 persons living together. Several of these homes included young males, 6 through 9 years old, the correct age group for Arthur Clark that year:

  • Justis Clark (Wauwautosa), household of seven, two boys ages 5 – 9
  • Jeremiah Clark (Racine), household of six, one boy aged 5 – 9
  • Norman Clark (Racine), household of five, one boy aged 5 – 9

Census enumerations, especially when it comes to ages, are never completely reliable. Several of the other 1840 households had boys enumerated as younger than 5, or aged 10 and above, that could also represent a boy more-or-less Arthur’s age.

Interestingly, the federal land grant records of the late-1830s through the 1840s record a few more land patents for other Clarks in the Milwaukee and Washington counties area. Perhaps they are related to Arthur or Jonathan? It’s hard to say. This might be an interesting line of inquiry, but would require following the trail of various Clark families as they migrate into and away from southeast Wisconsin. Not an easy task. (I also found an intriguing surprise—another History Mystery?—among the land patent records at the BLM/GLO records website, but that will have to wait for a separate post…)

After his one-and-only appearance on the 1850 enumeration, Arthur Clark vanishes from the records. I’ve not been able to find Arthur anywhere in subsequent federal censuses, online cemetery records, published genealogies or other sources.1

This is why Arthur Clark—the young man on line 23 of the Mequon, Wisconsin, federal census or 1850—remains our History Mystery!, No. 4. If you have any comments, suggestions or information about Arthur Clark, Lehman and Catherine Clark, D. and Phebe Clark, or any other possibly-related Clark(e) families, please comment below, or send me an email via the contact form, above. I’d love some hot tips!


1. There was one very exciting possibility, an Arthur Merrill Clark, born in Landaff, New Hampshire, to Daniel and Mary (neé Merrill) Clark on Aug. 4, 1833. He went west to Sanilac County, Michigan and lived a long and well-documented life. And—in spite of Landaff being a place of particular interest in my Clark/New England research, and the Merrill/Morrell mother’s surname matching Jonathan’s middle name—my research indicates that Arthur M.Clark of Sanilac Co., Michigan, is probably not the Arthur Clark listed on the 1850 Mequon census, and is very likely not related to the Jonathan Clark family.

2. Updated June 19, 2020: Note that on the census for L. Clark, the place name of North Bend is correct for its era. The town was later renamed Kewaskum and should not be confused with the Washington Co. town of West Bend. For more on the changing boundaries and names of Washington and Ozaukee towns, see our blog post Census Records for the In-Between Years: 1847.

6 thoughts on “History Mystery! – No. 4

  1. Reed, once again, you have exhausted so many avenues but keep some open for this Clark mystery. We’ll continue the search, from all angles. Thanks for your hard work, from cousin Liz!


    • Thanks, Liz! I’m still collating and sorting a big tangle of early-1800s Lower Canada sources, looking for Jonathan’s real birthplace and—fingers crossed—parents. Meanwhile, the next blog post or two will cover JMC’s “side hustle” as a real estate investor/speculator. (I know, who knew?) Plus, more on Mary Clark’s cousin, and JMC’s sometime-partner in real estate, Barney Clow. He’s a real character. Stay tuned for more.


  2. Pingback: Census Records for the In-Between Years: 1842 | Clark House Historian

  3. Pingback: Census Records for the In-Between Years: 1847 | Clark House Historian

  4. Pingback: Census Records for the In-Between Years: 1855 | Clark House Historian

  5. Pingback: Census Records for the In-Between Years: 1838 | Clark House Historian

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