A Growing Family in a Growing State
The late-1840s and early-1850s were boom years for Wisconsin settlement. The final territorial census was enumerated in 1847, and statehood arrived in 1848. The seventh decennial federal census was taken in 1850. (If you’re late to the party, we covered the Clark family and the 1850 census here, here, here, here and here.) And in 1853, the seven easternmost townships of old Washington county were established as Ozaukee county.
Such rapid growth called for frequent changes in political boundaries and representation. To make that happen, a number of state censuses were produced during the years between decennial federal censuses. The first of these was officially enumerated on June 1, 1855. The “Jon. M. Clark” family appears on line 20, page 1 of the Enumeration of the Inhabitants of the Town of Mequon, in Ozaukee County, State of Wisconsin […] taken by me, Wm. Zimmermann, Town Clerk.
At the time of the census, the Jonathan M. Clark household consisted of two white males and eight white females. Happily, no one in the house is—in the language of the era—deaf & dumb, blind, or insane.
The two males are most likely Jonathan and the Clark’s only son, Henry. The eight females would include Mary Clark and daughters Caroline, Elizabeth, Persie, Theresa, Laura and little Josie. But who is the eighth female? She’s can’t be the Clark’s final child, daughter Jennie. Jennie would not be born until almost two years after this census.
In June, 1855, Mary was helping Jonathan manage their 160-acre farm, while raising seven children between the ages of 7 months and 15 years. It must have been exhausting. Perhaps one of Mary Clark’s siblings was living in the house to help Mary with her growing brood? Probably not, as all four of Mary’s sisters had married and started their own households before 1855. So who is “female” number 8 in the Clark house? She remains another mystery, for now.
And speaking of mysteries…there is one small, but possibly very relevant bit of information about the Clarks on this 1855 census. One of the ten members of the Clark household is of “foreign birth.” Who is this? Perhaps our unknown eighth female is an immigrant woman, helping Mary with the children or the chores?
Or, could this person of “foreign birth” be Jonathan M. Clark, himself? After all, this 1855 census was enumerated just a bit more than two years after Jonathan went to the Ozaukee county courthouse and—as an immigrant from Lower Canada—renounced his allegiance to Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and swore to support the Constitution as a citizen of the United States.
The 1855 Wisconsin state census appears to be another piece of the puzzle that is our History Mystery! No. 3 — was Jonathan from Canada? or Vermont? Where was he born? Who were his parents and siblings? There are a few clues so far, but none of them have led to clear answers. Yet.
Stay tuned for more.