Census Records for the In-Between Years: 1836

Where’s Jonathan Clark?

Wisconsin’s first territorial census was enumerated in the summer of 1836. Our previous Monday: Map Day! post discussed the extent of the Wisconsin Territory in 1836, and outlined the few—very large and lightly populated—counties that were enumerated on that first census. If you missed it, you might want to read that post first.

Today’s post was originally planned to be a quick few paragraphs outlining the 1836 territorial census procedures and explaining how Jonathan M. Clark was, alas, probably not enumerated on this census; and if he had been, then we’d never find him; why that might have been; how this was not unusual for its era; and so forth. But! It turns out that we can find the “family” that Jonathan was enumerated with, though it’s kind of complicated, so bear with me.

The Wisconsin Territorial Census of 1836

The 1836 Wisconsin territorial census was typical for its time and purpose. The sheriff of each county was charged with enumerating four categories of white persons in his area:

  • Number of males under 21 years
  • Number of females under 21 years
  • Number of males over 21 years
  • Number of females over 21 years

There were no pre-printed forms; each sheriff used blank paper, a pen and a ruler to record the data. If you look at the actual returns (available online as FHL film no.1,293,919 , aka DGS film 7,897,817), you’ll find that the enumerators often recorded additional information not required by the authorizing legislation. (The Crawford county sheriff was particularly enthusiastic, subdividing his information into 13 age-groups for white males, 13 age-groups for white females, 6 age-groups for enslaved males and 4 age-groups for enslaved females.) The Brown county sheriff, as you can see (below), remained closer to his legislated mandate, and chose to enumerate five categories of white settlers:

Wisconsin Territory, Territorial Census, 1836, Brown County, page 1. FamilySearch.org, FHL film no.1,293,919 , aka DGS film 7,897,817, accessed 28 June 2020. Click to open larger image.

Under the heading of “Enumeration of Free White inhabitents in Brown County, W. T.,” the Brown county sheriff recorded, from left to right:

  • Males over 45 years of a[ge]
  • Males over 21 & under 45 years
  • Males under 21 years
  • Females over 21 years
  • Females under 21 years
  • Aggregate (i.e., total for each “family”)

If you take a close look at this first page of the Brown county portion of the census, you’ll note that the sheriff began his enumeration of Brown county in August, 1836, a month after official enumeration month of July.

Is that our “J. Clark”?

Also on the first Brown county census page is a tantalizing entry: line 29 enumerates the only “Clark” surname in Brown county in 1836. This was the “family” of one “J. Clark,” comprising one male over 21 years of age, one male under 21, one female over 21, and one female under 21. Could this little group be an unknown first marriage with two children for “our” Jonathan M. Clark? It’s an interesting speculation, but no. This was another “J. Clark,” probably a local minister of that name.1

If the “J. Clark” with a presumed wife and children was the only “Clark” surname enumerated in Brown county, then where was “our” Jonathan M. Clark? In August, 1836, our JMC still had about two months left to serve of his three-year enlistment in the army. So where on this census was the army? To discover that, we need to know a few things about the this territorial census, and about the personnel and assignments of 5th Regiment of Infantry in August, 1836.

Big “Families” and…the Army?

The 1836 territorial census was one of many early censuses that only named the “Heads of Family” and counted the rest of the household in tabular fashion. Unusually—even for the era—this 1836 census enumerated some really big “families.” In his 1895 article, “The Territorial Census for 1836,” (Wisconsin Historical Collections (1855–1915), 13: 247-270), Reuben Gold Thwaites noted “This is doubtless due to several causes: (1) A man like John P. Arndt, of Brown County, who had extensive fur-trade connections, doubtless includeed in his ‘family’ of 74, all his wandering crews of clerks and voyageurs […]” More examples follow of large numbers of individuals in the sawmill, lumber and shot-tower trades—along with possible immigrant “colony” groups—all enumerated as large “families.”

Thwaites also mentioned “Capt. Low, also of Brown, is assigned a ‘family’ of 114, no doubt his entire military household at Fort Howard.” Thwaites was on to something here, but there is more to the story of Capt. Low—and the many more than 114 soldiers—living in Wisconsin Territory in 1836.

To shed some light on Capt. Low and all the soldiers stationed in the territory that summer, it would help to know where the various units of the 5th Regt. were stationed and which officers were commanding which units. For that, we turn to the monthly U. S. Army paperwork known as “Return of the Fifth Regiment of Infantry, Commanded by Col.& Bvt. Brig. Gen. Geo. M. Brooke, for the Month of August, 1836.” Here’s the front side2:

“Return of the Fifth Regiment of Infantry, Commanded by Col.& Bvt. Brig. Gen. Geo. M. Brooke, for the Month of August, 1836,” recto. See notes below for source.

These are large pages, with a lot of handwritten data squeezed onto each side of the page. Be sure to click the images, and zoom in on the higher-resolution images that open in a new window. Start by looking at the upper-left corner of this front side. Although the penmanship and image quality are not great, you can see that the officers and companies of the regiment are stationed in three principal locations:

  • Fort Howard: Field and Staff [officers and surgeons]
  • Fort Dearborn: Companies A, B
  • Fort Winnebago: Companies C, D, E, F
  • Fort Howard: Companies G, H, I, K

Fort Dearborn was the nucleus of the new Town of Chicago, Illinois, so companies A and B were not enumerated on the 1836 Wisconsin territorial census. Forts Winnebago and Howard are both in Brown county, Wisconsin, so we might expect the remainder of the regiment to be divided between headquarters at Ft. Howard (present-day Green Bay) and the more distant outpost at Ft. Winnebago (near Portage). But it’s more complicated than that. Take a look at the reverse of the August, 1836, “Return,” the long column down the left side in particular:

“Return of the Fifth Regiment of Infantry, Commanded by Col.& Bvt. Brig. Gen. Geo. M. Brooke, for the Month of August, 1836,” verso. See notes below for source.

That column is a detailed list of the location and assignment of every senior and junior officer of the regiment. In August 1836, Gen. Geo. M. Brooke3, usually commanding the regiment from Ft. Howard, was away from the fort, “On detached service, Attending Indian Treaty at Cedar Point, Fox river, Wisc. Terr.” Other officers were away from Wisconsin on recruiting or other “T. D.” (temporary duty) as far away as Syracuse and Rochester, New York; Columbus, Ohio; and Washington, DC. So let’s look carefully at the remaining companies and officers and see who we might try and locate on the 1836 Wisconsin census.

The “entire” military household at…Fort Howard?

Do you remember R. G. Thwaites’s mention of “Capt. Low, also of Brown, is assigned a ‘family’ of 114, no doubt his entire military household at Fort Howard”? According to the August, 1836, “Return,” Capt. G[ideon] Lowe (sic) of Co. D, was commanding the regiment’s other major post at Fort Winnebago, and should be found there along with officers, surgeons, and the enlisted men of companies C, D, E and F. And on page 6 of the 1836 census, Brown county, we find (see arrow), Capt. Low and, as his huge “family,” what appears to be the entire complement of Ft. Winnebago, namely:

  • 101 males over 21 & under 45 years
  • 2 males under 21 years
  • 6 females over 21 years and
  • 5 females under 21 years
  • 114 persons in total

Wisconsin Territory, Territorial Census, 1836, Brown County, page 6. FamilySearch.org, FHL film no.1,293,919 , aka DGS film 7,897,817, accessed 28 June 2020

Not surprisingly, it appears that several officers may be living at Ft. Winnebago with wives and children. This is not certain, as the two males under 21 years could either be young soldiers (enlistment age was 18) or officer’s sons, and the five females under 21 years could be officer’s wives, daughters, or perhaps laundresses, cooks or other civilian employees

Even though Gen. George M. Brooke was in the field, he was still the commander of the regiment headquartered at Ft. Howard. We find him enumerated on page 7 of the 1836 returns (line 6, the top arrow), as “G. M. Brook”:

Wisconsin Territory, Territorial Census, 1836, Brown County, page 7. FamilySearch.org, FHL film no.1,293,919 , aka DGS film 7,897,817, accessed 28 June 2020

General Brooke’s “family” numbered:

  • 1 male over 45 years
  • 60 males over 21 & under 45 years
  • 2 males under 21 years and
  • 1 female over 21 years
  • In aggregate, 69 persons

The “over 45” male is surely Gen. Brooke, and the woman “over 21” is probably his wife. The remaining 67 males are, presumably, the males on duty at Ft. Howard. (I have not gone through all the details of the August, 1836, “Return” to confirm this, but that seems about right.)

Following Col. Brooke’s “family” of 69 persons, the census lists the names of five other Ft. Howard officers, several of whom appear to have families with them (see the census image for details):

  • M. E. Merrill [1st Lt., Co. I, “A. C. S.”– possibly Acting Chief of Staff ? see note below for update]
  • J. Lynde [1st Lt., commanding Co. H]
  • R. E. Clary [1st Lt., Co. K, Acting Asst. Quartermaster, on detached service “Attending Indian Treaty on Fox river”}
  • D. Ruggles [2nd Lt., Co. H]
  • R. S. Satterlee [U. S. Surgeon]

But these are not all of the members of the Fifth Regiment in Wisconsin in 1836. Along with the garrison troops at Forts Howard and Winnebago, the “Return” identifies a number of officers and companies that were out of the fort, constructing the long-delayed Military Road. As Gen. Brooke reported to his superiors in Washington, DC4:

Brooke, George M. letter to the Adjutant General, Washington, DC, 1 August 1836. NARA M567. Unbound letters, with their enclosures, received by the Adjutant General, 1822-1860. Roll: 0118. Accessed at Fold3.com, 28 June 2020.

Brooke, George M. letter to the Adjutant General, Washington, DC, 1 August 1836. NARA M567. Unbound letters, with their enclosures, received by the Adjutant General, 1822-1860. Roll: 0118. Accessed at Fold3.com, 28 June 2020. Transcription by Reed Perkins, 2020.

JMC and Co. K, at work on the Military Road

The 5th Infantry’s Co. K was Jonathan M. Clark’s company. In August, 1836, he was part of the three companies “on detached service”—meaning away from their official post at Ft. Howard—”cutting the military road,” under the command of Captain M. Scott. Did the Brown county sheriff find them in the field, cutting road and building bridges in the wilderness? Apparently so:

Wisconsin Territory, Territorial Census, 1836, Brown County, page 3. FamilySearch.org, FHL film no.1,293,919 , aka DGS film 7,897,817, accessed 28 June 2020

Census page 3, line 25 enumerates “M. Scott,” and his “family” of 73 other males over the age of 21. M. Scott was captain of Co.I and commanded the combined Cos. G, I, and K as they cut trees and built bridges through swamps and wetlands for the military road that would join Forts Howard and Winnebago. Jonathan M. Clark is almost certainly one of these 73 men in Capt. Scott’s “family.”

As with Gen. Brooke’s census entry, the sheriff enumerated five other 5th Regt. officers just after Capt. Scott:

  • C. C. Sibley [2nd Lt., Co G, commanding the company]
  • Dr. Wright [J. J. B. Wright, Assistant Surgeon]
  • Liut. (sic) McKissard [Bvt. 2nd Lt., Co. K, “A. C. S.”– possibly Acting Chief of Staff (? see note below for update)—and Acting Asst. Quartermaster]
  • R. B. Marcy [2nd Lt., Co. K, commanding the company]
  • R. Wainwright [Bvt. 2nd Lt., Co. G]

Two of these—Lt. Sibley and Lt. Marcy—appear to have others in their “families” (see the image for details). Presumably, if Sibley and Marcy had spouses and children living with them in Wisconsin, they probably stayed behind in quarters at Ft. Howard, as conditions in the field were—according to reports—often quite unpleasant. It’s also possible that the others enumerated in their “families” were not kin, but civilian workers of some sort, perhaps doing laundry or cooking for the soldiers at their field encampments.

And where was Mary Turck in 1836?

In the summer of 1836, Brown county sheriff Ebenezer Childs enumerated a grand total of nine pages of census returns representing—in theory—the entire white population of his county. On September 7, 1836 he swore the required oath attesting their accuracy, and submitted them to Governor Dodge. Altogether, Wisconsin’s first territorial census counted 11,683 persons—mostly “Free White Inhabitants”—living in the four principal Wisconsin Territory counties that lay east of the Mississippi River.

Meanwhile, where was Mary Turck, the future bride of Jonathan M. Clark? In 1836, Mary was 16 years old and living with her parents Peter and Rachael Gay Turck and her six siblings near Palmyra, Wayne Co., New York. Her family would not leave New York until a year later, arriving in Milwaukee in August, 1837.

The next Wisconsin territorial census would be enumerated in 1838. Mary Turck and her family should be on it. But what about Jonathan M. Clark?


  1. A quick survey of the local newspaper of that era finds several brief mentions of one “Rev. John Clark” giving the opening prayers at meetings of the “Legislative Council at Green Bay” and having mail waiting for him at the Green Bay post office. (Just to make life more confusing, it’s possible his middle initial was “M.”) Source: Search results for “John Clark” in the Green-Bay Intelligencer and Wisconsin Democrat, various issues 1834-1836, accessed via GenealogyBank.com, June 29, 2020.

  2. The August, 1836, “Return” for the Fifth Regiment was accessed at: Ancestry.com (pay site).  U.S. Returns from Regular Army Infantry Regiments, 1821-1916 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Returns from Regular Army Infantry Regiments, June 1821–December 1916. NARA microfilm publication M665, rolls 1–244, 262-292, 297–300 of 300. Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s–1917, Record Group 94, and Records of United States Regular Army Mobile Units, 1821–1942, Record Group 391. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

  3. In August, 1836, George M. Brooke held the permanent U. S. Army rank of Colonel, and the temporary, or “Brevet” rank of Brigadier General. This dual-rank situation was not unusual in the U.S. Army, as permanent promotion was strictly controlled by seniority and budgetary constraints. Since he would have been regularly addressed as “General Brooke” at this time, I refer to him as “Gen. Brooke” as well.

  4. Gen. Brooke’s August 1, 1836, letter is found in the correspondence of the Adjutant General’s office in Washington, DC. The Adjutant General is the chief administrative officer of the U.S. Army; his department has a long history of service to the army, managing the copious paperwork needed to run such a large organization. A large amount of these reports still exist and has been microfilmed. Some of these are available at Fold3.com (pay site) as: NARA M567. Unbound letters, with their enclosures, received by the Adjutant General, 1822-1860. This letter was on roll 0118. There are many letters in this collection from Gen. Brooke, and they add a lot of detail to our understanding of military life at the time JMC served at Ft. Howard.

It’s been some time since I’ve talked about Jonathan M. Clark’s army service. If you’d like to catch up, here are some links to previous posts:


UPDATE, July 3, 2020: Several of the junior officers in the “Return” are identified with the job title/acronym “A.C.S.” My original guess was that this might be something like “Acting Chief of Staff.” I was not at all sure about this at the time, so I took a look at the manual, namely General Regulations for the Army; or Military Institutes, published by the U. S. War Department in 1821. You can read and download a free PDF at this link.

Anyway (p. 258ff), it appears that A.C.S stands for Assistant Commissary of Subsistence. Each post, such as Fort Howard, would have at least one A.C.S or Acting A.C.S. That officer would be in charge of all the organizing, bookkeeping and accounting that were needed to obtain, store and dispense the various provisions necessary for the sustenance of all the members of the regiment (including officers’ families), namely food and an occasional gill—about 4 oz— of whiskey. (Coffee was added to the ration in the revised General regulations of 1835.) The A.C.S functioned within the Subsistence Department of the army. At the time of JMC’s enlistment, the Subsistence Department was separate from the Quartermaster’s Department. The Quartermaster’s Department was responsible for just about everything else in a soldier’s life: the buildings of the fort itself, the tools, arms, hardware, uniforms, horses, tack, and so on.