The Clark Family in 1860

UPDATED, December 27, 2020, to correct a typo in the list of family ages. Mary Clark was enumerated as age 39 (not 44 as previously mis-typed). —R.P.

The death of Jonathan M. Clark in September, 1857, must have been a tremendous blow to his family. Suddenly, Mary Turck Clark was a 37-year-old widow, with a nursing infant and seven other children, all under the age of 17. She had a family to raise, a 160-acre farm to manage, and important decisions to make.

What to do? Remarry for economic security? Sell the farm and move to Milwaukee for a better education for the children? Her father, Peter Turck, was already living in the city with his second wife, Christina, and their 8 year old daughter; could she and the children move in with them? Or would Mary find a new home of her own in the city?

Still here

Mary decided to stay, and make a go of it on her own. When the federal decennial census was enumerated in the summer of 1860, Mary and the children were still on the farm in Mequon:

“United States Census, 1860,” database with images, FamilySearch […] Wisconsin > Ozaukee > Mequon > image 67 of 87; from “1860 U.S. Federal Census – Population,” database, ( : n.d.); citing NARA microfilm publication M653 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

By 1860, the enumerator for the Town of Mequon required 87 pre-printed pages of the census population schedule—with space for 40 individuals per page—to record all the inhabitants. The official date for the 1860 census was June 1. Assistant Marshall Hugo Boclo1 was responsible for enumerating the census in about half of Ozaukee county. He began his enumeration of Mequon on June 30, 1860, and recorded the Clark family and neighbors on July 20th. Boclo finished collecting Town of Mequon data on July 25th, and submitted the forms and swore to their accuracy on July 31.

Mary Clark, mother & farmer

How is the family doing? From all appearances, they are doing well. Since the death of Jonathan Clark in 1857, the family has stayed together and none are—in the language of the 1860 census—”deaf, dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper, or convict.” Beginning with Mary Clark, on line 17, the Clark household includes:

  • Mary Clark, age 39, female, farmer
  • Caroline Clark, 19, female
  • Henry [Clark], 17, male, farm laborer
  • Elisabeth (sic) [Clark], 15, female
  • Precious [Clark], 12, male (sic)
  • Sarah [Clark], 10, female
  • Laura [Clark], 8, female
  • Josephine [Clark], 5, female
  • Jenny [Clark], 3, female

For the most part, the 1860 enumeration is consistent with what we know about the Clark family. Mary and all the children are present, and the ages and birth locations agree with previous records such as the Clark “Family Record” and their 1850 census. (For more on calculating precise ages based on birthdates and the “official” versus actual date of the census see our post The Clark Family in 1850, part 2.)

Some of the names in 1860 vary from those enumerated in 1850. Fifteen-year-old Elizabeth usually spelled her name with a “z,” not an “s.” The child recorded here as “Precious” was called “P.A.” in 1850; for the rest of her life she would be called “Persie.” (And, yes, “Precious” was female; why enumerator Boclo recorded her as “male” is a mystery. Perhaps she was a bit of a “tomboy,” and Boclo made a wrong gender assumption? Or was it just a slip of the pen? A minor error in any event.)

Precious/Persie’s younger sister, recorded as “Sarah” in 1860, was known by a variety of names in her younger years. In 1850 she was “Mary.” As an adult, she would be called Theresa, or some variation of that name. Five-year-old Josephine usually was called Josie, and the youngest, Jenny, would use the spelling “Jennie” during her adult life. For more info on the Clark children’s names and birthdates, see Meet the Children (part 1).

Mary Turck Clark’s birthplace is correctly recorded as New York, and the children were correctly noted as born in Wisconsin. Most likely, the children were all born on the Clark farm in Mequon.

Two members of the family have enumerated occupations in 1860. Mary is a farmer, and son Henry is a farm laborer. Oldest daughters Caroline and Elizabeth do not have a “profession, occupation or trade” recorded. As neither attended school in the preceding year it’s likely they were busy managing the household, supervising the children and tending to an endless stream of farm chores. In this era, it is not unusual for census enumerators to leave the “occupation” column blank for women and girls over the age of 15.

The next three oldest children, Precious/Persie, Sarah/Theresa and Laura, had attended school in the previous year. Perhaps they studied with “Schoolteacher” Louis Rogers, living next door with the Jesse Hubbard family (see image, line 13). Little Josephine and Jenny Clark are too young to attend school yet, but in time they—like all their siblings—will complete high school. As young adults, Caroline, Josephine and Jenny will all be considered sufficiently educated to teach public school in Milwaukee.

Taking care of business

Also living in the Clark household in 1860 are two men:

  • John Frenz, 35, male, farm laborer
  • Benjamin Turks (sic), 21, male, clerk

“Farm laborer” John Frenz was a Prussian immigrant and, presumably, the “hired man” on the Clark farm in 1860. The Clark’s had a substantial farm of 160-acres, and surely needed more labor than Mary and young Henry could provide by themselves. In 1850—while Jonathan Clark was still alive and there were fewer children to attend to—Jonathan and Mary also had a hired man. He was a 30-year-old German immigrant named John Buck. And as was the case with John Buck, I cannot find any additional information about 1860’s hired man John Frenz. Where was Frenz before 1860? Where was he afterwards? It’s a mystery.

The other man in the Clark house in July, 1860, was Mary Clark’s youngest brother, Benjamin Turck (1839-1926). Benjamin was the only child of Peter and Rachael Turck born in Wisconsin; all his siblings were born in New York state. Now 21 years old, Benjamin was living with the Mary and the children on the Clark farm in Mequon, and not with his father, Peter Turck, in Milwaukee.

Peter Turck was one of the first white settlers in Mequon. A full-immersion Baptist preacher, Peter Turck was a man of many occupations. He had been an early leader in town and county government, serving various terms as justice of the peace, assessor, coroner, and territorial and state legislator. He set up the first sawmill in the county, on Pigeon Creek. In the mid-1850s, he moved to Milwaukee with his second wife and their young child. In the city, Peter Turck focused on practicing law and selling real estate.

So who was Benjamin Turck clerking for in 1860? Was he managing the (former?)2 Turck sawmill while his father was living in Milwaukee? Or was Benjamin Turck living with his sister Mary Clark and her family and managing the Clark farm? Or was he keeping the books for another Mequon-area business? We don’t know.

We do know that just over two years after this 1860 census was recorded, Benjamin Turck enlisted in the 10th Battery, Wisconsin Light Artillery, and served in the Civil War until he was mustered out in June, 1865. Afterwards he married, moved to Minnesota, divorced, and returned to Washington county, Wisconsin, where he worked in the lumber and sawmill business until he retired in the early twentieth century.

The bottom line, 1860

Mary Turck Clark—widow, mother, and farmer—survived the early loss of her husband Jonathan M. Clark. In the almost three years since Jonathan’s death, Mary had managed to keep the children healthy and educated, and keep the farm in business. Before his untimely death, Jonathan and Mary appear to have been conservative farm and money managers, generally avoiding the kinds of financial speculation and debt that caused difficulty for so many—but not Mary—during the years of the financial Panic of 1857.

Yep, in addition to all her other troubles, Mary Clark survived one of the nation’s worst financial disasters. It began in mid-summer, 1857, with declining amounts of gold coming from the California gold mines causing distress for banks in the East, financial markets being shaken by the implications of the Dred Scott decision, followed by the collapse of a bubble in railroad stocks, the failure of a major flour and grain company in New York and of a major bank in Ohio. Commercial credit dried up and land and grain prices plummeted, leading to loss of income and land and farm foreclosures. Recovery from the 1857 panic did not begin until 1859, and the nation’s finances would not fully recover until after the Civil War.

When the 1850 census was enumerated, Jonathan and Mary Clark had amassed real estate valued at $5,000. (The 1850 census only enumerated “value of real estate owned.”) In 1850, they were among the most prosperous residents of the Town of Mequon. And after the Panic of 1857?

In 1860, Mary Clark was enumerated as the owner of real estate valued at $4,500 and personal property valued at $1,000. In spite of Jonathan’s death, falling land prices, and other effects of the Panic of 1857, Mary had managed to increase the family’s wealth. It probably helped that her father Peter, brother James, and brothers-in-law Densmore Maxon and Alfred Bonniwell were also financially successful and had, between them, considerable experience with law, farm and business management, and land purchase and investment. But in the end, Mary did it. She kept her family together, healthy, and solvent through personal catastrophe and national economic crisis.

What’s next? Does Mary stay and continue farming as the children grow up, marry, and move away? Will she sell the farm and move the family to Milwaukee? How will national events effect the family? Tensions between North and South over the westward expansion of slavery have been rising for decades and are set to boil over. The 1860s will be a challenging decade for the country, and the Clark family.


  1. Census enumerator Hugo Boclo was unknown to me. It turns out he led an interesting life as, among other things, an early pharmacist, postmaster, insurance salesman and town clerk in Cedarburg. Here is his biography from the History of Washington and Ozaukee Counties, Chicago, 1881, page 749:
Click to open larger image in new window

Born in Germany in 1827, he died March 14, 1897 and was buried in Cedarburg Cemetery. His government headstone recorded his Civil War service in Co. D, 26th Wisconsin Infantry.

Source: Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans, 1861-1904 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: Card Records of Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans, ca. 1879-ca. 1903; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1845, 22 rolls); Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, Record Group 92; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

  1. The title to Peter Turck’s two adjacent Mequon land parcels—including the location of the Turck sawmill and family cemetery—changed hands several times during the mid-1840s and early 1850s. I have more research to do before I’m clear on who-owned-what from about 1845 to about 1860. One of the parcels was owned, briefly, by Peter Turck’s oldest son, Joseph Robert Turck (1823-1902); in the late 1840s, Joseph transferred title back to his father and moved to New Orleans. In another transaction, some of the Peter Turck land was sold to Alfred and Adamy Whitehead; Adamy was the third of Peter and Rachael Gay Turck’s eight children. Peter Turck, his sawmill, his land, and his activities in early Mequon and Milwaukee will be the subject of many future posts.

UPDATE: July 15, 2020. Fixed a few minor typos. If you find an error, try refreshing your browser. If the error persists, please let me know and I’ll fix it.