Monday: Map Day!

1872 “Shoolmap” of Mequon

Today’s Monday: Map Day! introduces a rare and very interesting map, from a wonderful digital collection of maps. It’s the c. 1872 “SHOOLMAP of the TOWN of MEQUON,” from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee’s American Geographical Society Digital Map Collection, and it is packed with information and unique details:

Shoolmap of the Town of Mequon / School Map of the Town of Mequon, 1872?, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, American Geographical Society Digital Map Collection. Manuscript map. Mequon-Thiensville Historical Society, donor. Copyright notice here, presented in this post as a public domain item and/or under fair use provisions of U.S. copyright law.

To view a beautiful, large version of today’s map, click here, or on the map image (above). That will open a new window and take you to the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee’s American Geographical Society Digital Map Collection, and the home page of this map. It will look something like this:

This is not the link to the map’s home page. Click this illustration for information on how to navigate the actual links that are part of today’s blog post.

Once on the UW-Milwaukee libraries website, if you scroll down on the linked page you will find full bibliographic information for the map. If you’d like to search any of the 14,000 (not a typo!) other maps in the American Geographical Society Digital Map collection, click here. To view or download today’s map in all its high-resolution glory, click to see my suggestions on the image above.

This unique manuscript map covers the complete Town of Mequon, Ozaukee County, Wisconsin (townships T9N-R21E and T9N-R22E). In addition to the standard division of each township into 36 square, numbered sections, portions of this map are colored (blue, light green, pale yellow, pale orange) to show the division of the town of Mequon into school districts.

The school districts are marked by large, black, roman numerals I-XIV (1 to 14), although district X (10) is not marked. School district I, the original school district, is at the top center of the map, centered around sections 3, 4, 9 and 10. This is the area still known as the “Bonniwell District” (count all the Bonniwell family farms in sections 4 9, and 10 and you’ll see why). The round, pencil “squiggle” mark in the northwest corner of William Bonniwell’s 150 acres in section 10 is (I believe) the location of Mequon’s original School No. 1, the “Bonniwell School.”

Take some time to zoom in, scroll around, and enjoy the details. There is so much to see on this one-of-a-kind document. Many of the land owners or renters on this map had moved on by the time the more widely circulated “farmers’ atlases” of 1892 and 1915 were engraved and published. You might start your tour by zooming in on sections 1, 3, 4, 9 and 10. These were some of the earliest sections cleared and farmed by the white settlers in the late-1830s and early 1840s.

Look for familiar names like Woodworth, Meyer, Hubbard, Bonniwell, and Clark. They’re all there, along with neighbors that came to Mequon between the later 1840s and the very early 1870s. Some of the other early settler neighbors in section 3 are still here too: Jesse Hubbard’s family, the Friedrich and Ferdinand Groth families, the Thomas Desmond and John Corcoran families are all here. But you won’t find Mary Clark’s father, Peter Turck, on his 1838 land patent in sections 9 and 10. He moved to Milwaukee by the mid-1850s and sold his Mequon land some years later.

Here’s a question: there is no date on this map. How have the archivists arrived at c. 1872 for the date? Well, I don’t know exactly what the archivists did, but someone who knew something about the history of Mequon land ownership probably noticed details such as this notation for the southeast quarter of section 3, T9N-R21E:

That southeast quarter of section 3? That’s the old Jonathan M. Clark farm, but on this map these 151 acres belong to “Widow Clark.” Mary still owned the land, but not for long. By the time the next map was drawn and published, in 1874, this land would belong to Thomas Doyle. This information, and the changing ownership of other parcels—for example, the former Peter Turck and Eleanor (“mother Bonniwell) Hyde parcels are now owned by others—give the researcher additional clues that help date the map.

Mary Clark may have still owned the family farm, circa 1872, but were the Clarks still farming this land fifteen years after Jonathan M. Clark’s death? (Spoiler alert: No.) Stay tuned for more.


P. S. This is an amazing map, and a terrific example of how historical societies, archives, and technology are collaborating to make unique and fragile historical resources available at a distance, so that all of us can learn from and enjoy these rare items. So to return the favor, please click the links in this post and, if you can, support these valuable organizations.

3 thoughts on “Monday: Map Day!

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