This is the second in what was originally planned to be a three-part1 series on early Mequon settlers Cyrus Clark and Sarah A. Strickland Clark. If you missed it, click here for part one. Also, I suggest you read this post to view maps that will prove useful in following today’s discussion.
The Jonathan Clark House Museum, and my work as Clark House Historian, is not just about Jonathan M. Clark, Mary Turck Clark and their family. The mission of the museum—and this blog—is to:
Collect, preserve and share the history of the Jonathan Clark House and the early settlers of Mequon and Thiensville.Jonathan Clark House Museum mission statement
So with that in mind, I like to explore the stories of the Clark’s friends and neighbors in order to develop a more comprehensive picture of early Washington/Ozaukee county and it’s settlers. This week—thanks to an unexpected contact from blog reader Lynette Thompson—we will be focusing on not one, but two of Mequon and old Washington/Ozaukee county’s earliest settlers, Sarah Allise Strickland and her husband, Cyrus Clark. Why them? Just look at what I got in my inbox:
Meet Mequon’s other Clark family
You’re looking at Sarah Allise Strickland (1823-1891) and her husband Cyrus Clark (1815-1906); They lived in old Washington county in the 1840s and ’50s. They both patented land a short distance from the Clark house. They knew Jonathan and Mary (Turck) Clark, many of the Clark children, and other early settlers of old Washington/Ozaukee county and Mequon. And after a while—like many of the early settlers—they left Mequon and moved onwards to new, frontier lands and new challenges.
Sarah A. Strickland—one of Mequon’s first settlers
Sarah A. Strickland was born in Nova Scotia on April 5, 1823. She was the daughter of Daniel and Matilda (West) Strickland. In early November, 1835, the Daniel Strickland and Isaac Bigelow families emigrated together from Nova Scotia to Boston, Massachusetts. The Strickland family of late-1835 included parents Daniel (age 45) and Matilda (33), with children Sarah Allise (or Alice, 13), Mary J. (11), George Warren (5) and Thomas A., “one third” of a year old:
Families of Isaac Bigelow and Daniel Strickland on “Report and List of the Passengers taken on board the Sch[ooner] Three Sisters of Horton, N[ova] S[cotia] […] bound from the Port of Cornwallis, N. S. for Boston.” Arrival date November 2, 1835.2
Sarah A. Strickland’s father, Daniel Warren Strickland, was born on November 24, 1790, in Beverly, Essex Co., Massachusetts to Allen Strickland and Sarah Woodbury. His ancestors include the Mayflower pilgrim Richard Warren. Sarah’s mother was Matilda West, born in Nova Scotia. Before emigrating to Wisconsin, Daniel Strickland had been a ship’s captain.3
After arriving in Boston, Strickland’s fellow-immigrant Isaac Bigelow moved first to New York state and then to Milwaukee.4 By 1836 Bigelow and his family were in Mequon. I don’t (yet) know if the Daniel Strickland family took a similar route, but by the time of Wisconsin’s first territorial census in mid-1836 they were enumerated in Milwaukee county (see note 3, here).
Cyrus Clark: related to Jonathan?
One of my first assignments as Clark House Historian was to learn as much as I could about Jonathan M. Clark, his family and the early Mequon neighbors. And one of the first challenges I had was deciding whether Jonathan M. Clark was related to nearby settlers “Cyrus Clark” and “Sarah A. Clark.” Sarah A. Clark and Cyrus Clark had adjacent federal land patents in T9N-R21E, and their land was less than a mile south of Jonathan Clark’s farm. Were Cyrus, Sarah, and Jonathan siblings? cousins? or not related at all?
It turns out Cyrus Clark and Sarah A. Clark were related—by marriage. Cyrus Clark and Sarah Strickland were married by Justice of the Peace and fellow early-Mequon settler Barton Salisbury somewhere in old Washington county—very likely in Mequon5—on March 1, 1841. Cyrus was 25 years old; Sarah was not quite 18. Images of the original marriage license and record of marriage are part of the Milwaukee Public Library’s collection and can be viewed here and here.6 The latter of those two handwritten documents was delivered to the clerk of the court in Milwaukee on April 28, 1841, and recorded in the county’s ledger of vital records7:
Cyrus Clark to Sarah Stickland [sic]
I hereby certiry that Mr. Cyrus [Clark] and Miss Sarah Stricklan[d]
were Lawfully joined in marriage this first day of March
1841 Barton Salisbury
Received April 26 1841 Justice of the Peace
So is Cyrus related to Jonathan?
Although we still don’t know enough about either Jonathan’s or Cyrus’s parents, we do know enough to believe that the two men are probably not related. As we’ve discussed before (see O!…Canada? History Mystery! No. 3), Jonathan M. Clark was born in 1812 (or possibly 1811) in either Derby, Orleans county, Vermont or in Stanstead county, Lower Canada (later the Province of Quebec). We are still working on that. Many theories, lots of “Clark” families ruled out as Jonathan’s, but we still don’t know who Jonathan’s parents were or where he was born.
On the other hand, almost all sources agree that Cyrus Clark was born in Massachusetts. The question is where, and to whom?
There are a few poorly-sourced internet family trees that suggest Cyrus may have been the son of Kellogg and Charity (Rice, possibly neé Simmons) Clark of Sandisfield, Berkshire county, Massachusetts. According to the “head of household” federal censuses of 1820 and 1830, Kellogg Clark appears to have had at least one male in his family in the age group we would expect for Cyrus, but I have not been able to find any birth or baptismal records for this family that would connect this Sandisfield lad to Mequon’s Cyrus Clark.
When Cyrus’s son, Edwin Lester Clark, died in 1937, the informant for Edwin’s death certificate listed Cyrus’s birthplace as “Southwick, [Hampden county],Massachusetts.” The “Clark Clan” timeline assembled by descendants Steve Van Slyke and Lynette Thompson considers both possibilities: “Cyrus Clark was born July 7, 1815 in Southwick, Massachusetts to a Lemuel Clark who later changed his name to Samuel. Mother’s name unknown. Cyrus’s obituary cites Springfield, Massachusetts as his birthplace, so there is some discrepancy there.”
I can’t find a Lemuel (I’ll need to ask my informants about him), but in the 1820 and 1830 federal censuses for Southwick there is a head of household named Samuel Clark who—like Kellogg Clark in nearby Sandisfield—has at least one boy in the correct age category for each census. But also, as with Kellogg Clark’s family in Sandisfield, I cannot locate any relevant records for a Clark child born in 1815.
Sandisfield, Southwick or Springfield? How do we judge which is more likely as Cyrus Clark’s birthplace? One important factor is an assessment of how close the record or recorder of a fact is to the fact or event itself. So, for example, a poorly-sourced family tree posted on a genealogy internet site in 2020 is very distant in time and, perhaps, location from the birth of Cyrus Clark in Massachusetts in 1815 and less likely to be accurate. (Of course, it’s always possible that the tree creator is sitting on a pile of unique and accurate sources, but we have no way of knowing that unless sources are documented and shared.)
The “Southwick” location for Cyrus’s father, found on son Edwin L. Clark’s 1937 death index is also distant from the original event. E. L. Clark may have known town where his father was born, or he may not. But in 1937, Edwin was dead and whoever served as “informant” for his death certificate may have mis-remembered the place of Cyrus’s birth or may not have known the correct information in the first place. So Southwick remains possible, but with meagre documentation.
Ideally, we’d like to have some statement from Cyrus himself or—even better—Cyrus’s recollection backed up by documents from the church, town, or county recording his birth or baptism and including his parents’ names. We don’t have those. But we have Cyrus’s 1905 obituary, which gives Springfield as his birthplace. The obituary was probably written by a family member, most likely daughter Ida Estella (Clark) Van Slyke, or her husband Frank. Cyrus had lived with them in South Dakota for the final years of his life. They may well have known his correct birth town.
And we have a new find. There is a biographical sketch of Cyrus in a short history of Moscow, Wisconsin. Although published in 1919, the author of the biographical sketch claims to have known Cyrus Clark well during his Moscow, Wisconsin, days (circa pre-1855 to post-1880s). It begins:
Mr. Clark was born July 7, 1815, at Springfield, Mass., and died at Madison, S. D., Aug. 10, 1905. He spent his early days in New England, and moved west in 1837, locating first in the woods near Milwaukee. In the early fifties he moved from Milwaukee to the town of Moscow, Iowa county, and located on the farm that now is owned by Mr. Baker. […] Mr. Clark was undoubtedly better educated than most of the early pioneers, having graduated from an academy in his native state.Holland, Bjorn and others, History of the Town of Moscow [Wisconsin] from 1848 to 1919, Hollandale, Wisconsin, 1919. p. 104.
The author of this little sketch had proximity to its subject and, so far, author Holland’s facts mostly agree with what we know of Cyrus from other sources. So Springfield seems a promising line of inquiry as we look for records of Cyrus’s early years (and schooling!) and parents.
Next time, we will look at Cyrus and Sarah in 1840s Mequon, and then follow them as they and their children move west to Iowa and Grant counties and north, to Oshkosh in Winnebago county. More documents, new sources, some experiments in sorghum farming, and an attempt at dating old photographs…
- Did I say three-part post? Hah! That was before I found a bunch of new sources that I can’t resist discussing in more detail, but don’t have time for today. See you Friday!
- The ship’s passenger list is from the National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Title: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston, Massachusetts, 1820-1891; Record Group Title: Records of the U.S. Customs Service; Record Group Number: 36; Series Number: M277; NARA Roll Number: 010
Accessed at Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2006.
- For these details and many others—and the wonderful photographs—I am indebted to Cyrus Clark and Sarah Strickland descendants and family researchers Steve Van Slyke and Lynette Thompson. Thanks again, y’all.
- Howe, Gilman Bigelow, Genealogy of the Bigelow Family in America, 1890.
- Cyrus’s 1905 obituary lists the town of Grafton—north and east of Mequon—as the marriage location. I’d be somewhat surprised if this was correct. Barton Salisbury, the officiant, patented land in section 10 of the town of Mequon, very near Cyrus and Sarah Clark, the Peter Turck family, and Jonathan and Mary Clark. On the other hand, when Cyrus and Sarah married in 1841, the Town of Grafton was not far away; it comprised all of the current towns of Cedarburg and Grafton, i.e. everything just north of the Town of Mequon. I can’t imagine why they would travel to Grafton to marry, when Justice of the Peace Salisbury lived so near.
My guess is that the 1905 obituary writer was probably daughter Ida Estella (Clark) Van Slyke. She was born in Iowa county, Wisconsin, about a decade after Cyrus Clark and family left the Mequon-Grafton area. She probably knew that the family’s home in 1850 was Grafton (not Mequon, more on that next time), so I’m guessing that she assumed “Grafton” was where Sarah and Cyrus were married. All things considered, I’d be surprised if Ida Estella knew anything about Mequon.
- We’ve discussed the MPL’s Milwaukee County Marriage Certificates collection before. It remains a unique online source for very early Milwaukee and Washington county marriage licenses, but it remains pretty poorly indexed. For example. in the two documents above, the bride is indexed as Sarah Steicklund (to be fair, that does look like how Barton Salisbury wrote her name), and as Sarah Steichlund.
- The scanned microfilm image for this document is pretty bad, but even so, the indexing is comical. If you look for this on Ancestry.com, look for the 1841 marriage record of Cyrn Church and Miss Sarah Slniklago in the collection:
Ancestry.com. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Marriages, 1838-1911 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2018. Original data: Milwaukee Public Library. Milwaukee Vital Records. Call Number: 929.3. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Year 1838-1865, Vol. A-C, certificate number 192.
- Holland, Bjorn and others, History of the Town of Moscow [Wisconsin] from 1848 to 1919, Hollandale, Wisconsin, 1919. Available as a free GoogleBooks download.