Back to School, 1842!

I’m still investigating the cabinet card and tintype photos of Cyrus Clark. More on those coming soon. Meanwhile, it’s Back to School time for many of us, so here’s a page with a transcription of the earliest known school records in old Washington county prior to 1845:

History of Washington and Ozaukee Counties, Wisconsin […] Illustrated. Western Historical Co., Chicago, 1881, page 328 (excerpt). Click to open larger image in new window.

Click the image to enlarge and see which families had school age children, that is, children between the ages of 4 and 16. (Washington and Ozaukee county readers: any kin on this collection of early school censuses?)

The Jonathan M. Clark House is just a short walk east of the site of Mequon’s original District No. 1 school. Considering that the families of Charles, James and William Bonniwell accounted for seven of the twenty school-age children in district no. 1 in March, 1842 (and that the school was built on land donated by the Bonniwells), it’s no surprise that the school was known as the “Bonniwell School” throughout its long existence and several buildings.

Peter Turck’s family had four school children in March, 1842. These were probably Mary (Turck) Clark’s younger siblings Elizabeth, Rachel Gay, James Byron, and Sarah. Mary’s youngest brother, Benjamin Turck, may have been just a bit too young to be included on the school census that spring.

I know next to nothing about the other three families on this Mequon, district no. 1, 1842 school census, those of Thomas Gilson, Michael Bellen and Michael Mattel. (Looks like I need to find out more about these early Clark neighbors.)

And it’s not a mistake that the family of Jonathan Clark is not on this census. Jonathan M. Clark and Mary Turck had only married on March 15, 1840, and their first child, Caroline Mary, did not celebrate her second birthday until November 7, 1842.

And “the other Clark family”—Cyrus Clark and his wife Sarah (Strickland) Clark—were not counted on this school census either. No surprise, as they had just married in March, 1841. And—more to the point—they were out west in March, 1842. Their first child, Albert Byron Clark, was born in Potosi, Grant Co., Wisconsin Territory, on March 29 of that year.

Sarah Clark’s father, Daniel Strickland—one of the county’s earliest white settlers—was enumerated on the earliest school census for “Jefferson District, No. 1,” i.e., the town of Grafton. In March, 1843, Daniel Strickland had three school aged children, Sarah (Strickland) Clark’s younger siblings Mary J., George Warren, and Thomas A. Strickland. The youngest Strickland child, Abigail, was not quite four years old in March, 1843, so she is not enumerated on the school census.

That is what we know—from just one published source—about the earliest days of schooling in old Washington/Ozaukee county. The Jonathan Clark House museum has, on loan from the Ozaukee County Historical Society, the original minutes of the school committee for Mequon school district no. 1, dated November 15, 1843. The meeting was held at the nearby home of William T. Bonniwell. Jonathan M. Clark served as moderator and his father-in-law, Peter Turck, was clerk for the meeting. The meeting minutes are quite interesting, and well worth a future post.

6 thoughts on “Back to School, 1842!

  1. It’s interesting that a 4 year-old was considered of school age. I wonder how much learning got done vs. childcare in the one-room schoolhouse.


    • Good point! Why were 4- and 5-year-olds considered “school age” in the early 1840s? I don’t have any specific info on that in my files.

      If I had to guess, I’d suppose it was probably easier for Mom and Dad to work the farm and manage any even younger (infant, toddler) children, without having to supervise the energy and activities of 4- and 5-year-old siblings at the same time.

      Readers: any thoughts?


  2. Pingback: Back to School, 1839! | Clark House Historian

  3. Reed –
    Now you are going to see just how far behind I am in my JCH Blogs.
    There is one reference to Mr. Bellin in the Corrigan book, but none for Gilson and Mattel. Mr. Bellin was part of the Freistadt group. I have never seen the other two names in old docs.

    Nina Look, Bonniwell School class of 1962. As you may recall this was the year that my twin sister and I graduated with one other classmate. The school closed that same spring.


    • Welcome back to the blog, Nina!

      Thanks for the info on Bellin. I’ll look into him and Gilson and Mattel as I get around to learning more about the early Mequon settler-neighbors. There are quite a few names that show up in the land records or an early census or two, and then seem to vanish…


  4. Pingback: Mary Turck Clark—updated | Clark House Historian

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