As I mentioned in our previous post, Monday: Map Day!, we still have some essential mysteries to solve in the JMC timeline, the most important of which are: who were JMC’s parents and where was he born and raised? As it’s been a while since we last looked at this, I thought it might be useful to repost our original O!…Canada? History Mystery! No. 3, in which I collected and organized images, transcriptions, and links to the various documents that indicate Jonathan M. Clark’s (two!) “official” birth locations: either Derby, Orleans Co., Vermont or Stanstead Co., Lower Canada [now Province of Quebec].
Smith, Jones… Clark
One of the nicer assignments a genealogist or historian can receive is to trace the history and family of someone with a unique or distinctive surname. It is so much easier to trace families with surnames like Turck, Strickland, Rix or Clow, even if there are common variant or erroneous spellings like Turk, Stickland, Ricks and Clough/Claw/Klauw. But our man Jonathan, he who built the fine stone home in Mequon in 1848, carries one of the most ubiquitous surnames in New England and English-speaking Canada: Clark.
Over the past seven years or so, researchers including Nina Look, Liz Hickman, I—and others—have been trying to find the Jonathan M. Clark “needle” in the massive New England and Lower Canada “haystack” of Clark families. I think it’s time to finally collate our results, organize and set aside the “wrong” Clark families from the search, and see if we can discover Jonathan M. Clark’s roots.
This “sorting of the Clarks” may take quite a few posts.1 We will look at many sources, many family trees, and assorted maps and books to try and find Jonathan’s family. Along the way we’ll have diversions to other topics from time to time, I’m sure. But now, let’s get things started by taking another look2 at what we currently know about Jonathan M. Clark’s birth and family:
Reposted from December 2, 2019
Jonathan M. Clark was born…where?
Perhaps this should really be the Number One Clark House History Mystery! — was Jonathan M. Clark born in the United States or not? All of our previous evidence indicates that Jonathan M. Clark was born in Vermont in 1811 or 1812, namely:
• Jonathan’s army enlistment papers from September 19, 1833, state that he was “…born in Derby, in the State of Vermont.”
• In later years, JMC’s children would almost always declare on subsequent Federal Censuses that their father was born in Vermont. (There were a few exceptions; “Ohio” was given by one daughter almost a half-century after her father’s death. We’ll have more on those census responses in later posts.) For example, the second sentence of daughter Caroline Clark Woodward’s biography in American Women: Fifteen Hundred Biographies With Over 1,400 Portraits… (New York: Mast, Crowell & Kirkpatrick, 1897, page 799) reads: Her father, Jonathan M. Clark, was a Vermonter of English descent, who, born in 1812 , of Revolutionary parentage, inherited an intense American patriotism.
So it seems clear that Jonathan M. Clark was born in Vermont. If that’s the case why, on March 19, 1848, did JMC travel to the District Court of the United States in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin Territory and file this document?:
Jonathan M. Clark, Declaration of Intent, U.S. District Court, Milwaukee, Wisconsin Territory, March 10, 1848. Image courtesy Milwaukee Historical Society. Image lightly retouched to enhance legibility. Click image to open in new window.
This is a Declaration of Intention, informally known as “first papers,” the first step in a two-step process to become a U.S. Citizen. To begin his naturalization process, Jonathan M. Clark personally appeared before the court in Milwaukee and
…made oath that he was born in Lower Canada on or about the year Eighteen hundred Eleven that he emigrated to the United States, and landed at the port of Whitehall on or about the month of April in the year eighteen hundred and thirty one that it is bona-fide his INTENTION to become a CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES, and to renounce forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign Prince, Potentate, State or Sovereignty whatever, and particularly to Victoria Queen of Great Britain & Ireland whereof he is a subject.
Five years later, Jonathan completed the naturalization process. On May 8, 1853 he traveled to Port Washington to appear before the “…Honorable the Judge of the Circuit Court of the County of Ozaukee, State of Wisconsin,” and filed his Petition, or “second papers,” for naturalization as a U. S. citizen:
THE PETITION OF J. M. Clark a native of Canada respectfully sheweth, that your petitioner, a free white person, aged _____ years arrived in the United States of America, to wit: at the port of
BurlingtonWhitehall on the _____ day of April A. D. 1831, and that, in pursuance of an Act of Congress entitled “An Act to establish an uniform rule of naturalization, and to repeal the acts heretofore passed on the subject,” made a declaration of his intention to become a citizen, and a report and Registry of his nativity, age, allegiance, emigration and arrival in the United States, conformably to the said Act, before the Clerk of the Circuit Court for the County of Milwaukee in the StateTeritory [sic] of Wisconsin on the 10 day of March A. D. 1848 a certificate whereof is hereunto annexed; and that he has resided within the limits, and under the jurisdiction of the United States, for five years last past, and for one year last past, within the State of Wisconsin; that he has never borne any hereditary title, or been of any of the orders of nobility in the kingdom whence he came, or elsewhere. He, therefore, prays he may be admitted to become a citizen of the said United States.
The Petition continued with the statement of two witnesses, B. Harrington and Michael Gorman, who attested that
…they are well acquainted with the above named petitioner, and that, to their knowledge and belief, he has resided within the limits, and under the jurisdiction of the United States, for five years last past, and for one year last past, within the State of Wisconsin; that, during the same period he has behaved himself as a man of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same.
/s/ B. Harrington
/s/ Michael Gorman
[illegible, possibly Oath] in open Court this 8 day of May A. D. 1853
/s/ [illegible, possibly C. Tensley], Clerk
The Petition concludes with the oath of citizenship:
Jonathan M. Clark the above named petitioner, do, on my solemn oath declare, that the contents of my petition are true; that I will support the Constitution of the United States; that I do hereby renounce and relinquish any title or order of nobility to which I am or may hereafter be entitled: and that I do absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign Prince, Potentate, State and Sovereignty whatever, and particularly to Victoria Queen of Great Britain & Ireland of whom I was before a subject.
[illegible, possibly Oath] in open Court this 8 day of May A. D. 1853
/s/ [illegible, possibly C. Tensley], Clerk
After this, Jonathan would have received his certificate of citizenship; the certificate no longer exists. It is probable that his case was one of many citizenship cases decided in Port Washington on May 8, 1853. It was common for the court to set aside one or more days each year to hear naturalization petitions.
So there we have it. Jonathan M. Clark, was now a U. S. citizen. But wasn’t he already a citizen? Was he born in Derby, Vermont or perhaps just north, in the Stanstead, Lower Canada/Quebec area? Who were his parents? Where did they come from? Where were they in 1811-1812 when JMC was born? Where did they live after that?
Together with fellow Clark family researcher—and Clark descendant—Liz Hickman and Clark House Museum director Nina Look, I’ve been working on these questions for years now. Nina and Liz have both made research trips to the Derby/Stanstead area and found some promising leads. I’ve been delving through online birth, marriage, and death records, cemetery indexes, and pension applications for the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. I’ve constructed many “Clark” family trees, in an attempt to impose some order on the very large number of “Clark” families in New England and Lower Canada; I’ve not yet connected the Vermont/Quebec Clarks with Jonathan M. Clark.
And for what it’s worth, I’m baffled by the mere existence of JMC’s naturalization papers. Why did he go through the process? It makes no sense. Look at this short timeline based on records we have in hand:
• 1811 or 1812: JMC born on or about 28 November
• 1831: JMC supposedly emigrates from Lower Canada to Whitehall, New York; see 1848 Declaration and 1853 Petition (see above)
UPDATE/CLARIFICATION, September 23, 2020: Just to clarify the above transcription of JMC’s 1853 Petition for naturalization (“second papers”), the blank space for year of immigration was originally filled in with 1833. Then the last digit was written over with a digit 1 to indicate the year 1831. I don’t know if there is any significance to this, or if it was just a scribal error-and-correction by the clerk of the court.
• 1833: JMC joins the U. S. Army in Utica, NY; swears he was born in Derby, Vermont
• 1836: JMC completes Army service, whereabouts for next few years unknown
• 1840: JMC next seen in 1840 in Mequon, Washington (later Ozaukee) County, Wisconsin; see various land patents, land purchase records, early Mequon school and government records and the 1840 federal census
• 1848: JMC builds the stone house we know as the Jonathan Clark House Museum and files his Declaration of Intention for U. S. citizenship in Milwaukee; swears he was born in Lower Canada and emigrated to Whitehall [NY] in 1833
• 1850: U. S. federal census population schedule gives “Vir” [Vermont] as JMC’s birthplace
• 1853: JMC files final Petition for citizenship in Ozaukee County Circuit Court, State of Wisconsin; again swears he was born in Canada
Readers, can any of you make sense of this? I have a number of possible explanations and speculations about where Jonathan Clark may have been born and where he may have lived prior to arriving in Mequon. But I still don’t understand JMC’s back-and-forth declarations on the country of his birth. And why did his children recall him as a Vermonter, and not as a Canadian immigrant? Do you have any ideas or, better yet, any additional documents that would help explain? As always, your comments (see below, or via this Contact link) and assistance are very welcome. Let me know what you think.
Special thanks to Milwaukee Historical Society archivist Kevin Abing and his assistant Steve Schaffer for locating JMC’s 1848 Declaration of Intention (“first papers”) and granting permission to publish, and to Liz Hickman for first bringing JMC’s 1853 Petition (“final papers”) to my attention. J. M. Clark signatures in the 1853 Petition transcriptions taken from image of original document and used under fair use provisions of U. S. copyright law.
September 23, 2020:
- Regular readers may have noticed that I like to post fully-thought-out essays supported by the best evidence and images available. And, yes, sometimes my posts run long. What can I say? When I find an interesting topic or source I like to squeeze it for all the information I can, and then share the results with you, here on the blog.
That said, our upcoming series on JMC’s roots may be a little different, because I don’t know the outcome of the search, yet. So I anticipate writing quite a few—possibly shorter—posts on different aspects of the subject as we discover and sort through the evidence, trying to find answers to our questions. As always, your comments, questions and suggestions are most welcome. (And if you have Jonathan M. Clark’s birth record or family tree, I would be a very happy historian if you share it with me and our readers. I’ll send four pints of Purple Door ice cream to you if you can solve and properly document JMC’s parents and/or birthplace. Seriously. I will.)
- When this post was first published in December, 2019, I was still using WordPress’s old blogging editor/software. This re-post has been made after converting the old file into WordPress’s new block editor. I think all the content and links survived the transition, but if anything looks odd, or links don’t work, please let me know and I’ll try and fix it, or you can refer to the original post from 2019 as well.
UPDATE/CLARIFICATION, September 23, 2020: As noted above in the timeline, on JMC’s 1853 Petition for naturalization (“second papers”), the blank space for year of immigration was originally filled in with 1833. Then the last digit was written over with a digit 1 to indicate the year 1831. I don’t know if there is any significance to this, or if it was just a scribal error-and-correction by the clerk of the court.