What did the Clarks grow on their farm?
Today’s and Friday’s posts are inspired by a question about Monday’s Harvest Time post. Reader Laura Rexroth asked: Any records of what they did grow? Animals? How much land did they have? A fine question, and the answer is yes, there are records.
How big was the farm?
We know the size of the Clark farm from information in their land records, including their two federal land patents, a variety of maps from the mid-1800s through the 20th-century, and the Abstract of Title for the Clark property that was prepared by the Ozaukee County Abstract of Title Company, now in the collection of the Jonathan Clark House museum. For most of their time in Mequon, about 1840-1860/61, Jonathan and Mary Clark owned 160 acres of land. Much of this land was originally forested, and I assume that the Clarks cleared and farmed more and more of their 160 acres over time. How much was under cultivation in 1850? For that we need to see:
The federal census agricultural schedules
Information on how much land was under cultivation, and the types and quantities of crops grown and livestock raised was collected and analyzed in great detail by the decennial federal census in 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880—and by those states that enumerated a state census in 1885—on special supplemental pages known as agricultural schedules.1 Many of the official paper agricultural schedules (or microfilm copies) still exist, but very few are available online. From what I can tell, Wisconsin’s 1850-1880 agricultural schedules have been microfilmed and are viewable at the Wisconsin Historical Society or one of it’s Area Resource Center branches.2 Once the archives open again3, I’d really like to see the 1850 and 1860 agricultural schedules for the Clarks, Turcks, and some of the neighbors (including the Hubbard, Bonniwell, and Doyle families, among others.)
Meanwhile, there is an alternative source
The individual agricultural schedules may be unavailable at the moment (or may nor have survived; not all did). But we can discover what the aggregate agricultural output for old Washington county was in 1850 by looking at the official report:
United States. Census Office. The Seventh Census of the United States: 1850 […]. Washington: Robert Armstrong, Public Printer, 1853. Title page.4 Click to open larger image in new window.
Once the Census Bureau received the supplemental schedules, they compiled, analyzed and aggregated the data by state and by county, and that information was published (usually in table form) in an official decennial census report.
The official report for the 1850 federal census, along with the official census reports and documents since 1790 (but not the schedules themselves), is available for free access and download at the U.S. Census Bureau’s website. You don’t need a degree in economics or statistics to enjoy the immense amount of data organized and published in these reports. Click this link to access PDFs of the original 1850 census report at the Census Bureau site.
Next time, we’ll look at the data for Washington5 county’s 1850 agricultural schedules and see what the most popular and (presumably) economically successful crops were in 1850. And if you’d like to remind yourself of who was who in the Jonathan and Mary Clark family at the time, see these posts highlighting the various things that we can find about the family in the 1850 census:
• The Clark Family in 1850, part 1
• The Clark Family in 1850, part 2
• The Clark Family in 1850, part 3
• The Clark Family in 1850 – part 4
- Note that (at least in 1850 and 1860) very small farms did not fill out agricultural schedules. The criteria for which farms did not fill out agricultural schedules is explained in the official legislation and published materials for each census, 1850-1880.
- There were also manufacturers/industrial schedules for the 1850-1880 censuses. If they still exist for Washington/Ozaukee county, they may shed light on Peter Turck’s sawmill business as well as other local non-farm businesses.
- Speaking of which, would y’all please wear a mask when you are out in public, so we can help tamp down this pandemic, avoid infecting others (including, ahem, those of us with public-facing day jobs), save lives, and help the nation get back on its feet? And then, as a bonus, we can go to places like the archives again—and the Jonathan Clark House—which would be nice.
- This report for the 1850 federal census, along with all the official census reports and documents since 1790 (but not the schedules themselves), is available for free download at the U.S. Census Bureau’s website. You don’t need a degree in economics or statistics to enjoy the immense amount of data organized and published in these reports. Click here to go to the bureau’s 1850 census page.)
- If you are wondering “Wait a minute! Mequon is in Ozaukee county. Why do you keep referring to Washington county?” then it’s been too long since you read my April 21, 2016, blog post, Where are we?, in which I explain the convoluted history of the location of the Jonathan Clark House. In 1850 the farm was still in Washington county; by 1860, it was in Ozaukee.
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