Monday: Map Day! – The Erie Canal

Turck, Gay & Clark in the early years of the Erie Canal

New York state’s Erie Canal was one of the wonders of the modern world when it first opened to the public in 1825. The original 362 miles of canals and locks connected the Hudson River at Albany, in the east, with Lake Erie at Buffalo, in the west. This made a faster, more economical connection between the goods and markets of the eastern states and Atlantic seaboard and the newly opened lands, crops, and timber products of the nation’s newest states and territories.

Another important part of the New York state canal system was the Champlain Canal. It was built at the same time as the Erie Canal and connected Canada and western New England—via Lake Champlain—to New York and the world. Today’s map shows the course of both the Erie Canal and the Champlain Canal, and their rise and fall, as they existed in in the early 1830s. In the 1820s and ’30s, these two canals made possible the westward migration of many of Mequon’s early settlers, including—among others—the Turck, Bonniwell, Woodworth, Strickland, and Loomer families, and the young Jonathan M. Clark. Let’s begin by looking at the whole map, and then zoom in on some particular Clark, Turck and Gay family details:

Poussin, Guillaume-Tell, Travaux d’ameliorations interieures projetes ou executes par le Gouvernement General des Etats-Unis d’Amerique, de 1824 a 1831 … Atlas. Paris, Anselin, Libraire, pour l’art militaire, les sciences et les arts, […],1834. Imprimerie de Lachevardiere, rue du Colombier, No. 30. Credit, David Rumsey Map Collection, David Rumsey Map Center, Stanford Libraries, non-commercial use permitted under Creative Commons license. Click image to open larger map in new window.

One map, lots of information

This elegant map is from an atlas of maps describing United States public works construction projects—or “improvements”—projected or completed during the years 1824-1831, published in Paris in 1834. The main part of the map shows the course of both canals: the Champlain Canal as it connects southern Canada and western New England to the Hudson River at Albany, and the Erie Canal as it progresses from Albany to Buffalo and Lake Erie, along with the geography and populated places of upstate New York. Below this is a profile map showing the elevations of the various parts of both canals and their locks.

There are also three insets along the left side of the map. The top is a detail map of the city of Erie (or Presqu’lle), Pennsylvania with its newly improved harbor and the U.S. Navy’s port and arsenal. The other insets depict a covered, lattice truss bridge designed by one Mr. J. [or I.] Town, with details of its construction. I’m not sure if this represents an existing bridge, or only a proposed plan.1, 2, 3

Some key Turck, Gay and Clark events in New York

Below is a detail from today’s map, to which I have added color-coded numbers that show the (sometimes approximate) location of some important events in the lives of Jonathan Clark, Rachael Gay, Peter Turck and the Peter and Rachael (Gay) Turck family. In the key below, many of these events also have links to earlier blog posts with many more details of these and related events.

Poussin, Guillaume-Tell,4 Travaux d’ameliorations interieures projetes ou executes par le Gouvernement General des Etats-Unis d’Amerique, de 1824 a 1831 […] 1834. Annotated detail. Click to open larger image in new window.

Jonathan M. Clark (black numbers)

  1. JMC, “born in Lower Canada,” emigrates to U.S., entering at Whitehall, New York, April, 1831
  2. JMC, “born in Derby, Vermont” enlists in the U.S. Army at Utica, New York, September 19, 1833. Enlistment confirmed, in Utica, on September 28, 1833.
  3. JMC, proceedes to Army depot, possibly Ft. Niagara, New York, after September 28, 1833, and prior to reporting for duty at Ft. Howard, Green Bay, Michigan (later Wisconsin) Territory, on October 30, 1833. He may have traveled from Ft. Niagara to Ft. Howard from Buffalo and then the Great Lakes, but this is not certain.

Rachael Gay & family (blue numbers)

  1. Rachael Gay’s mother, Eytje (Ada, Ida) Groom, born (Greene Co.?) New York, about 1774
  2. Rachael Gay’s father, Barnet Gay, born (Crum Elbow Precinct?, Dutchess Co.?) New York, December 6, 1766
  3. Rachael Gay, future wife of Peter Turck, born Coxsackie, Greene Co., New York, January 23, 1798. Rachael is the third child of the nine children—four sons and five daughters—of Barnet and Eytje (Groom) Gay,

Peter Turck & family (red numbers)

  1. Peter Turck’s father, Jacob A. Turk/Turck born in Kingston, Ulster Co., New York, July 12, 1770.
    Peter Turck’s mother, Anna Maria Klein/Cline born Kingston, Ulster Co., New York, July 30, 1770.
  2. Peter Turck, future husband of Rachael Gay, born Kinderhook, Columbia Co., New York, March 11, 1798. He is the third of the nine children—three girls and six boys—of Jacob and Anna Maria (Klein) Turck.

Peter and Rachael (Gay) Turck family (magenta numbers)

  1. daughter Mary Turck, future wife of Jonathan M. Clark, born in Athens, Greene Co., New York, May 3, 1821
    son Joseph Robert Turck born in Athens, Greene Co., New York, June 3, 1823
    daughter Adama/Adamy Turck born (possibly Athens, probably in Greene Co.) New York, 27 September, 1825
  2. daughter Elizabeth Turck born in Catskill, Greene Co., New York, 22 February, 1828
  3. daughter Rachel Gay Turck born (probably in Macedon or Palmyra, Wayne Co.) New York, 9 Oct. 1830
    son James Byron Turck born in Palmyra, Wayne Co., New York, September 1, 1833
    daughter Sarah Turck born (probably in Macedon or Palmyra, Wayne Co.) New York, November 17, 1835
  4. (July or early-August?) 1837, Peter and Rachael (Gay) Turck and their seven children board a steam boat at Buffalo, New York to emigrate to the west. They will arrive in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Territory, on August 27, 1837 and settle shortly afterwards on Pigeon Creek, Town of Mequon, Washington (later Ozaukee) Co., Wisconsin Territory

Peter and Rachael (Gay) Turck’s eighth and final child, son Benjamin Turck, was born in Mequon, Washington (later Ozaukee) Co., Wisconsin Territory in 1839.

Only a rough outline…

These facts are only a rough outline of the origins of Mequon’s Turck and Clark families. I have already writen about some of these events in earlier posts; I’ll try and add more links when time permits.

Some related posts that you might find useful are:

Any questions? Comments? Let me know what’s on your mind.

Be well. Stay safe.


  1. I could not find information on this specific bridge. But I believe that the name that appears as Mr. J. (or I.) Town in the engraving (and was indexed in the original atlas as “M. J. Town”) actually refers to Mr. Ithiel Town of Connecticut, one of America’s first professional architects, and designer of the efficient and economical lattice truss bridge known as the Town Bridge, for which he received a patent in 1820.

    The notes for these bridge insets, found on the contents page of the same 1834 atlas, can be roughly translated as: PLATE X. […] Wooden Bridges by M. J. Town [sic]. Figure 1 represents a general view of a wooden bridge constructed according to this model; the figures 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 give details of its construction. See chapter III, page 73 [which I could not find online].

  2. Speaking of covered, lattice truss bridges, we have one of those just north of Cedarburg, Wisconsin, not far from the Clark house. See this previous post for photographs, architectural drawings, and more info.

  3. As always, be sure to click on the maps to open larger images of each map in new windows. You may need to click the images in the new window a second time, in order to get the full-sized map with all the details. And if you’re using a Mac, clicking Command with + or – is an easy way to increase or decrease the level of magnification.

  4. And by the way, Guillaume-Tell Poussin is an awesome name, combining those of the great Swiss patriot William Tell and the famous artist (and his distant relative) Nicholas Poussin. A paper by University of Missouri-St. Louis professor Steven Rowan discusses Poussin’s life and memoirs, and is downloadable here via the UM-SL libraries online. Here’s Prof. Rowan’s abstract of Poussin’s fascinating life:

Guillaume Tell Poussin (1794-1876), indirectly related to the great French painter Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), was born in France, received an excellent technical education at the Lycée of Rouen and the School of Fine Arts in Paris, but fled to America after the collapse of Napoléon Bonaparte’s empire. He became a supervisor of the rebuilding of the United States Capitol, damaged in the War of 1812, and he was commissioned a captain of the US Army Corps of Engineers with the personal support of President James Madison. In partnership with his fellow Frenchman General Simon Bernard, he surveyed the waterways and roads of the United States and drafted plans for canals, roads, inter-coastal waterways and fortresses over the entire country. He returned to France in the mid-1830s and published several books in French on America as well as on European public works. He was briefly the chief diplomatic representative the French Second Republic in Washington, DC, but was recalled for vehemently protesting the seizure of a French ship. He continued to publish as an expert on American and European matters, and he is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris

I swear, these 19th-century folks—especially the surveyors and mapmakers—make me feel like a slacker sometimes.

14 thoughts on “Monday: Map Day! – The Erie Canal

  1. I wonder if David Rumsey, from whom came that first map came, was a descendant of James Rumsey the steamboat inventor and canal builder. Just finished a book about the Rumsey-Fitch steamboat wars in the late 1700’s. I think it was Washington who first contracted with Rumsey to make the Potomac navigable upstream.


  2. Pingback: Erie Canal —Palmyra, New York | Clark House Historian

  3. Pingback: Erie Canal – the Bonniwell Family 1832-39 | Clark House Historian

  4. Pingback: Erie Canal – the Woodworth family, 1835 (part 1) | Clark House Historian

  5. Pingback: Erie Canal – the Woodworth family, 1835 (part 2) | Clark House Historian

  6. Pingback: Monday: Map Day! – Wayne County, 1829 | Clark House Historian

  7. Pingback: How’d they get here? – early Erie Canal images | Clark House Historian

  8. Pingback: RBOH: The Turck family’s Palmyra, 1825 | Clark House Historian

  9. Pingback: How’d they get here? Buffalo – a tale of two harbors | Clark House Historian

  10. Pingback: How’d they get here? – Westward on Lake Erie to Detroit | Clark House Historian

  11. Pingback: How’d they get here? – Great Lakes ships, circa 1837 | Clark House Historian

  12. Pingback: How’d they get here? – JMC to Ft.Howard, 1833. | Clark House Historian

  13. Pingback: View on the Catskill – Early Autumn (1836-1837) | Clark House Historian

Comments are closed.