“Rev.” Peter Turck in New York

Religion played a large role in the lives of many—but by no means all—19th-century Americans. This was certainly true for Mary (Turck) Clark’s father, Peter Turck (1798-1872). In a number of ways, Peter Turck’s changing relationship to religion is a unique, personal story, but is also a story that encompasses many strands of the religious experience of this formative period in American history.

The Dutch-American heritage

Previously, we looked at Peter’s 1798 DRC baptismal record. Most, if not all, of his siblings were baptized in the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) in various Columbia County, New York, churches. And as far as I have been able to discover, almost all of Peter Turck’s ancestors were baptized in and members of the DRC in early New Holland and New York, all the way back to the original Turck immigrant, Paulus Jacobsz. Turk (~1635-1703), who came to New Amsterdam (later New York City) before 1660. So how did someone with such long and deep family ties to the Reformed Church—such as Peter Turck—become “an ardent preacher of the Baptist faith”?1

The Second Great Awakening

The Dutch Reformed Church was not the only Christian denomination in the Hudson River valley during Peter Turck’s early years. While a large percentage of the area’s residents were of Dutch and DRC heritage, the valley had many Anglo- and German-Americans as well. All were served by various Protestant denominations including the Baptist, Lutheran and Protestant Episcopal churches, and the Society of Friends. More significantly, Peter Turck’s youth also coincided with the Second Great Awakening of religious fervor in America.

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The Turcks sell their Palmyra land, 1832

The Peter and Rachael (Gay) Turck family in Wayne Co. deeds (part 2)

Today’s post continues our series where we use deed records to follow the lives of the Peter and Rachael (Gay) Turck family—including young Mary Turck—from the 1820s through their emigration to Mequon in 1837. This post will make more sense if you read our previous Monday: Map Day! and The Turcks – Catskill to Palmyra, 1828.

Earlier, we discovered that on April 21, 1828, Peter Turck of Catskill, Greene county, New York, bought 76 acres of land in Palmyra Township, Wayne County, New York. He paid $1,475.00 “cash in hand” to the sellers, Ellera and Catherine Potter. The record of this transaction was found on pages 266-267 of the Wayne County, New York, Deed Books, Vol. 12.

Four and a-half years later…

Today’s 1832 deed, in which Peter Turck sells the same land that he purchased in 1828, is recorded in the same deed book, immediately following the (apparently delayed) recording of his 1828 transaction. This new 1832 land sale covers parts of pages 267-268 of Vol. 12 of the Wayne County, New York, Deed Books:

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RBOH – Photo Mystery, 1865

Another in our occasional series of Random Bits of History, illustrating life as experienced by the early Mequon settlers and their contemporaries. Today we examine a photograph that may—or may not—depict an early Mequon settler or their kin.

Is this a photo of young Sarah (Strickland) Clark?

Reader Eric Pearman is a descendant of early Mequon settlers Cyrus Clark and Sarah Strickland. For a while last year Clark House Historian spent some time tracing Cyrus and Sarah’s lives, and analyzing some old photographs of those Mequon pioneers here, here, here, here and here (and a few more places, too; just use the blog’s Search function and keyword “Cyrus” or “tintype”).

Eric recently sent me this, unidentified, photo that belonged to a Cyrus and Sarah Clark descendent, and wondered if it might be of a previously un-photographed member of the Cyrus Clark or Sarah Strickland families. Even if this is not a Cyrus Clark or Sarah Strickland family member, the photo has a unique feature that you may want to know about as you examine other old photos. Let’s take a look…

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The Turcks – Catskill to Palmyra, 1828

The Peter and Rachael (Gay) Turck family in Wayne Co. deeds (part 1)

This post will make more sense if you read our previous Monday: Map Day! post first. And then grab a hot beverage and settle in for some quality time with old legal documents

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you may have noticed that I usually like to gather various bits of evidence, think about them for a bit—”behind the scenes,” so to speak—and then present them to you as a coherent (I hope!) narrative that sheds light on some aspect of the history of the Clark House, its inhabitants or their community. For years, I’ve wanted to do that with the story of the Peter and Rachael (Gay) Turck family and their migration to Wayne County, New York in the late 1820s, but we have very few records of the family from this period.

In order to make an accurate timeline of the Turcks’ years near the Erie Canal, I need to—finally—wade through the few records that do exist: land deeds recorded in Vol. 12 of the Wayne County, New York, deed books. The legal prose in these deeds is often so thick and convoluted that it’s hard to just skim them and find the useful bits. So since I need to transcribe, read, and interpret a number of handwritten deeds anyway, I thought I’d share the process with you, here on the blog. Today will be the first of several posts featuring transcriptions of the old deeds. Once we’ve transcribed them, we’ll sort through each and see what we can find out about the Turcks’ lives in the eight years before they came to the Wisconsin Territory.

The Challenge

Here’s the first page of today’s deed. Peter Turck’s contract (“indenture”) to purchase land begins about a third of the way down the page, just below the horizontal double-line:

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Monday: Map Day! – Wayne County, 1829

Before Mequon: finding Mary Turck’s home in upstate New York

Tracing the lives of Americans in the first decades of the 19th-century can be challenging. Whether along the expanding frontier, or in long-established and settled areas such as New York’s Hudson River valley, there are often many unhelpful gaps in the paper trail. Even the federal census—which counted, every ten years, “all persons” living in America—only recorded the name of the “head” of each (white) family, and the sex and age ranges of other members of the household.

So what do we know about the Peter and Rachael (Gay) Turck family in the years before they arrived in Mequon? As we discussed previously, we know the family had deep roots in the traditionally Dutch-American communities of the Hudson River valley’s Ulster, Greene, Dutchess and Columbia counties. We know Mary Turck was born in Athens, Greene county, in 1821, the eldest child of Peter and Rachael (Gay) Turck. By tracing the baptismal registers (where they exist) and other biographical records of her younger siblings, we know that by 1833 the family was in Palmyra, Wayne County, New York.

Wayne County: Palmyra and Macedon

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