Meet the Children: Henry M. Clark

UPDATED with correction, June 18, 2021: The Peter Turck house at 474 Jefferson was (and is?) in Milwaukee’s seventh ward. Why I said “second ward” when the map clearly shows “VII” or seventh ward is a mystery. So please note the correction to the headline and content of the relevant paragraph “The Seventh Ward,” below.

What we do — and don’t — know about the Clarks’ only son (part 1)

Jonathan M. and Mary (Turck) Clark had eight children: seven daughters and one son, Henry M. Clark (1843-1866). The Clark children were born between 1840 and 1857. All lived to adulthood, some longer than others. For a general overview of the Clark children, including birth and death dates, start with our earlier posts Meet the Children (part 1) and History Mystery! No. 2 – The Clark “Family Record.”

Although we know quite a bit about most of the Clark children, our recent Memorial Day 2021 post reminds us that we know very little about several important aspects of Henry Clark’s life, in particular: did he serve in the Civil War? I’ve been working on this question, off and on, for a number of years, and I think it’s time to pull the sources together and see what really we do — and don’t — know about Henry Clark, his life, and his possible military service.

There is a lot of information to sort through and interpret, so this post will be the first of several about Henry and the events of his life. Today we focus on what we know of Henry’s life before the Civil War.

——— 1840s ———

1843 (?)

The first documentary mention of Henry Clark may possibly be this report of his birth on February, 21, 1843, written at an unknown date in the Clark “Family Record”:

Clark “Family Record” (highlighting Henry Clark birthdate). Image courtesy Liz Hickman, see below for full source details. Click to open larger image in new window.

For more on the source, provenance, accuracy and date(s) of creation of this document, see our History Mystery! No. 2. It’s not clear if these Clark family birth records were written on this “Family Record” page at the time of each child’s birth, or if all the children’s birthdates were gathered together and recorded on this page at some later time.


The Clark family and their neighbors appear on the 1846 Wisconsin territorial census for Washington county. The “J. M. Clark” family is enumerated on line 13, page 43.

Detail, J. M Clark family on 1846 territorial census for Washington Co., Wisconsin, FHL film number  1,293,920, DGS film number 8,117,163, image 953 of 1103. Click to open larger image in new window. 

According to this territorial census, by mid-1846 the Clark household had six members: two white males and four white females. These should include parents Jonathan M. and Mary (Turck) Clark, son Henry, and daughters Caroline and Elizabeth (“Libbie”). But who is the fourth female? We don’t know. I wonder—and this is pure speculation—did Mary Clark perhaps take in one of her younger Turck sisters, to help her widowed father Peter Turck by shouldering some of the burden of parenting Peter’s four school-age children? It’s possible, but we have no evidence one way or another. See Census Records for the In-Between Years: 1846 for more.


The Clark family—including son Henry—was presumably enumerated on the December, 1847, Wisconsin territorial census, but the census schedules for old Washington/Ozaukee county no longer exist. See our Census Records for the In-Between Years: 1847 for more information.

——— 1850s ———


The first official dated record mentioning Henry Clark by name is the J. M. Clark family’s enumeration on the federal decennial population schedule for Mequon Dist. 15, Washington Co., Wisconsin. He is recorded on line 19 as Henry [Clark], male, age 7, and a mark in column 11 indicates he “Attended School within the year.”

“United States Census, 1850,” database with images, (Family Search), detail of J M Clark family highlighting son Henry M. Clark, Mequon, Washington Co., Wisconsin, United States. Click to open larger image in a new window.

The 1850 census indicates that Henry attended school sometime between mid-1849 and mid-1850. Attending school as early as the age of 6 years is typical for the period. Various local histories and school records suggest that the Clark children attended district school No. 1, the “Bonniwell School,” just west of the Clark house on what is now Bonniwell Road. This first school was established in 1843, with broad public support and the leadership of Jonathan Clark, Peter Turck, William T. Bonniwell, and other early settlers.

For more information on the Clark family and the 1850 census—including a discussion on the “official” versus actual date of enumeration—see our four-part series of related posts that begins here, and continues here, here, and here.


Wisconsin State Census, 1855, Town of Mequon, page 1, family of “Jon. M. Clark” highlighted. FHL film no.1,032,689; DGS film no. 4,245,040. This census is fully indexed and searchable here. Click to open larger image in new window.

The “Jon. M. Clark” family was enumerated on the June, 1855, Wisconsin state census for the town of Mequon, Ozaukee county. The Jonathan M. Clark household consisted of two white males and eight white females. Happily, no one in the house is—in the language of the era—deaf & dumb, blind, or insane.

The two males are most likely Jonathan and the Clark’s only son, Henry. The eight females would include Mary Clark and daughters Caroline, Elizabeth, Persie, Theresa, Laura and little Josie. But who is the eighth female? She’s can’t be the Clark’s final child, daughter Jennie. Jennie would not be born until almost two years after this census.

For more discussion of the Clark family and the 1855 state census, see Census Records for the In-Between Years: 1855 and Census Records for the In-Between Years: 1855 — Part 2

Jonathan M. Clark, died in September, 1857. His widow, Mary (Turck) Clark, and children—including Henry—remained on the farm for several years afterward.

——— 1860s ———


Mary (Turck) Clark and her children were enumerated together, on their Mequon farm, on the federal decennial census, officially dated June 1, 1860.

“United States Census, 1860,” database with images, FamilySearch […], Mequon, Ozaukee Co., Wisconsin, image 67 of 87, detail showing Henry Clark and family. Click to open larger image in new window.

Henry is enumerated on line 19 as a 17 year-old white, male, occupation: farm laborer. He did not attend school in the previous year. This was typical for the era. In the 19th-century, children, especially rural children, usually attended school from roughly age 5 or 6 to, at the latest, age 16. Often children would be done with school by around the age of 12. Their labor was often needed in the workshop or on the farm, and schooling beyond what we would think of as grade 6 or 8 was considered an unaffordable luxury.

For more on Henry and the Clark family in mid-1860, see The Clark Family in 1860 and The Clark Family in 1860, part 2.


The “June 1” (actually enumerated on July 20th) 1860 census was the last time all the living members of the Clark family were recorded together in the same household. The first shots of the U.S. Civil War were fired on April 12, 1861. Eldest daughter Caroline Clark married William W. Woodward on May 15, 1861 and moved to his Milwaukee county farm. At about the same time, widow Mary (Turck) Clark appears to have rented the Clark farm to tenants and moved to Milwaukee, presumably with all of her unmarried children. See 1861/1862: Moving Time for details. I am not aware of any additional Mequon records for Henry Clark after the federal census of mid-1860.

By the time the Milwaukee City Directory for 1862 was compiled by A. Bailey and published by Starr and Son, Mary (and, we assume, her children) had settled in with her father, Peter Turck, at 474 Jefferson street, Milwaukee. It’s probable that a combination of stresses made the move desirable, or even necessary; for some thoughts on this see the Postscript, below.

In 1862 Peter Turck was 64 years old. In April, 1861, he lost his young second wife Christina and their only child, 12 year-old Lucinda, to diphtheria. All but one of Peter’s children by first wife Rachael (Gay) Turck had long since married and moved from their father’s home. As of August, 1862, Benjamin Turck, Peter’s only still-unmarried living child, resided in Washington county, Wisconsin. It’s possible that he had already begun his long but intermittent working relationship with brother-in-law Densmore W. Maxon in Washington county’s village of Cedar Creek (Town of Polk).

Perhaps most importantly, compared to rural Mequon, the booming city of Milwaukee offered the maturing Clark children more and better possibilities for continued schooling, employment and—as we will see in future posts—matchmaking.

The Seventh Ward1

Mary (Turck) Clark—with (we assume) Henry and her other unmarried children—remained at 474 Jefferson for the duration of the Civil War. (See Clarks and Turcks, 1863 and Clarks and Turcks: 1864-1865 for details.) Based on contemporary maps, I believe that 474 Jefferson was in Milwaukee’s seventh ward. This is an important detail that we will need later, as we consider Henry M. Clark’s possible Civil War draft status and service.

1863 – The National Draft

On March 3, 1863, Congress passed the Enrollment Act of 1863 establishing a national conscription law (full text at LoC). For the first time in U.S. history, all male citizens (and all immigrants who had filed papers to obtain citizenship) between the ages of 20 and 45, had to enroll for the draft, unless they met certain criteria for exemption. The Act was not universally popular, and anti-draft riots occurred in several places, most notably New York City in June, 1863.

Henry M. Clark observed his 20th birthday on February 21, 1863 and was, therefore, eligible for the national draft and required to register. Did he register? Did he volunteer, like his uncle Benjamin Turck and boyhood friends Evander Bonniwell and Watson Peter Woodworth? Or did he object, and try to avoid serving? Next time, we’ll see what we know about that.


POSTSCRIPT — Leaving Mequon

As mentioned above, and in our post 1861/1862: Moving Time, we are not sure exactly when Mary and (most of) the children left the Clark’s Mequon farm and moved to Milwaukee. And we can only speculate on why they left. After all, as the 1860 census attests, Mary appears to have done a good job managing the farm and keeping the family’s finances strong in the wake of Jonathan M. Clark’s death in September, 1857.

So why move to the city circa 1861/1862? Certainly Milwaukee offered more and better possibilities for work, education, and socializing for the maturing Clark children. But one other factor has come into focus as I put this post together: manpower.

In mid-1860, Mary Clark was in charge of a prosperous 160-acre farm. Her household included a soon-to-marry 19 year-old daughter, six other daughters between the ages of 3 and 15 years, teenaged son Henry, her 21 year-old brother Benjamin Turck and a hired man named John Frenz.

We know that Henry Clark was a laborer on the farm. “Farm Laborer” John Frenz, seems to certainly have been a Clark employee. Brother Benjamin Turck’s occupation was listed as “Clerk.” Did he work for his sister Mary on her family farm? Or was he clerking for a local business and just living with the Clarks? In any case, it appears that Mary probably had to hire one or more additional, unknown, farm hands to keep the farm running smoothly after her husband’s death in 1857. (If these men lived nearby they would not be enumerated as part of the Clark household on the 1860 census.)

When the Civil War breaks out in April, 1861, it quickly becomes clear that the conflict will require a large number of men for the Union’s armed forces. A substantial number of local men volunteer for service in 1861, ’62 and subsequent years. Brother Benjamin Turck will enlist at the end of August, 1862. Son Henry Clark will become eligible for the draft in mid-1863. I think Mary Clark saw the writing on the wall. Mary must have realized that the Union army would soon require a very large number of just the sort of able-bodied laborers that she needed to hire to keep the Clark farm going, and that this manpower shortage might last for several years.

With her husband dead, eldest daughter married and gone away, her father widowed and aging, and no other family members to call upon for farm work, it was now impractical for Mary to continue farming the Clark property and still make a profit. So sometime in late 1861 or early 1862, she made the rational, responsible decision to rent out the farm land and big stone house that she and Jonathan had built and nurtured since 1840, and take the children to Milwaukee.



  1. UPDATED with correction, June 18, 2021: This paragraph was originally titled “The Second Ward.” I’m not sure what happened to my map- and Roman-numeral-reading skills, but the Peter Turck house at 474 Jefferson was (and is?) in Milwaukee’s seventh ward. Why I said “second ward” when the map clearly shows “VII” or seventh ward is a mystery. So please note the correction to the headline and content of the relevant paragraph, “The Seventh Ward.”

8 thoughts on “Meet the Children: Henry M. Clark

  1. Mary’s reasons for leaving the farm makes sense in your post script. I’m sure she was not the only woman and mother who found herself in the same situation, particularly with husbands going after. Would there have also been any concerns about what might happen in Wisconsin after the war broke out? Perhaps she felt she and her children would be safer in Milwaukee .


    • Good question. The short answer is that things were pretty settled in Washington and Ozaukee counties by the early 1860s. Wisconsin as a whole was pro-Union and anti-slavery. On the other hand, Washington and Ozaukee counties were strongly aligned with the old Democratic party and voted against Abraham Lincoln by huge margins in both 1860 and 1864.

      There was a notable anti-draft riot in Port Washington on November 10, 1862. Many of southeast Wisconsin’s German-speaking immigrants were opposed to the 1862 state militia draft. Compulsory military service was one of the reasons many German immigrants had left their homes in Europe and come to the United States. Many German immigrants generally objected to being forced to serve in the Union army and, more particularly, they felt that as newcomers, they should not have to play a part in the fight between North and South. This feeling was generally short lived, and many Wisconsin Germans served the Union cause throughout the war.

      There was also a brief “Indian scare” in southeast Wisconsin in early September, 1862. This was a moment of mass panic and misinformation; there were no Native Americans “on the warpath.” But tensions were high—due to the national war and a real native uprising in the Minnesota area, the so-called Dakota War that began in August, 1862—and many communities around Milwaukee were convinced that a violent Indian uprising was in progress and rapidly advancing toward their homes and settlements. Thousands of refugees left their farms and villages and made their way to Milwaukee and other nearby towns for safety. Calm was restored a few days later once everyone realized there was no actual attack in progress.

      Did either of these events influence Mary Clark’s decision to move to Milwaukee? I’m not 100% sure when she made the move, but she was living in Milwaukee in time to be surveyed for and listed in the 1862 city directory. So I suspect these particular late-1862 events did not directly effect her 1861/1862 decision to relocate. But I’m sure there must have been some substantial anxiety—economic and otherwise—for Mary and her neighbors in Ozaukee county, even before the first shots were fired on Ft. Sumter on April 12, 1861.

      For more on the draft riot of 1862, see:
      For more on the “Indian scare” of 1862 see:
      For more on the Dakota War of 1862, see:


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