Monday: Map Day! – How’d they get here?

UPDATED July 6, 2021, to answer a reader’s question: “Where was Jonathan Clark just before he went to Fort Howard?” Scroll down to Comments for the answer.

How the early settlers came to Mequon, c. 1835-1850 (part 1)

Clark House education director Margaret Bussone and our education team are putting together a project centered on how our Mequon pioneers traveled to southeast Wisconsin in the early days of white settlement, between roughly 1835 and 1850. I thought I’d help out by gathering some relevant materials and sharing them with the education team—and you—here on the blog.1

So this week we’re going to look at how the settlers found their way here, and how they traveled on land, lake, or river. Rather than writing lots of words about each map or image, I’d like to gather a whole bunch of useful items in each post and put them out there as resources for all to use. Later in the week, we’ll look at various modes of travel on land and on water. Today we’ll look at some maps.2 Some of these maps were readily available to our would-be immigrants, others might have been one-of-a-kind or otherwise hard to obtain.

An overview, The U.S. in 1834

When the following map was published in 1834, Jonathan M. Clark was finishing the first year of his three-year enlistment in the U.S. army. He was stationed at Ft. Howard, on the Green Bay of Lake Michigan, in what was then the civil District of Huron, a soon-to-be-outdated term for the western portion of the Michigan Territory.3

Mequon’s earliest settlers would be coming to lands that were poorly mapped and little understood by most European-Americans. The most this map could show—in a very general way—is where the “open” areas were for future migration and settlement.

Norris, William, and Daniel K Minor. Map of the railroads and canals, finished, unfinished, and in contemplation, in the United States. New York: Railroad Journal, 1834. Map. Library of Congress. Click to open larger map in new window.

This 1834 map is particularly interesting as it features the railroads and canals “finished, unfinished and in contemplation” in the United States. The map’s key explains which is which:

Detail, showing map key from Norris, William, and Daniel K Minor. Map of the railroads and canals, finished, unfinished, and in contemplation, in the United States. New York: Railroad Journal, 1834. Map. Library of Congress. Click to open larger map in new window.

Heading West…but not on a train

In the 1830s and early-’40s, most of the migrants headed to the future state of Wisconsin were native-born residents of New York or the New England states. There were foreign-born immigrants, too; they usually arrived at northern ports such as New York, Boston or Philadelphia. Immigrants from the Canadian maritime provinces tended to travel by ship to Boston; immigrants from Lower and Upper Canada (Quebec and Ontario) came via water routes on Lake Champlain or the one of the Great Lakes.

This 1834 map must have been a tantalizing prospect for would-be emigrants to the “west,” although I would expect that some of the proposed railroads and canals were never built, or were delayed for many years. In 1834, there were only a few rail lines actually built and running, and almost all of them were on the east side of the Alleghenies.

Generally speaking, if you wanted to go west to Wisconsin in the 1830s and ’40s, it would be by foot, horse, or wagon on land, or by ship or smaller craft on the lakes and rivers. Over the past five years or so, I’ve blogged about quite a few Wisconsin-related migrations and maps. Here are some samples to give you a taste of the pioneer experience in those decades:

The Erie Canal and the Bonniwell family:

I’ve written about the Erie Canal and its importance to American travel, migration, and commerce in many blog posts. (For a full list, just use the blog’s Search function and the search term “Erie Canal.”)

In 1832, many members of the Bonniwell family migrated from England to Montréal, Lower Canada, and then to New York on a water route using the Richelieu River, Lake Champlain, the Champlain Canal, and the Hudson River. Later, in 1839, they used the Erie Canal to travel westward to Buffalo, New York and then on to Wisconsin via the Great Lakes. For more info see Erie Canal – the Bonniwell Family 1832-39, and this annotated map4 from that post:

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. To open the original, unannotated map in a new window, click here.

The Woodworths – by foot, stagecoach, canal boat, ship, and horseback:

The Woodworth brothers, James W. and Ephraim K., made two trips from Nova Scotia to the western frontier before settling in Mequon. I wrote about their first—epic—journey of 1835 in two posts (part 1, part 2). It took two maps to trace their footsteps, beginning with this annotated3 map from 1827:

Walker, John and Alexr. Map of the United States; and the Provinces of Upper & Lower Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, compiled from the latest Surveys and other authentic information, J. & A. Walker, 47 Bernal Street, Russell Square, London, and 33 Pool Lane, Liverpool, June 1st, 1827 [NE sheet], with annotations by Reed Perkins, 2021. Credit for original map 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. 

I needed an additional map from 1834 to show their travels—on foot and by horseback—in Ohio and Michigan:

Young, J. H, and A Finley. Map of Ohio and the settled parts of Michigan. [Philadelphia: A. Finley, 1834]. Library of Congress.  Click here to open a copy of the original map without annotations. Click the map to open a larger image in a new window.

Changing details, changing boundaries

The earliest Mequon immigrants were headed into lands that were just beginning to be surveyed by government surveyors. Some of the early maps, such as the 1834 Map of the railroads and canals… at the top of this post, don’t have much detail on the western portions of their maps, and some of that detail is not accurate. Take this excerpt:

Detail showing area around southern Lake Michigan, from Norris, William, and Daniel K Minor. Map of the railroads and canals, finished, unfinished, and in contemplation, in the United States. New York: Railroad Journal, 1834. Map. Library of Congress. Click to open larger map in new window.

Chicago is labeled, but the former trading post—soon to be village of—Milwaukee is missing entirely, as is Jonathan Clark’s regimental headquarters at Ft. Howard. So I’ve added their approximate locations in red type.

Ouisconsin, 1836

This slightly more up-to-date map was made for Congress in 1836; for all the details, see Ouisconsin Territory, 1836. I’m not sure this was generally available to the public, but at least it is a bit more informative about settled places and geographical features:

Burr, David H. Map of the Northern Parts of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois and Michigan and that part of the Ouisconsin Territory lying East of the Mississippi River. 1836. Library of Congress.

This Ouisconsin map is more detailed, and includes the army’s local outposts at Ft. Howard—Jonathan M. Clark’s army home from 1833-1836— and Ft. Winnebago, as well as the growing village(s) of “Milwalky.” To give you an idea of where our Mequon settlers were ultimately headed, after arriving on Milwaukee’s muddy shores, here’s another annotated detail:

Burr, David H. Map of the Northern Parts of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois and Michigan and that part of the Ouisconsin Territory lying East of the Mississippi River. 1836. Library of Congress.

Also marked on this detail is the speculative location of “Ft. Hamilton,” the temporary army camp from which Sgt. Jonathan M. Clark mustered out at the end of his three-year enlistment in September, 1836.

Finding a place to settle, 1837

The federal government was keen to survey the newly-opened lands of southern Wisconsin Territory. Three years of intensive effort resulted in the first official map of Wisconsin, published in 1837:

This is the Topographical map of Wisconsin Territory / compiled from the Public Surveys on file in the Surveyor General’s office … by Samuel Morrison, Elisha Dwelle [and] Joshua Hathaway. It was engraved by Doolittle & Munson and published in 1837. It is another one of the remarkable maps from the American Geographical Society Library Digital Map Collection at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. You’ll need to click here to view the full-size version of this map at UW-M along with its complete bibliographic information.

This is a great map, and was probably invaluable to early migrants, county governments, and land brokers. It covers in detail all of the lands in Wisconsin which were then open to white settlement.5 Every township and range is labeled and many geographic features are shown:

Topographical map of Wisconsin Territory, 1837 (detail showing map key). Click to open larger image in new window.

Schooners and steamboats (and trains)

Our look at “how the got here” continues next time, as we examine the most popular route from the east to the west: the Great Lakes, via sail or steam. We’ll have information on ships, routes, costs, the perils of the lakes and the new steam technology, and more.6

After that, we’ll take a look at all the ways to travel overland in the days before decent—or any—roads. And we’ll note the growth of rail travel on the way to—but not yet within—Wisconsin, by about 1850.

See you soon.

_____________________________

NOTES:

  1. Almost all of the maps and images that I share on the blog are best viewed by clicking the map or image. The item will then open in a new window at a higher resolution. Speaking of higher resolution: I try and load large, but not enormous-size files. For optimum resolution, especially on large, detailed items, follow the links in the captions and notes. When at the original online source, you can often find many of these maps and images in very high resolution as TIFF or JPEG2 formats, which I recommend when possible.

    Most of my maps and images may be downloaded by you and copied, printed, edited, messed-with, or otherwise used as you please. But be sure to read the captions of each image for any potential restrictions. Also, please note the following:

    • Most online items from the Library of Congress maps and photos, prints and drawings collections tend to be in the public domain and free of copyright restrictions. I make note of exceptions.

    • Maps from the David Rumsey Map Collection typically may be used for educational and other free-use-exemption purposes. But follow the links in each caption to check their website for details and possible restrictions.

    • Maps from the American Geographical Society Library Digital Map Collection often may be used for educational and other free-use purposes. But follow the links in each caption to check their website for details and possible restrictions.

    • Items from the Smithsonian Institution collections are sometimes free of copyright and sometimes involve restrictions. See the caption for each item, and follow the links to the source, for details.

    • I tend not to post images from the collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Milwaukee Public Library and similar sources. These organizations usually maintain copyright on the images they publish on the web, and I don’t have the time or the funds to obtain permission to use these on the blog. So while I do post occasional links to images from those sites, I don’t post the images themselves. Feel free to follow my links to such content, but you’ll need to consult with each organization to see if you can use their material. One exception: the WHS does have some free-use materials for educators. These can be very useful; do check them out.

    • Finally, if you use one of the maps or images that I have altered in one way or another (cropped, adjusted color, added graphics, spliced pages together, etc.) you may use that map or image free of charge, but only if you give me—and the blog—credit. If nothing else, please cut-and-paste my caption from the image. And feel free to contact me if you need assistance or have any questions.

  2. This post started out as a “Monday: Map Day!” and even though I didn’t get it online until early Tuesday, that’s what I’m calling it. Your indulgence is requested.

  3. For more on the early political geography of Michigan Territory—and, after July 3, 1836, Wisconsin Territory—see our post Where are we?

  4. I hope you find the annotations useful. And if you want the original, non-annotated, version of this or other annotated maps, I usually include the original map in the blog post, too. If I don’t, just follow the links in the image captions to the original source.

  5. As of 1836, all the lands north and west of a line roughly following the Fox River from Green Bay in the northeast to the Wisconsin River and Prairie du Chien in the southwest were still occupied by and reserved for the various Indian tribes.

  6. There is another water route that was a part of the earliest migration to the territory, in particular the lead mining areas in the southwest, around modern-day Mineral Point. This involved getting to the Ohio River via various roads, canals or railroads, and then traveling down the Ohio to the Mississippi, then up the Mississippi to early settlements such as Galena, Illinois, or Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. More on this later.

12 thoughts on “Monday: Map Day! – How’d they get here?

    • Excellent, if complicated, question!

      The short answer is JMC was in Utica, New York, where he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1833. The details of his enlistment are in our 2016 posts:
      • “Jonathan Joins the Army” at https://jchmhistorian.com/2016/04/29/jonathan-joins-the-army/ and
      • “JMC Joins the Army – A Closer Look” at https://jchmhistorian.com/2016/05/01/jmc-joins-the-army-a-closer-look/

      How did he get to Utica? We’re not quite sure. He was born in 1812 (or 1811) and raised in either Derby, Vermont and/or the adjacent Stanstead, Lower Canada. In 1848 JMC applied to become a naturalized U.S. citizen; he stated that he had come to the U.S. via the port of Whitehall, NY on Lake Champlain in April 1831. See our post:

      • O!…Canada? History Mystery! No. 3 at https://jchmhistorian.com/2019/12/05/ocanada-history-mystery-no-3/

      After enlisting in Utica, JMC would have mustered into the 5th regiment of infantry. I’ve not yet established where; the most likely places were the Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri, or Kentucky’s Newport Barracks, on the south side of the Ohio River, across from Cincinnati. It’s possible that Jonathan may have reported to another “depot,” perhaps Ft. Niagara, New York, which was the home base of JMC’s recruiter, Capt. Clitz.

      Someday we may get access to JMC’s regimental records at NARA and find out.

      Thanks for asking!

      Like

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