Caroline M. (Clark) Woodward: a closer look at that 1893 biography

Today, as we continue to explore the life of Jonathan M. and Mary (Turck) Clark’s eldest child, Caroline Mary Clark—later usually known as Mrs. C. M. Woodward—we’ll take a fact-by-fact look at the biographical sketch of Caroline that was published in 1893, re-printed unchanged in 1897, then abridged and reprinted in 1912. For a full discussion of these three publications, see last Monday’s Caroline M. (Clark) Woodward: first steps toward a biography.

Willard, Frances E., and Mary A. Livermore. 1893. A woman of the century ; fourteen hundred-seventy biographical sketches accompanied by portraits of leading American women in all walks of life ; ed. by Frances E. Willard and Mary A. Livermore, assisted by a corps of able contributors, title page and page 779.

Today’s post will be less of a fully-formed essay, and more of a running analysis, commentary, and proof-reading of this 1893 biographical sketch. We’ll take one portion at at time, starting at the beginning. The source text will be presented as a shaded quotation, followed by my commentary and corrections in simple black text on white background, with highlighted links to additional sources and explanations and, of course, a few footnotes, too. Here we go…

Origins and parents

WOODWARD, Mrs. Caroline M. Clark, temperance worker, born in Mignon, near Milwaukee, Wis., November 17th, 1840. Her father, Jonathan M. Clark, was a Vermonter of English descent, who, born in 1812, of Revolutionary parentage, inherited an intense American patriotism. Her mother, Mary Turch Clark, of German and French ancestry, was born and bred on the banks of the Hudson river. Both were persons of more than ordinary education and, though burdened with the cares of a family of one son and seven daughters, were life-long students.

There is a good deal of accurate information here, mixed with a few relatively minor errors of fact:

• Caroline’s birthplace, “Mignon” was certainly Mequon, Washington (later Ozaukee) county, Wisconsin territory. The “Mignon” misspelling is rare, but not completely unknown; I wonder if it might be an 1893 editorial “correction” or perhaps a typesetter’s error
• Her gravestone and her FindAGrave webpage state that Caroline was born in 1836. This is not correct. Her mother was neither in Wisconsin nor acquainted with Jonathan Clark in 1836. All early sources (e.g., federal censuses—including her 1850 and 1860 censuses—and the Clark “Family Record”) agree that Caroline was born in 1840.
• The November, 1840, birth month and year agree with other sources, but the Clark “family record” gives Nov. 7 as the birth day, not Nov. 17.
• “Turch” is a misprint for Turck. And Mary’s parents were from old Dutch-American (Turck) and Dutch/English-American (Gay) families; I don’t think there is a French branch anywhere on Mary Turck Clark’s family tree. (But does this suggest that one or both of Caroline’s parents spoke some French? JMC might have known the language from his time in or near Lower Canada/Quebec. Or perhaps Mary Turck learned some at a progressive public or private school in Wayne county, New York? It’s fun to speculate.)
• Caroline’s mother was, indeed, born and raised “on the banks of the Hudson,” in Athens, Greene Co., New York.

Some unique family history

There are two key points here that reinforce or expand upon some of our earlier surmises about the Clark family. The first refers to the role of education in the Clark household:

• Caroline’s biography states that both of her parents “were persons of more than ordinary education.” We know very little about the origins of Caroline’s father Jonathan M. Clark, and almost nothing about his education. Another unique source (to be blogged about later this year), suggests that JMC may have attended school in Stanstead, Lower Canada, around the age of 18 or 20.

We do know that JMC could read and write fluent English (see, e.g., early Mequon school minutes) and he probably learned many useful skills (surveying, construction, etc.) while in the Army. Caroline’s mother, Mary Turck Clark, could read and write as well and, for a brief time in 1839, served as “the first school teacher” in the area. Caroline’s remark that her parents were “life-long students” may be true. Certainly, Caroline and her siblings all received an above-average education for rural children of their era

The other unique and possibly significant passage here refers to Caroline’s beliefs about her father’s origins. The 1893 biography states: “Her father, Jonathan M. Clark, was a Vermonter of English descent, who, born in 1812, of Revolutionary parentage, inherited an intense American patriotism.” Let’s look at each point and see how each may help us solve the mysteries surrounding JMC’s parentage and nationality:

• Clark is a decidedly English surname, and New England is filled with Clark families. It is highly likely that JMC was descended from a Clark family of English ancestry. Conflicting sources indicate Jonathan M. Clark’s birthplace was either northern Vermont (in or near Derby, Orleans county) or the adjacent Stanstead county, Lower Canada. Almost all sources agree he was born in 1812. There are many posts here on CHH about this. For more info, you might start with O!…Canada? History Mystery! No. 3.
• Caroline’s remark about her father’s “Revolutionary parentage,” and that he “inherited an intense American patriotism” are unique clues to JMC’s family origins. Given JMC’s birth year of 1812, it’s unlikely that his father’s generation fought in the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). If JMC has ancestors that fought in the Revolution, they would more likely be from his grandparents’ generation and born, probably, before 1760 or so.


Caroline was the oldest daughter. She attended the district school in a log house till seventeen years of age. To that was added one year of study in German in a private school. At the age of eight years she was considered quite a prodigy in her studies. At the age of seventeen she began to teach. After two years of study in the Milwaukee high school under John G. McKidley, famed as a teacher and organizer of educational work, she taught in the public schools of that city.

Let’s assign some tentative dates to these facts:

• Mequon’s local district school was the Bonniwell School, about a half mile west of the Clark farmhouse. It was constructed in 1843,1 when Caroline was five years old. It would not be unusual for a child in 1840s Mequon to begin schooling at this age.
• Caroline was “considered quite a prodigy in her studies” at age 8, i.e., circa 1848, the year that the two-story Jonathan Clark House’s stone lintel was inscribed and that Wisconsin attained statehood.
• Caroline turned 17 in November, 1857, less than two months after her father’s untimely death. If this biography is correct, Caroline “began to teach” in late-1857 or early-1858, presumably at Mequon’s Bonniwell School. This kind of progression, from upper-level student to teaching in the local school (usually younger children), is very common in rural and city public schools of the period. It is possible that Caroline may have made the transition to teaching a year or so ahead of the usual scholar-to-educator timeline.

In our next post, we’ll learn more about Caroline’s sparsely-documented time as a student and teacher in the Milwaukee public schools, and her work there with noted educationist John G. McKindley (not, as in our source, McKidley). At this time, we can say:

• Caroline taught in a Milwaukee grammar school for eight months, probably from September 1, 1860 to about April or May, 1861.
• So we surmise that Caroline’s work with J.G. McKindley was in the two preceding school years, 1858-59 and 1859-60. McKindley was active in the Milwaukee schools for only a few years; I believe Caroline’s timeline coincides with the years of McKindley’s Milwaukee activities; more on this in our next post.
• Then, presumably, Caroline’s “one year of study in German in a private school” took place during the school year preceding her studies with McKindley, i.e., 1857-58,2 but that is the year we assume she was teaching at Mequon’s Bonniwell School. Hmm… I’ll try and sort this out in our next post. In any case, this timeline suggests that Caroline’s education took precedence over any presumed need to have her—the eldest child of her recently-widowed mother—stay on the Clark farm to assist with farm work or with managing her seven siblings (the youngest of whom was still an infant).3

Marriage and family

She became the wife of William W. Woodward in 1861. For eighteen years they made their home on a farm near Milwaukee, a favorite resort for a large number of cultivated friends and acquaintances. In 1879 they removed to Seward, Neb., where they still reside.

• Caroline married William W. Woodward in Washington county, Wisconsin, on May 15, 1861. Why didn’t they marry at the Clark farm in Mequon, Ozaukee county? I wonder whether the Clarks had already moved to Milwaukee by May, 1861. In that case, the Mequon farm would not have been available to them. And their new Milwaukee residence, grandfather Peter Turck’s home at 474 Jefferson, would not have been a good choice for a wedding or wedding party. One month earlier, Peter Turck’s second wife, Christina, and their only child, Lucinda, age 11, had both died of diphtheria. My guess is that Caroline and William got married at the home of maternal aunt Elizabeth (Turck) Maxon and her husband Densmore W. Maxon in Cedar Creek, town of Polk, Washington county.4
• We know the location of W. W. and Caroline Woodward’s farm in the Town of Granville, Milwaukee county. I’ll have more on that in a “Monday: Map Day!” post, forthcoming.
• That the Woodworth’s farm was a “favored resort for a large number of cultivated friends and acquaintances” is quite plausible. Although this period of their lives is not well-documented, it appears both Caroline and William were active in Methodist activities, and Caroline took an interest in other projects as well. More on this soon.
• There is no mention of the Woodward children in this 1893 biographical sketch. Caroline and W. W. Woodward had no children of their own, but they adopted or foster-parented six children. The first three of these were all born in Wisconsin. Caroline was a passionate and progressive advocate for children and families. We’ll have more on that, including a revealing interview made in her later years, in upcoming posts.
• The Woodwards did relocate to the city of Seward, Seward county, Nebraska in 1879. They remained in Nebraska for the rest of their lives, but not in Seward. Around the turn of the 20th century, William (and Caroline) proved a homestead and obtained a federal land patent for 640 acres of land at “Gracy” (i.e., Gracie), Rock County, north of Nebraska’s Sand Hills. Some time later, they moved back to the Seward area for their later years, to David City in Butler county. I’m still working out the timeline for their several homes, and trying to figure out how Caroline managed her ongoing domestic affairs while maintaining an exhausting temperance and suffrage travel, lecture and organizing schedule. I’ll have lots more on this over the next week or two.

Public affairs – early days

Since 1875 she has been engaged in public affairs, serving as secretary of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society and as president of the Milwaukee district association. She has been identified with the same work in Nebraska. In 1882 she entered the field of temperance as a newspaper writer, and she has shown herself a consistent and useful Worker in that cause and in all the reformations of the times. In 1884 she was elected treasurer of the Nebraska Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and in 1887 vice-president-at-large of the State, which office she still holds.

• This section of Caroline’s bio gives us information about her early, and less-documented, years as an activist. Her career with the W.C.T.U. is much more fully documented that her work with the W.F.M.S., but Caroline was an active Methodist woman, and I do have details to share about her church work outside of the W.T.C.U.
• I’m still looking for examples of her work as a “newspaper writer,” especially pre-1893 or so.
• She was a suffragist, too, though this is less-well documented than her temperance work. I do have a fabulous early suffrage petition that she signed—with other members of the Nebraska W.C.T.U. leadership— in 1886. I’ll share that with you shortly.

National W.C.T.U. and Prohibition Party

In 1887 she was appointed organizer for the National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and was twice reappointed. In the Atlanta convention she was elected associate superintendent of the department of work among railroad employee. She has been a member of each national convention of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union since and including the memorable St. Louis convention of 1884. She was a delegate to the National Prohibition Party Convention of 1888, held in Indianapolis. She was nominated by that party for regent of the State University in 1891, and led the State ticket by a handsome vote.

• I have a lot more coming about her work in the temperance field with the state and national W.C.T.U.. She was a seemingly tireless organizer and speaker. There are so many newspaper articles and short news items that mention “Mrs. C. M. Woodward” by name; it’s going to take time to transcribe and organize even a representative sample.
• As a member of the Prohibition Party, Caroline sought elective office twice. In 1891 she ran for regent of the Nebraska state university, and in 1894 (the year after this bio was published), she ran for U.S. Congress, representing Nebraska’s fourth congressional district. She lost both races.

Public speaker

Mrs. Woodward is one of the clearest, most logical and forcible speakers in the West.

• All the reports I’ve read from newspapers of the day (and I’ve read dozens and dozens) agree that Caroline was, indeed, a clear, interesting, and inspiring speaker, and she could draw large, rapt audiences in big cities, rural farm towns and summer Chautauqua-style gatherings.
• Did Caroline submit this final sentence, praising her speaking abilities, to the editors of A woman of the century? I’m inclined to think she was too modest to say such a thing about herself. Perhaps the book’s compiler, Frances E. Willard—who had heard Caroline speak at W.C.T.U. national conventions—added it editorially. In any case, the praise appears to be well-deserved and not excessive. Caroline could and did speak persuasively and interestingly on secular subjects—particularly temperance and suffrage—and she could preach on religious topics as well. I will share examples of published “reviews” of some of her speeches and preaching in an upcoming post or two.

What’s missing?

The details in this biography were probably provided by Caroline herself. Perhaps she filled out a form or questionnaire from editors Willard & Livermore. Perhaps she responded to a more general request for a short biographical sketch of a certain length. The final, published, form of the biography was probably the work of editors Willard & Livermore.

No source is completely accurate. Caroline may have misremembered some facts or let other errors slip into the material she submitted to the editors. There is no mention of her children. The editors and publishers could have altered facts by cutting or rearranging Caroline’s material. Typographical errors can creep in at any time.

But generally speaking, the information presented in this sketch agrees with many known facts about Caroline’s life up to the publication date of 1893. Yet Caroline lived until 1924, more than thirty years after this volume was published, and she was active in her personal and professional life up to the very end.

More to come…

There’s much yet to do as we assemble a more complete and accurate picture of the life and work of Caroline (Mary) Clark Woodward. Next time, I think we’ll try and come to a better understanding of Caroline’s education and (brief) career as a school teacher.

Be well. See you soon.



  1. There is some confusion about the date that the first school opened in Mequon. The Ozaukee County Historical Society owns the original manuscript “Records of / The School District No. 1 / in Town Nine Range Twenty one /  Washington County Nov 15th A. D. 1843.” The committee’s first order of business was to order the construction of the log schoolhouse that would be known as the Bonniwell School.

    But page 524 of the History of Washington and Ozaukee Counties, Wisconsin […] Illustrated, 1881, states that the Bonniwell School was in business in 1840. I need to spend more time with the sources, but it seems clear that (1) there was schooling available in the Clark’s part of Mequon as early as 1839 or 1840 and (2) the first log school building for the Bonniwell School was probably erected just west of the Clark’s farm in late-1843/early-1844, and I think we are safe to assume that the Clark children, including Caroline, obtained their educations there (until the family relocated to Milwaukee circa 1861).

  2. McKindly employed a teacher of German at his Seventh Ward High School in Milwaukee. It’s possible that Caroline’s study of German ran simultaneously with her last years at McKindley’s high school. There were also several private schools, featuring German language instruction, in Milwaukee during the late-1850s and early-’60s. It’s possible Caroline attended one of these schools as a supplement to her regular coursework

  3. This timeline also raises a question about where Caroline lived between either 1858 or 1859 and her marriage to William W. Woodward in 1861. The Mary (Turck) Clark family’s June, 1860, federal census returns enumerate widow Mary (Turck) Clark and her eight children at the Mequon farm. So the Clark family appears to have maintained their official residence in Mequon, and the whole family was there in summer, 1860, to be recorded for the census.

    I wonder whether Caroline spent most of the school year of, say, 1858 and/or 1859 not in Mequon on the Clark farm, but in Milwaukee, attending McKindly’s Seventh Ward High School. If so, where did she live? Well, she had family in Milwaukee, including grandfather Peter Turck and uncle James B. Turck. Perhaps she lived with one of these Turck relatives; both had in homes in the city’s seventh ward.

    And in an interesting parallel situation, Caroline’s youngest uncle—and almost exact contemporary—Benjamin Turck (1839-1926), was enumerated twice on the 1860 census. On June 11, 1860, he was enumerated with his grandfather Peter Turck’s Milwaukee household, and on July 20, 1860, he was recorded as part of Mary (Turck) Clark’s Mequon family.

  4. Densmore W. and Elizabeth (Turck) Maxon figure prominently in Turck and Clark family affairs, and their home was the location for at least one family wedding. Given that diphtheria was active in Milwaukee in the spring of 1861, I suspect that everyone involved would have preferred the fresh air of Cedar Creek for the Caroline Clark and W. W. Woodword wedding festivities.