Caroline Clark – from student to teacher

We’re looking into the life of Jonathan M. and Mary (Turck) Clark’s first child, Caroline Clark. If you need to catch up, you might start with some pivotal dates and events in the lives of Caroline and her Clark family in:

Then check out these previous posts in our current Caroline (Clark) Woodward series:

The biographical materials we looked at in those posts were a good introduction to Caroline’s life (through 1893), but lacked some key information about her youth, and especially her transition from a scholastic “prodigy” in rural Mequon to—supposedly—a teacher in Milwaukee’s public schools. And in order to examine her time as a Milwaukee public school student and teacher, we had to take a deep dive into the life and work of her esteemed high school principal, Caroline Clark’s mentor, John G. McKindley.

Walling, Henry Francis. Map of the county of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. New York: M.H. Tyler, 1858, Library of Congress, (inset showing Cross’ Block).

View of Cross’ Block circa 1858, home of the Milwaukee School Board until destroyed by fire on December 30, 1860.1, 2

Sorting the timelines

In those earlier posts we unearthed a lot of new information from a variety of sources. Today I’d like to collate those facts into one larger timeline. We’ll start with this portion of Caroline’s 1893 biographical sketch:

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. McKi[n]dley, famed as a teacher and organizer of educational work, she taught in the public schools of that city.

Let’s organize those statements in chronological order, try and assign dates to each. For context, we’ll add a few key dates from the Clark family timeline, too:

Childhood: one-room school in Mequon

• she attended the district school in a log house
Mequon’s local district school was the Bonniwell School, about a half mile west of the Clark farmhouse. It was, indeed, a log house, constructed in 1843, around the time Caroline turned three years old. A child in 1840s Mequon would probably begin schooling at about age 4 to 6. It’s possible Caroline began her studies at home, with her parents, but I think we’re safe in assuming that Caroline began her public schooling at the Bonniwell School, circa 1844, ’45 or ’46.

• at the age of eight years she was considered quite a prodigy in her studies
Caroline’s eighth birthday was on November 7th or 17th, 1848. So this observation about her academic success would probably refer to achievements during the school year lasting from (September?), 1848 to (August?),1849.

1857: Disaster
Caroline’s father, Jonathan M. Clark died (unexpectedly? after a short illness?) on Sunday, September 10, 1857.

•  she attended the district school in a log house till seventeen years of age
Caroline turned 17 in early November, 1857, and was probably finished as a student at the Bonniwell school before the Fall, 1857, school term began.

17-20 years-old: Mequon to Milwaukee

• to that was added one year of study in German in a private school
Where was this? A private tutor in Mequon? Or a private tutor or small “academy” in Milwaukee? We don’t know. There were plenty of both options in Milwaukee—and, probably, in Mequon—at the time.

Did this “one year of study in German” follow Caroline’s time at the Bonniwell School, or did it overlap with her final year of studies in Mequon, or with her time at Milwaukee’s Seventh Ward High School? I’m inclined to guess that this German study occurred after her Mequon school years, i.e., around September, 1857, through Summer, 1858. Maybe.

• at the age of seventeen she began to teach.
Hmm… This is a real mystery. I don’t have any records that show she taught in either Mequon or Milwaukee before completing her studies at McKindley’s high school, but I don’t have any records that indicate she didn’t. Supposedly, she was busy studying the German language around the same time. Perhaps Caroline was taking German lessons in the evening while also holding a day job as a tutor or teacher at a private home or school? If so, was this in Mequon or Milwaukee? Either is possible.3

• two years of study in the Milwaukee high school under John G. McKindley
As we discussed previously, McKindley’s time as the Principal of Milwaukee’s Seventh Ward High School lasted from September 1, 1857 through about August 9, 1860. If Caroline was teaching and/or studying German during the 1857-58 school year, then she could have begun her studies with McKindley in Summer or Fall, 1858.

McKindley’s and Caroline’s chronologies line up: Caroline could have had “two years of study in the Milwaukee high school under John G. McKindley” between Fall, 1858 and Fall, 1860. She would have celebrated her twentieth birthday just a few months after completing her work at McKindley’s high school.

Caroline at the Seventh Ward High School – another document:

In 1886, the “old boy” alumni of the Seventh Ward High School—and its predecessor, the short-lived Milwaukee University— held a 25th anniversary reunion banquet at Milwaukee’s Plankington House hotel. Following the event, chief organizer, M. A. Boardman compiled and edited a volume of reminiscences entitled University—High School, of Milwaukee, with sketches and incidents in the history of these two institutions, also biographical notes of some of the students […], Milwaukee, 1886.4

After a long, flowery preface, pages 80-83 of Boardman’s book contain a list of “Girls of the High School. 1858-1859.” The name “Clark, C. M.” appears on page 81. This must be Caroline M. Clark.

Boardman’s book also documents many of the banquet’s after-dinner toasts and reminiscences, including these remarks by classmate George Follansbee:

I have in my possession a blank book in which are recorded the names and ages of all of the students who were present at the High School at the commencement of the term beginning May 9, 1859, and about half the signatures are the autographs, of the writers. The remainder are in the never-to-be-forgotten chirography of Mr. McKindley.

Follansbee goes on to name all of the boys, and then all of the girls in attendance that day. “C. M. Clark” is listed among more than forty other young women enrolled in the Seventh Ward High School in May, 1859.5

Celebrating the Seventh Ward High School

On the 23d of December, 1858, the Seventh Ward High School celebrated its first anniversary at Milwaukee’s elegant Newhall House.

Walling, Henry Francis. Map of the county of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. New York: M.H. Tyler, 1858, Library of Congress, (inset showing Newhall House).

It’s very likely that Caroline attended. I suspect the venue—and the banquet—were unlike anything she might have experienced back in Mequon.


The banquet given by our principal in December of this year (1859) was a most elaborate affair. The whole of the Newhall House dining-room was set apart for us in which we could not only eat, speak and sing, but dance. I can only quote a fraction of the newspaper remarks. I get the following from an editorial in the Milwaukee Daily News of December 25 :

On Thursday evening we attended one of the pleasantest gatherings it was ever our good fortune to meet with, at the Newhall House, on the occasion of a supper given by that nonpareil teacher, J. G. McKindley, to the teachers and pupils of the Seventh Ward High School, over which Mr. McKindley has nobly presided for a year past. About 200 were present and sat down to a splendid repast, got up regardless of expense, and that over for an hour or so the company joined in the merry dance till the little magic bell told that the hour for retiring was nigh.

A correspondent gives a good account of the examinations and attending exercises, which urgent business prevented our witnessing; and also the sentiments on the occasion. Mr. McKindley has the finest school we ever saw, better trained, better learned, better in every way than many we are aware of, and the school has a teacher second to none. A strict disciplinarian, ruling by kindness, but ruling firm; every scholar loves him and loves to heed his requests, and his generosity in giving so expensive a supper, thus showing the interest he feels in the welfare of those placed under his charge, will still add to that love, but cannot to his reputation. Some of these days we shall visit the school and tell the difference between “then and now.”

Boardman, M. A., editor and compiler, University—High School, of Milwaukee. with sketches and incidents in the history of these two institutions, also biographical notes of some of the students […], Milwaukee, 1886, p 56-57.

Caroline was probably also a participant in McKindley’s second academic “exhibition” at Albany Hall, Milwaukee on August 9, 1861. It was his final appearance at Principal of the Seventh Ward High School

After high school – teaching in Milwaukee?

Caroline’s 1893 biographical sketch makes this additional statement:

• After two years of study in the Milwaukee high school under John G. McKi[n]dley, famed as a teacher and organizer of educational work, she taught in the public schools of that city [Milwaukee].
Once she finished her high school studies, Caroline would have been qualified to teach Primary and Grammar school classes in Milwaukee’s public schools. And she did.

We will have details on that in a forthcoming post.

Postscript: more timeline questions

We now believe that Caroline Clark spent two years at J. G. McKindley’s high school, from about September, 1858, to Spring or Summer, 1860. This raises some practical questions about Caroline, her recently-widowed mother Mary (Turck) Clark, and her seven younger siblings, most importantly:

  • when did Caroline come to Milwaukee?
  • where did she live?
  • when did Mary and the rest of the Clark children come to Milwaukee?
  • after they arrived, did Caroline live with them?
  • we took a stab at some of these questions in our July 29, 2020 post 1861/1862: Moving Time. Now that we have this additional information about Caroline’s 1857-1860/61 timeline, I think I’ll need a separate post to address these new questions and, I expect, revise the Clark family timeline.

That’s all for now. Put your pencils down and close your notebooks.

Be well. See you soon.



  1. I don’t have a copyright-free picture of Caroline’s Seventh Ward High School to share with you, but the Milwaukee Public Library digital collections have an excellent photograph of the school online. I believe this is a photo of the same, original Seventh Ward High School that Caroline Clark attended.

  2. Unfortunately, we do not have a complete record of the faculty and students of the Milwaukee schools prior to 1861:

    Records Destroyed. On Sunday morning, December 30, 1860, between 1 and 3 o’clock, Cross’s Block, in which the office of the Commissioners was situated, was burned to the ground. Nothing was saved except the contents of the safe, which was taken out of the ruins on the following Tuesday, having been buried sixty hours. The aforesaid contents were evidently undergoing slow combustion, but the records and order books, for the four years preceding, were in good state of preservation. By this fire all the bills up to the time, the monthly reports of teachers, the papers of examinations of teachers, annual reports from different cities, and all the papers of the Board, accumulated for a course of years, were entirely destroyed.

    Source: Andreas, A. T., editor, History of Milwaukee, Wisconsin […], Illustrated. Chicago, 1881, p 524

  3. One other theory: what if Caroline came to Milwaukee for the 1857-1858 school year for a year of German language study. She could have lived with her grandfather, Peter Turck. Peter Turck’s first wife had died in the 1840s. He married a second time in 1848, to a much younger woman, Christina Koehler. Peter and Christina Turck had one child, Lucinda, in 1849. By the time Caroline finished her studies at the Bonniwell School and came to Milwaukee, Lucinda Turck would have been about 8 years old. Perhaps Caroline taught Lucinda while living with the Turcks and pursuing her German studies? Who knows? It’s only a speculative theory, but it does fit the facts as we know them.

  4. If you are trying to sort out the many and varied attempts to establish schools of higher learning in pre-1860 Milwaukee, Boardman’s book is invaluable. It has its shortcomings, but is the most detailed and useful source on these schools that I have found so far. There are also many detailed recollections of J. G. McKindley and his teaching methods at the Seventh Ward High School. You can get your free pdf copy of the book at GoogleBooks. Highly recommended.

  5. Follansbee’s remarks about the autograph book begin on Boardman’s page 111. The names of the young women enrolled at the high school on May 9, 1859—including “C. M. Clark”—are found on page 113.

2 thoughts on “Caroline Clark – from student to teacher

  1. Pingback: Caroline M. Clark’s classroom & curricula, 1858-1860 | Clark House Historian

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