Caroline Clark – public school teacher

Leaving High School – August, 1860

As we discussed earlier, Caroline M. Clark (1840-1924), the oldest child of Mary (Turck) Clark and the late Jonathan M. Clark, studied for two years at Milwaukee’s first public high school, led by the noted educationist John G. McKindley. McKindley’s second academic “exhibition” of his Seventh Ward High School students took place at Albany Hall, Milwaukee, on August 9, 1861. It was McKindley’s final appearance as Principal of the Seventh Ward High School. I expect that 19-year-old Caroline M. Clark was there also, as the event marked the end of her years as a student in the Mequon and Milwaukee public schools.

After high school: teaching in Milwaukee?

Caroline’s 1893 biographical sketch included this 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 [Milwaukee].

Once she finished her high school studies, Caroline would have been qualified to teach Primary, Intermediate, or—perhaps—Grammar school classes in Milwaukee’s public schools. And she did.

Caroline got a job!

Annual Report of the Board of School Commissioners of the City of Milwaukee, to his honor the mayor and the common council of Milwaukee, for the year ending September 1, 1861, Milwaukee, 1861, p 15-16, via GoogleBooks.

“Miss Caroline M. Clark” was hired as an Assistant teacher in the Grammar Department of the city’s Ninth Ward school, for 8 of the 12 months of the academic year beginning September 1, 1860. For those eight months, she was paid a total of $250. (Why did she only work for eight months? More on that, below.)

Grammar School Teacher, 1860-1861

The Grammar Department was the most academically advanced department, for the oldest students, in the Ninth Ward School. As a Grammar Dept. teacher, Caroline would have taught most or all of these subjects:

Reading, Geography, Grammar, Written Arithmetic, Composition, Penmanship, Drawing, Music, History, Physiology, Declamation.

Caroline’s students were expected to provide their own slates, writing paper, and textbooks, as assigned from the complete Milwaukee Public Schools list that we discussed in Caroline M. Clark’s classroom & curricula, 1858-1860. Unfortunately, not all students came to school with all the required materials. The 1861 Report contains a detailed discussion of the state of the graded schools, of inadequate student books and supplies, and how the ongoing effects of the economic Panic of 1857 were continuing to stress family finances and school expenditures, with the end result that many students lacked some or all of the required books and materials (and writing slates!) that were essential to academic success.

The Ninth Ward School

Caroline finished her public school education at the city’s Seventh Ward High School, located only a few blocks from her grandfather Peter Turck’s home at 474 Jefferson. (We believe Mary Clark and the Clark children were living there, with grandfather Peter Turck, by 1861/62. Caroline may have lived there as early as 1857 or 1858.)

Caroline’s new job took her across the Milwaukee River to the quickly-growing Ninth Ward. Pages 12 and 13 of the 1861 Report include this description of the three buildings that made up the Ninth Ward Schools:


The Schools in this Ward have been, as formerly, kept in three different buildings. The Grammar and Intermediate Departments have occupied the rooms in the building on the corner of Twelfth and Galena streets. Four Teachers conducted the school till May last, since which time three Teachers have been employed. The Primary Department proper has occupied the brick school house on Fond du Lac Avenue, and has had but one Teacher, except three months during the winter. The building is capable of holding 75 primary scholars.

A one-story addition has, by the order of the Common Council, been built during the past summer, capable of holding 180 primary Scholars, and now, at the time of writing, is being entered by a large body of children. The building, including furniture, has cost about $275, the cheapest accommodations for an equal number of children ever furnished by our city. In a remote part of the Ward, on Teutonia street, there is a small building, capable of holding 75 scholars, where a school has been in successful operation during the year, with but one Teacher. The building is a one-story. frame building, in ordinary repair, and worth about $300. A small wood-house has been erected during last year. One of our three new buildings is being erected in the Ninth Ward, where it is greatly needed.

This description puts the Ninth Ward grammar and intermediate department school building at the corner of Twelfth and Galena streets. According to page 8 of the 1861 Report, the Ninth Ward School buildings (at least the ones owned by the public schools) occupied lots 1 and 4 of the Ninth Ward’s Block 12. For reference, you can find both the Twelfth and Galena intersection—and the Clark-Turck residence at 474 Jefferson in the Seventh Ward—on the 1859 map of Milwaukee that we discussed in 2020.1

In 1861, the ward’s school land was valued at $436, and the buildings at $2,100. The school committee had not spent any money on repairs for the Ninth Ward buildings during the year, but had paid $368.74 for new “Fixtures—Desks, &c.” and $229.83 for “Moveable Furniture and Apparatus.” Page 9 of the Report notes that the board had to lease the building occupied by the Ninth Ward’s Grammar and Intermediate departments, at an annual rent of $305.


If you look through the full 1860-61 Report, you will notice a lot of turnover in the public school faculty that year. Many schools had two, or even three, principals or assistants for the primary, intermediate, or grammar departments. Caroline’s Ninth Ward school was no exception:

Annual Report of the Board of School Commissioners of the City of Milwaukee, to his honor the mayor and the common council of Milwaukee, for the year ending September 1, 1861, Milwaukee, 1861, p 15-16, via GoogleBooks.

The three large Ninth Ward School departments all lost faculty after eight months. “Miss Caroline M. Clark” taught for eight months and was replaced by Miss A. A. Bradford, on a four month contract. The Grammar department had to replace its Principal, too.2 What happened?

The pages of the 1860 and 1861 Reports make clear that much of the turnover was due to the ongoing national financial crisis. At the start of the school year in September, 1859, the school commissioners realized that they had serious financial problems. There were substantial amounts of unpaid bills from the previous year, and increasing enrollments required more space and more staff. Worst of all, due to the lingering effects of the Panic of 1857, the city’s Common Council ran out of money for the public schools, and in May, 1860, the Board was forced to close both public high schools.3

What about Caroline?

Caroline Clark’s employment as a Grammar Department teacher began on September 1, 1860. According to the 1861 Report, she taught for eight months. That would mean she left her teaching position around the beginning of May, 1861. Why? One factor might have been her salary. As the Annual Report for the previous school year lamented:


No subject has more sorely tried the Board since its organi­zation, than the inadequate compensation that we felt neces­sary to make to Teachers. Bound down under a load of debt—without one dollar in the treasury—the Board solemnly pledged themselves to the Common Council, that they would carry through the schools from May, 1860, to May, 1861, for $32,000.00. This pledge they will redeem-but in doing it, the burden falls heavily upon many of our Teachers.

The hope of a brighter day has been the only alleviating circumstance in this discouraging history.

Report of the Board of School Commissioners of the Public Schools of Milwaukee, for the year ending August 31, 1860, Milwaukee, 1860, p 33, via GoogleBooks.

So it’s possible Caroline left her job for more remunerative work elsewhere. But the more likely reason for her departure from the Ninth Ward School was that on May 15, 1861, she married Milwaukee county farmer William Wallace Woodward. For much (all?) of the nineteenth century, it was customary for female school teachers to be single; once they married, they were expected to leave the profession and set up housekeeping with their new husband and, eventually, start a family of their own. I think it’s safe to assume that this is what happened to “Miss Caroline M. Clark” in May, 1861.

Next time

Coming up, we will meet Caroline’s husband, William W. Woodward, an early Milwaukee settler and farmer. Plus a cool map or two, and a new post for Veteran’s Day, featuring Mary (Turck) Clark’s youngest sibling—and Caroline Clark’s uncle—Benjamin Turck.

Be well. See you soon.



  1. Do any of you blog readers know much about Milwaukee street car lines in the 1850s and 1860s? The distance from Caroline’s likely home at 474 Jefferson to her new job at the Ninth Ward School was about a mile and a half. Did she walk, or was there a horse-drawn street car out that way?

    In contrast, the Turck-Clark residence at 474 Jefferson was only three city blocks south, and one block west, of the Seventh Ward School, corner of Division and Van Buren streets, an easy walk (at least when the unpaved Milwaukee streets were dry).

  2. One exception to this pattern was Frederick Stock, Principal and sole teacher at the satellite Teutonia Street School. Principal Stock held his own for the full school year, in a one room school with about 75 students. (Think about that for a moment…)

  3. After closing as public schools, the two high schools reopened as tuition-based private schools. This was a brief experiment. See our posts Caroline Clark’s mentor, John G. McKindley, Caroline Clark – from student to teacher, and Caroline M. Clark’s classroom & curricula, 1858-1860, for more about the early years of Milwaukee’s first high schools. For more details about how the financial crisis effected the MPS budget, circa 1859-1863, see the complete Reports for those years; free pdf copy available via GoogleBooks.

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  1. Pingback: Caroline gets married – but where? | Clark House Historian

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