Caroline gets married – but where?

May, 1861

In a recent post, Caroline Clark – public school teacher, we examined Caroline Clark’s brief tenure as a teacher in the grammar department of Milwaukee’s Ninth Ward School, and concluded:

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 […] 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.

Finding Caroline’s marriage record

Long before I found Caroline’s 1893 biographical sketch, or her profile and interview in the Omaha Daily Bee (March 30, 1916, page 11), or read her several long obituaries, I was able to determine when—and whom—she married. How? By using the Wisconsin Historical Society’s invaluable—but not infallible—Pre-1907 Vital Records Database (Birth, Marriage, Death). Yes, the interface is a bit clunky, but if you search for “Clark, Caroline,” one of the results you’ll find is:

Seems plausible, right? But how do we know it’s “our” Caroline? And how do we match her with a spouse?

Next steps:

Here is one of the really handy aspects of the WHS pre-1907 marriage index, the See possible spouse matches function:

Click the virtual button and you’ll get, in this case, just one possible spouse match for a marriage on that date, in that county:

William Wallace…Woodard?

We know from many, many other records that Caroline Clark married W. W. Woodward, not Woodard, in 1861. Either William’s last name was spelled incorrectly on the original Washington County marriage record, or it was misspelled when the WHS database was prepared. Except for William’s surname, all the marriage information in the WHS database matches for both Caroline and William: marriage year, month, date, county of marriage and location of the marriage record itself.

Assuming the index data is correct, Caroline and William were married on May 15, 1861, in Washington County, Wisconsin, and the original record of the marriage will be found on page 217, volume 1, of the Washington County (marriage or vital) records. All settled, right? Well…

Washington County?

We have a loose end that needs tying up: where, exactly, were Caroline and William married? The WHS index states Washington county, and gives a precise volume and page number for the marriage record. But the obituaries for William and Caroline state that they were married in Mequon [Ozaukee county]. And in 1861, both William and Caroline worked—and presumably lived—in Milwaukee county. So where did they get married? Let’s examine the likely options for their wedding ceremony:

• No later than sometime in 1861, Caroline’s mother, Mary (Turck) Clark was living with Mary’s father, Peter Turck, at 474 Jefferson, in Milwaukee’s central Seventh Ward. We assume Mary’s children—including Caroline (?)—were also living at the 474 Jefferson house. It would be typical for a wedding to take place in the bride’s home.

• By the time he married Caroline M. Clark in May, 1861, William W. Woodward had lived and farmed in northwestern Milwaukee County, in the Town of Granville, for many years. His farm was about 9 miles due south of the Clark family’s original farm and house in Mequon, Ozaukee county. It was not typical for brides to marry at their husband’s home, but not impossible, either.

• And what about the Clark’s old farm on section 3 of the Town of Mequon? We know the Clark family was there on July 20, 1860, when the federal census was enumerated. But it’s possible that the family was primarily living in Milwaukee by as early as 1858 or ’59. Perhaps, for a few years, they lived in the city and returned to the Mequon farm to help with a final summer or two of farming and harvesting in the late-1850s and maybe 1860? It’s not yet clear who was living in the big house or actively farming the Clark farm between the death of Jonathan Clark in 1857, and the beginnings of Fred Beckmann’s lease of the farm in 1868. All indications are that the Clark family was no longer on the old Clark farm by 1863 at the latest, and possibly before 1861. So the old family farm is a possible venue for Caroline and William’s wedding, but not likely.

Cedar Creek, Washington County

How do we reconcile the conflicting evidence? The next step should be too get a look at the Clark–Woodward marriage record that should be found on page 217, volume 1, of the Washington County (marriage or vital) records. This document was created at the time of the event, and—if it was filled out fully and clearly—it may give us all the information we need to settle the dispute.

Until then, I have a theory:

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.

Densmore W. and Elizabeth (Turck) Maxon figure prominently in Turck and Clark family affairs, and their home was the location for at least one other 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. Woodward wedding festivities.


Historic American Buildings Survey, creator, and Ethan Maxon. Maxon Farmhouse, West Bend, Washington County, WI, 1933 (documentation compiled after). Library of Congress. Click to open larger image in new window.

And what about those “married in Mequon” references in William and Caroline’s obituaries? Those life stories were composed decades after the fact, and usually by relatives or friends that had to rely on fading memories and word of mouth. It’s not surprising that “Mequon”—Caroline’s birthplace and childhood home—was assumed to be her marriage place.


I’d be delighted if one of our readers wanted to get a copy of Caroline and William’s marriage record, either by visiting the WHS library in Madison, or ordering a copy from the WHS directly, and let us have a look at it (click here and scroll down for details).

By the way, the Elizabeth (Turck) and Densmore W. Maxon home at Cedar Creek—which figures so prominently in the lives of the Peter Turck family, still exists. It is about 17 miles west, and a bit north, of the Clark farm in Mequon, and about 23 miles northwest from William W. Woodward’s old farm in Milwaukee County’s Town of Granville. The Maxon farmhouse was surveyed for the federal Historic American Buildings Survey, and you can view scale drawings and another photograph of it at the Library of Congress website.

Coming up: we’ll have more on the lives of William W. and Caroline (Clark) Woodward, including transcriptions of some rare obituaries and that 1916 Omaha Daily Bee interview. Plus a Veteran’s Day post or two, and much more.

Be well. See you soon.

2 thoughts on “Caroline gets married – but where?

  1. Pingback: Home to Thanksgiving | Clark House Historian

  2. Pingback: Winter fun, 1868 | Clark House Historian

Comments are closed.