Continuing on with our series of Alfred Bonniwell documents, today’s post looks at one of two censuses that (probably) record Alfred Bonniwell in Wisconsin Territory between the federal decennial censuses of 1840 and 1850. If you need to catch up, our previous installments are here, here, here, here and here. UPDATED May 22, 2022, to correct Charles Bonniwell, Sr.’s birth year to 1806
The Wisconsin territorial census of 1842
For background on the 1842 Wisconsin territorial census, its enumeration in old Washington/Ozaukee county, and its relation to the Clark, Turck and Bonniwell families and their neighbors, you’ll want to read Census Records for the In-Between Years: 1842.1
The official enumeration date for this census was June 1, 1842; the enumeration of old Washington county—still attached to Milwaukee County for legal purposes—was done by Levi Ostrander and officially completed on July 1, 1842. Here’s page 65 of that census. The extended Bonniwell family—and some of their notable neighbors—are circled in red.2
Full source details in note 2, below. Click to open larger image in new window.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these families and try and understand which Bonniwells were living where, in Mequon, in mid-summer, 1842…
It’s been a week of constant organizing at my house. A useful and productive week, perhaps, spent sorting, reading, and filing paperwork, and updating the household accounts. But not much writing.
Of course, the need to sort, repair and organize is not limited to our era. I suspect the Clarks, Turcks, Bonniwells—and their neighbors—spent a good bit of time trying to catch up with their 19th-century chores, like this fellow…
Guy, Seymour Joseph (1824–1910), Utilizing a Spare Moment, oil on canvas, c. 1860-1870. Yale UniversityArt Gallery, public domain (CC0 1.0). Click to open larger image in new window.
Unknown photographer, [Occupational Portrait of a Blacksmith, Three-Quarter Length, Working on a Horseshoe at an Anvil, Other Tools to His Side], no place, daguerreotype circa 1840-1860. Library of Congress, public domain, cropped and exposure lightened. Click to open larger image in new window.
I’m at the writer’s “forge,” trying to beat several new blog posts into shape.
Today’s post continues our series about the life of Alfred Bonniwell, youngest son of Mequon’s Bonniwell family, and brother-in-law of Jonathan and Mary (Turck) Clark. If you missed them, our first installments are here, here, here and here. And for more on how the Bonniwells got from New York to Wisconsin in 1839, see Erie Canal – the Bonniwell Family 1832-39 , complete with a handsome, annotated map.
Alfred enters the public record
In our previous posts, we have discussed the lack of specific records documenting Alfred Bonniwell’s life after his baptism in Chatham, Kent, England in 1826, through his migration to Canada and his years in New York.1 That began to change once the family arrived in Wisconsin. Today I’d like to add to our knowledge of Alfred and his family by investigating an essential census schedule that provides important information about their first year in Wisconsin.
1836 & 1838 – Wisconsin’s first territorial censuses
The Bonniwells were still in New York at the time of Wisconsin’s first two territorial censuses in 1836 and 1838, but other notable Mequon pioneers were enumerated as they claimed and cleared land for new farms. If you missed our discussions of these early censuses, you can catch up by reading: • Census Records for the In-Between Years: 1836, locating Jonathan Clark’s unit as they cut the Military Road along the Fox River, and • Census Records for the In-Between Years: 1838, the first census for the original Washington county.
1840 – Federal decennial census
The 1840 federal decennial census2 is the first census that records members of the Bonniwell family in Wisconsin. It was enumerated in “Wiskansin Territory, Washington County, June 1, 1840.”
Ancestry.com. 1840 United States Federal Census [database on-line], Washington, Wisconsin Territory; Roll: 580; Page: 123; Hyde and Bonniwell households; Family History Library Film: 0034498. Image annotated, lightly tinted, and cropped. Click to open larger image in new window.
Today’s post continues our series about the life of Alfred Bonniwell, youngest son of Mequon’s Bonniwell family, and brother-in-law of Jonathan and Mary (Turck) Clark. If you missed them, our first installments are here, here and here. UPDATED, February 2, 2022, to include additional information and a link to an earlier post about Bonniwell brother-in-law Philip Moss. UPDATED, May 22, 2022, to correct Charles Bonniwell’s birth year (should be 1806)
Following their father’s death and burial in Montréal, Lower Canada, on October 18, 1832, the Bonniwell family was at a crossroads. Their original plan to patent land in Lower Canada had to be abandoned. As eldest son Charles Bonniwell recalled;
[…] the family received letters from the brothers who had located in New York [George and William] to come there without delay, and so [we] lost no time in taking the trip by way of Lake Champlain and Whitehall. I went to work in New York [City] where my brothers had employment at the navy yard.1
Whitehall, New York state’s port of entry at the south end of Lake Champlain, was an important waypoint for the Bonniwells, as it would also be for Jonathan M. Clark and other future Mequon neighbors. For more on that, including a handsome lithograph of Whitehall as it appeared c. 1828-1829, see How’d they get here? – JMC, the Bonniwells, and Whitehall, NY
As it turns out, Charles Bonniwell’s statement, “[we] lost no time in taking the trip by way of Lake Champlain and Whitehall,” may be a bit of a generalization. While I have not had a chance to collect or examine copies of the actual naturalization documents for all the Bonniwell boys, the modern index cards for those papers indicate that at the time of father William T. B. Bonniwell’s death the family was already dispersed at several locations. They would eventually reunite and migrate to Wisconsin Territory in 1839.
Many aspects of the lives of the Bonniwell family in New York are not well documented, including the activities of young Alfred T. Bonniwell. Alfred was only six and a half years old when his father died in Montréal in October, 1832. According to his naturalization papers (filed in Milwaukee on April 6, 1849, and summarized on this modern index card), we know Alfred entered the United States at Whitehall, New York, sometime in November, 1832.
This index card—and Alfred’s 1849 final citizenship document that it summarizes—are the only two official records that I have located that document Alfred’s years in New York state. Without some of the Bonniwell family papers cited in The Bonniwells, and the newspaper articles featuring Charles’s recollections, much of Alfred’s—and his family’s—life from 1832 to 1839 would be a complete mystery.
Based on brother Charles’s recollections, and other documents we have, we can assume that when Alfred came to the U.S. he was accompanied by his mother and several of his siblings, including brothers Charles (27), James (21), and Walter (age 8), and sister Eleanor (18). But not brother Henry (age about 14); more on Henry’s wanderings, below. But my understanding of which Bonniwell migrated via which port, to which destination, and what they did after arrival, is not completely clear. In fact, the family did not all travel together from Montréal to New York, via Whitehall, in November, 1832. Let’s look at the documents for more information…