Alfred Bonniwell documents – part 5: Wisconsin, 1846-1847

Continuing our look at the life of Alfred Bonniwell, today’s post focuses on two documents, the Wisconsin territorial censuses of 1846 and 1847. We’ll take a close look at the Bonniwell families as enumerated on the Wisconsin territorial census of 1846, and discuss briefly the status of the 1847 census schedules for old Washington/Ozaukee county.1

The Wisconsin Territorial census of 1846:

The next Wisconsin territorial census after 1842 was officially enumerated on June 1, 1846. The record of Mequon’s various Bonniwell families begins on the third line of page 43 of the Washington county schedules:

For full citation, see note 2, below; image lightly tinted. Click to open larger image in new window.

For our purposes today, the key “heads of families” and their households begin on line 3. They are the households of:

• W. T. Bonniwell . . . . .  2 males, 4 females
• Eleanor Hyde. . . . . . . .3 males, 2 females
• C Bonniwell. . . . . . . . . 3 males, 5 females
• P. Moss. . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 male, 1 female
• J. Bonniwell. . . . . . . . . 5 males, 4 females
• G. Bonniwell. . . . . . . . 2 males, 3 females
• H. Bonniwell. . . . . . . . 1 male, 3 females

We see that by mid-1846 there were seven Bonniwell family households in Mequon’s “Bonniwell Settlement.” Five were headed by Bonniwell sons: William T., Charles, James, George and Henry, and another by Bonniwell brother-in-law Philip Moss. And Matriarch Eleanor (Hills Bonniwell) Hyde still led her own substantial household.

Who’s who in 1846?

As we noted in our discussion of the 1842 territorial census, identifying “who’s who?” in each family takes some guesswork, and the identifications are never 100% certain. But let’s try and make some educated guesses about who is living with whom in each of the 1846 Bonniwell family households. Let’s start with the families of the Bonniwell sons:

• The William T. Bonniwell family included 2 males, almost certainly William T. Bonniwell and his son William T. Bonniwell, junior (b. 1836). The four females in the family would have included William (senior’s) wife, Catherine, and daughters Eleanor C. (b. 1832), Emma Jane (b. 1844) and possibly infant daughter Marietta.3

• The Charles Bonniwell family comprised 3 males, almost certainly father Charles and his sons Charles W. junior (b. 1830) and Gustavus “Gus” (b. 1844). There were 5 females, most likely mother Sophia, and daughters Eliza (b. 1831), Ellen (b. 1833), Mary Ann (b. ~1835) and Henrietta (b. 1843).

• James Bonniwell’s family included “5 males” probably father James Bonniwell and sons George Capes (b. 1837), Franklin Benjamin (b. 1842), and Evander Berry (b. 1846).4 The four females should include mother Phebe and daughters Josephine (b. 1840)5 and Julia (b. 1844). That leaves 1 male and 1 female unidentified in the James Bonniwell household of 1846.

• George Bonniwell’s household in 1846 included 2 males and 3 females. One of the males was George, one of the females must be his wife Tamer. One male and two females are unknown.6

• The H. Bonniwell family comprised 1 male, head-of-household Henry V. Bonniwell, and 3 females: his wife Catherine, and two other females, possibly daughters.7

• Bonniwell brother-in-law Philip Moss and his wife Eleanor C. (neé Bonniwell) are the two individuals enumerated in the “P. Moss” household of 1846.

• And family matriarch Eleanor (Hills) “Mother Bonniwell” Hyde headed a household totaling 3 males and 2 females. Who were the other besides Eleanor? Hmm, perhaps we can make a few guesses…

Who was living with Mother Bonniwell in mid-1846?

To be honest, we really don’t know. Presumably, 20-year-old son Alfred T. Bonniwell (b. 1826) was still living with, and probably working for, his mother Eleanor. And—I’m going to speculate a bit—I think son Walter Bonniwell was there also, with his new (first) wife and their daughter Sophronia.

Walter got married?

Yes he did, and I have some fresh information about Walter’s first marriage.8 Walter and Eleanor “Ellen” Bailey “of Washington County, Wisconsin Territory” were married in Milwaukee on January 21, 1845, by J. M. Snow, “Minister of the Gospel.”9

Not much is known about Eleanor Bailey. She was born in New York, about 1827, and may have been the daughter of early Mequon settler Jonathan P. Bailey. Walter and Eleanor’s first child, daughter Sophronia, was born in March, 1845, only a few months after her parents’ marriage. Walter Bonniwell was naturalized at Washington (later Ozaukee) District Court on March 15, 1847; presumably he and Eleanor were still living in Wisconsin. Sometime afterwards, Walter moved his family to northern Illinois. The couple’s other two children, son William and daughter Caroline Elnora, were both born in Illinois, in about 1849 and 1851, respectively.

Walter and Eleanor (Bailey) Bonniwell’s marriage was short-lived and, evidence suggests, not always happy. Two line items from the January and February, 1846, minutes of the Washington County commissioners are devoted to discovering whether or not Eleanor was “destitute,” which suggests that she (and Walter?) may not have been living with Mother Bonniwell at the time (although that may have changed by mid-1846). I’ll have more on Walter Bonniwell and his family with first wife Eleanor Bailey in a future post.

Where are the Turcks?

Following the 1846 enumerations of the Bonniwell families on Washington county census page 43 are the households of some of their closest, and earliest, neighbors in Mequon’s “Bonniwell Settlement,” notably Jesse Hubbard, S. Bunce, S. McEvony—our own Jonathan M. Clark—H. Desmond, and others.

Notably absent from this 1846 territorial census is any mention of the family of Mary Clark’s father, and early Mequon pioneer, Peter Turck. I have not been able to find Peter Turck or his family anywhere on the 1846 Wisconsin territorial census. Not in Washington county, nor Milwaukee county, nor elsewhere. Why?

I have a theory. When the 1846 territorial census was enumerated, Peter Turck was 48 years old. His first wife, Rachael (Gay) Turck had died in mid-1842.10 He was a widower with five children at home, the youngest of whom was only seven years old. And we know that during the late-1840s and early ’50s Peter Turck’s business interests were shifting from Mequon to Milwaukee, and by the very early 1850s (at the latest) Turck had sold his Mequon property and permanently relocated to the city.

In 1846, I wonder if the younger, unmarried members of Peter Turck’s family11 may have been living with, and perhaps working for, some of their Mequon neighbors, including some of the Bonniwell families. At the moment, this is only a theory. It needs a lot of work and that will have to wait for a future post.

1847 census

The 1846 Wisconsin territorial census was the last territorial census for which the old Washington county schedules still exist. There was one more territorial census taken prior to statehood. It was enumerated in 1847.

Sadly, the census pages covering Washington county—and Mequon—no longer exist. For more on the 1847 census and our Mequon settlers, see Census Records for the In-Between Years: 1847.

Coming up…

Wisconsin became a state in 1848. Surviving records specifically referring to Alfred T. Bonniwell finally begin to appear around 1849, the year of his petition for U.S. citizenship. The next year, 1850, the federal census was enumerated. Alfred should be on it. Was he?

We’ll see about that. Something else may have caught his, and America’s, attention…

Gold, Placerville, California, Smithsonian Institution, NMNH-79-9911 (public domain, CC0). Click to open larger image in new window.



  1. Need to catch up? The previous installments in this series can be found herehereherehere, here and here. And for more on the 1836-1847 Wisconsin territorial censuses, see the first part of Census Records for the In-Between Years: 1842.

  2. 1846 Wisconsin State Census, Washington Co., page 43, image from, FHL film number 1,293,920, aka DGS film number 8,117,163, image 965 of 1103.

  3. Little is known about William and Catherine Bonniwell’s two youngest children, Marietta and Walter. Page 100 of George Bonniwell’s book, The Bonniwells: 1000 Years, mentions that “Walter died as an infant and Marietta died at the age of nine years old.”

    It is possible that this fourth female in the mid-1846 Bonniwell household is infant Marietta, but there is conflicting data. Based on this 1846 census, it would appear that Marietta should have been born at least one day before the official date of enumeration on June 1, 1846. The only document I have seen that mentions Marietta by name is her family’s data on the federal census of 1850—the first “all name” federal census—where her age is listed as 3 years old.

    If Marietta was 3 years old on June 1, 1850—the official date of enumeration—that would suggest a birth date between June 2, 1847 and May 31, 1848. But the William T. Bonniwell family’s 1850 census page was actually enumerated on October 23, 1850. Which would suggest a birth date almost four months later than June 2, 1847 and May 31, 1848. So the fourth female in the William T. Bonniwell home in 1846 may not be Marietta at all, but some other person entirely.

    Also, this census indicates that the family’s youngest child, Walter, may have been born after the census date June 1, 1846 and may have died either before the enumeration of the 1850 census on June 1/October 23, 1850; alternatively, he was born and died after the that 1850 federal census. I have no further information on infant son Walter.

  4. The birth years of James Bonniwell’s sons, Evander and Roderick are also unclear. Compare the boys’ information in The Bonniwells, pages 111 and 114 with their ages as given in the James Bonniwell family’s federal census of 1850. It appears Evander was born in 1846, and Roderick was born in September, 1847, probably too late to be included on this 1846 territorial census.

  5. Page 111 of The Bonniwells, states that James Bonniwell’s daughter Josephine “was born October 13, 1840 at ‘Bonniwell Settlement.’ She is thought to have died in infancy.” However, the family’s 1850 census shows that ten-year-old Josephine was still alive at either the official date of enumeration, June 1, or the actual date of enumeration, Oct. 1, 1850.

  6. Chapter 19 of The Bonniwells includes much useful information about George and Tamer (Baisden) Bonniwell’s family. The couple did not have children of their own, but did adopt three, two girls and a boy. There appears to be some confusion (to me at least) about the birth dates and birth places of these three children. That, however, is a bit off the path for me to sort through right now, but if you are interested, compare the information for children Elvah, Frank and Josephine found in Chapter 19 of The Bonniwells, with the children’s data recorded on the George and Tamer Bonniwell family census returns for 1850, 1860 and 1870.

  7. The genealogy of Henry Bonniwell’s family needs more work also. Chapter 21 of The Bonniwells is devoted to the H. V. Bonniwell family and contains some interesting information about Henry and his first and second wives. Pages 132 and 133 list the sparse information that was known about Henry and Catherine (Reeves) Bonniwell’s eight children as of 1999. This genealogy mystery is also off the research path for me right now, but there is additional census and other documentation available for anyone interested in this quandary.

  8. I’m just going to sketch a few details about Walter Bonniwell’s first marriage, to Eleanor “Ellen” Bailey, in today’s post. I have several new and interesting documents to fill in the previously-hazy details of Walter’s first marriage and children, but I think those will need their own blog post. Stay tuned…

  9. I believe Mr. Snow was pastor of one of the major Methodist Churches in Milwaukee, but I need to double check that.

  10. Rachael (Gay) Turck’s death year is still unsure. The only “document” recording her death date is her gravestone at Milwaukee’s Forest Home Cemetery. That stone is dirty and heavily worn; the photographs I have seen are hard to decipher. I think she died in 1842, but it’s possible she died in 1844. Later this spring I need to get to Forest Home and take a closer look (and do some safe and gentle cleaning of the stone) to see if we can clarify Rachael’s death date.

  11. The unmarried members of the Peter Turck family, as of June 1, 1846, were: Joseph R. (b. 1832), Rachel G. (b. 1830), James B. (b. 1833), Sarah (the future Mrs. Alfred Bonniwell, b. 1835), and Benjamin (b. 1839). I have already speculated that one of the Peter Turck daughters (Sarah, perhaps?) might have been living with Jonathan M. and Mary (Turck) Clark and their young, growing family in 1846. Or was Sarah Turck living in the same household as her future spouse, Alfred Bonniwell, at Eleanor (Hills Bonniwell) Hyde’s home? At the moment, we can only speculate.