Back to School, 1831: JMC in Stanstead?

In an earlier post I wrote: I’m still on the hunt for the elusive parents and kin of Jonathan M. Clark. Based on what we know so far, we are looking in the area of Derby, Orleans County, Vermont and its northern neighbor Stanstead Township, Lower Canada, circa 1800-1830 or so.

Well, the hunt continues, and today I thought I’d share with you another Back to School tidbit, a “hot tip” that I’ve been meaning to write about for a while. The tip—and its source—comes from Clark-Turck family descendant and Clark House Museum supporter Liz Hickman1, who kindly gave me a copy of this fascinating book:

Kathleen H. Brown’s comprehensively researched and encyclopedic Schooling in the Clearings: Stanstead 1800-1850 is devoted to the early history of public and private education in Quebec’s Eastern Townships and, in particular, Stanstead Township. That might seem like a highly specialized corner of North American history on which to focus, and I suppose it is. But Ms. Brown’s heroic labors in the archives are now a readable and invaluable resource for those of us trying to learn more about the early settlers in the Eastern Townships and their children including, possibly, the earliest record of Jonathan M. Clark known to date.2

Jonathan Clark, March, 1831

There were many Clark families and Clark children scattered through wilderness of Stanstead township in the early decades of the 1800s. Many of them are listed on the pages of Schooling in the Clearings. But as best as I can tell, the name “Jonathan Clark” appears only once, on page 211, Table A.23.5, the list of pupils at the Fox (Jones) School: March 1831. Ms. Brown’s transcription lists him as “Clark, Jonathan, [age] 18.” The only other Clark surname on this list belongs to “Clark, Charles, 9.” Are they related? And is this “our” Jonathan M. Clark?

At the moment, the answer is “we’re not sure.” But since we believe Jonathan was born November 12, 1812, his age in March, 1831, should be 18 years, and that is the age of the Jonathan Clark recorded on the Fox (Jones) School list. This could, indeed, be our earliest record of Jonathan M. Clark.3

As for nine year old Charles Clark, he could be related to Jonathan, but we don’t yet have any evidence connecting the two.

The Fox (Jones) School

What was the Fox (Jones) School? Kathleen Brown describes it on page 68 of Schooling in the Clearings:

Jones School (later renamed Fox), the last Royal Institution school established in Stanstead Township, was in a remote place the Rev. Johnson called the “hard scrabble” district. The residents had built a decent school house but were unable to raise funds to pay a teacher. When their request for an allowance [i.e., government funding] was granted, 74 pupils registered, including six males between the ages of 20 and 25. In a district that had never had a school before, many wanted to make up for lost time. Fewer older pupils attended in subsequent years, but an 1832 law that limited public school funding to children between the ages of five and 15 was most unpopular. School visitors observed that there were children in the district, both younger and older who wanted to attend school and whose parents could not afford to pay tuition. Overcrowding at Jones School was relieved when a new assembly school opened nearby. The exact location of Jones school was not recorded, but other information suggests it was somewhere near range 14, lot 16.

The earliest schools in Stanstead may have begun operation by 1804. The following years saw the establishment of a variety of other, small, locally-organized schools. The first of the Lower Canada government-sponsored “Royal Institution Schools” in the township opened in 1826. The Jones (Fox) School, the last of the Royal Institution Schools in Stanstead, was only open from 1829 to 1836. If our JMC is the “Jonathan Clark” on the 1831 Fox (Jones) School list, then he may not have had much opportunity for organized schooling until he was in his late teens. The fact that this 18-year-old Jonathan Clark did go to school at such a “late” age is wholly in keeping with daughter Caroline Clark Woodward’s description of her father, “our” Jonathan M. Clark, in her 1893 biographical sketch:

Her father, Jonathan M. Clark, was a Vermonter of English descent, who, born in 1812, of Revolutionary parentage, inherited an intense American patriotism. Her mother, Mary Turch Clark, of German and French ancestry, was born and bred on the banks of the Hudson river. Both were persons of more than ordinary education and, though burdened with the cares of a family of one son and seven daughters, were life-long students.4

The Fox (Jones) School evaluated, Spring, 1831

Pages 209-210 of Schooling in the Clearings contains transcriptions of the evaluations made of the Fox (Jones) school by the provincial government’s official school visitors. In Spring, 1831—around the time “Jonathan Clark” was recorded as a Fox School pupil—the visitors were local farmer and school booster Moody Fox and Rev. C. Jackson. Their report included the following observations:

Teachers: Hiram Davis, Benjamin Rogers, Lucy Curtis
Now known as Fox’s School. The scholars are considerably advanced and aacquitted themselves well in reading, spelling , grammar and geography. In writing and arithmetic they are no[t] so proficient.

Any other genealogical clues?

Schooling in the Clearings is not a genealogy book. But its lists of adult petitioners and school-age pupils do include possible clues for further Clark family research. Page 209 includes Table A.21 “Petitioners Requesting a School in Jones’ District, 27 March 1828.” Among the 33 petitioners, all local men, we find the name “John Clark.” Could this be the father of the Charles Clark and Jonathan Clark from the 1832 list? Or perhaps a cousin or uncle or older brother? We don’t know.

Also on that 1828 list is petitioner Jonathan Morrill. The name Morrill, in various spellings including Morrell, Merrill, and so forth, is ubiquitous in early Stanstead. Is this Jonathan Morrill related to our Jonathan Morrell Clark? Again, we don’t know. But it’s tantalizing.

Two other names on the 1828 list of petitioners are John Nix and James Paul. I suspect “Nix” is an error, either on the original list or a later transcription. I believe this is John Rix, especially since there are no “Nix” surnames on the school pupil lists, but lots and lots of Rix children. The Rix family is important in early Stanstead and at least one branch of the Stanstead Rix family migrated to Washington/Ozaukee county in autumn, 1844.

I have a book-length genealogy of the Rix family in my files, and I need to spend time sorting out the branches of this large American-Canadian family. But I do know that JMC’s near-contemporary, another man named John Rix, was born in nearby Barnston, Lower Canada, in 1810 and died in Polk Township, Washington Co., Wisconsin in 1869. He first married, in Canada, Miss Mary Paul (1813-1856). There are many, many Paul surnames on the lists of pupils in Schooling in the Clearings. How Mary Paul, future wife of John Rix, may (or may not) be related to the Paul children that attended the Fox (Jones) School in the early 1830s with “Jonathan Clark” is also not yet known.5

Further research

In my 2020 post, I noted that the very early Diagram [Map] of Stanstead Township, c. 1800-1809 under discussion already had one Clark landowner on it, Wm. Clark, occupying lot 9, 10th range. Also of special interest are the families of Jas. Paul and [unnamed] Rix, as descendants of these two families married in the Stanstead area and made a well-documented move to Mequon in the 1840s.

I still have a lot of work to do in order to figure out who lived where, when, in early Stanstead. I still need to identify all the Clark families of Stanstead and the neighboring townships; Schooling in the Clearlings lists quite a few Clark families there by the 1830s. And then I hope to compare the Clarks on the map with other early Stanstead sources, including the 1825 Census of Lower Canada, the important early local history/genealogy Forests and Clearings by B. F. Hubbard, and with another very interesting, but somewhat later, annotated map of Stanstead.

Will we find Jonathan M. Clark’s kin? Will they be in Lower Canada or Vermont? I plan to focus on that in a month or so. Meanwhile, we need to get Alfred Bonniwell & Co. back from the California gold fields and [spoiler alert!] married into the Clark-Turck family. And there’s much yet to discover in the historic Bonniwell Bible.

See you soon…

________________________________

NOTES:

  1. Some years ago Liz and her husband Bob went “Clark hunting” up in the Derby, Vermont and Stanstead, Quebec area. Liz didn’t find the elusive JMC genealogy “smoking gun,” but she found many interesting things, including this book, and subsequently spent quite a bit of time wading through the first decades of Stanstead school pupil lists as transcribed by Ms. Brown to find today’s possible link to (our?) Jonathan Clark. The book also lists the names of many more Clark, Morrill, and Rix family members that may be connected our JMC and his kin. There is still much more to be done with this source. Thanks, Liz!

  2. Brown, Kathleen H., Schooling in the Clearings: Stanstead 1800-1850, Stanstead Historical Society, 2001. ISBN: 0-9689485-0-2

    This book was published by, and may still be available from the Stanstead Historical Society. For full contact information, see their web page at the Society’s Colby-Curtis Museum website: https://colbycurtis.ca/stanstead-historical-society/

  3. As discussed in that earlier post, Jonathan M. Clark’s birth year has been variously recorded as 1811 or 1812. Based on the preponderance of evidence, I lean toward 1812 being the correct year.

  4. This 1893 biographical sketch manages to make several errors in the one sentence describing Mary Turck Clark. “Turch” is a misprint for Turck. And Mary’s parents were from old Dutch-American (Turck) and Dutch/English-American (Gay) families; I don’t think there is a French branch anywhere on Mary Turck Clark’s family tree.

    But does this suggest that one or both of Caroline Clark’s parents spoke some French? Did JMC know the language from his time in or near Lower Canada/Quebec or around the Métis community near Fort Howard? Or perhaps Mary Turck learned some at a progressive public or private school in Wayne county, New York? It’s fun to speculate. Be sure to see the original post for more details.

  5. And just to make the genealogy even more complicated, and the potential ties to Stanstead and Washington/Ozaukee county stronger:
    • when Mary Paul Rix (1813-1856) died [remember she was the first wife of John Rix (1810-1869)], John Rix married again
    • John Rix’s second wife was one Martha A Farrington (b. ~1836 in Canada).
    • John Rix lived and worked near (or in collaboration with) Mary Turck Clark’s brother-in-law Densmore W. Maxon in Cedar Creek, Polk Township, Washington County, Wisconsin
    • after John Rix died in 1869, he was buried in the Maxon family cemetery in Cedar Creek
    • John Rix’s widow, Martha Farrington Rix, married Mary Turck Clark’s youngest brother, Benjamin Turck (1839-1926) in 1876
    • Martha and Benjamin moved, with her three children, to Minnesota to try farming
    • but their marriage did not last. Martha and the kids remained in Minnesota and Benjamin Turck returned to Cedar Creek and later nearby Hartford, where he returned to the family trades of sawmill and creamery operations.

    Someday, when I have a lot of time, I’ll make a big genealogical flowchart of all the relationships. That should be an interesting exercise.

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