Still digging…

I’m still digging in the archives, trying to wrap up our ongoing exploration of the Bonniwell family adventures in the California gold fields, bring (almost) everyone back to Mequon, and finish our (unexpectedly long and thorough) look at the life of Jonathan and Mary Clark’s brother-in-law, Alfred T. Bonniwell.

I’m currently mining a rich vein of 1850 and ’52 census documents for California and Wisconsin, as well as contemporary ships’ passenger manifests and published newspaper announcements of maritime comings and goings. Once again, I have a large pile of raw material to sift through and write about, and it’s taking more time than expected. I hope to have things organized for you next week. In the meanwhile, I thought you might enjoy this painting, made in California at the same time as the Bonniwell expedition, Miners in the Sierra:

As always, be sure to click the image to open a larger, higher-resolution image in a new window.

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Monday: Map Day! — the Bonniwells & Co. and the 1850 census (part 2)

UPDATED, Jan. 9, 2023, to correct a few minor errors.

Our December 15, 2022 post, The Bonniwells & Co. and the 1850 census (part 1), ended with a cliffhanger:

So the members of the overland Bonniwell overland expedition were not enumerated on the decennial census while on the trail [in Nebraska] in the summer of 1850. According to George Bonniwell’s diary, the party did not arrive in the gold country until August 8th, eight months after the disastrous California floods of January, 1850. […] Would the census still be in progress in the hills and valleys of the mining district? Would any members of either Bonniwell party have a chance to be enumerated in California? Recording the census in the frenzy and wilderness of gold rush California must have been a daunting task. Could the government’s enumerators get up into the scattered high-country mining camps? Did they enumerate all the miners and merchants and other California settlers? Would the paper census forms survive the wilderness, weather—and wild times—of 1850 California?1

Today we’ll see if we can answer those questions.

Gold rush counties, c. 1850

Since the federal decennial census is always enumerated by counties, let’s get our bearings by looking at this contemporary map of the California gold region, showing the various county boundaries at that time:

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