Shoveling out…

Homer, Winslow, A Winter-Morning,—Shovelling Out, 1871. Wood engraving. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Harvey Isbitts.

We had a winter storm yesterday, so I had to shovel the walks and driveway at our house a few times during the snowfall, and once again this morning.

Winter chores

I empathize with the lads in this 1871 engraving by Winslow Homer. Unlike those fellows, I have a lightweight, sturdy, ergonomic snow shovel to work with. And although we do get snow in Wisconsin, I haven’t had to deal with shoulder-high accumulations like the ones in Homer’s picture since I lived in western Massachusetts in the early 2010s. It looks like our 1871 snow shovelers are dealing with the kind of snowfall that the Clark’s neighbor Rev. Woodworth described in his January 15, 1871, diary entry.1 With yesterday’s storm, I don’t think my corner of southeast Wisconsin got more than 5 or 6 inches altogether.

And since I live in a suburban-type neighborhood of a good-sized Midwestern city, I don’t need to make a path to the barn so I can feed the livestock, milk the cows, and load up the sleigh with the full milk cans for a trip to the creamery.

Dairying in winter

Currier & Ives. Winter Morning in the Country, 1873. Library of Congress.

Of course, in 1840, when the Clark family began living and farming in Mequon, there was not yet a local creamery (nor, more critically, even one grist mill closer than Milwaukee). I don’t have detailed knowledge, but I believe commercial creameries eventually could be found in nearby towns and villages by sometime in the 1850s or ’60s.2 In those early years, if the Clarks had a dairy cow or two, they probably churned their own butter, and perhaps preserved some of the extra milk by making a little cheese.

Interestingly, several of Mary (Turck) Clark’s relatives ended up in the dairy business. Densmore W. Maxon, the husband of Mary’s sister Elizabeth Turck, built a sawmill and a creamery not far from the Maxon house in nearby Cedar Creek, Town of Polk, Washington County. For a number of years, in the 1880s and 1890s, Maxon’s Cedar Creek mill or creamery employed Mary Turck’s youngest brother, Benjamin Turck. (Long-time readers will remember that Benjamin was enumerated with the Clark family on the 1860 federal census.3) And in the early 20th century, Irving L. Bonniwell—the son of Alfred T. Bonniwell and Mary Clark’s sister Sarah (Turck) Bonniwell—ran a creamery in the not-too-distant West Bend area of Washington county.

I’m done with my chores for the day. If I can avoid further detours, I should be back with more Clark House history in a day or two. See you soon.



  1. I wonder, did Rev. Woodworth (in Wisconsin) and Winslow Homer (in New York?) experience the same, massive storm in 1871? A look at the Wisconsin and New York newspapers from mid-January, 1871, might be interesting.

  2. Readers: can any of you fill in my missing Mequon-area dairy history? When were the earliest dairies or creameries established near the Clark House? Perhaps in Hamilton, Cedarburg, or Thiensville? I’d love to know.

  3. Although Benjamin was enumerated with the Clark family, in Mequon, in 1860, I’m not 100% sure he was living with them that year. More on that in a future post.

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