1850 census: more neighbors “in Wisconsin”– while prospecting in California

Recently, we took a closer look at the 1850 census for old Washington county1 and noticed that six men from the neighboring Bonniwell families—men that we know from other records were actually half a continent away, prospecting for gold in California—were officially enumerated as members of their Wisconsin families in census schedules for Mequon and Grafton. In addition, we now know that those six Bonniwell men were not the only members of their expedition to be enumerated with the families they left behind in old Washington county.

Persons “whose usual place of abode…”

In the months since my original attempt to identify and list all the members of the Bonniwell 1849 and 1850 expeditions in Gold! – The Bonniwells go west…but when? and who?, I have been able to identify—with varying degrees of confidence—several other members of their California expeditions. I have more details to share about the lives of these men later, when time permits. For today, I’d like to briefly introduce each of them and make note of their presence on the 1850 census schedules for old Washington Co., Wisconsin, even though all were still seeking fortunes in California at the time they were enumerated.

Phineas Miller “P.M.” Johnson (1808-1876)

P. M. Johnson was, with William T. Bonniwell, one of the co-organizers of the Bonniwell 1849 and 1850 expeditions to the California gold region. We know that he was still in California in 1849-1850, but he was enumerated on lines 37-42, page 229a of the 1850 census for Grafton, Washington Co., Wisconsin with his wife, Orra Ann (Collins) Johnson and his four eldest children: Ransom W., Samuel C., William H., and George.2

The P.M Johnson family’s 1850 enumeration concludes on the reverse of this schedule, lines 1-4, page 229b, with the information for their youngest four offspring, Anna, Edwin, Julia, and four-month-old Harriet.

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