Happy Anniversary!

The Clark House Historian blog is two years old today!

Our first post, “Welcome!,” was posted on March 29, 2016, and can be found here; it is also anchored at the top of the home page. More substantial posts (with photos!) followed  in April, introducing Jonathan M. Clark, his wife Mary Turck and the Clark House. In the years since, we’ve published 29 blog posts, almost 20,000 words, and dozens of historic images and maps. We’ve had over 2000 views from 512 visitors. Our readers are mostly from the United States, but we also have readers in Canada, the EU, South Korea, Germany and the Netherlands. Thank you all for your support!

Whether you are a new reader, or you’ve been following the blog since the beginning, here are some suggestions for catching up on missed posts or finding specific information that interests you: Continue reading

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History Mystery! No. 2

The Clark Family Record: What is it? Who created it?

Welcome to our second installment of the Clark House Historian’s History Mystery! in which you, the reader, are invited to Help the Historian and solve one of the many persistent mysteries surrounding Jonathan M. Clark, his family, and related unknowns of local history. In a previous post, we got to Meet the Children of the Clark family. One of the sources for that post is an image that I received from Clark descendant Liz Hickman (thanks, Liz!) of what looks like a single page removed from an old family bible. The page lists birth dates for Jonathan M. Clark, Mary Turck Clark, and their children, and death dates for Jonathan and his only son, Henry. It’s a key document for Clark family research and yet there is much we don’t know about it.  History Mystery! No. 2 seeks to answer: What is the Clark “Family Record,” who created it, and how accurate is it?

Here’s a copy of the image from our files: Continue reading

Santa Claus Visits, 1867: Reviewed

I hope you enjoyed our previous post: Santa Claus Visits Milwaukee, 1867, based on the diary of J. W. Woodworth.

Rev. Woodworth’s book is a unique and often entertaining source, but it’s always nice to back up personal recollections with additional contemporary documents. So I did a quick search of online Milwaukee area newspapers from the 1840s through about 1870 and found many mentions of Santa Claus and related traditions beginning in the late 1840s. And on page five of the Wednesday, December 25, 1867 edition of the Daily Milwaukee News I found this news item which adds a few piquant details in support of Rev. Woodworth’s diary entry: Continue reading

Santa Claus Visits Milwaukee, 1867 (updated)

Christmas is celebrated as an important religious and community holiday by many Americans. Christians worship and commemorate the birth of Jesus, and they and many other Americans enjoy a break from work and gather with family to feast and exchange gifts. But it was not always this way.

In many of the American colonies, Christmas was not observed as a religious or secular holiday. The seventeenth-century Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony considered Christmas to be non-biblical and pagan influenced, and in Boston and other parts of New England any observance of Christmas was prohibited and, for a few years, illegal. The holiday was not generally accepted in many parts of the United States until after the federal government made December 25 a national holiday in 1870. Continue reading

Rev. Woodworth’s Autobiography

James W. Woodworth (1813-1893) and his brother Ephraim were among the earliest settlers in Mequon. They came from Nova Scotia, as did several other early Mequon settlers and families, including Isaac Bigelow, Daniel Strickland and Stephen Loomer. On March 1, 1838, J. W. Woodworth married fellow Nova Scotia emigrant and Mequon neighbor Mary Cerena Loomer. The marriage was believed to be the first Christian marriage in old Washington county and was performed by Mary Turck Clark’s father, Peter Turck, “an anabaptist preacher.”

J. W. Woodworth, like so many Protestant Christians of his era, was a man in search of a powerful and authentic connection to God. He found his answer in the 1830s and ’40s through Methodism. And, after many years of intense self-instruction, camp meetings, private prayer and preaching at local worship services, Woodworth was certified as a Methodist minister.

For much of his life Rev. Woodworth kept a diary of both the spiritual and mundane events of his life. He published the diary in Milwaukee in 1878 as My Path and the Way the Lord Led Me.  Continue reading

Fort Howard, November 1833

Previous posts have discussed Jonathan M. Clark’s enlistment in the U.S. Army’s Fifth Regiment of Infantry, Company K (part 1, part 2, part 3) and his arrival at Fort Howard (Green Bay), in the Michigan (later Wisconsin) Territory (part 1, part 2, part 3) on October 20, 1833. Let’s rejoin the regiment and see what kept Co. K busy during Pvt. Clark’s first full month on duty, November, 1833. Continue reading

Ouisconsin Territory, 1836

In September, 1836, Sgt. Jonathan M. Clark was discharged from the U.S. Army at “Ft. Hamilton,” Wisconsin Territory, after serving his three-year term of service with Co. K, Fifth Regiment of Infantry.  One year later, in the autumn of 1837, Jonathan’s future wife Mary Turck would make the long trip from Palmyra, New York, to Milwaukee and finally Mequon, Washington County, Wisconsin, with her parents Peter and Rachael Turck and six younger siblings. By the end of 1840 Jonathan and Mary would be married and starting their family in Mequon.

That seems simple enough, until you take a moment to wonder how much Jonathan—or especially Mary and her family—knew about this new Wisconsin Territory.  Jonathan had been in the territory since October, 1833, building portions of the military road along the Fox River waterway from Ft. Howard (Green Bay) towards Ft. Winnebago (near modern Portage). As a road building soldier, Jonathan probably had seen—or helped draw—a variety of maps of the military road and its vicinity. But for a better overview of the larger territory, Jonathan or Mary might have sought out a map such as this: Continue reading

History Mystery! No. 1 (of many)

Jonathan & Mary & ? on the 1840 Census

Introducing a new feature on the blog: History Mystery! In which you, the reader, are invited to Help the Historian solve one of the many persistent mysteries surrounding Jonathan M. Clark, his family, and related bits of local history.  History Mystery! No. 1 seeks to answer the question: Who was that older guy living with newlyweds Jonathan and Mary Clark in June, 1840? Here are the clues: Continue reading