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

Continue reading

Alfred Bonniwell documents – part 2: New York

Today’s post continues our series about the life of Alfred Bonniwell, youngest son of Mequon’s Bonniwell family, and brother-in-law of Jonathan and Mary (Turck) Clark. If you missed them, our first installments are herehere and here.
UPDATED, February 2, 2022, to include additional information and a link to an earlier post about Bonniwell brother-in-law Philip Moss.
UPDATED, May 22, 2022, to correct Charles Bonniwell’s birth year (should be 1806)

Following their father’s death and burial in Montréal, Lower Canada, on October 18, 1832, the Bonniwell family was at a crossroads. Their original plan to patent land in Lower Canada had to be abandoned. As eldest son Charles Bonniwell recalled;

[…] the family received letters from the brothers who had located in New York [George and William] to come there without delay, and so [we] lost no time in taking the trip by way of Lake Champlain and Whitehall. I went to work in New York [City] where my brothers had employment at the navy yard.1

Whitehall, New York state’s port of entry at the south end of Lake Champlain, was an important waypoint for the Bonniwells, as it would also be for Jonathan M. Clark and other future Mequon neighbors. For more on that, including a handsome lithograph of Whitehall as it appeared c. 1828-1829, see How’d they get here? – JMC, the Bonniwells, and Whitehall, NY

As it turns out, Charles Bonniwell’s statement, “[we] lost no time in taking the trip by way of Lake Champlain and Whitehall,” may be a bit of a generalization. While I have not had a chance to collect or examine copies of the actual naturalization documents for all the Bonniwell boys, the modern index cards for those papers indicate that at the time of father William T. B. Bonniwell’s death the family was already dispersed at several locations. They would eventually reunite and migrate to Wisconsin Territory in 1839.

Where’s Alfred?

Many aspects of the lives of the Bonniwell family in New York are not well documented, including the activities of young Alfred T. Bonniwell. Alfred was only six and a half years old when his father died in Montréal in October, 1832. According to his naturalization papers (filed in Milwaukee on April 6, 1849, and summarized on this modern index card), we know Alfred entered the United States at Whitehall, New York, sometime in November, 1832.

This index card—and Alfred’s 1849 final citizenship document that it summarizes—are the only two official records that I have located that document Alfred’s years in New York state. Without some of the Bonniwell family papers cited in The Bonniwells, and the newspaper articles featuring Charles’s recollections, much of Alfred’s—and his family’s—life from 1832 to 1839 would be a complete mystery.

Based on brother Charles’s recollections, and other documents we have, we can assume that when Alfred came to the U.S. he was accompanied by his mother and several of his siblings, including brothers Charles (27), James (21), and Walter (age 8), and sister Eleanor (18). But not brother Henry (age about 14); more on Henry’s wanderings, below. But my understanding of which Bonniwell migrated via which port, to which destination, and what they did after arrival, is not completely clear. In fact, the family did not all travel together from Montréal to New York, via Whitehall, in November, 1832. Let’s look at the documents for more information…

Continue reading

Alfred Bonniwell documents – part 1: England to Canada

Today’s post is another installment in our new series about the life of Alfred Bonniwell, youngest son of Mequon’s Bonniwell family, and brother-in-law of Jonathan and Mary (Turck) Clark. If you missed them, our first installments are here and here. Although I—and others—have written quite a bit about the Bonniwells in Mequon, Alfred and his family have remained something of a mystery. It’s time to try and fix that. So for the next few posts our focus will be on Alfred Bonniwell, his life and descendants, as described in contemporary documents.

Alfred Bonniwell’s earliest record

The earliest record of Alfred Bonniwell that I have seen is an index of his 1826 baptism.1 It includes this information:

Name: Alfred Febbett Bonniwell
Christening Date: 7 May 1826
Christening Place: St. Mary’s, Chatham, Kent, England
Father’s Name: William Bonniwell
Mother’s Name Eleanor Bonniwell

St. Mary’s Church, Chatham, Kent. Photo copyright ©2008 David Anstiss; licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License, lightly cropped for this blog. Source. Click to open larger image in new window.

Other, later, records indicate that Alfred was born on April 1, 1826. A baptism in the following month or so—such as on May 7th, 1826—would be pretty typical for Anglican parish baptisms of the period. So the date, as well as the names of the parents, are consistent with what we already knew about Mequon’s Alfred Bonniwell.

Continue reading

How’d they get here? – JMC, the Bonniwells, and Whitehall, NY

We’ve mentioned Whitehall, New York, on several occasions. Located just east of the south end of Lake Champlain, the town of Whitehall has long claimed to be the “Birthplace of the U.S. Navy.” More importantly for our story, in 1823 Whitehall became the northern terminus of the Champlain Canal, connecting the Hudson River and the Erie Canal to Lake Champlain and points further north.1

Port of Entry

More importantly for our story, Whitehall served as an international port of entry for immigrants coming to New York and New England from Canada and overseas via the St. Lawrence River and Lake Champlain. In the early 1830s, these immigrants included Jonathan M. Clark, who came from Lower Canada in April, 1831,2 and the entire Bonniwell family, who arrived the following year.3

What did our immigrants of 1831 and ’32 see just before they stepped ashore in the United States? The hustle and bustle of a major harbor and center of commerce such as New York, Boston or Philadelphia? Er, no. Instead, this is what greeted our intrepid newcomers:

Whitehall, Lake Champlain

Milbert, Jacques Gerard, Amerique Septentrionale – Etat de New-York. N. 21, pl. 1…White Hall, Lake Champlain, Lithograph by Bichebois and Adam, Paris, 1828–1829. Yale Art Gallery, Mabel Brady Garvan Collection. Public Domain. Click to open larger image in new window.

Continue reading

Caroline M. (Clark) Woodward: a closer look at that 1893 biography

Today, as we continue to explore the life of Jonathan M. and Mary (Turck) Clark’s eldest child, Caroline Mary Clark—later usually known as Mrs. C. M. Woodward—we’ll take a fact-by-fact look at the biographical sketch of Caroline that was published in 1893, re-printed unchanged in 1897, then abridged and reprinted in 1912. For a full discussion of these three publications, see last Monday’s Caroline M. (Clark) Woodward: first steps toward a biography.

Willard, Frances E., and Mary A. Livermore. 1893. A woman of the century ; fourteen hundred-seventy biographical sketches accompanied by portraits of leading American women in all walks of life ; ed. by Frances E. Willard and Mary A. Livermore, assisted by a corps of able contributors, title page and page 779.

Today’s post will be less of a fully-formed essay, and more of a running analysis, commentary, and proof-reading of this 1893 biographical sketch. We’ll take one portion at at time, starting at the beginning. The source text will be presented as a shaded quotation, followed by my commentary and corrections in simple black text on white background, with highlighted links to additional sources and explanations and, of course, a few footnotes, too. Here we go…

Continue reading

Monday: Map Day! – Ft. Howard & Green Bay, 1827

Last time, we illustrated our look at Ft. Howard with this detail from the first widely-available map of Wisconsin—and the first map of the territory based on official surveys—published in 1837:

Detail, Topographical map of Wisconsin Territory / compiled from the Public Surveys on file in the Surveyor General’s office … by Samuel Morrison, Elisha Dwelle [and] Joshua Hathaway, 1837. American Geographical Society Library Digital Map Collection, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Click the detail map to open a larger version in a new window. Click here for a link to the complete map at UW-M with full bibliographic information.

This detail—showing Fort Howard, Navarino and, at the top, the southern end of Green Bay—was the subject of a Monday: Map Day! post in December, 2020, and gives a good picture of the topography and settled areas along the final miles of the Fox River as it empties into Green Bay. But on closer look, the details of the fort and its layout are very vague, limited to one X-shaped symbol. For a better understanding of Fort Howard in its most active era, we need to look at the actual 1823/1827 federal survey upon which the 1837 map was based:

Private Claims at Green Bay, 1823/1827

Detail, [Title section] of map, Private Claims at Green Bay, surveyed in July, Aug.t & Sept.r 1823; see image of complete map for full citation. Click to open larger image in new window.

Continue reading

How’d they get here? – Great Lakes ships, circa 1837

Our series of “How’d they get here?” posts is written to illustrate the nuts and bolts of how our early Mequon pioneers travelled from their original homes or ports of arrival in North America to the newly opened federal lands in Wisconsin Territory, circa 1830-1850. Today’s post continues our westward journey from Buffalo; see Note 1 (below) for links to earlier posts in the series.

The ships at Detroit, 1837

We closed our previous post with a brief look at a colorful aquatint of the ships and small craft on the Detroit River, a major port on the Great Lakes route between Buffalo and Chicago in the 1830s and ’40s. The print was published in 1837, and is an excellent illustration of almost all of the important types of ships in use during the years of Wisconsin Territory settlement:

Bennett, William J., after a sketch by Frederick K. Grain, City of Detroit, Michigan. Taken from the Canada shore near the Ferry., hand-colored aquatint on engraving, ca. 1837. National Gallery of Art, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. Public Domain. Click to open larger image in new window.

If you’re not clear on your Michigan and Upper Canada (now Ontario) geography, the artist was standing on the Canadian shore, looking west across the river to the city of Detroit. The two steamboats at the left center of the picture are headed north, upstream on the Detroit River that connects Lake Erie to Lake St. Clair and, via the St. Clair River, to Lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior.

Given that the picture shows leafy green foliage and men in shirt-sleeves, it was probably drawn in the spring or summer of 1837 (or a perhaps a year or two earlier?). In August, 1837, the Peter Turck family—including eldest daughter Mary Turck—migrated from Wayne county, New York, to Milwaukee via this exact route and, perhaps, on one of the ships shown in this picture. Other Mequon immigrants, including the Bigelow, Bonniwell, Loomer, Strickland and Woodworth families (and many others), would have seen similar views as they travelled from the eastern seaboard to Wisconsin Territory in the ’30s and ’40s.

There is a lot to see here. Let’s take a closer look…

Continue reading

Monday: Map Day! – The United States of North America, 1825

UPDATED August 16, 2021, to include more information on the Ho-Chunk language, inadvertently omitted from the original post.

I’m working on more posts for our series about the early Mequon immigrants and “How’d they get here?” I needed a map that showed all of the Great Lakes, as well as the Eastern seaboard states and ports from which these immigrants began their westward journeys. And hey, I found a great map from 1825, the year the Erie Canal was completed:

Finley, Anthony and David H. Vance, Map Of The United States Of North America. Philadelphia, 1825. Credit, David Rumsey Map Collection, David Rumsey Map Center, Stanford Libraries, non-commercial use permitted under Creative Commons license. Click image to open larger map in new window. 

Continue reading

How’d they get here? – Steamboats!

How the early settlers came to Mequon, c. 1835-1850 (part 2)

This is part 2 of a series focused on how our Mequon pioneers traveled to southeast Wisconsin in the early days of white settlement, between roughly 1835 and 1850. If you missed part 1, it’s here at Monday: Map Day! – How’d they get here?, plus a short post with bonus image at Steamboat’s coming!

From the late 1820s until about 1850, if you wanted to get from the settled American northeast to the open frontiers of the West, the fastest, safest, and cheapest way to get there was by water. Thousands of New Yorkers, New Englanders, Canadians, and overseas immigrants that had come from Europe to America’s eastern ports, found the Great Lakes route—west on the Erie Canal to Buffalo, and then by water through the Lakes to Chicago and Milwaukee—was their preferred route to new homes on the western frontier. And many of those settlers traveled on the newest, fastest craft afloat: the steamboat.

View of Detroit…1837

Here’s something really special for Clark House history lovers, a detailed drawing of the various kinds of sailing ships and steamboats as they passed by Detroit, Michigan on a sunny day in 1837, as seen from the Canadian side of the Detroit River. Take a close look; this is the view Peter Turck and his family—including daughter Mary, the future spouse of Jonathan M. Clark—would have seen as they traveled to Milwaukee in August of the same year1:

Bennett, William J., after a sketch by Frederick K. Grain, City of Detroit, Michigan. Taken from the Canada shore near the Ferry., hand-colored aquatint on engraving, ca. 1837. National Gallery of Art, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. Public Domain. Click to open larger image in new window.

Continue reading

Erie Canal – the Woodworth family, 1835 (part 2)

Continuing our look at the influence of the Erie Canal on the lives of Mequon pioneers such as Jonathan M. Clark and the Peter and Rachael (Gay) Turck family (here and here), and the Bonniwell family (here). Today’s post continues our look at the first of two migrations of brother Ephraim and James Woodworth from Nova Scotia to their eventual home in Mequon. This post will make more sense if you read Part 1 first. The Woodworths were among many immigrants from Nova Scotia—including the Strickland, Loomer, Bigelow and West families—that came to Mequon and other parts of old Washington/Ozaukee county, Wisconsin Territory, during the early decades of settlement. 

Setting the scene: Eastern Canada and the Northeast United States, c. 1835

Here’s an annotated version of the map we featured in Part 1. As always, be sure to click the map to open a larger, high-resolution version in a new window. (If you’d like to see an enlarged, zoomable version of the original map, just click here.) Today’s annotated map illustrates the Woodworths’ 1835 trip as recorded in James W. Woodworth’s published diary.1 Later in this post we have another—more detailed— map to show the brothers’ wanderings in Ohio.

Continue reading