I must have drifted off…

Inman, Henry. Rip Van Winkle Awakening from his Long Sleep, 1823. National Gallery of Art, gift of William and Abigail Gerdts. Public Domain.

A long “nap”

Unlike Rip van Winkle, I haven’t been asleep the whole time since our previous post. But we are well overdue for new blog material. I’ve got a big backlog of documents and images to share with you; all I need to do is get writing. But first…

Be sure to vote today!

It’s election day today, and your vote counts. If you haven’t already done so, get out of the house, over to your polling place, and vote. Voting is your right and responsibility as a citizen, and an indispensable element of our nation since the earliest days of the Republic.

Not surprisingly, voting and public service were an important part of life in the Clark House era. From 1840 onward, Jonathan M. Clark, Peter Turck, William T. Bonniwell and many other relatives and neighbors sought, and won, appointment or election to a wide variety of local, territorial and state offices. Voting—then limited to white males only—was a priority for Mequon’s early settlers, and they never failed to turn out in large numbers for each election. Their passion for civic engagement and electoral politics was, in turn, passed to the next generation.

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JCH News: Play Ball!

I just got some fun news from Jonathan Clark House executive director Dana Hansen:

While the weather doesn’t feel like it at the moment, our fundraiser game with the Chinooks is coming up very soon! Make sure to purchase your packages asap for the game on June 3rd as they will be opening up general ticket sales May 2nd, and expect to sell out. See the poster below for more information, and hope to see you out at the ball game!


Click to open larger image in a new window.

Batter up! for history.

So if you’d like to support the Clark House—and enjoy an fun evening at the ballpark—call and reserve your game package for Friday, June 3rd, 2022, and don’t forget promo code JCH.

And even though the Chinooks and the Rafters will play by modern rules, I’m sure Old Abe would approve…

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“J. M. Clarke” – Town Supervisor, 1846

Every now and then it pays to take a fresh look at familiar sources. One of the key sources for the early history of Mequon and its parent counties is The History of Washington and Ozaukee Counties, Wisconsin […] Illustrated, published in Chicago in 1881. And even though I’ve been using this book for Clark House research for over a decade, I still discover (or, in this case, re-discover) facts about Mequon—and, specifically, Jonathan M. Clark—that I had either not known before, or had noticed, “filed for future reference,” and forgotten to write about. Today’s post fixes one such omission.1

The first meeting of the Town of Mequon, April 7, 1846

Page 525 of The History… contains a load of information about the beginnings of town government in Spring, 1846. Unfortunately, it’s the sort of densely worded, 19th-century “history” writing that makes the reader want to skip ahead to something less dry. Here, take a look; start with the first full paragraph, beginning “The town was incorporated”…

The History of Washington and Ozaukee Counties, Wisconsin […] Illustrated, Western Historical Co., Chicago, 1881, page 525, pdf of full book via GoogleBooks. Additional online, pdf copies can be found at Hathi Trust, the Wisconsin Historical Society and Archive.org. Click to open larger image in new window.

That’s a lot of info: names, dates, job titles. Let’s break things up a bit and take a closer look at what’s going on as old Washington county transitioned from the original county-wide system of government to the new system, in which each town will be responsible for much of its own governance.

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Gone fishing…

Well, I haven’t actually gone fishing, but I am taking another short break, and I thought I’d illustrate this with a historic drawing or lithograph of some Clark-era folks fishing. A little play on words. Just for fun and all.

The best I could do today—alas—was this 1848 political cartoon:

N. Currier. The Presidential fishing party of. United States, 1848. [New York: Pub. by Peter Smith i.e., Nathaniel Currier, 2 Spruce St., N.Y]. Library of Congress. Click to open larger image in new window; this is the only way to view the text clearly, by the way.

Like all political cartoons of the era it is heavy-handed, visually busy, and full of long-winded text, explaining some now-obscure but highly-contentious issue of the day in the most tedious manner possible. (This is why I usually avoid using 19th-century political cartoons to enliven the discussion here at Clark House Historian.)

What’s it all about?

Anyway, 1848 was an important year for the nation, and for our Mequon settlers. The war with Mexico ended, Wisconsin attained statehood and—closer to home—the Jonathan M. Clark house was built. This cartoon, verbose as it may be, actually covers some key issues of the 1848 U.S. presidential race. Here’s a helpful explanation from the staff at the Library of Congress (I’ve added a few paragraph breaks for easier reading):

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Inauguration Day

Today we celebrate the inauguration of the forty-sixth president of the United States. The inauguration of a president is traditionally a time to take stock and ponder the direction of the republic. I expect that President Biden—like many of his predecessors—will try and make the best of his opportunity. (I’m writing this before the ceremony; I don’t know if he succeeded.) For a little inspiration—for us all—let’s look back at one of the great American speeches—perhaps the most moving and inspired of all the inaugural addresses—delivered at one of the most difficult and dangerous moments in our history.

A second term, and Union victory, were not certain…

For much of 1864, president Abraham Lincoln’s prospects for reelection looked dim. Union forces had suffered notable defeats and horrifying casualties in early 1864, and many in the North were tired of the cost of the war, both in dollars and human suffering. If not for Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s timely capture of Atlanta on September 2, 1864, Lincoln might have lost the election to Gen. George B. McClellan. McClellan sought to end the war by negotiating an armistice with the South. Such an armistice would have ended the fighting, but would not have solved the cause of the war: the continued existence of chattel slavery in the South and in the new U.S. territories and states forming in the West. But Lincoln’s popularity soared after Sherman’s decisive victories during the Atlanta campaign—especially after the fall of Atlanta—and the incumbent president won a decisive popular and electoral college victory on November 8, 1865.

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Early Election Returns!

While we’re all waiting for this year’s votes to be counted, here’s a revised and updated repeat of a post that first appeared here on November 8, 2016.

Really early returns, from Mequon’s—and Washington County’s— first election, 1840.

In an earlier post, I outlined some of the key moments in the settlement and changing political boundaries of early Washington/Ozaukee county. Originally attached to Milwaukee County for all civil and judicial matters, old Washington County got its civil independence by act of the Territorial Legislature on February 19, 1840. And on “the second Monday of October next,” i.e., October 12, 1840, the first election to chose county officers was held at the Mequon home of Taylor Heavilon.1, 2

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Election Day, 2020

or, How to Preserve Our Constitutional Republic

A guide for the perplexed…

  • Today is Election Day
  • Every voter should have free, fair, safe, convenient access to the polls
  • If you haven’t done so already, go vote
  • After the polls close, count all the votes
  • This may take time
  • In some locations, this may take days
  • We are adults, we can wait

Follow these steps and you—yes, you—will help preserve, protect, and defend our constitution and representative government, and also prevent embarrassing and potentially de-stabilizing nonsense like this:

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Presidential Elections — the early years…

Well, the big day is just a week away. Here at Clark House Historian I try and remain officially non-partisan. But as a researcher and writer, and as an American with long, deep, roots in this country, I have a passionate interest in our nation and its history, and a life-long desire to see us live up to our highest ideals and aspirations. (Of course, human nature being what it is, we have not always lived up to those ideals.)

So with the election approaching, today’s post takes a look at the political leanings of early Washington County and—after its establishment in 1853—Ozaukee County, with an emphasis on presidential elections from 1848 to 1880. Our main source today is the invaluable History of Washington and Ozaukee counties, Wisconsin […], published in Chicago in 1881. Let’s begin with some of the earliest results, following statehood in early 1848:

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1840 Election Updates

The previous post on the first election in old Washington County relied heavily on the 1881 History of Washington and Ozaukee Counties. It’s a useful book, and it’s possible that the  author(s) or editor(s) that prepared it for publication spent some time with the historical documents that still existed at that time, or at least talked to some of the older settlers who had personal memories of the events. Still, I like to have primary or more contemporary secondary sources whenever available, so I went looking and found a few. In the process, I’ve cleared up some dates and details surrounding the first election and the early organization of the county. Continue reading

Early Election Returns!

Really early returns, from Mequon’s first election in 1840.

In an earlier post, I outlined some of the key moments in the settlement and changing political boundaries of early Washington/Ozaukee county. Originally attached to Milwaukee County for all civil and judicial matters, old Washington County got it’s civil independence by act of the Territorial Legislature on February 19, 1840. And sometime later that year the first election to chose county officers was held at the Mequon home of Taylor Heavilon. Continue reading