Unknown photographer, [Occupational Portrait of an Unidentified Stonecutter, Three-Quarter Length, Three-Quarters to the Right, Holding Mallet and Chisel Against Block of Stone], circa 1850-1860. Library of Congress
Is that one of our early Mequon pioneers, shaping a stone block for the front of the historic Jonathan Clark House, circa 1848?
[The Bible,] Geneva version, published by Christopher Barker, London, circa 1580-1588. Collection of the Jonathan Clark House, photo credit: Reed Perkins, 2022.
What a year!
Finis. The End. Today is December 31, the last day of a long and eventful 2022. I’m not up to the task of summarizing all the highs and lows of the past year. I’ll leave that to others.
But I thought recalling one special summer day at the Clark House might make a nice valediction at the close of the old year and the beginning of the new. And for me, without question, the best day for the Clark House this year was July 23, 2022, the day we celebrated the generous donation of the historic Bonniwell family Bible and papers.
Time is flying; it’s already been a week since Thanksgiving. I hope you all had time to enjoy the day.
I’m in the middle of preparing several Clark House Historian posts and the writing is going slowly. But! December is here and I’m starting to feel the holiday spirit. So until I finish my current research and writing project (we’ve got to bring the Bonniwells back from the California gold rush!), how about a seasonal photo from my most recent visit to the Clark House?
Clark House front parlor with holiday candle, 2022. Photo credit: Reed Perkins.
Provenance is an important concept for historians, collectors and museums. It refers to the chain of ownership of any collectible item, including manuscripts, artworks, official documents or, in our case, a family Bible. Establishing the provenance of an item—such as the Bonniwell Bible—from its creation to the present day is important for several reasons:
By studying this Bible as an artifact, a book published on paper, we are establishing its history and authenticity as a Bible, published in London, England, by Christopher Barker, in the Geneva translation, including copious notes, helps and other additions, probably during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and, more specifically, circa 1580-1603.
By studying the inscriptions in this Bible, we can also try and establish who owned the book, and when they owned it. The more we know about this, the more confident we can be about the historical and genealogical information found in the Bible’s many inscriptions.
Who owned it first?
That’s still a bit of a mystery. On the one hand, we do have a solid—though perhaps not unbroken—history of Bonniwell family inscriptions in this Bible, beginning in 1697 and continuing through the early 1900s. First-person family recollections record the Bible’s direct descent from that time until the present day. And we know that this Bible was first in the possession of a related branch of the Bonniwell family and then owned by “our” Bonniwells no later than 1795:
Bonniwell Bible, detail, showing inscription by William Bonniwell, 1798, and ligature WBonniwell, 1795. photo credit: Kendalyne Gentile, 2022.
I hope you liked our recent re-post of Back to School, 1839! And since I’m still working on a number of new but not-yet-ready projects, I thought you might also enjoy a revised and expanded version of a related post that was first published September 2, 2020.
It’s “Back to School” time for many of us, so I thought you might be interested in this transcription of the earliest known school records of old Washington/Ozaukee county prior to 1845, published on page 328 of the History of Washington and Ozaukee Counties, Wisconsin […] Illustrated. Western Historical Co., Chicago, 1881:
Click to open a larger image in a new window, and see which of the early settler families had school age children, that is, children between the ages of 4 and 16, in 1842 and 1843. (Current Washington and Ozaukee county readers: do you have any kin listed in this summary of early school censuses? Let us hear from you via the Leave a Reply box, below.)
I’m still busy annotating maps for upcoming Bonniwell-related blog posts. So instead of my planned Gold Rush themed Monday: Map Day! essay, I hope you enjoy this Clark-era image of a common visitor to much of North and South America—including Wisconsin—the Great Horned Owl.
Havell, Robert, jr., engraver, after John James Audubon, Great Horned Owl, 1829, plate 62 from The Birds of America (1828-1838), hand-colored engraving and aquatint on Whatman wove paper. National Gallery of Art, Gift of Mrs. Walter B. James. Public domain. Click to open larger image in new window.
UPDATE, Nov. 30, 2022: The discussion of the William Bonniwell signatures and dates, below, is not correct. I have lined-through the incorrect paragraph and added the correct info in two new paragraphs below the original misinformation.
It may not look like much on the outside. It’s old. Not very big. Whole pages are missing, others are damaged. The binding is worn.
Bonniwell Bible, front cover. Photo credit: Kendalyne Gentile, 2022
But this modest book was—for over 300 years—the family Bible for Mequon’s pioneer Bonniwell family, their ancestors and descendants. And last month, the Bible’s most recent owner, Bonniwell descendant Kendalyne Gentile, generously gave the Bible and other Bonniwell family documents to the Jonathan Clark House Museum where they will form an important part of our permanent collection.
Summer has finally settled in here in Wisconsin, and the Jonathan Clark House is ready to host you once again on Saturday, July 16, 12pm – 3pm to enjoy all the old fashioned fun in the very spirit of the season for the second installment of our summer series event Heritage Days!
In addition to our favorite features, our special attractions for July include: