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
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
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
This document is probably the earliest record we have of Jonathan M. Clark in old Washington County, Wisconsin. It is the handwritten marriage license that Jonathan obtained in early 1840. Transcribed, it reads:
To whom it may concern Marriage Being intended Between Jonathan M Clark and Mary Turck and application being made to me for a Marriage license by the above named Clark I therefore being satisfied by the oath of the party applying of the legality of
saidthe aforesaid marriage union do hereby license and authorise the same
Granvlle March 13 1840
Andrew Smith Justice peace
Where are we? Well, if you’re looking at this handsome stone house in real life, you’re standing by the front door of the Jonathan Clark House Museum, looking northward. On a modern map you can find it at 13615 N. Cedarburg Road—on the intersection with Bonniwell Road—Mequon, Wisconsin. If you’d like to visit the museum, click here for more info.
But “Where are we?” is never a simple question when it comes to historic places, because the answer often changes over time. Along with “Where are we?” we need to ask “When are we?” The answer to “Where are we?” is surprisingly varied—and useful for further research—throughout the lives of Jonathan and Mary Clark.
There he is. Jonathan M. Clark, builder and first owner of the handsome stone home that is now the Jonathan Clark House Museum in Mequon, Wisconsin. He was probably born in Vermont, possibly on November 28, 1812, and he died in September, 1857. Before coming to Mequon, he served in the United States Army at Fort Howard from 1833 to 1836. He married Mary Turck, eldest child of Mequon pioneer Peter Turck, on March 15, 1840. They had a large family. We even have a photograph of JMC as an adult. In some ways, we know quite a bit about Jonathan M. Clark.