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?
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:
I’m taking a bit of a break and have nothing new for you today. I have been doing a good bit of garden work around the house, and that reminded me of this post from April, 2021. Now we’re just finishing the first week of June, 2022, and it’s almost summertime. In southeastern Wisconsin the first spring flowers are done, and the next round of blossoms have been blooming for weeks. The tomato, bean and pepper seedlings are in the ground and doing nicely (although the rabbits have been nibbling on far too many green bean sprouts), and the roses are beginning to unfold. So even though this was originally an early-spring essay, I hope you enjoy this garden-themed repost from last year.
Planning the garden
It’s early April, and the growing season is not far off. For a farmer like Jonathan M. Clark, it’s a little early yet for plowing and sowing, but not too early to make plans and sharpen the tools. For a farmer’s wife, like Mary (Turck) Clark, it’s not too soon to think about the farm garden, its crops and layout.
I don’t know if Mary and Jonathan were regular readers of the popular and affordable farmers’ almanacs of their era; I wouldn’t be surprised if they were. There were many to chose from. Perhaps they had a copy of something like:
The Cultivator […], New Series, Vol. VII, Albany, 1850, title page. Click to open larger image in new window.
Our last two posts focused on the evidence we have that documents the Bonniwell family’s two-part trip west to the gold fields of California: by the Panama shortcut in 1849 and by the overland route in 1850. Today I’d like to focus on the members of Bonniwell company after the end of their westward voyage(s), and give you a sense of their experiences as newly-arrived prospectors in the California gold diggings through period drawings, lithographs, photographs, and a substantial excerpt from the Bonniwell Gold Rush diary.1
Currier & Ives. Gold mining in California. California, ca. 1871. New York: Published by Currier & Ives. Library of Congress. As always, click the images to open larger versions in new window.
This colorful Currier & Ives lithograph presents a somewhat idyllic view of “Gold Mining in California” as imagined in 1871 by a New York artist who, most likely, had never been west of the Alleghenies. On the one hand, the lithograph does give us an hint of the splendors of the Sierra Nevada, and some idea of the typical activities of California miners. But as we’ll see, life in gold country when the Bonniwell party arrived—in the early, frenzied days of 1849 and 1850—was much less bucolic.
“Working the bar”
Much of early California gold prospecting involved looking for smaller and larger bits of gold found within the loose alluvial soils and sediments of the rivers and dry riverbeds of the Sierra Nevada. In particular, the miners spent a lot of time “working the bar.” And no, my fellow Wisconsinites, this does not mean they were strenuously pub-crawling in El Dorado county, circa 1849-1850.
Guess what I did instead of writing a new Clark House Historian post! Here’s a clue, from about this time last year (revised and expanded for 2022)…
Spring weather in southeastern Wisconsin is pretty hard to predict these days. Spring 2021 was awfully dry. This year, spring has been wetter overall—I think—but the days have zigzagged rapidly and unpredictably between chill and damp or hot and humid. It’s almost like we haven’t had a proper Midwestern spring at all. And yet, the grass around the Historian’s house has already gotten pretty tall and scruffy. So it was time to get out the mower and tidy up (some of) the yard.
Maurer, Louis, Artist. The climax mower, most complete and perfect mower in the world, the Corry Machine Co., Corry, Pen. / L. Maurer. United States, None. [NY: the Major & Knapp Eng., Mfg. & Lith. Co., between 1869 and 1872] Photograph. Library of Congress.
I’m still tied up with other projects, so I thought you might enjoy a repeat of this seasonal post from last May. I’ll be back soon with new Clark House history.
It’s mid-May in southeastern Wisconsin, and with luck the last frost is behind us. For the past weeks and months farmers and gardeners have been tending to the soil and preparing for planting. At this time of year in the 1840s and ’50s, Jonathan M. Clark would have done much the same, hitching up his team of oxen to a steel-bladed plow to cut and turn over the tough prairie grasses and break up the soil of his newly-cleared lands.
It’s been a week of constant organizing at my house. A useful and productive week, perhaps, spent sorting, reading, and filing paperwork, and updating the household accounts. But not much writing.
Of course, the need to sort, repair and organize is not limited to our era. I suspect the Clarks, Turcks, Bonniwells—and their neighbors—spent a good bit of time trying to catch up with their 19th-century chores, like this fellow…
Guy, Seymour Joseph (1824–1910), Utilizing a Spare Moment, oil on canvas, c. 1860-1870. Yale UniversityArt Gallery, public domain (CC0 1.0). Click to open larger image in new window.
Unknown photographer, [Occupational Portrait of a Blacksmith, Three-Quarter Length, Working on a Horseshoe at an Anvil, Other Tools to His Side], no place, daguerreotype circa 1840-1860. Library of Congress, public domain, cropped and exposure lightened. Click to open larger image in new window.
I’m at the writer’s “forge,” trying to beat several new blog posts into shape.
I’m gotten a good bit of research done on my Alfred and Sarah (Turck) Bonniwell project this week, but time (and focus) to write and edit posts has been at a premium. So while I’m still writing and editing, here’s a historic Bonniwell-related image for your enjoyment.
Chatham Dockyards, c. 1763-1789
Mitchell, Thomas (1735-1790), Chatham; view from a height over a dockyard with man-of-war being repaired at centre, a building with a clocktower at right and another building at right, brush drawing in grey wash, with watercolor, over graphite. Copyright, Trustees of the British Museum, (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license). Click to open larger image in new window.