Who Were the Clarks?

Jonathan Clark was born in 1812 in northern Vermont along the Canadian border. At age 21 he enlisted in the US Army. He was stationed in Wisconsin at Fort Howard (now known as Green Bay) where his troop was assigned to build the military road from the fort to Fond du Lac. 

Mary Turck was born in 1821 along the Hudson River in New York State. Her family was of Dutch-American descent. Mary was the oldest of eight children of Peter and Rachael Turck. Her family was one of the first white settlers in Mequon, arriving in 1837. As a teenager Mary held school in the Turck family home attic where she taught her younger brothers and sisters as well as four other children.

When Jonathan settled in Mequon in 1839 he purchased 80 acres. Jonathan Clark and Mary Turck were married in 1840. They most likely lived in a modest log cabin that he had built. In 1843 he and Mary purchased another 80 acres creating a large 160-acre farm. The land would have been mostly forested with some prairie grasses. 

In 1848 when their stone house was built Jonathan and Mary had four children. By 1857 their family had grown to eight children (7 girls and 1 boy). This was a lot of work for Mary as she cared for her children, prepared meals, sewed clothing, did laundry and planted and tended the gardens. 

In addition, the Clark family had two hired men. The hired man’s bedroom tells the story of the meager space and narrow rope bed used by these hard working men. 

The life of the young Clark children was filled with hard work as well as fun with the few neighbors that had also settled in the area. They walked one-half mile to Bonniwell School. They used an outhouse instead of an indoor bathroom and they shared beds in the upper floor of the house. 

We are proud to tell the story of Jonathan and Mary Clark because not only were they ambitious farmers, Jonathan was also a businessman. Along with his father-in-law Peter Turck and friend William Bonniwell, Jonathan worked hard to develop the government of the new township of Mequon. One of their most important accomplishments was the creation of the area’s first public school.

Think Like A Historian – Contact our volunteer staff at the Clark House to schedule an interactive tour of the house and property.  Send a note to Margaret and Nina at  jchmuseum@gmail.com or call 262-618-2051.