THE 1870 FEDERAL CENSUS:
TOWN OF METOMEN
Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin

 

The 1870 Metomen census was conducted between June 22 and July 2 by Asa Kinny, assistant county marshal and a former anti-slavery activist associated with the Booth War in Ripon. He began his enumeration in the northwestern corner of the township and worked his way south along the county line to Fairwater. He then traveled north along current County Highway E to the Ripon Township line, where he again reversed direction and worked his way south along Radio Road. Following this same general pattern, he concluded the census in the Brandon area.

The federal census of 1870 identified each individual in the township regardless of age, gender, or "color." In addition to name, the census recorded dwelling and family numbers (simply assigned in the order the census taker entered them), age, gender, "color," occupation, value of real estate (usually credited to head of household only), foreign birth of mother and father, place of birth, month of marriage (if it occurred during the year), month of birth (if it occurred during the year), school attendance during the year, ability to read, ability to write, male citizens 21 or older, and abridgement or denial of the right to vote. Unlike the 1850 census, the 1870 census also identified the individual's post office district and value of "personal estate" (usually for heads of household only). Note that the "denial of vote" column has not been included on these pages, because no voter in the township was recorded has having lost his voting  privilege.

Population Changes
Statistically, at least, the decade of the 1860's was a watershed period in which the numbers of Yankee-born residents, the original settlers of the area, declined substantially in real numbers from 813 to 563, while the population as a whole grew from 1611 to 1898. In contrast, the German-born population more than tripled, from 85 to 281. As least as important, the number of men identifying themselves as farmers declined from 224 to 195, while the numbers of professional men, merchants, and tradesmen remained virtually unchanged. The number of men identifying themselves as laborers nearly doubled, from 125 to 224. As a percentage of the population, only the 10 and under age group grew, from 25% to 29%. Ironically, the percentage of the population in school declined from 30% to 25%. See Reading the 1870 Metomen Census for a more complete discussion.

Reliability of the Records
As was the case with all of the earlier censuses, Kinny's displays numerous errors and eccentricities. He consistently entered the name "George" without its final "e," Samuel as "Sameul," Michael as "Mical," and Maria with a double "r" and a final "h." The woman identified in the 1860 census as Jemimah Dame and living with her daughter, is recorded here as "Jemiah Dano," age 78 and living in dwelling #157, consisting of 6 laborers all under the age of 24, rather than in her daughter's, #156. M. Duch, a laborer born in "Prussia," is recorded as having no foreign-born parents. Mary Pangburn's family, living in Fairwater five years after the tragic death at the close of the Civil War of her husband Henry, is identified as the Angbun's or Angburn's. The John Culbertson family is recorded as the Carberson's. Many other names appear to be spelled phonetically, suggesting that Kinney did not ask for and the families did not offer the actual spelling. For the Jonathan McAssey family, entered as "Mescesy," it's almost possible to hear the Irish brogue. The Samuel McAssey family is entered as the "Maxie" family.

The list of probable errors on Kinney's part is lengthy. Rather than trying to interpret and correct the records, however, the general approach here has been to present the census records with as much fidelity to Kinny's original entries as possible. There are two reasons. First, the attempt to correct errors risks the introduction of additional ones. Second, and more important, the census itself is an historic document that, errors and all, can tell us something about the process of census taking and the census taker. In presenting the document as written, the original sequence of entries has also been retained, because it offers clues about where families were living. Comparison with the federal land patent records and the 1862 county plat map can identify the general location of many of the homesteads, and those that do not appear in the land records can often be placed in relation to others by virtue of census sequence. For an illustration, see the Fairwater 1853 story.

It should also be noted that the original handwritten records are frequently difficult to read. Those names for which there is a significant level of uncertainty are marked with a (?) marker, and where portions of the handwriting are unreadable the missing letters have been marked with an "_."

Of particular consequence for anyone trying to locate a given family's residence, Kinny identified only two post offices, Metomen and Brandon. It appears that Kinney credited the northeastern quarter of the township (actually the block marked by section 3 on the northwest to section 24 on the southeast) to the Metomen post office and the remainder of the township to Brandon. Why he did not credit anyone to the Fairwater post office, the oldest in Metomen and in continuous operation since 1847, is a mystery and a departure from the 1860 federal census. The effect is amusing, however, in that William Gillman is identified as the Fairwater postmaster but recorded as living and working in the Brandon postal district, while B. F. Lockwood, Brandon's postmaster, is recorded as living in the Metomen postal district. The Levi Yorty and T. J. Norris families, long associated with Brandon, are credited to Metomen, as is Edward Ensign, owner of Brandon's Ensign House.

Of usefulness as a related reference is the list of Metomen's registered voters in 1868, originally published by the Brandon Times in 1868 and republished in 1927 as an historical record. Also useful as a reference is the special Brandon census conducted in 1877 as a part of the petition for the village's incorporation. The census was also republished by the Brandon Times in 1927.


Click on the links below to view the corresponding census page numbers. Microfilm of the state's copy of these records is available at the Historical Society library in Madison (Call No. 1870-1727, Fond du Lac, v. 2).

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Alphabetical Index, All Entries

If you have information to share about the census, please contact Bob Schuster at rmschust@facstaff.wisc.edu.