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Report on the 1850 Census

1850 census        

Submitted by :   Rebecca Ward    

While I was searching for my 1850 census sheets, I came across this report that I wrote a few years ago. I took a course through BYU and my instructor was Val Greenwood.

This is a study of the 1850 Federal Census conducted in Benton Township, Lafayette County, Wisconsin. It was enumerated on October 3, 1850 by Charles E. Welty. Four consecutive pages have been examined. In particular, the extended family of Philo Gillett will be discussed.  

There were 28 dwellings that were enumerated on this day on these selected pages. All heads of household in these dwellings were male with an average age of 40 years old. Philo Gillett's age was incorrectly reported as 66 years old. He was born in September of 1792 which would make him 58 years old on enumeration day. However, at either 66 or 58 he is much older than the average householder in Benton.

There were 25 married couples (and one unmarried couple). There average age for husbands was 40 and for wives, 34. As discussed above, Philo was older than the average. Of the 25 married couples, 22 families had children living at home. The average number of children was 3.8 per family. Philo's household  had 9 children from four separate marriages. Regarding boarders, 39% of the households had male boarders.

This section of the community contained 156 individuals. Children under the age of 17 made up 51% of the population, adults males 31%, and adult females 18%.  None of the adult females were employed outside of the home. Only one male adult, age 17, was unemployed and still living at home. It is interesting to note that 4% of the children (all boys) were employed, either as day laborers or miners.

The occupation of the employed male adults were as follows:

miner 73%
farmer 17%
butcher 4%
grocer 2%
laborer 2%

cooper 2% (Philo Gillett)

Almost 3/4 of the men in this community were miners. This was a time at which lead was the largest "crop" in this region. The farmers, grocers, butchers, and coopers provided the necessities to these miners and their families.

In regards to nationality, 12% of the adults were born in the United States and 88% were foreign-born (England, Ireland, and Germany). In sharp contrast, 69% of the children were born in the United States and 31% foreign born (England and Ireland). Of the adult males employed as miners, 97% wre foreign-born. Philo Gillett was born in Connecticut and was the fourth generation of his family to be born in this country. All of his children (and step-children) were born in the United States.

Fourteen households (50%) reported real estate values, ranging from $100 to $5,000.  Fourteen miners reported real estate values ranging from $150 to $5,000 with an average of $952. Others included:

grocer $500
farmer 500
butcher 100
cooper 200 (Philo Gillett)
farmer 3000

The literacy rate for adults was 75%. Of adult females, 43% were illiterate. 92% of the illiterate women had been born in Great Britain. It appears that learning to read and write was not a high priority among immigrant women. In Philo Gillett's household all adults (Philo and wife) were literate.

In regards to school attendance, 40% of school-aged children (ages 5-15) were in school.  One-third of thse children attending school lived in Philo's household (his children and step-children).

Philo Gillett's household was certainly not the norm in this Benton community. Although he was middle-income, he was older than other heads of household and his entire family was American. He had over twice the average number of children and all of his children and step-children who were school-aged attended school. It is clear to see that the average family in Benton was made up of immigrant miners and their American-born children.