Chapter 21 - Town of Orion.


    The town of Orion was first called Richmond, the name being suggested by Thomas Mathews, but in 1856 it was changed to Orion. The town of Richmond was organized at a town meeting held at the house of Thomas Mathews, in April, 1849, at which time the first officers of the town were elected. John R. Smith, Myron Whitcomb and R. J. Darnall were chosen inspectors of the election. The following officers were elected: Supervisors, John R. Smith, chairman, Adam Byrd and William Kincannon; clerk, John Nipple; collector, Stephen Finnell; assessor, Walter B. Gage; superintendent of schools, Marvin White; justices of the peace, William Thompson, E. H. Dyer, B. B Sutton and Mathew Alexander; constables, Nathaniel Green, William White, and Daniel H. Byrd; overseers of the highway, L. B. Palmer and William White.

    The town of Orion lies in the southern tier of towns, the second from the east line of the county, and is bounded on the north by Richland, on the east by Buena Vista, on the south by Iowa county, from which it is separated by the Wisconsin river, and on the west by Eagle. It embraces the territory of congressional township 9 north, range 1 east, and also that portion of township 8 north, range 1 east, which lies north of the Wisconsin river. The surface of the town is somewhat broken and hilly, yet there are many fine farms there and an abundance of natural timber. A large part of the town is upon the rich bottom lands of the Wisconsin river, and no finer scenery, nor more fertile fruitful and can be found. The census of 1900 gave the town a population of 962.

    The first settlers within the limits now comprising the town of Orion were John R. Smith and his son-in-law, Thomas Mathews; the former a native of Kentucky and the latter of Tennessee. They came from Grant county, in October, 1842, and clamed fraction No. 6, town 8, range 1 west, and fraction No. 5, town 8, range 1 east, entering the land two or three years latter. After they had entered the land, they sold a half interest to Orrin E. Barber, and laid out the plat of the present village of Orion. The plat then laid upon fraction No. 5, town 8, range 1 east, and contained fourteen blocks of eight lots each. This was the initial step in founding the village, which is frequently mentioned in this volume.

    R. J. Darnall, a native of Kentucky, came in 1843 and located in Orion, entering land on section 19. He engaged in mercantile trade and also improved his farm. In 1856 he removed to the town of Forest, and for some years kept a hotel, and later went to Illinois. William Thompson, a native of Kentucky, came from Missouri in 1846 and made a claim on sections 14 and 15. He did not prove up on this place, but entered land on section 2, where he erected a sawmill. In 1858 he sold out and removed to Kansas, locating at Blue Rapids, in Marshall county, where he engaged in farming. William Mathews, a native of Illinois, came at about the same time as did Mr. Thompson. He entered land on section 32, where he lived for several years and then removed to Missouri.

    Green Mayfield, a representative man and early settler of Orion, began his pioneer life in infancy, he parents having migrated to Illinois while he was quite young and when that was a new country. There they remained but five years, when they again took a journey westward, locating in that part of the territory of Michigan which has since been embraced in the state of Wisconsin, and in Grant county, Green Mayfield grew to manhood. In 1832, when he was fourteen years old, he enlisted in the service of the United States and served through the Black Hawk War, returning to his home at the close of that conflict and engaging in mining. Mining not proving a remunerative enterprise he soon moved and settled on a claim he had previously made near Platteville. There he and his wife (whom he had married in 1841) were unfortunate, in that both were attacked with fever and ague, and it took all their earnings to pay the doctor's bills, and he was at last obliged to sell out. In July, 1846, he came to Richland county in company with his brother David, and being pleased with this section of the country he concluded to make a settlement and returned for his wife. The great trouble with which he had to contend was a lack of money, and he met with difficulties in making the necessary arrangements. Finally he went to a merchant with whom he was acquainted in Platteville, and told him he was going to Richland county and wanted enough supplies to last him until fall, when he would pay with venison and money. The merchant knowing him to be an honest man provided him with the necessaries of life and he and his wife started for a new home in Richland county, using his brother's team to move a few household goods, their only possessions. Arriving at the ferry kept by Mr. Mathews he told the gentleman he had no money to pay his way over. "Never mind," said Mathews, "I will put immigrants across for nothing, for we want this country settled." They then made their way to his brother David's, where they spent the summer. He made a claim on section 4, did not immediately move to it, but made their home with his brother until the following March, when having erected a small log cabin they moved into a home on their own place. Meanwhile he had been successful in his hunting expeditions and had paid up his store bill, but as yet he had no money with which to enter his land, therefore he continued hunting, killed large numbers of deer and bears, and for them found a ready market at Platteville, the saddles of venison bringing two dollars and a half and the pelts from fifty cents to one dollar. He turned and dressed deer skins, with which he made clothing throughout - coat, pants, cap and moccasins. Many incidents of thrilling interest are remembered in connection with the early experience of Mr. and Mrs. Mayfield. Starting out one day for the purpose of killing a deer, his dogs started a large bear which ran up a hill with the canines in close pursuit. When on the summit the dogs caught and furiously attacked "old bruin," and in the fight both bear and dogs came rolling down the hill together. At the bottom a foothold was again secured, and the bear and dogs seemed bent on getting away. Finally they drew near where Mr. Mayfield was standing, and one of the dogs caught the bear by the ear, when the latter rose up and embraced the dog and began to hug as only a bear can. Finally they fell to the ground, when Mr. Mayfield approached, and with a knife having a blade twelve inches long, stabbed the bear on the opposite side, when the bruin released his hold and started away with the knife in his side. The gun was empty and there was no other way than to use a club, which weapon was used with good effect, and then securing the knife, Mr. Mayfield cut the bear's throat, putting and end to the latter's existence. This is only one of many similar adventures of this pioneer. In the course of a few years he had accumulated money enough to enter his land, and he then devoted more time to clearing a farm. In August, 1862, he enlisted and joined Company B, Twenty-fifth Regiment of Wisconsin volunteer infantry, and served until the close of the war, the principal battle in which he was engaged being at Kinston, N. C. He was discharged with the regiment in June, 1865, and returned home. His industrious family had already planted the farm in corn, and in the fall he gathered 1,500 bushels. For some years he did not have a team of his own and used his brother's but he finally became the possessor of a well-stocked farm and added to his holdings until he had 445 acres. He was always enterprising, and was among the first and most influential in establishing schools and churches.

    David Mayfield and wife, on June 20, 1845, located on the southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 3, town 9 north, range 1 east, having just removed from Platteville. The only neighbors they had on Ash creek at the time were William Thompson and family, but they had chosen this as their future home, and concluded to make the best of it. It being late in the season when they arrived in the county, they could not raise any crop but potatoes, but this was a very important one to the pioneers, as it furnished them a goodly portion of their winter supply of food. Mr. Mayfield continued farming until 1883, when as he found himself advancing into old age, he sold his farm and removed to Richland Center, where he spent the remainder of his life in retirement. David Mayfield was born near Nashville, Tenn., in August, 1807, and in 1811 the family removed to Indiana, and one year later to Illinois, where the mother died in 1818. David then came to Wisconsin and followed mining until 1834, after which he engaged in farming at Platteville.

    Carlos Joslin, a native of Vermont, came from Mineral Point in 1847 and settled on the southeast quarter of section 9. In 1848 he sold that place and removed to the southwest quarter of section 10, remaining a resident of the town until 1853, when he took up his residence in the town of Henrietta. W. H. Joslin, a son of Carlos Joslin, came in 1848, and was a resident of the town until 1852. He now lives in Richland Center.

    In July 1848, a party of Germans, consisting of Henry Sigrist and Henry and Frederick Schuerman, came prospecting, and after selecting land they returned, and brought their families in August of the same year. Henry Sigrist entered land on section 3 and built a log cabin 16x32 feet, in which he lived till 1862. He was a Prussian by birth, born Oct. 12, 1823. He attended school until fifteen years of age, when he engaged in a wholesale house to learn the business, serving two and a half years, at the end of which time he received a certificate, showing him to be a proficient clerk. He then secured a situation in that capacity at a town 200 miles distant, where he was employed two years, then was employed upon a farm two years, after which he entered an agricultural school which us under control of the government, and studied there for two years. In 1848 he sailed for America, landed in New York and came directly to Milwaukee. Leaving his wife in that city he continued his journey to Richland county, and after making a selection of land returned to Milwaukee, and he and wife then started for their new home in a wagon, reaching their destination at the end of five days. There they lived to witness a great change in the country, for what was then a wilderness became a cultivated and prosperous neighborhood, occupied by and industrious and thrifty class of people. On Sept. 28, 1861, Mr. Sigrist enlisted in the Sixth Wisconsin battery and in the spring of 1862 went to the front. He took part in may of the most important engagements of the war, among them being Jackson, Champion's Hill, Port Gibson, Siege of Vicksburg, Missionary Ridge and Corinth, and he was honorably discharged at the expiration of the time for which he enlisted. After coming to America Mr. Sigrist learned the English language, and by extensive reading in that, as well as his own language, was enabled to keep posted upon all subjects.

    Henry Schuerman was born in Germany upon the banks of the Rhine, March 22, 1818. His younger days were spent in school, where he acquired a liberal education, after which he engaged in farming. He came to America in 1848, landed at New York and came directly to Richland county, thus becoming one of its pioneers. He entered a large tract of land on sections 2 and 3 in the town of Orion. The nearest point at which he could obtain provisions and the nearest mill were in Iowa county. He was obliged to cross the river in going there and sometimes the water would rise while he was upon the other side and he would be obliged to wait several days before he could cross to return home. At times the neighborhood would become short of breadstuff and be obliged to grate corn to make it into meal. Mr. Shuerman was an industrious man and cleared a large farm, also became one of the few successful fruit growers in the county. He died Apr. 26, 1877.

    Frederick Schuerman was a native of Germany, and was born upon the banks of the Rhine, May 11, 1812, being reared to agricultural pursuits and spending his younger days in school. On attaining his majority he joined the army and served in the cavalry four years. He came to America in 1848, landed in New York, and then came directly to Milwaukee, where he was married, and immediately started with his bride for their new home in Richland county. He purchased eighty acres of land and entered another eighty in section 9, in the town of Orion, there enduring the hardships of pioneer life, and living to clear a good farm and build a comfortable home. His death occurred in March, 1879.

    Walter Gage, a native of the state of New York, came here in 1849 and entered fraction No. 2, on section 34, starting a ferry there which, in 1850, he traded to James Law. Mr. Law erected a large frame house upon the land, which at the time was the largest house in the county. The place took the name of "Law's Ferry," and for years it was a landmark to all settlers in that region. Levi Houts, a native of Indiana, came in 1849 from Muscoda, and entered land on sections 3 and 10, of the town of Eagle, but afterward took up his residence on section 31, of the town of Orion.

    John Mainwaring, another of the pioneers of Orion, was born in the town of Swansea, Glamorganshire, South Wales, May 28, 1821. There he attended the public schools until he was fourteen years of age, when his parents moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, where he was sent to an advanced school for some time. His father, who was a stone mason by trade and a master of the art, was engaged upon the Edinburgh, New Haven & Leith railroad, then in process of construction, as superintendent of the mason work, and his son John was called from school to assist in the work. He was employed there for two years, when his parents moved to Caermarthen, South Wales, where his father, by the death of an uncle, had fallen heir to property, consisting of a stock of marble, a shop and tools, the uncle having been a marble engraver. The father carried on the marble business for a time, then, having a call from a railroad company, left the business in charge of his son, who continued it till he was twenty-five years of age. He then joined his father, who had taken a contract to construct a piece of railroad, which they completed in 1848. In the spring of 1849, in company with his father and brother Daniel, he left his native land and came to America, coming directly to Wisconsin and entering land on section 33, in the town of Orion. After remaining there two years, he returned to his native land and remained till 1861, being there employed as road master on the railroad that he helped to construct. In 1861 the started on his return to his western home, crossing the Atlantic in the noted steamer, Great Eastern, and making the trip in nine days. He left England May 1 and arrived in Orion on May 15. He lived upon his land on section 33 until 1865, when he sold it and purchased one hundred and sixty acres on section 27, upon which were about twenty acres of cleared land and a log cabin. He immediately began clearing the property, setting out fruit trees, and otherwise improving the property, and became a very successful farmer. Mr. Mainwaring was a man of intelligence, well educated, and well-informed upon all subjects.

    Charles N. Keefe, a native of Germany, came in 1849 and settled on sections 14 and 15, having entered the land previous to that time. He lived there for several years and then removed to Dane county. Alanson Hurd, a native of the state of New York, came at about the same time and settled on the northwest quarter of section 3. He lived there a short time and then removed to the southeast quarter of section 10, and later took up his residence in Vernon county. Reason Barnes, a carpenter, came in 1849, but in a short time removed to Boaz. Dr. Jacob Brimer, a native of the state of New York, came in 1851 and located on section 21, but later made his home on section 2.

    John Henry Demmer, another pioneer of Orion, was born in Germany in May, 1808. When a young man he learned the trade of ship builder, in which business he was engaged until 1848, when he left his native country and came to the United States. He first located in Milwaukee, where he was employed as carpenter and joiner, and in 1853 he came to Richland county and purchased a claim of Alanson Hurd on section 3, entering the land and immediately began clearing. He afterward devoted the greater part of his time to his farm, working occasionally at his trade.

    Peter Bobb, a native of Maryland, came from Pennsylvania in 1854 and purchased land on section 32, where he still resides. His brother, Charles, came at about the same time and settled on the southeast quarter of section 7, but finally removed to the village of Orion, where he died.

    Hezekiah Jones, one of the well known early settlers of the town of Orion came in the fall of 1854 and purchased land on section 10 of Carlos Joslin and his son William H. At that time there were two log cabins and a small clearing, which constituted the entire improvement. But later a great change was wrought, a large farm was cleared, and Mr. Jones became the owner of one of the best improved farms in the town. He was a native of Kentucky, born in Harrison county, Sept. 26, 1815. When he was eighteen years old his parents migrated to Indiana and located in Boone county, where in fact his pioneer life began. He made his home with his parents until of age, then married and made his home in Indiana until 1854, when he sold out and started west with five horses and two wagons, containing household goods. They camped out on the way, and after three weeks on the road arrived in Richland county. They stopped with Robert Hurd a few days and then moved into a log cabin which was their home for a number of years.

    In the spring of 1854 Abram Miller, a native of Kentucky, came from Indiana and bought land that had been entered by the Joslins on section 10. Mr. Miller began his pioneer life in infancy. When he was but one year old his parents moved to Marion county, Ind., where they were among the pioneers. There his early life was spent, and as soon as he was large enough he assisted his father in clearing a farm. He lived with his parents until 1854, when he came to Wisconsin to seek a home and purchased land in section 10, now in the town of Orion, where he commenced immediately to fell timber preparatory to clearing a farm. He enlisted in 1862 in the Twenty-fifth Wisconsin, Company B, and went to the front, participating in many important battles and was with Sherman on his "march to the sea." He was twice wounded at the battle of Atlanta, on July 22, 1864, and was honorably discharged with the regiment, June 7, 1865, when he returned to his home and resumed his work at farming, continuing so engaged until the fall of 1890, when he removed to Richland Center, and still resides there. He was largely engaged in raising grain and stock while on the farm, and later engaged extensively in raising poultry.

    Henry Wilson, a native of Butler county, Ohio, came from Indiana in the spring of 1854 and bought land on section 9.

    Frederick C. Schmidt was also one of the pioneer settlers of Orion. He came in 1854 and purchased land on section 16, where he commenced clearing a farm, but his life was spared only a few years, and he died on Apr. 19, 1860. He was a German by birth and was reared to agricultural pursuits. In his youth he learned the milling trade, which he followed for some years.

    Simon S. Blake, an early settler in the town of Orion, was a native of the Keystone State, being born in that part of Bedford now known as Blair county. Until he was fourteen years old his time was spent in school and on the farm. He then engaged with a merchant tailor to learn the trade, served three months, then part of the time went to school and part of the time worked with his brother at the blacksmith business until about seventeen, when he enlisted in the service of the United States for the Mexican War. His parents were opposed to that, and as their consent could not be obtained he was sent back. He then engaged with his cousin to learn the trade of ax-making, and was thus employed until twenty-one years old, when he engaged in teaching. In the fall of 1852 he went to Ohio and spent the winter in Ironton and vicinity, then went to Arkansas and was engaged in the lumbering business for seven months, and then returned to Pennsylvania and taught a four-months term of school during the winter. In the spring of 1854 he came to Richland county and entered 120 acres of land on sections 17 and 18 of the town of Orion, and located in the village of Orion, where he engaged as clerk in a store. He left the store in the fall of 1855 and taught a three months term of school at Pleasant Hill, in the town of Eagle. The following spring he settled on his land and commenced to clear a farm. He early paid attention to fruit culture and reared a fine apple orchard, consisting of Tolman Sweets, Golden Russets, Snow apples and Red Astrachan. He was a soldier in the Union army, having enlisted on Aug. 20, 1862, in the Twenty-fifty Wisconsin, Company B, and going south spent his time in different places until May, 1864, when his regiment joined Sherman at Resaca, Ga., and fought its way on to Atlanta. He was severely wounded at Decatur, Ga., on July 22, 1864, and was sent to the field hospital and later to the Harvey hospital at Madison. He was discharged Mar. 20, 1865, and returned home. He was elected to offices of trust and honor at different times, serving as chairman of the board, justice of the peace, and was once elected assessor, but refused to serve. He was United States census enumerator for the town of Orion in 1880. He afterwards removed to Richland Center, where he died, Mar. 5, 1904.

    James Lewis, an early settler of Orion, was born in Preble county, O., May 9, 1820 and there he grew to manhood, taking advantage of such opportunity as afforded in those days to acquire an education. Upon reaching manhood he married, removed to Illinois and settled in Mason county, where he remained until 1854, then came to Richland county and bought land on section 7, in what is now known as the town of Orion. Game was at that time quite plentiful, including deer and bear, and as he was quite a hunter he killed many of them. One morning his two sons, John and Joseph, went out to look for the oxen and ran across seven bears, one of which took after them. Their father had told them that a bear could not climb a small tree, and so they made for a sapling and both made quick time in climbing it. The bear came to the tree and gnawed the bark. The children called aloud for assistance, but did not attract attention for some time, as danger was not apprehended, but as their cries continued, their mother called the dogs and started. At the approach of the dogs the bears left, the mother running up in time to see them in their retreat, and the children then came down from their lofty perch, more scared than hurt.

    John Bobb, a native of Pennsylvania, came in the spring of 1854 and bought land on section 32, where he cleared a farm and erected a neat house and barn. When the Civil War broke out he enlisted, and died in the service.

    William Wulfing arrived in Richland county on May 25, 1849, and soon purchased the west half of the northwest quarter of section 16, town 9, range 1 east, of the fourth principal meridian. There he erected a log cabin and commenced pioneer life, and continued tilling the soil with considerable success until 1876, when he rented his farm to his son, removed to Richland Center, and during the remainder of his life gave his attention to the office of justice of the peace. He was a Democrat in politics, and while a resident of Orion served as town treasurer nine years, and for several terms as justice of the peace. He was born near the river Rhine, in Prussia, was bred to mercantile life, and in 1849 migrated to the United States and settled as above stated. His widow still resides in Richland Center.

    The first religious services in the northern part of the town were held in the old log schoolhouse on section 10, by Rev. Mr. Pryor, but no organization was effected at that time. Rev. Josiah Burlingame preached in the same building and held protracted meetings in an early day, organizing a Methodist Episcopal class. For a time the class met for worship in a building on section 4, and later in the schoolhouse on section 8, and services were held there until 1871, when a hewn log church edifice was erected on the southeast quarter of section 7. At an early day a Sabbath school of this denomination was organized at the schoolhouse on section 8, of which Charles Frye was the first superintendent. The first meetings of members of the German Evangelical church were held at the house of Henry Sigrist, in about 1852, Rev. Riegel, of Sauk county, being the preacher. Rev. Schnake organized a class in the log schoolhouse soon after it was built, and Henry Schuerman was the first class leader. Meetings were afterward held in a vacant log house on section 3, and in 1869 a frame building was erected on the same site. A Sabbath school was organized at an early day, with Henry Schuerman as the superintendent, and he held the position for many years. There is also a cemetery under the management of this society, located near the church. The German Lutheran church was organized in 1857, at the Ash Creek log schoolhouse, by Rev. Rolock, and a substantial log church was later erected in which services were held.

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