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                                                             Bear Valley  Cemetery
                                                                                              Aka Brown Church Cemetery
                                                             Buena Vista Township, Richland County, Wisconsin  USA

Tales The Tombstones Tell  -  Republican Observer  -  July 5, 1956

                                                            Bear Valley Cemetery
  Some time in 1860 a cemetery association with A. G. Burnham, as president;. J. G. Carpenter, as treasurer, and J. M. Thomas, secretary, was formed and a cemetery laid out in what was then the town of Ithaca, now Buena Vista, in Bear Valley. It is called the Bear Valley cemetery. A church, known now as the Brown Church, stands in the burying ground. The church building was erected in 1874.  The Rev. S. B. Loomis was one of the first if not the first, minister to preach there.
    The Bear Valley cemetery is well kept and contains the remains of many of the men and women who resided in that area and brought the surrounding countryside from a wilderness into one of the finest sections of Richland county.
    Upon the monuments and stones appear the names of many of the well known folks who rest beneath the sod. Carswell, Burnham, Smith, Thomas, Hardenberg, Clements, Eaton, Goodrich, Earll, Reynolds, Ellsworth, Winterburn, Beckwith and Davis are just a few.

    The earliest date of a birth is upon the stone of Lucretta Judd, widow of Enoch Judd, who was born March 5, 1797. She died in February, 1867.

    There are a number of Civil War veterans and a few World War I and II buried at this cross roads burying ground. Joseph A. Stocks who died in May, 1937, and Leland Smith who passed on in 1939 are two of the World War I soldiers in the cemetery. There may be others. John Price, who died in 1872 has a GAR marker on his grave.

    On the stone of Robert Keppert it says: "Robert Keppert, born in Germany, November 2, 1838; came to America in 1851, and settled in Richland county in 1860. Enlisted November 14, 1863, in Co. F 2nd Wisconsin cavalry and served until the close of the war. Died March 17, 1903. Weep Not He is at Rest."
    On the opposite side of the stone is the inscription for his wife. It reads:
    "Elizabeth Cheney, born in England, April 5, 1844. Came with her parents to America and settled at Muskegon, Mich., where she was married to Robert Keppert February 18, 1859; died on February 18, 1903. In after time we'll meet her."

    Walter J. Davis is another well known Bear Valley citizen to rest in this cemetery which is not far from his former home. His tombstone reads:
        "Walter J. Davis - 1854-1932
                His Wives
        Carrie A.  -  1858-1876.
        Lizzie J.  -  1859-1923."
    Mr. Davis' father, Abijah S. Davis, came to Buena Vista in 1853. He was born in Canada, August 2, 1824, residing there for 16 years, came to Dane county, Wisconsin, and then went to California in search of gold and was quite successful. He was married to Thankful A. Breese a native of Canada. Both Mr. and Mrs. Abijah S. Davis are buried in the Bear Valley cemetery, as well as the son, Walter J., mentioned above.

    Two men who won high offices, are buried in this cemetery. J. M.  Thomas and William Dixon, both serving as assemblymen. Mr. Thomas came to Richland county in 1857 and purchased 80 acres of land. He was elected to the assembly in 1869, 1878 and in 1879. He was born in New York in 1829. William Dixon, also an assemblyman, was a native of England, born in 1808, came with his parents to America in 1817. He learned the weaver's trade from his father, worked in a cotton goods factory, and on the Erie canal, came to Richland county in 1854. He was elected assemblyman in 1858 and again in 1872. He died at the age of 79 and his wife passed on in 1895 aged 86.
     Another early day settler in Bear Valley was Horace L. Burnham, who came to this county from Vermont in 1856. His first home on Bear Creek was a log cabin with a sod roof. He was born in 1828. His wife was the former Susan Lowell, born in Vermont in 1830. Mr. Burnham served as county treasurer of Richland county four years. Two of his sons, Frank W. Burnham and John W. became prominent in the affairs of Richland Center. F. W. was an attorney and John W. a druggist. Still in operation is the Burnham drug store which he owned for many years prior to his death.
    Benjamine Winterburn, buried in the Bear Valley cemetery, first saw the light of day near London, England, March 1, 1830, and with his parents came to America in 1835. In 1856 he was married to Mary J. Phillips and in 1857 they came to Richland county. Mrs. Winterburn died in 1872.
    Prominent in the affairs of that area surrounding the cemetery were the Carswell family, a number of whom now rest in the quiet cemetery close to the road. George J. Carswell, a native of Otsego, New York, was born in 1823, and resided in New York until 1853. Few among the pioneers of Richland county have been more successful than Mr. Carswell. He began life a poor man but soon secured much land, money and above all, friends. His farm at one time contained 400 acres of rich land. He was an extensive breeder of Devon cattle and had a herd of 100 head. Mr. and Mrs. Carswell had three children, John A., Fred E., and George A.
    John A. Carswell was born on the home farm in 1854 and devoted his time to dairying, like his father. Fred E. also was born on the home farm and he too made dairying his occupation for many years. He later moved to Richland Center, became a state dairy inspector. The Carswell family were pioneers in the dairy industry in Richland county.
    John H. Carswell was another of the family to settle in Richland county from New York. He first came in 1853 but did not make permanent settlement until 1864. He was born in 1815. He was a farmer and for four years president of the Richland County Agriculture Society. He was acquainted with John Brown and contributed to a fund to purchase arms for he and his sons to enable them to defend themselves against the ruffians of Kansas. His wife, Mary Lutin, was a native of Germany. They had two children, Nathaniel and Elizabeth; all four found rest in the Bear Valley cemetery.
    Quite a number of the Bear Valley folks came from New York. Among these were Curtis E. Brace, who came here in 1868. He engaged in dairying, raising Holstein cattle. He was born, so his tombstone says, in January, 1830. He was the father of Henry Brace, long time farmer of Lower Bear Valley, and he too raised Holsteins and the Brace farm now under the management of Charles and Donald Brace, who like their grandfather, breed Holsteins and the stock is noted far and wide. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Brace now sleep away the years in the cemetery.
    Tombstones in the burying ground, contain the names of the early settlers, Reynolds, Runyan, Clements, Eaton, Bancroft, Ellsworth, Beckwith, Maxwell, Peebles, Oschner, Rasmussen, Holcomb.
    Polly Butterfield born in 1791, and who died in 1866, is among the older people to find rest beneath the shade trees.
    John A. Shontz, a prominent farmer of Bear Valley, one time postmaster of Bear Valley village, found rest in this burying ground as does his wife. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1832, and came here in 1854. His son George M. Shontz, was at one time district attorney of Richland county.
    George E. Brainerd is a soldier boy to come to the end of the trail in the cemetery. He was born in 1892 and died in 1918.
    Ben and Dora Goodrich, one time residents of Richland Center, now of Madison, believe in preparedness. Though still in the land of the living, their tombstones are in the cemetery on their lot but it is the hope of many friends that the two tombstones will not have to be put into actual use for many years.

S. F.

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