Aka Brown Church
Buena Vista Township, Richland County,
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
Carrie A. - 1858-1876.
Lizzie J. -
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
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
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
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.
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