Indian Creek Cemetery
Orion Township, Richland County,
Tales The Tombstone
Tell - Republican Observer - May 31, 1956
The Indian Creek Cemetery
The snows of 106 winters have laid white upon the grave of Capt. John
Smith, a soldier in the Black Hawk war. Capt. Smith is buried in the
Indian Creek cemetery in the town of Orion just a bit east of the
village on highway 60. On the simple slab of marble are carved in
beautiful script these words
"Capt. John R.
June 27, 1850
of his age"
That is all the stone tells; no word of his being in
the Black Hawk war back in 1832; not a word of his being one of the
founders of the village of Orion or of his early days in a new country,
so we turn to the pages of the history of Richland county published in
1884 which says:
"Capt. John Smith, was born in Kentucky about 1790
and there he grew to man's estate. While a young man he moved to
Illinois and there enlisted in the Black Hawk war and served as
Captain. He was married to Elizabeth Holliday, who was also a native of
Kentucky. He worked at his trade, which was that of a millwright, in
Illinois until 1838, when he moved to Wisconsin and there engaged in
the lead mines in Iowa county until 1841 when he moved to Muscoda where
be worked at his trade. He was employed on the first mill ever erected
in Richland county on Mill Creek at Parish Mill, now Balmoral in the
town of Eagle. He came to Richland county in 1842 and remained there
until his death in 1850. He left a wife and two children - Catharine,
the wife of Thomas Mathews, and Benjamine M., who moved to the town of
Forest. Mrs. Smith afterwards marred K. J. Darnall and died in the town
Mr. Smith and his son-in-law Thomas Mathews, were
the first settlers in the town of Orion and they laid out the village
of Orion, erecting a rude log cabin on the site of the new village. The
village grew and prospered, became the county seat of Richland county.
It contained stores, a hotel, blacksmith shops, drug store, and the
ferry landing which was important back in those days. Smith and Mathews
owned the ferry which operated between Muscoda and the village. The
ferry operated until about 1870 when the bridge was built and the ferry
went out of business. The ferry landing at the west end of the village
can still be seen.
Thomas Mathews, also buried in the Indian Creek
cemetery, a son-in-law of Captain Smith, was a native of Tennessee,
born May 7, 1814. He moved with his parents to Illinois when he was
just a small boy. In 1836 he came to Wisconsin and worked in the lead
mines. In 1840 he married Catharine Smith and they moved to Muscoda and
in 1842 to Richland county and settled on the present site of the
village of Orion and built the first log cabin in the town. "Their
cabin" says the history, "thongh a humble one, was where strangers ever
found the latch string out." As the village grew it became known as the
"settlement" and Mr. Mathews kept the hotel. He was the first white man
to go up Pine river in a canoe as far as the natural bridge
(Rockbridge). He also, in company with John R. Smith, cut the first
road from Orion to Rockbridge. Mr. Mathews died, so his tombstone says,
in 1885 at the age of 71. His grave is close to that of Capt. Smith.
When the town of Richmond (now Orion) was organized,
the meeting was held at the Mathews home in April, 1849, at which time
the first officers were elected and John R. Smith was chosen as
chairman of the town.
There are many other pioneers of Orion who found the
Indian Creek cemetery the end of the trail. Among these was William
Dooley, who first came to this county in 1845 and was employed in the
Rockbridge mill. He entered land in Orion in 1848 but continued to work
in the mill until 1852. Mrs. James Laws, is another pioneer of Orion,
buried in the cemetery. She died Dec. 26, 1868. Mrs. Laws, whose maiden
name was Lucinda Calhoun, was born in South Carolina and was a relative
of John C. Calhoun.
Mr. Laws died in April 1865, while in Illinois on a
visit and his body buried there.
Levi Houts, another pioneer, found his last resting
place in the cemetery. He took a prominent part in the early days of
Orion, and died March 1, 1900, at the age of 72.
Many other pioneers whose names appear upon the
tombstones include Mainwaring, Owens, Kershner, Weldy, Bobb, Milner,
Gibbs, Stettler, Yeager, Truax, Shafer, Randall, Drew, Bremmer, Jones,
Lewis, Slayback, and others. Inscriptions on three stones might
interest you. They are:
A stone for Samuel Yeager says:
"Samuel Yeager, Veteran of two
wars. Born 1825."
That is all. No date of death and not a word about
the two wars.
A stone in the cemetery for Mr. and Mrs. A. L.
Crosby. He died on March 27, 1893 at the age 76 and she died March 7,
1893, at the age of 84. The inscription on the monument read:
"In labor and in love allied,
In death they asleep side by side,
Resting in peace the aged twain,
Till Christ shall arise them up again."
An oddity also in the Indian Creek cemetery is a
monument for Ellen Neill, who passed on September 20, 1874, at the age
of 71. On the bottom of the stone are these word: "Erected by Rev.
Robert Smith in memory of his mother-in-law, Ellen Neill."
Also in the cemetery are these special friends of
the writer of this article; they are Walter and Matilda Cook and their
son Tom. They lived for years and years at what is now known as
Riverview. Their home was in the house built in 1850 by James Laws,
mentioned above, and in the days long gone the place was known as Laws
Landing, as Mr. Laws ran a ferry there. He bought the ferry from Walter
Gage and the slough across the river is still called by old timers as
Mr. and Mrs. Cook, Walt and Till, as we knew them
were true blue and many a happy afternoon or evening was spent with
them. Their son, Tom we always knew as a friend, and a good one. Tom
died in 1949 of a heart attack.
He was buried on the same lot with his parents. His
father, born June 22, 1845, also died of a heart attack, January 11,
1922 and his funeral was held in the old, old church in the village;
the church building, by the way, was presented to the people of Orion
by Peter Bobb and wife whose daughter was the wife of Mr. Cook. Mrs.
Cook was born February 8, 1845 and died January 10, 1935. Snow was deep
upon the cemetery when Mrs. Cook was laid to rest and the burying
ground was white and snow crunched beneath the feet of the mourners and
friends as they followed the remains to the flower covered grave to pay
last respect to Walter and Till. Peace be with them for evermore.
When we chanced to visit the cemetery on May 2 of
this year they were laying away another pioneer, Mrs. Hattie Reed, who
died April 29 in a Madison hospital at the age of 84. Mrs. Reed was the
former Hattie Randall. She was a native of Richland county but had
resided in Madison for about 30 years. On the lot where she was buried
where other members of her family one of whom was Emma, wife of
Stephen J. Randall. She, no doubt, was a grandmother of Mrs. Reed. She
died, so the tombstone said, August 25, 1857, aged 24 years. This
linked the past with the present as 99 years had passed into the far
away days of 1857 to the present, 1956. Time marches on.
Marriage In The Old Church
As another link between the past and the present we
will mention the wedding which took place in the old, old church on
June 14, 1953 when Miss Marian Mathews, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lester
Mathews, Richland Center, became the bride of Bernard Stout. Rev.
Lester Mathews performed the ceremony. Rev. Mathews grandfather was
Thomas Mathews one of the founders of Orion village. Miss Marian
Mathew's is a great grandchild. It was fitting and proper that she be
wedded in the old church which still stands in Orion village.
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