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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History
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Simon M. Harmon

Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record - Published 1894 by Excelsior Publishing Co., Chicago" Pages 507 - 510

Simon M. Harmon is one of the leading old settlers and pioneers of Sheboygan County. He was one of the first to locate in Lyndon Township, which has been his home for nearly a half-century. A native of Oswego County, N. Y., he was born January 9, 1816, being the eldest in a family of four sons and two daughters, born to Thaddeus and Betsey (Waugh) Harmon. Of this family there are five living: Simon M.; Chauncey, who is also a resident of the town of Lyndon; Norman, who lives in Waldo; Henry, a wealthy speculator of Tacoma, Wash., who resides with his family in that city; and Minerva, widow of Gilbert H. Smith, of whom see an account on another page.

Mr. Harmon's father was a native of Pawlet, Vt., where he was reared to manhood and received a common-school education. He was a farmer by occupation, and was one of the pioneers of Oswego County, N. Y., enduring the hardships common to early settlers. When he went to that county, deer were so plentiful that he could go out during the winter season and kill them with a club. In his political sentiments, he was an old-line Whig until the formation of the Republican party, when he became identified with that. He and his wife were members of the Congregational Church, and were beloved for their many virtues. A man of strong convictions, he never swerved from the path of rectitude.

This worthy couple came to Sheboygan County in 1844, four years before Wisconsin was admitted to the Union. With their family, they embarked on the propeller "Vandalia," one of the first built, taking twenty-two days to make the trip. They intended to locate at Milwaukee, but on arriving at that place they changed their plans, loaded their goods into four wagons drawn by oxen, and started for Sheboygan County. The journey was tedious, but was full of interesting experiences. On coming to the Milwaukee River, they found the stream very much swollen, and how to cross this without bridge or ferry-boat was the problem. The old Indian, Waubaca, and his warriors lived close by, but their only means of crossing the river was by canoes. When the Indians saw their white brothers halted by the raging torrent, they gave vent to a shout. The sturdy New England grit, however, was not easily put to flight. By means of the canoes, the men paddled their wives and children across the stream, swam the oxen over, then, by means of ropes, drew the wagons, heavily loaded with pork, flour and provisions (brought from New York), to the other side, landing all in safety. This feat, so successfully accomplished, excited the wonder and admiration of the Indians for the genius and daring of the white man. During the trip, the rain fell in torrents and the roads, in many places, became almost impassable. Frequently the teams would almost sink in the quagmires, and the women and children would have to get out of the wagons. Instead of walking miles around when they encountered a body of water, these sturdy pioneer women so adjusted their apparel that it would not get wet, and boldly waded in. Onion River presented another obstacle, but here, unfortunately, there were no canoes. The gentlemen showed their gallantry by carrying the ladies across on their backs. Mr. Parrish was carrying Mrs. Betsey Harmon, when, stepping on a mossy stone, his foot slipped and both went under, and, as Mrs. Harmon says, this "made practical Baptists out of genuine Congregationalists." All the women and children of the twenty-three families which constituted this company were thus transported over the river, though riot everyone was so unfortunate as Mrs. Harmon. Their objective point was "Deacon Dye's settlement," where they arrived in due time, and found the Deacon at his home, which was known as pioneer headquarters.

The first stopping-place of the Harmon and Parrish families was at the Harmon Spring, which is located just east of Simon Harmon's residence. Their first habitation, a log house of 24x30 feet, was built at the spring. Having cut and hauled the logs, they put up the body of the house in one day. A number of Indians who were watching them roll up the logs were asked to help lift, but, thinking the white men were plotting their destruction, they obstinately refused. Having covered about fourteen feet of the roof with rough boards, and having thrown down some loose ones for a floor, the beds were arranged around the wall. Before time for retiring, Deacon Trowbridge called in to make them a visit, and remained over night. When the lights were extinguished and the stars shone down through the uncovered portions of the cabin, the Deacon remarked: "This would be a good place in which to study astronomy."

Our subject says that when, during the first night spent in his new home, he heard the Indians and howling wolves, the thoughts of his old home in New York stole upon him and produced a feeling of homesickness which he later often felt while enduring the hardships and privations of pioneer days. The girls, and mothers too, perceptibly felt what they had lost in exchanging a well-furnished home for a pioneer's cabin. Often they would go to a large stone, which the biographer has christened "the weeping-stone," upon which they would sit, reflecting upon all they had left behind, and, unbidden, the bitter tears would start. Due homage should be paid to the sturdy and honest pioneers who came to the unbroken wilds of the far West and blazed the road for civilization.

It was decided after a time to make a trip back to their Eastern home, so Messrs. Harmon and Parrish blazed some logs near their cabin, and wrote thereon, "Gone back to the home we came from," but through the influence of Deacon Dye they were induced to remain. The first winter no provisions could be purchased at Sheboygan, hence these two gentlemen started with ox-teams for Milwaukee. The weather was intensely cold, and, ere they had gone fourteen miles, Mr. Harmon's feet were badly frozen. Our subject has carried to this day the marks of that terrible experience. During their absence, their families were left at the mercy of the pitiless winter storms and the prowling Indians. Arriving in Milwaukee, Mr. Harmon purchased nine barrels of flour at twenty shillings a barrel; he also bought a carcass of beef, paying two and a-half cents per pound, and other necessaries. Thus well supplied, he returned to his anxiously waiting family.

The first land purchased by the Harmons consisted of about seven hundred acres, covered with timber, whose only inhabitants were Indians and wild animals. By hard work they converted this into the finest farms to be found in Sheboygan County. In their cabin homes church services were held, for as yet no churches had been built. The first schoolhouse erected in that part of the county was built at the four corners east of the residence of S. M. Harmon, who was one of the promoters of that enterprise. This gentleman also assisted in laying out many of the highways of the town of Lyndon, and in many other ways has been a prominent factor in its advancement. The father and mother of the subject of this article died in Lyndon Township, their remains being interred in the Harmon Cemetery, where beautiful monuments mark their last resting-place.

Simon M. Harmon spent his boyhood days in Oswego County, N. Y., receiving his education in the district schools. Before leaving his native county he was married, on the 6th of December, 1842, to Miss Ann Parrish, a native of the same county, born June 17, 1822. Of this union were born five children, two sons and three daughters. The living are Desalvo B., who is a resident of O'Brien County, Iowa, and was born September 12, 1843, in Oswego County, N. Y. He was educated in the common schools of Sheboygan County, and when the rebellion broke out donned the blue and offered his life for the preservation of t he Union. Enlisting in Company I, First Wisconsin Infantry, under Col. Starkweather, he was assigned to the Army of the Cumberland. At the battle of Stone River he received a severe wound in the left knee, rendering him a cripple for life. During some two months he remained in the hospital, suffering not only from his wound, but also from a severe attack of typhoid fever. While in the hospital, the wounded boy was visited by his father. As soon as he was able to take the field, he again joined his command and served to the close of his term of enlistment, when he was honorably discharged. As a partial compensation for the injuries received, he gets a pension of $14 a month. Mr. Harmon, Jr., has been an agriculturist all his life. For a companion he chose Miss Josephine Mclntyre, the first white girl born in Lyndon Township. Their wedding ceremony was performed December 19, 1865, and unto them have been born three children: May, Charles and Ellen. The husband is a true-blue Republican, having held to the principles of that party since he was old enough to vote. He owns three hundred acres of fine land in O'Brien County, being one of the substantial farmers and respected citizens of the same.

The second child of our subject is Albert G., a resident of Waupaca, Wis., and a farmer by occupation. He married Martha Pelton, and is the father of three children, two sons and a daughter: Raymond, Jessie and Herbert. This son is also a Republican in politics. Ella, the next in order of birth, was born April 22, 1854, was educated in the common schools, and on the 31st of October, 1887, was married to C. W. Gates, a native of Sheboygan County, born October 31, 1852. By occupation he is a cheese manufacturer. Socially, he is a member of the Masonic order, and, politically, he is a Republican. Mrs. Gates is the youngest living child.

Mrs. Harmon, the mother of this family, is the fifth in order of birth . in a family of seven children born to Isaac and Rebecca (Meigs) Parrish, of whom four are living. Thressie, widow of Robert Gates, resides with her four children in Oswego County, N. Y.; Mrs. Harmon is the next; Julia is the widow of Samuel Chittenden, and resides in Onondaga County, N. Y., having a family of three children; Martha P. married Seaman Shadbolt, who is now deceased, and has a family or three children; H. F. is a resident of Sheboygan; H. C. is a lumber and coal merchant of Emmetsburgh, Iowa; and George E. is interested in a cattle ranch in Cherry County, Neb.

Mrs. Harmon has been a valuable helpmate to her husband, as well as a kind and loving mother. In his political views, Mr. Harmon was an oldtime Whig, having cast his first ballot for "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too," and since the organization of the Republican party has supported each of its Presidential candidates.

Mr. and Mrs. Harmon are truly classed among the pioneers, for they have seen the county transformed from a forest into a splendid agricultural region. They have beheld the woods melt away before the frontiersman's axe, cities and villages spring into existence, and the entire face of the country change as if by magic. When they came to this county, the city of Sheboygan contained not more than three hundred inhabitants, Sheboygan Falls was a mere hamlet, and Plymouth not yet thought of.

By kindness in word and deed, this worthy couple have endeared themselves to a large circle of friends and acquaintances, who will read this sketch of their lives with satisfaction; but most of all will it be cherished by the children, when father and mother have passed away.


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