Orleans Township


Early historians say that the first settler in Orleans Township was Nelson Gager, who arrived from Upper Canada in the fall of 1853. In 1855 he built a log house in the Northeast quarter of section 9. Following Gager during the year of 1854 were: Wm. Rowlee, Norris Humphrey, Charles McCartney, and Thomas Lewis. Twin girls born to the Charles McCartney's are recorded as the first children born in Orleans Township in 1854. Other early families were Thomas Farrel, Amasa Owen, Seth Murray, Mr. Robbins, Mr. Stanton, and Morgan Howard from whom the Morgan School District received its name.

Pioneer records show that two Post Office were established at on time in the township, one at Seth Murray's house and the other at the Morgan Howard home, which was called the Morgan Post Office.

In 1855, other records show that Hugh McBride, James Murtha, D. W. C. Towne, Amos Rugg, Ezra Bourne and others arrived to settle in the township.

In 1856, ten or twelve families of the Quaker faith arrived and to them goes the credit for organizing the first religious society and for building the first church in the township. Founders of the church were the families of Enos George, Levi Middleton, Ellis George, Isaac Jay, John Hanson, L. Easterling, Mary Carson, Jeremiah Barker, Mr. Lamb, and Mr. Pearson. Their church, a one-story building about 20' x 30', was located on the southeast quarter of section 20 on what was known as the Eli Carson farm owned, now by Kenneth Joyce. Fire destroyed the building in 1864 and it was never rebuilt.

Practically all the Quakers moved away and the next religious group recorded were Norwegians, who organized the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, and in 1874 built a church which was dedicated June 6, 1875. The church, which is now known as the Orleans Lutheran Church, was dedicated by Rev. J. Moses The pastor, was assisted by Rev. V. Koren, Professor L. Larson, Rev. Reque, and Rev. Larson. The original church building was torn down and a new one built in 1913.

Local historians noted that first name of the township was Pilot Grove. It is said that Seth Murray's house was on a main road traveled by settlers and teamsters on the way west from McGregor. Murray was said to have kept lighted candles in the windows at night as a guide for travelers, therefore, the name Pilot Grove.

By 1856 additional settlers recorded were: Charles Curtis, Smith Broadway, James Stitt, Dan Gates, James Murtha, Hugh McBride, Calvin Farnsworth, and Ebenezer and Almon Rice. In 1910, the population of Orleans Township was 550.

A well platted and recorded cemetery in Orleans township is that maintained by the Orleans Lutheran Church in section 26. The land was set aside for a cemetery in 1870.

Three older abandoned cemeteries are also located within Orleans Township, the first in section 10 on land originally owned by John L. Hattlestad; the second is in section 11. Few records are available of burials in these two cemeteries but Lawrence Ferkinsted has information from a deceased relative and has fenced off the one in section 11, to preserve its boundaries. In the southeast corner of section 13, is a cemetery, which originally had belonged to a church that was once located in section 14, but now only a few overturned tombstones are evident of its original location, which is on the farm now owned by LeRoy Baethke.

Two paragraphs in an Orleans District Number 6-school history, written by Alice Teetshorn when she was in 6th grade says, "there used to be a cemetery just east of our school. Four unmarked graves still remain". "By looking straight north from our school house, we can see the lone pine which marks a grave of a baby girl of the Wells family."

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