Early Solon Settlers--banner

John and Orson West

John West,a pioneer of Solon, Iowa, was born in New York about 1797. His first wife, Clarissa, was born in Vermont about 1801. Clarissa apparently died between 1850 and 1853. John married Hannah (Stout) Hill, a widow, in 1853. Mr. and Mrs. West, were charter members of the Methodist Episcopal Church built in 1855.

John is mentioned in histories of Johnson County as the partner of Hamilton H. Kerr. Together they hired Cyrus Sanders in October 1840 to lay out eighty acres of Big Grove Township for the town of Solon. Big Grove township was part of the Blackhawk purchase of 1832--land ceded to Johnson County from the Sac and Fox Indians. Johnson County formed in 1837. The first settlers came in 1838. Johnson County land sales were sold out of the Iowa City Land Office after the U.S. Treaty of 1832 which acquired the lands of the Sac and Fox Indians as a result of the Blackhawk War.

John was appointed a director to cut a road from Solon to Iowa City in 1842. His plan to sell lots in Solon was not successful for at that time the U.S. government was selling quarter sections of farm land at a very low price. John did not record title to any of the town land.

John later acquired property in Newport Township north of Big Grove and he and Hannah both died there, John in 1861, Hannah in 1872. They are buried at Sandtown cemetery, Muscatine.

Although John and Clarissa probably had a large family, only one son, Orson West, has been identified. Orson was born in 1827 in New York. He evidently met and married his wife,Catherine Griffith, in Big Grove Township, Johnson County. Catherine came to Solon with her parents, James and Elizabeth Griffith, from Ohio. Catherine was born in Bladensburg, Knox County, Ohio.

Orson came to Solon with his parents about 1838 at age 11. Both Orson and Catherine acquired deeds to farm land in Johnson County about 1850. Orson and Catherine disposed of their land and eventually moved to Illinois and Missouri. Orson became a stock dealer and the couple moved frequently between Missouri and Illinois. This movement might be attributed to the Civil War. Missouri was a Union state with strong Confederate sympathies. Kansas City and the region of southern Missouri became a dangerous place. Kansas Jayhawker abolitionists fought Missouri Bushwacker Confederates in the border between Kansas and Missouri. Illinois was a Union state and would have been relatively safe. They were in Missouri in 1851, Quincy, Illinois in 1857, back in Kansas City, Missouri in 1860 and in Quincy again from 1862-1879, at which time Catherine apparently died. Orson purchased a grave site in Quincy. He returned to Kansas City with his children in 1880. In the 1890s he and his family migrated to Denver, Colorado and then Napa, California. Orson died in a grizzly accident in San Francisco in 1901 when he fell down an elevator shaft in a 'scy scraper' and was then crushed by an falling elevator.