A True Pioneer - George W. West

George W. West 1818 - 1903 | Pioneer & Brodhead Native


A Definitive Pioneer

When we conjur up the idea of American Pioneers, we think traveling by foot, covered wagons, and the treacherous migration to the west. 

This profile of an early pioneer mostly does not apply to the settlement of Wisconsin, as nearly 90% of Wisconsin was settled by water migration via the Great Lakes. However, George W. West, a Green County pioneer ... was an exception. 

Mr. West was the sort of pioneer that fuels the imagination when pondering the earliest days of the United States. He traveled by foot from Chicago to Green County, built a log cabin for his family in Illinois, and ventured far west during the gold rush with a team of horses & covered wagon and built the first house in Nevada City for his family's home.

George West came onto my radar as Miles M. McNair (the inspiration for my research into Brodhead's founding history) was pallbearer in his funeral (Miles was 80 years of age when fulfilling the duty).

The following is initial information on George, through an eloquent obituary published after his death ...

George West traveled with his young family for four months and four days from Clarno via covered wagon. This was during the Gold Rush, and George notably built the first home in Nevada City. At his family's behest, they moved back to Brodhead, where they settled for their remaining decades.

George's Obituary

"Though Mr. West had been gradually failing in health, no one thought the end so near as he had no serious illness. He rose as usual, the morning of the 13th and after breakfasting, complained of not feeling well, and lay down again. In the early afternoon he became unconscious and passed away, with little suffering in the evening.

Mr. West was born in Brant, Erie Co, New York, January 7th 1818, and was the eldest of ten children born to his parents, John and Avis Bowen West. He passed the first twenty years of his life on the paternal estate in New York, where he received a common school education. In 1838, he came to Green County, by way of the lakes, to Chicago, and proceeded the rest of the way on foot, to the township of Clarno.

In the fall of 1839, he returned to his native state and married  Susan Winchell on the first day of February, 1840, started on his return, accompanied by his wife. They came the entire distance by team, being one month and four days on their journey. They settled in Stephenson County, Illinois, on a claim of 60 acres, which he fenced, and on which he built a log cabin.

In 1842, he sold his land and came to Sylvester, Green County, and purchased what has since been known as the West family homestead. Mr. West crossed the plains in 1850, with team and covered wagon, spending four months and four days on the trip. He built the first house in Nevada City, seventy miles from Sacramento, where he expected to make his home, but his wife and three children prevailed upon him to return.

In 1874, he retired from farm life, and moved to Brodhead, where he has since lived. George and Susan West were the parents of twelve children: Samuel, Louisa, Avis, George, Franklin, Clara, Mary, Alice, Ida, Nelson, and two who died in infancy. Mrs. Susan West died Oct. 15, 1893, leaving behind her tender memories as a wife and mother.

Sept. 30, 1894, Mr. West married Mrs. Eliza Jane Decker, together with whom he finished the remaining years of his life in contentment and happiness.

He was a man of strong character and gentle disposition, always looking for the comfort of others and fearing lest he cause those about him the least trouble, and he was conscientious in his dealings with others. He leaves to mourn his loss a loving wife, two sisters, three brothers, one son Samuel, four daughters: Mrs. Clara Watt, Mrs. Mary Vance, Mrs. Alice Northcraft, Mrs. Ida Smith; twenty-five grand-children, and eighteen great grand children.

The funeral services were held at the home Monday, Feb 16th, conducted by Rev. J. Andereck, of Juda, who used for a text, the words recorded in 1st Corinthians, 15th chapter, 26th verse: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death”. The appropriate and comforting song service was rendered by Misses Anna and Katherine Stewart, Messrs. G. E. Dixon and Chas. Steele, with Mrs. W. F. Holcomb, accompanist.

The following named persons served as pallbearers: M. M. McNair, D. Dunwiddie, D. Murdock, M. H. Williams, H. Bowen, and J. Bowen. The remains were tenderly laid to rest in Mount Vernon Cemetery, at Juda, to await the resurrection. Besides the immediate family, there were present from a distance, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Trousdale, of Beloit; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Hall, Mr. and Mrs. E. E. Andereck of Juda, D. W. West and Mrs. Alice Harper of Monroe.

CARD OF THANKS We desire to return our heartfelt thanks to all who helped lighten the burden of sorrow during the sickness and death of the husband and father. Especial thanks are due to those who sent the beautiful floral offerings and to the singers for their comforting songs. Mrs. Geo. West, Samuel West Mrs. Clara Watt Mrs. Mary Vance Mrs. Alice Northcraft Mrs. Ida Smith"

Next Steps

I am off to the Historical Society, and will be looking for the original obituary in the Brodhead Independent's 1903 paper to document, as well as other connections to George and his family.

Stay tuned ...