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Orange Risdon was well-known surveyor
March 8, 1984


pix # 1 - Residence of Orange Risdon, Section 1, Saline Township, Michigan. The oldest building in Saline, site of the first township meeting, the house was built in 1829. It had 12 fireplaces in it's 12 rooms. One of the fireplaces was in the basement, alongside a brick oven for baking. Tradition holds that the basement was used as a hiding place for runaway slaves as a station on the underground railroad. When it was moved to Henry Street in 1948 and modernized, the house was found to have roof framing entirely of black walnut timbers.

(AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is the third in a series of articles about the Risdon family)

The descendent of Josiah and Martha Cochran Risdon who won the most acclaim was son Orange, two years older than David.

At Milton, Caratoga County, N.Y., he attended the common schools until he was 13. He then had private instruction under Mr. Rice of neighboring Ballston Spa, studying navigation and surveying, with the idea of following the sea as a livelihood. About that time he was frequently called upon as a surveyor. In 1807, at the age of 21, he accompanied a young cousin and her husband to the then far-off "Genesee Country" of western New York as driver of one of the teams of the party. They ended their journey at Leicester, Livingston County, south of present day Rochester and not far from Genesee, LeRoy and Livonia, all towns with Risdon associations.

Mr. Elisha Johnson, a surveyor in charge of surveying a tract of land of some 100,000 acres in the newly opened counties of Allegany and Genesee, secured Orange to "carry the chain" for the great salary of $14 a month. Discovering Orange's surveying talent, Johnson divided the surveying project with him and young Orange was on his way to becoming a professional. In 1809 he settled in the village of LeRoy, worked as a clerk in a land office and also as a surveyor, assisting in the platting of the new cities of Lockport, Brockport and Buffalo.

In 1817, Orange decided to venture into the "New territory" called Michigan. In 1823 he spent a month exploring on foot Washtenaw County and the neighboring counties. In 1824, with Judge Baxter; he explored the eastern portion of Michigan, riding some 2,000 miles on horseback. In 1824 he purchased 160 acres in Saline township, the first land in that town. Under his direction the road from Detroit to Pontiac was surveyed.

In 1825, when the military road from Detroit to Chicago was begun, Orange was appointed by the U.S. government as chief surveyor. He is credited with surveying 75 townships and the "resurveying" of 45 others.

In his book "Yankee Exodus" Stewart H. Holbrook cites Orange Risdon as one of the persons responsible for stimulating interest in the opening and settlement of Michigan territory by groups of emigrants from Vermont and other New England states.

It was at Saline, Mich., that Risdon built his home and helped to develop the town. The Risdon homestead still stands at Saline, the town's oldest surviving building. Recently it was moved to a new site. On the original site stands a marker; placed there by the Washtenaw Historical Society, honoring Risdon.

Numerous references to Risdon and his accomplishments are contained in "Reports and collections of the Michigan Historical Society," Vols. I-XV.

John Nelson Risdon, son of Orange and Sally Risdon, made a name for himself by establishing the Risdon Iron Works at San Francisco. In Locomotive Engineers Journal for December 1938 is pictured at San Jose Way Freight with engine No. 8 of Southern Pacific R.R. built by the Risdon Locomotive Works at Santa Barbara. Elsewhere it has been recorded that the Risdon firm also built the Battleship Oregon.

Orange Risdon and Sally Newland were married in 1816. Their first home was in LeRoy, N.Y., where their first six children were born. Their seventh child was born at Saline, Mich. Orange died in 1876, his wife in 1860.

(To Be Continued)


Dear Mr. Krupp:

Thank you so much for sending me those articles. They brought back many memories. I think I must have known Marguerite Gray most of my life as we went to the same church (Presbyterian) and our mother's belonged to the same organizations.

I still have a studio picture of the class of 1907. We were the first class to use caps and gowns. And, I have a program of the exercises. On the back are the names of the faculty members and the board of education.

You mentioned a Sobers boy. His name was Ross. There were some outstanding graduates in that class. I find I am not so good at writing, but think I could talk a "blue streak" if we were face to face. And I keep thinking of events of so many years ago.

Sincerely, Ollie Hartline


Here's an informative letter from Wm. S. Holliday, son of Marguerite Gray Holliday, responding to the article of Jan. 26.

Dear Mr. Krupp:

My cousin, George Gray, forwarded me copies of the articles you wrote recently in The Review Times in which you featured my mother, Marguerite Gray Holliday.

George sent me the glossy picture of Mother's you used in the Jan. 19 issue. I have never seen that particular picture and do not know where George obtained it. Nevertheless, it looks very much like Mother does right now.

Enclosed is a brochure we put out many years ago that goes into the family history a bit more than the present brochure from which you derived your information. The picture of Mother was taken aboard the Queen Elizabeth when the folks returned from the European candy tour mentioned in the booklet.

Mother is now residing in Presbyterian Lodge here in Erie and is in very good health, although she must use a walker to navigate. Even though her memory lapses, she remembered the old high school and her classmates mentioned by you. She was particularly interested in the fact she and Mrs. Hartline were the only known survivors of the Class of 1907.

Wm. S. Holliday


Someone gave me a "Golden Rule Bookmark." The printed message thereon expresses so well what the Bible is that I thought it was important to pass it along to readers of this column.


The state of man
The way of salvation
The doom of the sinner
The happiness of the believer
Light to direct
Food to support
Comfort to cheer
Traveler's map
Pilgrim staff
Pilot's compass
Soldier's sword
Christian's character
Fill the memory
Rule the heart
Reward the labor

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction." (II Timothy 3:16)

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