Digital Exhibits The Women Take Charge

The ladies in town addressed the need for a cemetery around 1862 when Austin’s population was around 400. They held a meeting on February 1, 1862 at the home of J. L. Davidson. At that meeting, they officially organized the Mite Society and Cemetery Association to purchase and improve land that would be suitable for a cemetery. Mrs. Davidson was elected president and Mrs. Ormanzo Allen was secretary of the new organization.

Harriet Hutchinson was bornin New York in 1816. She became a school teacher. In 1840, she moved to Rochester, NY and married Martin Albro. They had a daughter, Alta Isabella, before Martin died in 1843. Shortly after his death, Harriett became acquainted with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She became very active in their temperance work, which remained a passion her whole life. She eventually moved to Wisconsin and married Joshua L. Davidson in the fall of 1856. They came to Austin shortly after their wedding and Joshua became one of the original proprietors of Austin. Joshua and Harriet were very early members of the Congregational Church in Austin and donated the land for the first building. Harriet remained active in temperance and religious circles as well as literary work her whole life. In fact, in addition to her work with the Mite Society and the Ladies’ Floral Club (to raise money for a Library), Harriet also founded the first organization in Austin in 1857 – the Ladies Temperance Society. Mower County Historical Society, 2020.009.0001d
Eliza Alexander was also born in New York in 1826. She graduated from the classical course of Alfred University in New York in 1852. Eliza married Ormanzo Allen (future Austin lawyer and judge) in Milwaukee on September 4, 1854. They arrived in Austin in summer 1856. Eliza became a very active member of the Baptist Church and was baptized in the Cedar River. Her obituary said “she was a woman of rare culture and ability and those who knew her intimately regarded her most highly.” Mower County Historical Society, 2020.009.0001l

The Mite Society held meetings every other week in members’ homes. They went alphabetically to ensure everyone got a chance to host.  Each member paid 10₵ and meetings were attended by about 80-100 people.  Men could attend the meetings but only the women voted. “To talk to some of the old settlers, one would think that the burial society was the center of life and happiness.”  Since Austin was a small (but growing) town, the Mite Society meetings were popular social occasions.

Mrs. J. L. Clark hosted the first regular meeting. The women voted to instruct the men to buy the land and the Mite Society would build the fence. They held different meetings and picnics to raise the necessary funds. Around this time, the men formed their own society, the Austin Cemetery Association, on March 15, 1862. Solomon Snow served as chairman and Ormanzo Allen as secretary. They sent out a committee to find land.

The Mite Society members advertised a picnic on June 16, 1864 and the results were provided in the June 23 edition of the Mower County Register.
Mower County Transcript, March 2, 1876

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