Professor Orton was a member of several learned societies; was President of the Sanitary Association of Ohio in 1884 and 1885; received the degree of Ph. D. from Hamilton College in 1876, and that of LL. D. from the Ohio State University in 1881; was elected President of the Geological Society of America in 1896; and was designated at the Boston meeting of the American Association, 1898, as president for the Columbus meeting, 1899.
In addition to his interests in science and theology, Professor Orton was keenly alive to everything that bore on the history of man on this planet. He was long a member of the Ohio State Archæological and Historical Society, and had recently been made a member of its board of trustees. He was a prominent member of the Old Northwest Genealogical Society, and was the author of a volume, published in 1896, on the Genealogy of the Orton Family in America. The absolute freedom of his character from any desire for display or self-aggrandizement is well shown by the fact that in this volume, compiled, with enormous labor, in the spare minutes of a busy life, he cuts himself off with one paragraph of a hundred words, while devoting pages to contemporaneous members of the family of whom the world has never elsewhere heard.
He was stricken with hemiplegia in December, 1891, but was able to do a considerable amount of work in his profession afterward. A few days before his death he said, in a note, that he felt that he had lived out his allotted time, and that his work was done. He never met his classes again, though he continued able to be up and about his home till the hour of his death. He seemed to feel that the solemn event was drawing close, during the last two days of his life, and his mind was always busy with the great question, "If a man die, shall he live again?" He had formed an affirmative answer apparently, as he read Browning's Prospice repeatedly in his last hours, and seemed to find in it the greatest pleasure and solace. His death was a quiet and painless one—a fitting end to a beautiful life.