O'Neill, Hon. James O'Neill (1810 -1882)






----Source: Republican Press March 30, 1882


O'Neill, Hon. James O'Neill (1810 - 1882)


The death of Hon. James O'Neill, Sr., who was one of the first, if not the first permanent settler in the territory now embraced in Clark county, and the founder of Neillsville, occurred at his residence in this village at 4 o'clock P.M. on Tuesday last, March 28, 1882, after an illness of but a few days duration. Though his death had been momentarily expected during the entire day upon which his eventful life dates its close, not until the whispered announcement, made in sadness and confirmed by tolling bells, that he had passed the portals of Time to the great hereafter, did we fully realize how deeply his loss could be felt by a community of which he was the founder and which owes its existence and prosperity to the privations he endured.

The deceased was born in the town of Lisbon, St. Lawrence County, New York, May 4, 1810, and was the third of a family of nine children, but one of whom is still living. At the age of seventeen he left the paternal roof and commenced to hew for himself the pathway of life, going into the employ of an elder brother then doing business at Edwardsburg, Canada, as a clerk. A few years later, in partnership with another brother, he engaged in lumbering on the American side of the St. Lawrence River, in which business he was engaged about a year, after which he was engaged in various business enterprises in connection with his brothers in that locality, until in June 1836, when bidding his father and mother what proved to be a last farewell, he started for the then unexplored and boundless west. During the three years following his departure from home he visited many places in the west and south. In September, 1839, in company with his brother Alexander, he procured a canoe at Prairie du Chien, which they stocked with provisions, and with which they made their first settlement on Black River, stopping at a point about three miles below what is now known as Black River Falls, where they built a saw mill. He remained at that point until 1844 when he settled on the present site of Neillsville and built the first building erected in the territory now covered by our village, a rough log cabin that stood on or near the ground now occupied by the Neillsville flouring mills. On the sixth of March, 1846, after a bachlerhood that had carried him to his thirty-sixth year, he espoused Jane Douglas, a sister of the Hon. Mark Douglas, of Melrose, Jackson County, and of Mrs. Isabella Mason, of Black River Falls, and with this event in his life ended his disposition to roam from place to place, and made him the founder of our present prosperous village, in whose honor it was named.

He was elected to the assembly of Wisconsin in the fall of 1848 from the district composed of the counties of Chippewa and Crawford, and was a member of the legislature of 1879. From 1861 - 1865 he held the office of treasure of Clark County, and in 1868 was again elected to the assembly from the district then composed of the counties of Clark and Jackson. Aside from the offices of honor and trust mentioned above, he served this county in the important position of chairman of the county board of supervisors for fifteen years, and held many important town offices. In official position in which he was tried repeatedly and well, as in other walks of life, he was ever found worthy of confidence. He was a man of broad and generous sympathies, whose hand was ever open to the needy. Generous to his friends, he was equally just to his enemies, and today, though summoned to his rest at a ripe old age, his loss is the occasion of universal regret, and his memory will be cherished through life by all who knew him.

Among the immediate friends who mourn his death are his widow and their son, now in his seventh year, and the two daughters by his first marriage- Mrs. W. S. Covill and Mrs. F. E. Darling, of this place, and a brother residing on the old homestead where the life now ended first began.

The funeral, which takes place from the Court House today at 2 pm, will be conducted by the Rev. H. W. Bushnell, formerly the minister in charge of the Methodist Church of this place.



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