Bio: O'Neill, James Sr.
Contact: Suzie

James O'Neill, Sr. From the Clark County Centennial Booklet copyright 1953 pages F-9 and F-10

To James O'Neill, Sr., goes the major credit for founding Neillsville and Clark County. It is he who, in a small company, investigated the site of Neillsville in 1844 and who led the group that established the first permanent settlement in Clark County the next year. It was a business venture, shared with his brothers, Henry and Alexander***. But it was James who gave continuance to the venture and associated himself permanently with the community.

The O'Neills had their background in New York state. James was one of the nine children of Andrew O'Neill, a farmer. At least one piece of farm property continued in the O'Neill family, as represented locally, for more than a century, and it was a pleasant custom of the late Judge James O'Neill, nephew of the founder, to ship to Neillsville each year a barrel of New York State apples, which were presented by him to the pupils of the public schools.

In his youth, James O'Neill, Sr., worked on his father's farm and clerked in a brother's store. He worked four years on a lumbering operation in the east. As a young man he set out for the middle west; cut cord wood in Louisiana; ran a keel boat for a time; developed ague and was forced to get off the Mississippi. He and his brother Henry established a small mill three miles downstream from Black River Falls, operated there a few years and in 1845 moved their operation to O'Neill creek.

First structure to be erected was a log hut 18 x 24, put up on the bank of the creek, near where the mill was afterwards constructed. This was used for about a year. In 1846 Mr. O'Neill built a more commodious house on the south side of the creek, at the location of the present Skroch residence. The old log hut eventually fell into the creek.

As a lumberman James O'Neill represented the pioneering phase of the industry. His mill was 22 feet wide and 44 feet long. It was equipped with an "up and down" saw, with a capacity of 4,000 board feet in 12 hours, a drop in the bucket as compared to the large mills at Analaska, which afterward cut up the logs of Clark County by the million feet.

The first mill lasted 15 years and vanished; was presumably burned. It was replaced by another of modest size. The lumbering operation was conducted for a decade as a partnership between James and his brothers, Henry and Alexander. He bought them out in 1858, and they set up a mill in Chippewa City, which they later sold to Stanley Bros. During the years of their lumber production Alexander O'Neill also operated a lumber yard in Burlington Iowa, and thus provided a retail outlet for all or part of the out put of their mills.

***Alexander is my ggg grandpa


Contact:  Patrick JERRY O'Neill

10-09-2006 Thank you Suzie for the above. It is a good summary of info from the Clark County history.


Alexander was my g-g grandfather. I am descended from his son Augustus "Gus", born 1846 in Burlington, Ia. Gus md Mary Jane Riggs & their 2nd son was Walter O. Walter md Agnes Stork & they had one child, Donald A. O'Neill. Donald md Dolores Burke & they also had only one child, myself, Patrick Jerry O'Neill. I married Sharon M. Lansing 41+ years ago & we have four children: Patrick Donald, identical twins Timothy John & Thomas Sean, and Mary Shannon O'Neill McManus. These four have given us nine g-children & still counting!


Alexander O'Neill (1807-1858): we cannot find where he died or where he is buried. His wife Elizabeth M. is buried in Prairie du Chien & her stone says Elizabeth Dandley, wife of Alexander O'Neill. But Alex is not there at that gravesite, not can we find a death record for him in Prairie du Chien. I surmise he died elsewhere, perhaps on a trip back East, or in an accident in which there was no recoverable body.





Jerry O'Neill

2507 So. Lakeview Ct.

Clear Lake, Iowa 50428

We live at Clear Lake, Iowa, where Gus O settled. It's a resort town. We also live part of the year at Mason City, Ia 10 miles east, my wife's hometown.




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