Contact: Dolores Mohr Kenyon
Swann, Dore, Waterman, Hall, Huckstead, Worden, Smith, Counsell,
Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI.) July 30,
the Clark County Fair Grounds and one of its builders:
the Clark County Fair records its 125th anniversary,
having started in 1872. Except for one year, there has been a
County Fair every fall. It was canceled in 1949 due to a
County’s first cooperative was organized on March 15,
1872. Its purpose was to initiate and operate a county
fair. The Clark County Agricultural Society was formed under
the leadership of John S. Dore, to obtain land and develop a county
fairground and fair. Shares were sold at $10 each, which was
to draw no interest and which would never be repaid. A
40-acre tract of land on the southeast edge of Neillsville, in the
town of Pine Valley, was purchased for $1,200. Two thousand
five hundred dollars was invested in building bleachers and the
first exhibit building.
following year, 1873, a race track was developed, and a grandstand
was erected on the east side of the track. The biggest event
of the fair’s early years was the harness races which drew
horses and drivers from near and far.
As time went
on, additional buildings were constructed and other improvements
made. An additional 15-acre tract of land was purchased, in
1921, from the farm adjoining the fairgrounds on the west
side. The fine arts and agriculture building was
County man, William R. Swann, of the carpentry trade, was credited
for erecting the several fine buildings on the fairgrounds during
the early 1900s.
in Sheboygan County, November 1858, was left an orphan at the age
of 13 and had to learn how to make his own way in the
Clark County in 1877, Swann found employment within the area.
Saving his money, he eventually was able to purchase an 80-acre
tract of hardwood timberland one and a half miles south of the
Pleasant Ridge Church (along what is now Miller Avenue).
married Frances Waterman in 1880, and together they carved a
farmstead out of the timberland. Their first house and farm
buildings were crude log structures. Gradually, as time and
finances permitted, Swann replaced the log buildings with frame
buildings, using lumber cut and planed from their land. They
raised three sons, Ernest, George and A. R. (Bert) in their
comfortable home on the 80-acre farm. A fourth generation
family member now owns and lives on the Century Farm.
farm work, Swann learned the carpentry trade from Lime Hall and Lon
Huckstead. His reputation as an excellent carpenter became
known throughout the area.
County Fair Board awarded Swann contracts to build new buildings on
the fairground in the early 1900s. They had a stipulation on
the new cattle barn to be designed and built in 1918. The
barn would have a judging ring in it but not like the neighboring
county’s barn - where people were "splashed by the
pondered the barn’s design, and while lying in bed one
evening, and after thinking about the project for several days, the
plan came to his mind. The barn would be, four-winged with
two rows of cattle stanchions in each wing. An end of each
wing would join a large show/judging ring in the center. An
octagonal sided louvered cupola would be elevated above the judging
ring and the joining wings’ roof lines. There was a
door at the end of each wing’s loft area for storage of hay
or to open for ventilation. For a number of years, the 4-H
boys slept in the cattle barn loft while tending their cattle and
livestock at the fair.
four-winged cattle barn, fine arts and kitchen buildings were razed
in 1980, making space available for the new metal multi-purpose
building set-up in 1981.
the last of Swann’s buildings was razed at the Clark County
Fairground. A calf building, 40’ x 124’ with a
second story, 20’ x 124’, was put up in 1925. The
lower story had room for four rows of calves. The second
floor was used for a dormitory and was the first Club Building with
a dormitory in the State of Wisconsin. The 4-H girls used the
upper story dormitory in the beginning. Later, the lower
level was remodeled into a dormitory with the girl’s staying
in the first floor and the 4-H boys lived in the upper level.
Three livestock buildings were built the same year.
stayed at the county fair, or worked there in some other capacity,
have various memories of "fair week." A memory shared by
former Clark County Extension people, were the straw-filled ticks,
substituted for mattresses. Bunks made of boards lined across
the dormitory floors, covered with the straw ticks.
task, to be done a few days before the fair, was filling each tick
with fresh clean straw. The number of 4-H girls and boys in
attendance at that time, numbered 150 and more - that made a lot of
"straw stuffing." After fair week, the straw ticks were
emptied and packed away until the next season or the rodents would
have taken up residency.
"father" and "mother" supervised the dorm during fair week.
Wes Worden, of Greenwood, enjoyed spending fair days at the
boys’ dorm. Esther Smith served as dorm mother for the
girls for several years. As she stated, "I told the girls
they had to be back in the dormitory before eleven o’clock in
the evening, because the door would be locked at eleven. They
abided by my ruling. I liked being with the young
staff members spent many hours supervising the dorms at night,
often staying well after midnight or until they thought all were
settled in and asleep. As one former extension member stated,
"You never get 200 kids to sleep at the same time. You
couldn’t have dorm life without water balloons, fire
crackers, shaving cream, plus other events that only kids are
capable of dreaming up." There were some homesick kids
occasionally, experiencing their first time away from home and in
need of assurance by a staff member.
In the late
‘70’s, an adult supervisor program was initiated.
Usually five or six club leaders or parents were assigned to stay
overnight in the girls’ and boys’ dorm. That
program was very effective in quieting down the dorms.
took on a "Holiday Inn accommodation look" in the early
‘80s. The straw ticks and bunk boards were taken out,
to be replaced by army surplus bunks and regular
fair was over, each year, the bunks were pushed aside and the area
was used for storing cars, boats, etc.
Now that the
dormitory has been razed, tents, sleeping bags and camping
equipment will replace dorm living, setting up on the outer edge of
left his mark of carpentry with other buildings such as the
visible along Pleasant Ridge (Hwy 10), at the intersection of
Cardinal Avenue. After the frame school house burned, Swann
built the brick structure in 1915. That fall, the building
wasn’t complete when the school term started, so classes were
held in the Gene Counsell home (now Suckow’s home).
Shortly before Christmas, the new building was complete, and
furniture, supplies and students were moved into the new
students in mind, Swann placed several windows on the north side,
so as to allow as much natural light as possible for the students
to study by. There was no electricity so when evening events,
such as the Christmas program was held, lanterns burning white
gasoline were brought to provide light, being brighter than
building has a nice full basement with room for the children to
play in on rainy or cold days. It was also heated by a
furnace set-up in the basement, a modern convenience for a 1915
from the farm, Swann built a new house for himself and his wife at
1 Court Street in Neillsville. He added a unique feature with
the wrap-around front porch visible on the Division Street
side. After living in the house for a few years, his wife
died. He sold that house and built a bungalow next door, on
the east side. He and his second wife, Neva, lived out their
lives in the bungalow. Swann passed away in 1938 and his
second wife died in 1948. Arnold and Ruth Ebert purchased the
house, being the second owners and Ruth still lives in the
As we drive by the Miller Avenue farm, Reed School and two Division Street houses, we can think about the man who designed and built those structures in his life time, a man who was very conscientious in doing his carpentry profession.
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