Bio: Swan Family-Century Farm (1980)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Swan, Waterman, Hantke, Yankee

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 8/07/1980

Century Farm (Swan - 1980)

It was in 1879 that William R. Swan bought an 80-acre tract of virgin hardwood east of Neillsville. There had been no pine, so the land had not been subjected to the ring of the woodsman’s axe and the prosperous lumbermen. It was a great venture for a 21-year-old man, the son of a Civil War soldier.

Swan was a carpenter who came at an opportune time, when the old log houses were getting obsolete because of growing families and increasing prosperity. He had a good sample of his work when he built a house for his bride-to-be; he was married on Christmas Day in 1880 to Frances Waterman. They never did live in a log house, but all of the buildings were permanent, and the house and barn are still in use on the farm.

Among some of the other houses he built was one on which he worked all summer, getting room and board for himself and his horse. He was also to get $500 but then had to take a note instead of his pay.

One of the trademarks of his carpenter-work was a built-in cupboard about which a recent visitor to the Century farm house exclaimed, “Oh, you have a built-in hutch!” There are a number of houses in Neillsville with the ‘built in hutch.”

Another outstanding set of buildings which Swan built, which are now slated to be demolished, are the buildings on the Fair Grounds. The cattle barn with the four wings was ideal with the judging ring in the center and the balcony above for the spectators. Those were the days before the 4-H Club cattle dominated the scene.

The Swans had three sons, Ernest, George and Albert. It was Albert, or A.R. Swan or Bert as he was better known, who became the second owner of the farm. In those early years, a pattern had been set to cut basswood bolts to be hauled to the siding at Eaks to earn money to pay the taxes.

Ernest and George each had a son and Bert had two daughters, Genevieve, now Mrs. Hantke, and Nellie, now Mrs. Yankee, Neenah.

Mrs. Hantke, with her husband and daughter, had moved to the home place in November of 1955. After the untimely death of her husband, Ruben Hantke, that same month, she and Pauline, known as Polly to her friends, continued to do the farming. They milked 30 cows until 1970, and since that time, Polly has 11 Guernsey and Holstein dairy cows.

In the early years, the elder Swan raised milking shorthorn cattle, with the livestock being registered as early as 1890, when the farm was known as Cherry Hill. The cherry trees are gone now.

Additions have been added to the house several times, when extra chimneys were built, the lumber wagon was loaded with straw and taken to Hatfield, where bricks were packed in the straw and brought back over the bumpy road to Neillsville.



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