Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI
November 26, 1992
Transcribed by Sharon Stelloh Schulte
Index of "Oldies" Articles
By Dee Zimmerman
(This week’s article was contributed by Bernita (Wasserburger) Wagner, a granddaughter of Charles Wasserburger and daughter of Henry Wasserburger. Henry married Martha Dux, meeting her when she worked for Mrs. Blau at the hotel, the italic portions of this article are Bernita’s own thoughts.)
In his early years, Charles C. Wasserburger was employed by the railroad. While working in the Arcadia area, he met and married Mary Zeller. The couple moved to the Neillsville area in the 1880’s, living on a farm for a short time in the Sydney community before moving into Neillsville. First, the family lived in “Dutch Hollow”, where Henry Wasserburger was born in 1891. The couple had ten children, six daughters and four sons. Later, the couple moved to, what would be their permanent home, on Prospect Street.
C. C. Wasserburger & Co. General Store. This picture was taken in 1905-1906 when the building was occupied by the store (left entrance), boarding house (center entrance), and saloon on right. A fire about ten or twelve years later, required reconstruction of part of the building at which time it was enlarged, building additional space on the west end. Charles, the owner, is the gentleman wearing the white apron and derby hat. He usually tended the tavern business. (Photo courtesy of the Clark Historical Society's Jail Museum.)
During 1893, Charles bought the store, tavern and hotel building located on 7th Street between Hewett Street and Grand Avenue. After purchasing the business, he named it the Wasserburger Store. The large building at that time had a tavern, large dining room, multiple private rooms upstairs and a very large ballroom. Mrs. Blau operated the hotel. Originally, the tavern had an inside doorway to the dining room. A wide open stairway in the center of the building led to the large upstairs ballroom where dances were held every Saturday night. Charles built a large livery stable behind the store building with 8-10 horse stalls to shelter the teams of horses used by loggers and farmers who bought supplies at the store. The loggers, railroad workers and lumber buyers stayed overnight or longer. On weekends, people came from miles around to attend the Saturday night dances and some would also stay over night. Primarily, the railroad was their means of transportation.
Eventually, Charles converted the hotel and dining room into a general store. All of his sons and daughters worked at the store after graduating from high school. In addition, two clerks were hired, Edna (Bruss) Georgas and Gladys Parrett, worked for many years. Gladys for over 50 years.
When the hotel and dining room were converted into a general store, a freight elevator was installed to move supplies from the basement and upstairs to the main floor. Being the only elevator in the area, it became a great attraction to the local people. They came, crowding around the elevator opening to watch it in operation. Another popular event was for the youngsters who waited for farmers to go home with their sleighs and horses so they could “hitch a ride” to the edge of town or farther, by holding on to the back of the sleigh.
Grandfather Charles died in 1919. The oldest son, Charles Jr., was killed in World War I. One by one, the daughters married and left the store. Many of the older Neillsvillites still remember and speak to me of “Josie” (Josephine, Mrs. Charles Sherman); Appelonia, nicknamed “Abbey”, who died in 1933; “Babe” (Clara, Mrs. Carl Kessler); Matilda (“Tillie” Mrs. Milliard Chadwick); and the boys Henry, Leo and Frank (Frank died in 1942); and of course Katie, who had to take over running the store when grandfather died and the boys were overseas. All are dead. Henry, my father, Leo and Gladys ran the store for many years after Katie’s death. The store had to be closed due to their ill health in late 1979 or 1980.
Memories: Everyone went to “grandma’s house” for Thanksgiving and Christmas. How we loved to hear the stories about “the store”. A stein of beer sold for a nickel and a free lunch as provided with it. Meat sandwiches, thick slabs of cheese, pickles, etc. Stories of the dances where many a couple met and were married. The pot-bellied stove where the teamsters used to place their bricks or stones to heat while they shopped and then used them to keep their feet warm while they drove home. Of pickles in barrels, and kerosene and vinegar dispensed from casks/metal drums by pump. Farmers bringing in eggs, berries, potatoes, for money or exchange for staples, 100# bags of flour and sugar. The Christmas gifts to customers.
I am old enough to remember candling eggs, the kerosene dispensed by pump, the large ice boxes to keep perishables. We begged to ride the freight elevator. Loved it when our good natured “Uncle Frank”, who let us ride on the back of the delivery truck.
Some customers ordered groceries to be delivered to their homes. The store had smoked meats, such as sausages and ham, but not fresh meats. If the customer wanted fresh meat, Wasserburger’s would go to the meat market and purchased the order for them to include it with the grocery delivery order.
And Christmas Season! The big windows with the cotton snow and toys, doll buggys and dolls, sleds, ice skates, books. The Christmas trees cut daily, fresh and brought in by Dell Hickman. The boxes of lovely handmade German ornaments. The fun of playing hide-and-seek upstairs in the many rooms once used by the travelers and used primarily for storage.
Over the years, changes were made. After the death of my grandfather, the family no longer ran the tavern but leased it. The doorway to the tavern/store was closed and the barbershop was leased. After the fire in 1918/19 – the west end of the store was rebuilt and made into a large “dry goods area”. The old stove was replaced with registers. Refrigerators installed. The freight elevator had to be discontinued due to state safety regulations. The horse shed no longer needed, became a storage shed for lumber, etc. One by one, the grandchildren left the area for school or other job opportunities. The end of an era.
Thanks Bernita for sharing your memories of the family store.
“Dutch Hollow” is mentioned in the above article. Where was that and how did it get its name? We don’t know how it derived that name. However, those who have lived in Neillsville for some time know it was located on Second Street, from State Street east to Willow Street. Goose Creek ran through that area, a little valley with hills to the north and south, thus it was called a “Hollow”.
Compiled by Terry Johnson
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO
A group of Neillsville hunters had just returned from Darby, Montana, with an estimated 1,550 pounds of elk. Members of the hunting party were: Robert (Buck) DeMert, Dave Poehnlein, John Rychnovsky, Jr., and Louie Gurney.
Irma Sollberger’s column on Columbia ran on page one, detailing hunting activity in her area.
The front page also carried “A Few of the Better Stories of the Hunt”. For instance, Columbia area resident Bill Schultz was chided for being seen buying meat at the IGA on Monday of deer season. Another tale told how Assemblyman Bill Kavanaugh pulled a few strings to get a deer hunting license for a young Vietnam vet who had just been discharged and arrived home on Monday of deer season.
“Mrs. Devere Krejci, hunting with her husband and his father, Rex Krejci,, in the Columbia area Saturday, bagged a six point buck. The two men were not that lucky.”
“Lloyd M. Zimmerman has been appointed a representative in southern Clark County for the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, it was announced this week. The appointment is effective December 1.” Lloyd and Delores Zimmerman moved here from Loyal with their three children and initially resided on Oak Street. The phone number in their Press ad on November 30, 1967, is the same number they have in 1992.
FIFTY YEARS AGO
Several deer hunting stories shared the front page with news of the war, the city budget and other news. A headline noted, “…Season on Hunting Stories Opens.”
S.T. Bracken claimed that he was driving south of the city when a doe jumped in front of his car. The ornamental Indian on the radiator cap… quivered at the sight of the deer. And as the car drew nearer behind the doe. The Indian stretched away out and grabbed the running doe by the south end with his teeth. The Indian was tenacious, Mr. Bracken said, for when the car was stopped the doe tried vainly to run on. ‘I finally had to get a wedge and drive it between the Indian’s teeth to get the poor doe loose,’ he said.”
“Shortage of ammunition brought forth the old-fashioned economic law of supply and demand. Shells were selling (when they could be found) at $1 apiece, or $20 per box.”
“Hunters this year perhaps were not lacking in enthusiasm; but they certainly were lacking in numbers. One resident out near Shortville said only 43 cars had traveled over the road in front of his house on the way to the hunting area by 7 a.m. Saturday. On the opening day last year he had counted 90 cars by 7 a.m."”
A 17 year old nephew of Henry Stiemke came up from Milwaukee to hunt. He had hitchhiked here, then borrowed a shotgun from Stiemke, borrowed ammo from another uncle, and – when he dropped a six point buck in two shots down in Columbia – he had to ask a stranger if he could borrow a hunting knife. He took his deer home to Milwaukee on the train.
SEVENTY FIVE YEARS AGO
“The Puckyhuddle Times” also carried this announcement: “Snipe Supper by Band. The Puckyhuddle Brass Band will give a snipe supper at the old Soapstone School house Friday evening. Gentlemen are requested to bring all the snipes available, especially Joe Zilk, Mr. Rube Windbag, our cornet player, will play ‘Turkey in the Oven’ with one lip. Everybody come and see Rube have a ‘blowout.’ Five cents will be charged at the door to buy a new ‘ring’ for the bell.”
“Will Campman went to Taylor County Sunday to spend the hunting season.”
“Dr. Brooks and Elmer Rossman are spending a few days at Gilman hunting deer.”
“Bremers Corners: Hunters are all hitting for the timber. Among them are Edward and Will Joyce, Earl Holt, Fred Heibel, Warren Barnett, Roy Sischo and Clint Asplin.”
“East Lynn.” We had a dream the other night that may never come to pass, but here it is. The editor had purchased a 42 centermeter Krupp gun and anchored it to a submarine and was coming up the O’Neill Creek looking for correspondent slackers. We got busy at once.”
“Tioga: Several from here attended the play at the opera house in Neillsville Saturday night.”
“Christie.: Who’s going hunting? Most everyone. We will tell you later who the lucky ones are.”
ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO
In local news, “Citizens who have so strongly desired a new opera house, and who have so often and emphatically expressed this desire, should promptly second the effort now under way to give them what they want, and subscribe all their means will permit for the stock, in order that the hall may be promptly completed. Co. A wants to buy up this stock ultimately, so that a subscription now would have something of a nature of a loan. A little chip-in now will greatly expedite the completion of the Hall.”
“Patronize home trade. That is the way to build up a town.”
“S.F. Joseph has opened a toy store in the building recently vacated by F.A. Balch’s boot and shoe store.”
“On Sunday, Doc Lacey and Albert Ludington went deer hunting on the Cunningham Creek and saw three of the fleet beauties and Albert took a haphazard shot through dense brush at one, but the track of the bullet didn’t tally with the track of the deer and the boys came home to their wives in disgrace.”
“Woodmen are arriving at the rate of 50 to 100 a day and to judge by the way they are signing shipping articles a big winter is to be put in by the loggers.”
“Dick O’Hearn is a jovial banker of Black River Falls. The other day he sent as a retaining fee to Hon. James O’Neill, his friend, by way of banter, a $2 wild cat bank bill, a woolly looking piece of paper.”
“Uncle Ez. Elliott is here on a visit from Colorado. He looks well, and wears an air of prosperity that is peculiar to the breezy, wooly west. He still plays the fife.”
“The Journson County Jackal is the dirtiest little rowdy sheet along Black River. This is a judicial, sensible, fair opinion, based upon ample evidence. The sheet is dishonest and slanderous with but the single aim of being ugly.”
“The year 1891 was considered phenomenal in the way of city growth at Neillsville, but 1892 has beaten it and the prospects are that 1893 will be ’92. There isn’t a loose peg anywhere in the Neillsville real estate map at this writing.”
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