Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

 October 21, 1993, Page 32

 Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Good Old Days" Articles 



Good Old Days  


By Dee Zimmerman


The earliest Clark County farming community was along Pleasant Ridge. Even today, as we travel east of Neillsville on Hwy 10, we can understand how it was given that name.  When driving past Tesmer Construction and the former Marty farm, as you look to the left, you can view the sloping farmland that rises again miles to the north.


Some distance farther down the road, a panoramic view appeared on the right, the southern side of the ridge.


The first settlers of Pleasant Ridge (between Granton and Neillsville) were of English origin and referred to as the “Buffalo Tribe” in historical data.  Upon immigrating to the United States, they took up residency in Buffalo, New York.  When, word that slavery might prevail upon the State of New York, the English families of Buffalo became very apprehensive.  After all, they had traveled to the United States with hopes of independence and not to see control of one set of people over another.  If there was to be conflict, they wanted no part of that either.  The war between the North and the South was inevitable.


The Buffalo families from Sussex and nearby English communities gathered to discuss their plight.  Richard Buss had organized the chaired meeting from which a decision was made to move westward.


Some of the English families had already moved to the West, to an area called Wisconsin.  George Pope was one of those who had settled and wrote back to friends in Buffalo.  His letters were very encouraging… great opportunities, cheap land, unending timber, the land and climate very similar to their homeland, England.  It was decided that someone, in that meeting, should go to Wisconsin and look it over.  A young man, Fred Vine, was chosen to represent the concerned group, to investigate the land Pope had written about.


Fred Vine was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1844,

where he lived until he was twenty years old, relocating

to the Town of Grant, establishing a farmstead along Pleasant Ridge


Fred made the journey from Buffalo to Chicago by steamboat via the Great Lakes.  It was in the mid 1800’s.  There were no roads into the isolated northern two-thirds of Wisconsin, except for trails made by Indians or animals.  The main means of travel was boat and water trails.


After Fred disembarked at Chicago, he traveled by horseback to the Mississippi River, taking a boat to La Crosse, then a small boat up the Black River to Black River Falls, making the remainder of the journey by foot to the settlement of Neillsville. 


At that point in time, Neillsville had a-half dozen buildings.  On the north side of O’Neill Creek was James O’Neill’s saw mill.  There were three houses on the Northside of the creek, plus a blacksmith shop.  On the south side of the Creek, where the Merchants Hotel stands, was an old wooden building issued as a hotel.  It was owned by K. L. Hubbard and called the Hubbard House.  A drug store owned by Geo. Adams was on the west side, of now Hewett Street, where the old Neillsville Bank building was located.  South of the drug store was a general store, two stories, with the upper portion being used to build wagon and buggy parts and owned by Charles Adams.  The first plank sidewalk was built by B. F. French and James Hewett, it extended from 6th Street to 5th Street along the west side of now, Hewett Street.


The area surrounding Neillsville was wooded except for a few trails or in-roads made by the lumbermen.  Here and there were occasional patches of cut-over land where settlers had started to live.  Five miles directly east of Neillsville, there was one of those cleared patches, where the present day Grant Town Hall is located.  Fred Vine left Neillsville, headed for the home of George Pope, who had arrived there in 1857.  He had built a log cabin and was gradually clearing the land for farming.  The trail that Fred walked along to get to Pope’s cabin would later become a state route and years later Hwy. 10.


Even then, Fred was impressed by the area as he walked the Pleasant Ridge trail, viewing the panorama to the north and to the south along with the good soil.  As he climbed up the Ridge from the trail to George’s cabin, he became convinced that he would settle and live the last of his life in that area.


The Ridge was covered with hardwood timber.  Pope had started clearing land around his cabin, a five acre patch then, hauling the logs by two oxen to O’Neill Creek and floated down to O’Neill’s mill.  That summer he used the oxen to pull the stumps in preparing the land for farming.  Monies paid by O’Neill for the logs, along with butter made from the two cow’s milk at ten cents per pound and five cents per dozen for eggs produced by a few chickens, was the income for the year.


When Fred told George his purpose for being there, George became excited with the good news of more friends moving into the area.  He then told Fred that he had passed Henry Counsell’s cabin on the trail from Neillsville and Sternitzkys cabin was east of Pope’s cabin, the only other settlers along the Ridge.


Fred spent several days in the area discovering most of the land on the Ridge had been surveyed and platted a majority of it still deeded in the name of the U. S. Government.  The land he especially liked was a quarter of a mile west of George’s place that could be purchased for $100 a forty.  He made arrangements for the purchase of several parcels in that location and returned to Buffalo.


His return to family and friends with the good news of land in the west made for a warm welcome.  The news set into motion arrangements for their departure.  A great added arrangement in Fred’s life was his marriage to Mary Jane Buss on January 7, 1864.


The summer of 1864, started the families departure from Buffalo to the Ridge in Wisconsin, the Swans, Kings, Browns, Busses, Hucksteads, Selves, Blackmans, and some others.  They arrived in August of that year traveling basically the same route Fred had made earlier.  They settled the Ridge from one end to the other and were known as the “Buffalo Tribe” by other inhabitants.  That first generation of the Buffalo Tribe to arrive on the Ridge, were the pioneers who established the community that is still known as Pleasant Ridge.  At this time, Descendants from the original tribe are fifth generations since their arrival.  Most of the families have disappeared from the Ridge.  Fred and his bride settled on the forty acre parcel upon their arrival, with much work to be done, as did the other families.  Amongst their tribe was a diversity of skills, carpenters, brick layers, well diggers and all willing to use their hands in carving homesteads out of the vast growth of timber.  Live and work was hard, but a common ingrained trait of people in that era was to work together in establishing farms and homes in combined effort.  The hardwood timber in their area provided material for buildings.  A means of income was cutting pine for lumber companies nearby during the winter months.


After the Civil War, a great deal of rebuilding was to be done, resulting in a demand for lumber – thus developing a market for the hardwood timber along the Ridge. Income from the lumber enabled the families to purchase more surrounding land.


Fred’s mother, Mary Ann, and his stepfather, George Bates, obtained land east of Fred’s house.


By 1885, Fred Vine and his wife had developed a 280 acre farm, constructed a 36 x 80 foot cattle barn, a 36 x 50 foot horse and sheep barn, two story grain barn and comfortable house.  They had seven children.  Fred was Town Clerk for the newly established town of Grant, was appointed postmaster of Pleasant Ridge and served on the County Board.


The success story of Fred Vine was duplicated by the other members of the Buffalo Tribe who settled along the Ridge.  Their philosophy would be summed up in Fred’s words when he first viewed the land, “As you work you accomplish two things – you derive a financial gain from cutting the timber, plus you develop a farm.”  The key word in that quote has to be “work” as they had to have worked hard, physically, using only the primitive tools to get the job done.  Now, we live in the machine age, which has eased and eliminated the heavy toil.  As our forefathers would say “We have become soft.”


The Shorts and Hughes families are related to the Buffalo Tribe families.


(Our thanks to Gordon Vine a great-grandson of Fred, who has compiled the family history with copies to be shard with his children, a great legacy for any family to pass down.  Our information, in this week’s oldies, was taken in part, from Gordie’s narrative.  Gordon grew up on the land owned within the Vine family and is now owner of that land.)


This was the Youman’s house, and was located on Pleasant Ridge, about two miles east of Neillsville on the south side of Hwy 10.  The house was built by John S. Dore in the early 1870’s.  Even with lumber and labor being cheap, Mr. Dore overextended, not able to keep the property.  It was taken over by C. A. Youmans, an attorney in Neillsville.  Upon taking possession of the house, ten years after it was built, Mr. Youmans inspected the house to find that the interior wasn’t completed.  The walls were bare with only the lath exposed.  Lawyer Youmans plastered the house interior and other finishing projects.  Originally, the house had been built on a section of land, 640 acres of farmland.  Charles Altemus purchased 300 acres.  In c.1912-1914, he sold 131 acres to his daughter and son-in-law, Emma and Casper Marty.  Shortly after Casper and Emma took possession of the land, they moved the east wing, smaller portion, of the Youmans house a short distance to the east, on their farmstead.  Some years later, they moved the west, larger portion, of the house to add on their first part.  That served as their family home through the years and stands there today, years later.  Casper and Emma had eight children: Walter (deceased), Fred, of Neillsville, Mrs. Beth Sternitzky of Arizona, Esther (deceased) Jesse, Mrs. Helen Schoen and Bob, all of Neillsville, and Bob’s twin brother, Bill, at Elkhorn.  Bob and wife Marilyn took over the family farm from his parents and operated it until selling, about two years ago.  The new owners are Ron and Amber Zank, Bob and wife live in a home next to the homestead.  The third floor look-out part of the house, visible in the photo was used by Dore, to watch his laborers out on the fields.  Windows were on all four sides, giving a view over the entire 640 acres.  At one time, in later years, Cliff Paulson owned the land where the Youmans house had been.




Compiled by Lori Liddell


25 years ago


One of the most breathtakingly beautiful views in the entire nation is afforded by the new wayside on Highway 10, three miles east (west) of Neillsville.  Recently completed by the state highway department on the site of the old Percy Zickert tavern, the wayside affords a view of the glacial lake area below and the mounds in the background.  Some picnic facilities are provided, as well as a place for motorists to get out of their cars and stretch their legs.  The wayside is situated on the lip of the terminal moraine of the second Great Glacier.  Because of lighting, atmospheric and other conditions, the view from the wayside is ever changing.


75 years ago


New food rules


Meat-beef rules; The new beef rules for restaurants and all other public eating houses supersede those on Bulletin number 217.  Beef may now only be served at the evening meal, one beef meal daily being allowed.


The allowance for families remains the same-one and a quarter pounds of clear beef or one and a half pounds including the bone per person per week.


Mixed flours – “Ready to use” wheat and corn flour manufactured by the Russell Mill Company contains 51% white corn flour and 49% wheat flour and may be sold without substitutes.


“Red oak” pancake flour contains no wheat flour.  Pancake flours may not be sold as wheat flour, substitutes.


Magnus Swenson, Food Admistrator (Administrator) for Wis. J. E. Ketel, Clark Co. Food Admistrator (Administrator)


The greater good lies beyond the eyes, to be reached for but not touched, impalpable, unattainable, never despaired of never found, always in the prospect, never in the experience, something unknown to the past.—Clifford Raymond



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