Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

December 30, 1993, Page 24

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Good Old Days" Articles 



Good Old Days       


By Dee Zimmerman


CHARLES CORNELIUS Businessman & Financier


Charles Cornelius was born on a pioneer farm in Grandville Township, Ozaukee County, Wis., on January 4, 1854.  When a small boy he traveled with his parents Mr. and Mrs. Conrad Cornelius to Sheboygan County and there he grew to man-hood on a farm along the banks of the Sheboygan River.


When a young man, Cornelius clerked in a store in Glenbeulah and took up the business of selling pianos, organs and machinery.


In 1876, Cornelius decided he would relocate.  Buying a train ticket, he went northward on the train, getting off at Marshfield.  He walked from there, westward through the wilderness, to Maple Works (now Granton).  There, he purchased a store and took an active part in building up the community.  Being a good businessman, his business grew and branched out in various lines.  He soon became widely known throughout the county.


On September 9, 1886, Cornelius was married in Maple Works to Theresa Nitzche.  They had one daughter, Lydia.  In 1887, he sold his Maple Works store and moved to Neillsville, engaging in the machinery business.  In 1896, he was elected Register of Deeds of Clark County and was re-elected to that position three times.


For a number of years, Cornelius had been investing in real estate, a wise investment in a growing settlement.  In 1904, he resigned from the Register of Deeds office so that he could devote full-time attention to his various holdings.  In 1907, he and his family moved to Boston, where they lived for about two years, to give their daughter the advantage of special music instruction.  Cornelius took an advanced course in commercial and finance in the Boston Commercial College to prepare himself for the banking business.


On the Cornelius’ return to Neillsville in 1909, he purchased the lot on the corner of 5th and Hewett where he erected a building and proceeded to organize the First National Bank.  He was the bank president upon its founding and was active in promoting its interests.  He also helped with organizing other banks, as well as other lines of business.  He helped in organizing the Farmers and Merchants Bank at Greenwood and was its president.  He aided in organizing the Farmers Exchange Bank at Thorp, was a stockholder and director in several banks in St. Paul and Minneapolis.


First National Bank of Neillsville, as it appeared when first built in 1909.  Officers were: Charles Cornelius, Pres.; B. F. Frasier, Vice Pres.; W. H. Woodworth, 2nd Vice Pres.; S. M. Marsh, Cashier.  Directors were: Charles Cornelius, E. W. Crosby, B. F. Frasier, Geo. E. Crothers, A. F. Dankemeyer, Jno. P. Kintzele, A. B. Marsh, B. F. McMillan, Geo. A. Ure and W. H. Woodworth.  There were 115 Stockholders.  Capitol paid in was $50,000 and Surplus paid in was $10,000.


Besides extensive holdings of timberland in the West, he was also president of the Wisconsin-Louisiana Land Co. with large holdings in the South.  Through him, many of his old friends and neighbors were enabled to make profitable investments.  He had a great business mind and ability.


In early life, Cornelius had known toil and sacrifice and yet through life, he had acquired a love for beauty.  To satisfy his longings for these things, he built a beautiful large home and took great pleasure in beautifying it and its grounds.


The house was built on the northeast corner of the Cornelius block, 2nd and Clay.  The large, 3-story home featured a ballroom on the second floor which was used for entertaining guests and on occasions, a band would be obtained so that the guests could enjoy dancing.  The entire block was edged with a hedge, interspersed with elm and maple trees.  The only other house in that block square was a 2-story brick structure on the southwest corner.


The Cornelius House, corner of 2nd and Clay Streets, was built by Charles Cornelius.

Cornelius was a pioneer in Clark County banking businesses



The block was sometimes referred to as the Cornelius Park.  Behind the outlining hedge, was a beautiful formal garden with a fountain in the center.  The lawn and gardens were enjoyed by guests as well as the family with a leisure stroll or a game of croquet.


A large livery barn with living quarters for the caretaker was erected behind the house with a driveway circling to the street.  The house and barn are there still and as you pass it, you can imagine the elegance that went with it, years ago. 


Coming from a comparative poverty of youth to a considerable degree of wealth, seemed not to change his character.  He enjoyed the youth and helped the community that he lived in, when he saw a need.


Cornelius died in December, 1918.




Emery Bruley of Neillsville was a great inventor.  Two streets, on Neillsville’s northeast side carry his name – Emery and Bruley.  As an inventor, his name was known in every state at the turn of the 19th century.  He had patented a washer cutter; a wagon spoke, a carriage axle, a cant-hook, etc.


In 1905, Bruley invented a steel fence post, patenting it in that year.  A large company went into the manufacturing of it.  Bruley was its president and owned controlling interest.  The factory was located in Milwaukee with business offices in Neillsville.  C. L. Prescott assisted Bruley with the marketing in America as well as in Europe.


The steel fence post was designed to replace the wooden posts and be made accessible to the prairie states where timber wasn’t abundant.  At that time, the Burley Fence Post was of less cost than a cedar wood post.  Another selling feature was that the prairie fires wouldn’t damage the steel posts.


The steel fence post, patented by Emery Bruley, manufactured and sold throughout our country and Europe in the early 1900’s.  The 4 to 6 foot Bessemer Steel Post, Figure 2, represents the base, made of wrought iron tubing, 18 or 24 inches long, with one end pointed.  Figure 3 is an iron brace 12 by 3 inches, which was only necessary in very wet ground.  The weight of the post, complete, was 10 pounds.


Bruley built the north wing of the Tuft’s house on South Hewett Street, to be the family home for awhile.  He then made a deal with Mr. Dewhurst in trading that house for a house on the corner of 8th and Grand Avenue.  The home had a livery stable building on the north side which was in later years remodeled into a home, now the residence of Walter and Marion Kren.  When Bruley bought the house, with it he had purchased the entire lot, extending from Grand Avenue to Grist Mill site and to the O’Neill Creek on the north boundary.  That housed is now owned by Glenn Thompson.


The now, Tuft’s museum house, was originally built by Emery Bruley, who erected the first portion, the northern end of the structure.


(Photos courtesy of Hilbert Naedler & Clark Co. Historical Society)



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