Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

 July 6, 1994, Page 28

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Good Old Days" Articles 



Good Old Days   


By Dee Zimmerman


The first brick structure to be built in Clark County was erected in 1872 by Hewett and Woods, early lumbermen, on what is now the corner of Hewett and Fifth in Neillsville.  Still standing, serving with space for offices and apartments, it is one of the city’s historical sites.


Clark County’s first brick building built by Hewett & Woods in 1872 still stands on the corner of Hewett and Fifth Streets in Neillsville.  The Marsh Bros. started a dry goods retail store there in the late 1800s.


Sometime during the 1880’s Hewett and Woods made the decision to sell the brick building, which still bears their mark at the top, front facing on the structure, “H & W 1872.”  At the time, two young brothers were looking for a place of their own for their newly-established dry goods business.


William J. and Lute, two of the four sons of John Sr. and Mrs. Marsh, had formed a business partnership in 1887.  Will’s merchandising career started in the days when lumbering was the flourishing industry in southern Clark County.


Marsh came to Neillsville from Black River Falls, at age 16, which would have been in 1877.  He was employed by Jerome Cole, a Black River Falls druggist, to sell Cole’s created remedy “Cole’s Carbolic Salve.”  Putting in long days from early to late each day for two years, young Marsh received pay of $200 per year.  When his request for a pay increase was refused, he went to work for Emery Bruley, a pioneer clothier, who had a store on Main Street, getting a salary of $600 per year.


William J. Marsh was a long time resident and businessman in Neillsville.


After working two years for Bruley, he took employment in Eau Claire for a while, but missed his Neillsville friends. Briefly, he worked for Thayer and Manes in a general store.


By 1887, Marsh had saved a tidy sum of $1,500, considered a great feat for a young man.  He was then able to borrow $4,000 from a brother at 10 percent interest, beginning a partnership with his brother, Lute.  They set up their business in the old Gates building and the business venture was successful. Hewett and Woods were looking for a buyer of their brick building on the corner of Hewett and Fifth Streets.  The Marsh Bros. bought it, but soon afterwards, brother Lute’s health problems which lured him to seek a different climate in the state of Washington, ended the business partnership.  Will Marsh remained sold owner of the Marsh Department until his retirement in 1938. 


Starting a ready-to-wear business in the days of Hoover aprons, King Tut silks for the women, as well as the woolen shirts, suits and hobnail boots for the lumberjacks, Marsh saw a variety of changes in styles and trends throughout his career.  An-other significant change was the custom of payment for merchandise.  When he started business, purchases were paid on an annual basis, being charged through the year and paid for on January 1, when an annual statement was written out for the customer.  With that method of business, the owner had to plan accordingly or possibly be “broke” for a year without knowing it.


Marsh’s 51 years in the dry goods retail store was proof of his ability to deal with the public, successfully.  He liked people and enjoyed his chosen work.


An evening view of Marsh’s window display with the latest fashions was exhibited for prospective customers as they traveled past the store.  The word “Marsh’s” can be seen on the floor of the entrance.  Will Marsh’s brother Lute and brother-in-law Jeff Schuster inlaid the dark wood lettering on the lighter wood background, a skill that they enjoyed as a hobby.  There may still be some homes in Neillsville that have such art work done by them, that are yet visible.


In addition to the main floor, there was a balcony and lower level areas accommodating more merchandise to be displayed at Marsh’s.


Late 1800’s view of Neillsville, east side, with old county court house and jail in foreground




A conclusion is the place where you get tired thinking.—Martin H. Fischer



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