Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

November 27, 1996, Page 19

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 


Good Old Days 


By Dee Zimmerman


County Pioneer Resident was a Bear Trapper



*An early Town of Sherwood pioneer, Franklin Dartt, made his living in a most unusual way.


Franklin Dartt was born in the state of Vermont in 1828.  In the mid 1850’s his parents owned farms in Monroe County, Wisconsin.  Upon their passing, he entered a secluded life-style alone in the remote woods, five miles east of Pray, near City Point.  Here began the saga of the bear hunter.


Dartt’s main occupation was the trapping of live wild animals, such as bobcats, wolves and mainly black bears to sell to zoos, circuses, and menageries.  In the mid to late 1800’s, menageries were a very popular attraction to many people.  A menagerie was a show featuring rare and wild animals, some trained to do tricks.  By 1872, with more than 26,000 miles of railroad tracks across America, there were at least 8 large traveling shows, P. T. Barnum’s circus being the largest.  Barnum was constantly in need of wild animals and so would hire agents to travel the country and purchase them from local settlers, for a handsome fee.


In the early 1890’s, Frank Dartt had to leave his rural City Point home because the area was becoming greatly logged off by the Goodyear Lumber Co. and others.  This no doubt affected his bear hunting and when a man named P. T. Graves built a saw mill next to him, which was the last straw.  In 1893, moving several miles north in search of undisturbed forests, he purchased 40 acres in Section 21, Township of Sherwood in Clark County.


Dartt continued to trap bear in Sherwood for several years and was a curiosity to many.  He was said to have as many as 14 bears in a single pen at one time.  He hand dug several large pits which he kept the live bears in and remains of these pits can still be seen today.  Frank would feed the bears cornmeal to fatten them up before selling them, probably paid by the pound.  When Frank was ready to send bears out East, he would load the bears in an iron cage mounted on top of a wagon.  Then he would hitch up his horse and haul them to the nearest railroad depot.  He had many encounters with the critters, being injured often, and in fact he told friends that he thought his life might end in a match with a bear.


The #5 Newhouse double long springs leg-hold trap was a type used by Frank.  The trap had a jaw spread of nearly 12”, weighed 17 lbs., and for most people would require a special tool to be set.  A 1902 Sears Roebuck catalog sold this trap for $5.00.


In the latter part of the 1800’s forest fires prevailed and took a huge toll on the bear population in Clark County, and probably affected other wildlife numbers as well.  In 1898, Dartt had caught only one bear.  As a result of this he began to concentrate his efforts on apiary, bee keeping.  That occupation kept him busy and gave him a source of income for nearly 20 years.  He was a very successful hunter of wild bees and sold a great deal of honey.  He treated the children of Sherwood who came to visit him with honeycomb and taught others the art of bee keeping.  Many called Dartt eccentric, but in his later years he visited neighbors and told stories about his bear hunting days.


Dartt remained a bachelor all his life and people maintained that he was worth $10,000 or more at his passing.  As Dartt grew older he would hire locals to do chores for him and would always ask them to return the following day for their pay.


In May of 1918, Frank Dartt at the age of 90, became ill and contacted a nephew in Montello, Wisconsin, to come and care for him.  When the nephew arrived by train several days later it was too late, as Frank had passed away at his home.


In Frank Dartt’s estate inventory, 50 bear traps were listed and they were sold in one bunch for $12.00.  He also had owned a mare, an old wagon and a plow.  His black bear skin overcoat was sold for $5.00.  Two bear cages were sold to a man in Colby for $6.00.  Frank also left behind 275 bee hives, extracting machinery, platform scales, three guns, two caldron kettles, and a silver watch – not a large fortune as people assumed.


Royal Dartt took Frank’s body to Montello, Wisconsin, where he was buried in a Dartt family lot.


The black bear have returned to western Clark County as sightings have been reported.  We can wonder what Frank Dartt’s words of wisdom would have been about getting along with bear as an inhabitant in our wooded acreage.


**November 1936


Recreation Center on Hay Creek in County Board Plan – Clark County board, with all members present, began its fall session Tuesday with appropriation of $2,500 as the county’s share of the cost of a dam on Hay Creek in North Foster as the first step in the development of a recreational center in that area.  (Recreation area is now known as Rock Dam)


The First National Bank and the Neillsville Bank were selected as depositories for county funds until further action of the board. 


The Town of Hixon filed a claim for $312.60 for 630 yards of gravel on a PWA project which was charged to Hixon by action of the board last year.  The matter was referred to the general claims committee.


Big White Oak Cut – Ed Short and Ed Hagie of Shortville did a little real logging one day last week, cutting a big white oak on the property of Fanny Bue, the last remaining monarch of white oaks of that region.


Mr. Hagie bought the tree to saw up for timber stock in his shop at Shortville.


There were three large logs in the trunk and those were hauled one at a time by Ed Short’s old team, pulled – up a bank from where the tree was felled.  Just as a matter of curiosity the men put the butt log, 16 feet long, on the hay scales, and found that it weighted two tons – a pretty good load for an old team to haul.


Clark County is opened to Hunters – Clark County lost its fight to close county owned land to deer hunters when the attorney general last week ruled that counties have no right to post lands entered under the forest crop law.  The opinion holds the state in entering public lands under the forest crop law receives no benefit from opening these areas to the public land except the privilege for hunting purposes.


Neillsville Milk Pool Cooperative, which has enjoyed an unusually successful business since its organization two and a half years ago, has announced plans for building a large addition to its plant to take care of increase business. 


The concern will start work next spring on a building 30 feet wide by 80 feet long, to be erected on the east side of the present plant.  Permission was granted by the city council Tuesday night to build over Goose Creek.


“The new space will be used to house additional machinery,” said F. A. Viergutz, who has been manager of the plant since it was started.


“The co-op has grown from 100 patrons to 310 and now has 260 stockholders.


Ten men are employed in the plant at present while during the past summer 12 men were given employment.


H. H. Quicker is in charge of the office.


The Neillsville Milk Pool Cooperative was established in 1934 with a 30’ x 80’ addition built in 1937.  This view was on the southeast corner of the plant which had the main entrance on its 7th Street side.


The Balch Hardware to have Close-Out Sale – F. O. Balch, who has been in the hardware business in Neillsville for the past 15 years, announced his retirement, this week, and is selling out his entire stock of goods and all fixtures at a sale starting Saturday.


The name Balch has been identified with the merchandising history of this community for the last half century.  It began when F. A. Balch, father of Fred, opened a store about 1885 in partnership with his son, Rella, in the old north side store, now occupied by Nick Gangler.  A short time later they occupied the building where John Kubat’s house now stands on North Hewett Street.  A few years later they moved into the building now occupied by Balch Hardware Store.


In the late 90’s the elder Balch withdrew and Rella Balch and Bennie Tragsdorf went into partnership, opening a store where the Schultz Bros. store is now located.  A short time later, they built the Big Store.  (The Big Store later became the Farmers Store)


F. O. Balch, who was on the road as a shoe salesman for years, went to Milwaukee in 1910 where he and Mrs. Balch operated a very successful millinery business until 1920 when they returned to Neillsville.  A year later Balch bought out the hardware business from Powers & Wing.


Sunday morning, fire was discovered at Hainz’s tavern east of Neillsville on Hwy 10.


A phone call to Bert Dresden, fire warden of Neillsville resulted in three firemen, Tubby Radke, Herb Smith and Jud Lyons being dispatched to the tavern, and soon had the fire put out.  The fire was back of the chimney.


The Neillsville Opera House, a famous landmark of this city for nearly 40 years, is about to go modern with a “face lifting operation” that will completely change its countenance.


The present stairway and entrance will be removed and a new foyer constructed at the east end of the building, providing a canopied entrance extending nearly to the sidewalk. The construction will eliminate all but three steps, gallery will be moved from west to east side, the ticket office will be built in front foyer, windows to be set in.


The plans call for excavating a basement for restrooms and shower rooms put in use for the Service Company.


Officials of the Neillsville Armory Co., Inc announce that the changes will greatly improve the building for both the military company and use as an auditorium.  The remodeling work is in charge of John Moen.




The best time to buy an umbrella is in the 4th year of a 5-year drought.




Be a smart Shopper.


Country Proverbs


Compiled by T. Bubba Bowdean




Credits: *K a y  S c h o l t z, **D e e  Z i m m e r m a n.



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