Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI
November 6, 1996, Page 28
Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.
Index of "Oldies" Articles
Good Old Days
By Dee Zimmerman
C. C. Sniteman – A Cornerstone in Neillsville’s History
Recently, the downtown Neillsville Park on the corner of Hewett and Fifth Street received a name, “C.C. Sniteman Town Square Park.” Some may ask, “Who was C. C. Sniteman other than a druggist who owned the Sniteman building on Hewett Street?”
Charles C. Sniteman was a man of small stature but a man with a big heart. He came to the financial rescue of several individuals, business venture and community projects within the city he called home, Neillsville.
Sniteman led a useful life. His nature was that of calmness never appeared to worry or lament, even though he had what to others would have been troubles. Those troubles came to him because of the intense loyalty of his nature, and his tremendous desire to be useful to his community and to the people in it – an attempt to make the city a better place to live.
C. C. Sniteman’s loyalty began when he first landed in Neillsville in 1879. He came over in the horse-drawn bus from Humbird when no railroad ran into our town. He went to the old O’Neill House (where the post office is now located) and registered for a room for one night. He had planned to leave the next day but as he looked over the town, he liked what he saw – remaining in the town and that hotel room for over 30 years.
When Sniteman came to Neillsville in Jan. 1879, he had considerable working experience, although he was relatively young. He had worked in a drug store in Peoria, Ill., and then attended the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. He graduated from that school at twenty years of age, the youngest in the class and was obliged to wait some months for his diploma, which could be given only to a person 21 years of age or older. He stayed in Peoria for four years after graduation, taking charge of a drug store while its proprietor went to Europe in 1873, and eventually owned an interest in the business.
Troubled with Malaria, Sniteman was advised to seek health in a colder climate.
He tried Fort Atkinson, Wis., for a while, and then came to Neillsville. The climate here must have been cold enough to counteract the Malaria as he stayed for 61 years.
His first job in Neillsville, was working in the Myers drug store, which was run by one of two brothers. Within a year, Sniteman bought out one of the brother’s interest and soon after bought out the other brother. In those days to be a druggist meant a lot more than filling prescriptions and selling stock items over the counter. It meant manufacturing a large part of the things that went into the prescriptions. The young pharmacist ws busy making pills, tinctures and ointments. One exceedingly popular item in those days was the blue ointment, in great demand by the lumbermen. Living in camps, not provided with sanitary conveniences, they became hosts to millions of unwelcome guests, whom the blue ointment was to drive away.
Sniteman built a great drug business with the many ointments, etc. that he made-up.
Working in the 1879 wood structure building, the business had outgrown the small area. Larger quarters were gravely needed. The decision was made to build a solid brick building around the small wooden structure. Solid mahogany was ordered and used to make fixtures in the new store. Completed, the stock was removed from the little old building to put on the new building shelves and the old building was pulled out into Main Street, a maneuver that was talked about far and wide by other druggists.
The new facility enabled the drug store business to thrive, and Sniteman came to have considerable resources. Soon some of the men began talking about a new furniture factory. They believed the town needed the industry, and it could be profitable here. They asked Sniteman to help.
Willing to help, Sniteman put a substantial sum of money into the furniture factory that was constructed in 1890. The company owning it was known as the Neillsville Manufacturing Co. with Sniteman as the secretary. Other officers were: B. Dangers, president; S. H. Esch, vice-president; R. F. Kountz, Asst.-treasurer. The factory superintendent was Wm. Morrison.
The furniture factory started tremendously, promising success, but before long panic and business depression came. From then on going was rough, with changing of management and necessity of adding capital. Finally stockholders gave up and locked the plant. Idle for a time, it was finally rented to an outside firm, which started well. But a fire hit and destroyed the entire building. It was estimated that as much as $200,000 was the total loss, though Sniteman never talked about his lost investment, it was believed to have been about $50,000. Win or lose, it was a community investment worth making which was of importance to Sniteman.
Sniteman’s first venture outside of his drug business was in the lighting company. He was the chief enthusiast of local men who in 1881 began to talk about a lighting plant. He was the leader of a small group, joining in on paying $1,500 for a ten-light arc dynamo in 1882. Neillsville was one of only two Wisconsin cities having electric lights at that time. Of the ten lights, seven were in business buildings, one being Sniteman’s store and the remaining three were strategically placed on Neillsville streets. For those three lights, the city paid $100 per year each, with the understanding that they would be operated until midnight but not when the moon was bright.
The three lights were of the old arc style, with sticks of carbon which had to be renewed every six hours. However, the demand for more lights grew, 20 more business lights were wanted in 1885, plus 20 more wanted for street lights by the city, making it necessary to incorporate for $6,000, the new corporation was named Neillsville Water and Supply Co., and the officers were W. S. Covill, pres.; R. F. Kountz, sec., and C. C. Sniteman, treas. It is estimated that the officers of the lighting company came out even when it was sold in 1914. They were satisfied to have had the electric lights through the years.
Sniteman having been a supporter and member of the guard unit recognized the need for a local armory and opera house. Major J. W. Hommel and Sniteman were leaders in organizing a company and in constructing the large building on the Fourth Street block.
Articles of corporation were filed Oct. 17, 1892, evidencing construction of the building. Operated by the company for 45 years it was sold and stockholders received back 85 per cent of their investment. Sniteman as one of those investors had furnished over 40 years a place for the local soldiers and a place of entertainment for the people of the community.
As the local guard unit was called to active duty during World War I, Sniteman hoped to serve as a hospital steward but was rejected due to his age; he was approaching 70 years of age.
The Neillsville Canning Co. was started in 1913 and Sniteman was associated in the business with Robert Kurth, George Ure and Levy Williamson. The business ran very well until war struck and the government ordered no sales through usual channels of trade, but to put special sheet iron bands around the cartons and hold them for shipment upon government orders. A great investment was made to meet the orders, and then the armistice canceled all war purchases. The company’s resources were exhausted but the plant was mortgaged for $10,000 and finally sold for the mortgage amount and accumulated interest. The stockholders lost all.
Organized by Carl Rabenstein, the Neillsville Overall Factory received a financial lift from Sniteman, to get the business going. The business was conducted in a large frame building on the corner of Clay and 7th Streets, east of the Hamilton Hotel or Paulus Hotel. The concern started well but eventually ran into difficulties. Those investing in it lost what they had put in.
These investments, which largely turned to losses, were behind him when he undertook the construction of a home in 1920. Up to that time, he had lived in small and modest quarters, and wanted to construct something as a credit to himself and to the community. For this purpose he employed the same architect as had planned the library building, and he gave the architect wide liberty. The site was across the street from the library and the two buildings were intended by the architect to be harmonious.
The Sniteman home was built solidly and worthily but was overlarge for the elderly couple to maintain. Eventually, he sold it to a family to which was his friends.
Sniteman was always constructing in his attitude toward others, giving encouragement. This was evidenced most of all in the case of the local boys whom he took into the store, working part-time while they attended high school. When he saw their interest and abilities in pharmacy, he encouraged at least four of them to attend his alma mater, the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. It has been said that Sniteman financed their schooling but wanted that kept anonymous. Among the first on the list was George Sontag, who subsequently became his business partner and continued as such until Sniteman’s death. Others graduating from Philadelphia School were Alfred Marth, Adolph and Emil Wepfer.
Other local boys, cheered on by Sniteman, went from his store to other schools and to other business locations included Edward Neverman, Charlie Gallagher, Ed Lye, Carl Mick, Dell Wolff, Joe Wiesner, Merlin Steuerwold and John Griffith.
Mr. and Mrs. Sniteman were married at the Presbyterian Manse (parsonage) in Neillsville on Jan. 30, 1899 by Rev. R. J. Cresswell. They were married for 41 years. Both had been previously married.
C. C. Sniteman died on Oct. 28, 1940, at the age of 91 years. A couple days before he died, he talked with his physician and personal friend, Dr. J. H. Frank. He wanted to know if his life here, on earth, was near its end of which Dr. Frank gave him an honest answer. So Sniteman knew his assumption was right. He then told his friend, “I am satisfied. I have lived a useful life.”
Sniteman was a humble man and a very generous person. The wealth he made from his drug store business in this city went back into the community. He kept giving toward business ventures even after the first business failed, losing his investments more than once. He was a true optimist, always ready to assist businesses and individuals, financially, to better the community. There is a familiar saying, “We come into this world with nothing and we go out with nothing.” Sniteman’s live history seems to indicate that philosophy.
For a man who gave his “all” to this community, it seems fitting that the downtown park in Neillsville, “C. C. Sniteman Town Square Park”—bears his name.
You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.
Charles C. Sniteman, on right, and George Sontag, left, worked together many years at Sniteman Pharmacy on Hewett Street, Neillsville
Sniteman purchased the drug store business in 1882, the same year that Neillsville became a city.
He generously gave financial support to businesses with in the city, being involved in several ventures.
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