Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

August 6, 1997, Page 32

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 


IN THE Good Old Days


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County 1899


“The Red Letter Fair”


Great emphasis was placed on the 1899 Clark County Fair.  It was advertised as the “Red Letter Fair” with posters circulated throughout Clark and neighboring counties.  The poster was designed with four colors, the words being printed in red ink, fitting the theme.


In September 1899, the Press and area newspapers gave updates on preparations for the big fairs events.


Colby Phonograph: -- “Chas Lee of Neillsville was in our city Friday, putting up advertising posters for the Clark County Fair.  The advertising matter was new, unique and appropriate.”


The Marshfield Times wrote: “The people of Clark County will drop their everyday pursuits and assemble at Neillsville for a few days of enjoyment and social communion at the annual county fair.  The progressive farmers thoroughly discuss the rival merits of clover, timothy and Hungarian grass for hay; Durham, Holstein, Red Polled, Jersey, Guernsey and Holderness cattle for beef, butter and cheese purposes.  There will be Shropshire and Merino sheep for wool, Poland-China and Arkansas razor-back hogs for pork.  Poultry will consist of Buff-Cochin, Shanghai, Leghorn, Brahma, Plymouth Rock and Bantam chickens for eggs.


There will be a baseball game each of the last three days between local teams for a purse of $50 per game.  The fair is being managed in a business-like way and with the fine attractions should draw a very large crowd from the surrounding cities.


The people of Neillsville will do their utmost to entertain visitors and maintain the enviable reputation for hospitality of which they are so justly proud.  Gov. Scofield will be in attendance.”


Clark County Press:  “Today is Governor’s Day at the Clark County Fair.”  Gov. Scofield will arrive on early morning train from Madison.  He will be met at the depot by a delegation of citizens. Guard A will turn out in uniform to be preceded by the Neillsville Brass Band, to escort the distinguished guest, Gov. Scofield from the train depot.  There will be entertainment until after dinner when everyone will visit the fairgrounds and the governor will adder’s those in attendance.  Guard A company will give an exhibition in manual and marching maneuvers.


Today, Thursday, is the warmest of the four sizzling hot days of the best Red Letter Fair that has ever happened here or down the turnpike.  In order to secure an opportunity for a good chance to see all that is to be seen, you should arrive early to avoid the rush.  While you think of it, bring all your relatives along.  If you haven’t any, bring someone else.  We, at the newspaper, extend a welcome.  Neillsville is glad to see its friends – all our doors are swung open – Come in!


The Red Letter Fair is what it started out to be – big in events – big in interests – big inside and outside.  The stock pens, poultry shed, vegetable hall, art and merchandise hall, are all enormous with entries.  Clark County demonstrates its excellence in dairying and agriculture, an example for the rest of the state.


After the Red Letter Fair, the Press included some fair results.


Clark County’s fair this year was one that people will be talking about for a long time.  When the management started out this season to push the annual exhibition of Clark County’s growing industry, they intended it to be a “red letter event.”  They put all their energy into it, and spared neither time nor pains in their efforts to make the exhibition a success.


The products of the soil were such as to call for the admiration of all.  The benches and display tables in the agricultural building were loaded with displays of vegetables, grains, etc, of the finest quality.  Handiwork, fresh fruits, preserves and cookery lined the fine arts building.  An education department within the building displayed fine drawings, penmanship, botanical and geological collections.  Public and parochial school students entered many exhibits.  There were displays of potted plants and cut flowers as well as displays of merchandise from several business houses.


Entering the stock pens, visitors beheld a fine lot of horses, cattle, sheep and hogs.  The sleek livestock gave evidence that county farmers are turning their attentions to raising fine stock.  All departments were well filled with exhibits.


One of the features of this part of the fair was the performance the lone running horse which ran without a rider in a race with another runner and jockey, winning several times. After the race was finished, the intelligent animal would turn around and come trotting back to its master to receive a pat of commendation.


Another feature was the Roman standing race in which two horses were ridden by the driver, with one foot on each animal.  In one of the harness races, a horse driven by Chas. Stevens, broke its hobbles and became tangled up in them, causing it to fall.  Steve was thrown from the sulky and in the mix-up; the horse kicked Steve, causing him to be bruised. 


One of the special attractions at the fair, the chief was Lee Richardson, the famous bicycle rider in fancy and trick bicycle riding.  If there is any manner of staying on a wheel while in motion that he doesn’t know, it would be worth seeing.  The Mack brothers performed in tight rope walking which was highly commendable and although they are amateurs, they did some feats worthy of professionals.  The day fireworks were set off as advertised.


The usual amount of hot peanuts, cane rack and sprinkle fakirs did a flourishing business, stands of each.


The large crowds in attendance during the fair; was source of satisfaction to all concerned.  Thursday recorded 6,000 people, breaking all previous records.  The four-day attendance was a little over 12,000.


The untiring efforts of Pres. E. D. Webster, Secretary Heath and their co-workers deserve praise in the magnificent showing.  They have this year, for once in the history of the fair association, made it able to pay expenses.


H. H. Heath laid the corner stone of his new residence on State Street yesterday with impressive ceremonies.  It is whispered confidentially that there was deposited in the tin box, one premium list to the “Red Letter Fair,” one entry blank, two “comps,” and a copy of Secretary Heath’s pastoral poem, “When You Say Red Letter Fair.”


(At least one of the 1899 Clark County Red Letter Fair posters remains in existence.  While recently renovating their house, Bill and Jeanne Roberts found the poster wrinkled and nailed between the attic rafters.  After carefully removing it, Roberts had the poster restored through a steaming process.


Eugene D. Webster had owned and lived in the house on the corner of Grand Avenue and Fourth Street in the late 1800s, selling it about 1903 when the family moved to southern California.  Webster had been drummer boy for the Clark County company of men serving in the 14th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War.  After leaving Clark County, Webster started a vineyard in California.  Roberts has corresponded with a grandson of Webster, learning the Civil War drum has remained among the family collectibles, now owned by the grandson.  Webster owned and operated a livery stable in the late 1800s, on Grand Avenue between Fifth and Sixth Streets.  The lot is now a parking lot below Mid-Wisconsin Bank.)


*If you can supply a better scan of this picture, please contact us.

Clark County’s 1899 Great Red Letter Fair was a special event, visited by Wisconsin’s Governor Scofield on opening day.  Preparations and plans were accelerated to insure the greatest fair ever in displaying the county’s advancement into agriculture after the waning lumber industry days.  A four-color poster, special in itself, was circulated in Clark and neighboring counties, advertising the coming event.  The 14” x 22” poster was copied in reduced size for this page.


Bill and Jeanne Roberts also have the oval-topped paneled window saved from a fairground building, presumed to have been in the fine arts building, razed in circa 1970.  It was saved through the efforts of Rudy Opelt when the building was being torn down.  (Our thanks to Bill and Jeanne Roberts for information and allowing us to copy the fair poster)



© Every submission is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.


Show your appreciation of this freely provided information by not copying it to any other site without our permission.


Become a Clark County History Buff


Report Broken Links

A site created and maintained by the Clark County History Buffs
and supported by your generous donations.


Webmasters: Leon Konieczny, Tanya Paschke,

Janet & Stan Schwarze, James W. Sternitzky,

Crystal Wendt & Al Wessel