Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

November 11, 1998, Page 20

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 


IN THE Good Old Days


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County News


November 1878


Neillsville ladies have worked incessantly and successfully in preparing for the entertainment at Fireman’s Hall this Friday evening.  Do not forget to drop in anytime between six and nine o’clock and partake in a good oyster supper.  While there, you will see all your neighbors and have more fun than you have had in six months.  Admission and supper is 50 cents.


The bridge over Black River on the Humbird Road was completed last Saturday.  It is a very substantial structure of iron and wood.  It is the cheapest and only good bridge in the county, because an entirely all wooden bridge is not a good one, even if it is built ever so perfectly.  The new bridge is built so that when any wood piece is decayed or becomes damaged, it can be readily replaced with new wood.


Miller Brothers, of Greenwood, have recently sold several car loads of basswood lumber delivered at Hatfield for $20 per thousand feet.  The (They) have furnished all they have been able to obtain and are unable to fill the orders sent to them.  The value of basswood is at least becoming recognized and it will not be long before the demand everywhere will be greater than the supply.  There would be much more money in lumber if we had a railroad in our area.  People here fooled themselves when they voted against the railroad proposition this last summer.


A row on the town’s streets last Wednesday night has filled the local jail to the full point.


A new bakery and a very neat café with it, has been established east of the O’Neill House by Manford Elliot and John Morrow.  The boys seem to understand both branches of their business.  It is a cozy place to drop in and get a dish of oysters, a chicken or anything else in the market, none before has ever been found in Neillsville.


A new bridge over the Cunningham Creek, on Hatfield Road, is in the process of being constructed.  The shaky old structure has been a dread to travelers on that thoroughfare for some time.


A Clark County tax of $25,166 was voted upon at the annual meeting of the county board. The amount of $3,500 will be used in building roads and $5,660 in paying off old indebtedness, which leaves $16,000 to be used for general purposes.


On Wednesday afternoon, Charles Gates will put up some fine turkeys and chickens in the field adjoining Mrs. J. H. Marshall’s.  Come and shoot a turkey for your Thanksgiving Dinner.


The Lowe Bros. new residence is completed.  It was started in late September, and though among the largest dwellings here, it appears completed.


The exterior of the house is much more elaborate than any other house in town.  The house was built by Geo. W. Trogner who has the rare faculty of rushing and doing it well at the same time.


Quite a little village is starting up at Marsh’s corners in the Town of Grant.  The building formerly used as a store by the Grangers has been purchased by a German, who is putting in a large assortment of goods.  He will have a line of groceries, boots, shoes, dry goods and hardware.  He says he will take all kinds of farm produce in exchange for goods and will sell cheap for cash.  Nelson Marsh has sold two lots upon which other buildings are being constructed.  One building will be for a blacksmith and a wagon maker to ply their trades in.  The second building is for the residence of the blacksmith.  We have heard that a shoemaker will be coming this spring to purchase a lot and build a shop on it to be used for his trade.  (The village was named Mapleworks and later renamed Granton. D.Z.)


The Odd Fellows organization at Humbird has issued invitations for a Christmas dance.  They are planning to make it one of the finest parties over (ever) given in the county.


Thanksgiving Day was generally observed here with the beautiful weather adding to the general pleasure of the family gatherings.


The courthouse needs 200 cords of wood sawed in 18-inch lengths.  Twenty-five cords of basswood, all to be split up; Also 175 cords of good hardwood.  We will receive sealed bids for one week after the date of this paper.  Send to J. F. Canon, county clerk.


November 1943


The passing of the old Ghent shop on Hewett Street brings to the minds of a few older residents of Neillsville some of the earlier history of the shop.  The building was constructed in 1889 by three Neillsville business men, who formed a company for the manufacture of sleighs, wagons, etc.  The men were: Anton Barton, Fred Wolff and Herman Korman.  The shop was named, “Barton, Wolff and Korman’s Wagon and Buggy Shop.”  The building was completed in the early summer and the Fourth of July celebration that year centered around it.  A dance was held in the new structure, and the usual Fourth of July peanuts, popcorn and lemonade were sold.


Later Barton sold his business interest to the other partners and the firm was then known as Wolff and Korman.  About 1910, Wolff sold his interest to Sommerfeldt, and the firm became Korman and Sommerfeldt.


In 1915, H. P. Ghent entered the firm which became known as Korman and Ghent.  In 1922, shortly after Korman’s death, Sommerfeldt sold his interest to Ghent, who has since been the owner.


In addition to making buggies, wagons, etc., the firm has always done planing of lumber, horse shoeing, and general black-smith work.  In later years, the business has run its operation in repairing trucks and farm machinery.


In the early days, a paint shop was maintained on the second floor, where the firm painted their buggies, wagons and other equipment.  James Campbell was the first painter employed.  Ira Wolff was also one of the early painters.


The original lot where the shop is located also included the land on which Tibbett’s ice house and the R. H. Welsh ware-house stood.


In recent years, Ghent has done much planing of fine lumber, and cabinet work.  He was the first man who ran the business alone.  The Shop has been closed since June 14 of this year, when Ghent became ill.  The lot and building have been purchased by Ray Paulson, who has taken possession and will conduct his farm implement business there.


As stated, Korman’s death occurred in 1922 and Barton passed away in 1925.  Presently Wolff is living with his daughter in Sheboygan.  It isn’t known by friends here, where the Sommerfeldt family has settled.


Another product turned out by Barton, Wolff and Korman’s Wagon and Buggy Shop was the wheelbarrow, their own special kind, made of wood, with wooden wheels and spokes.  The setting of wagon, buggy and wheelbarrow tires/wheels was an important part of their work.  In that operation, the name of Martin Kapka was known as their chief blacksmith from 1889 until the time of his death in 1911.


In 1883, the Northern Pacific Railway, the first transcontinental railway to cross Montana, was completed, and a “go west to Montana” boom swept the country.  It reached Neillsville and resulted in a demand for heavy wagons for westward travel.  As a result the local wagon shop was humming with industry and many of their wagons traveled westward across the prairies.  Wolff, himself, was caught in the westward movement in 1910, the year he severed his interest with the local firm. 


In its earliest years, the wagon shop employed ten and twelve men.  In 1915, six men were employed, and that number decreased until the past two or three years when Ghent has handled the work alone.


During the early years of this enterprise, an industrial transition was taking place in his country.  The trend was away from the little shop’s original design, declined, and the work carried on when they changed to fit the needs of the times.


The business which started with making horse-drawn vehicles was transformed by the industrial revolution into a shop for repairing motorized machinery.  Its passing marks an epic not only in the history of this community but of the entire country.


And so it was a significant occasion when Raymond Paulson made a clean sweep of the walls of the old Ghent shop.  From the walls, he took, in the labor of two days, the patterns which had been accumulated through the years.  There were patterns of rockers for chairs, of runners for cutters and sleighs, of all sorts of parts for almost all kinds of furniture.  They spoke for the old days, when a few men in a small plant made many different things, a few of each.


Now those old patterns, made of wood are in the room where fuel was kept to feed the old boiler.  They will be used for kindling and wood to fuel the heating stove.  When winter comes the old patterns will go up the chimney, the last vistage of the old era.  The era beloved by many, when the good craftsmen made many things with his own hands and a few tools.


The firm’s old day book holds records of the era, in which are names of the customers of the old days.  Prominent on the list is good old Charlie Sniteman, who bought a spring cutter in 1906 and paid $38 for it.  The names in the book are names of Neillsville history, the names of persons who made southern Clark County.  Many of them are resting now under the little white stones beneath the stately spruce trees of the Neillsville Cemetery.  They were patterns of their era.  The book containing their names is now a relic, tossed into a barrel for the discard. Soon even the old records will be gone perhaps in smoke, like the patterns.


(So, as we read about the tossing of patterns and record books, the historical buffs can all feel remorseful over that bit of history, which has been lost.  The Ghent building was located on the lot that now is occupied by Kwik Trip on North Hewett Street, along O’Neill Creek. D.Z.)


(This Veteran’s Day, November 11th, we remember members of family or friends who lost their lives fighting in wars to preserve the freedoms of our country.)


Another memory; The Veterans day Storm of 1941 is also remembered by those who lived through its fury of wind and snow.  There were many duck hunters from Minnesota and Wisconsin who wee caught along the Mississippi River’s shores and on its islands, unaware that a life threatening storm would strike.  Several hunters died in the ravaging snow and winds. Stranded travelers experienced a most traumatic time, wondering about their safety and lives.


In this day and age, we have access to the latest weather conditions and predictions via radio and television. The cellular phones and other communication aids are also helpful to those who are traveling in bad weather.  Our modern technology does beat the “Good old Days” when it comes to the knowledge of weather predictions. D. Z.) 


A 1911 view of Hewett Street, Neillsville’s main street, looking north; Hemp’s Grocery Store is the first building to be seen on he front right, at the Fifth Street intersection.


The O’Neill Creek’s dam, under Hewett Street, was rebuilt in 1911.  The Korman and Sommerfeldt Wagon, Carriage Factory and Machine Shop are visible in the background.



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