Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

July 22, 1998, Page 24

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 

IN THE Good Old Days


By Dee Zimmerman


Clark County’s First Rural Community


Many of Clark County’s first settlers traveled to the new frontier by way of the Black River, while others came overland.  The overland traveling was slow and tedious.  Trails had to be made through rough wooded areas.  Wet, swampy sloughs presented challenges, as oxen and carts carrying the pioneers’ few possessions, became mired in the mud.


Some settlers gave in to the rigorous obstacles, stopping short of their planned destination.  But, for those who endured the hardships in the rough terrain and did reach their land claims, they had to have felt a sense of triumph.


Clark County’s first farms were located along Pleasant Ridge.  Pleasant Ridge, as the area has long been referred to displays a pleasant view along Highway 10, east of Neillsville.  We can imagine the emotions felt by the first pioneers as they arrived on the ridge, after the hardships experienced in getting there.  They had to have been overwhelmed with the scenic view, seeing an expanse of wooded land to the north and the south.


Some of the homes built along Pleasant Ridge by pioneering families still remain on the homestead sites, such as those of Kurth, Deitrick, Hughes, Counsell, Cook, Huckstead, Blackman, Austin and Foote families. 


The Charles Foote home, located about one-half mile east of Neillsville, was built in 1878.


Charles Foote emigrated from Summersetshire, England, in 1852.  After living in Racine for a short time, he came to Clark County in 1854, working with lumbering and farming.


Foote was residing with the John Wage family when the Civil War began.  He enlisted into Co.1 of the 14th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry on Sept. 18, 1861.  The unit, under the command of Capt. Calvin R. Johnson, of Black River Falls, was dispatched for military training at Fond du Lac.


During Foote’s training, he became ill with measles which weakened his lungs, an ailment he had to contend with the rest of his life.


Foote’s infantry unit fought in the major battles of the Civil War – the battle of Shiloh, Corinth and Vicksburg.  Foote’s regiment marched into Vicksburg in 1863.  Accompanying General Grant upon Vicksburg’s surrender, their regiment was given “Post and Honor.”  They led the advance of troops into the surrendering city.  (“Post and Honor” was recognition then, as Unit Citation is in present-day army. D.Z.)


On Dec. 11, 1863, Foote re-enlisted as a Veteran Volunteer with the 14th Regiment.  In 1865, the 14th Regiment was sent to New Orleans to fight at “Spanish Forte” until its surrender.  Foote was mustered out of Volunteer Service in October 1865, with the rank of sergeant.


Shortly after returning from his military duties, Foote purchased 80 acres of land in the Town of Pine Valley.  He paid the previous owner, James Furlong, an amount of $700 for the property.


Charles Foote and Margaret Ross were married on Oct. 21, 1866.  Margaret’s parents, Robert and Ellen Ross came to Pine Valley Township in 1850.  Their daughter, Margaret, was born in the Province of Quebec, Canada, in May 1845.  They also had four other children, one son and three daughters. Ross was engaged in lumbering and farming.  The Ross farm was located along Black River, about one mile southwest of Neillsville.  The river’s swirling back-current below its bank along the Ross farm was named “Ross’ Eddy,” referred to by that name, even today.


Starting in 1875, Foote made arrangements to build a new house on the property he owned.  Over a four-year period of time, Foote borrowed $1,828.75 for the house construction, using 240 acres of land as collateral.


A brick “Italianate” style house was built on the northern edge of Foote’s land, bordering the Pleasant Ridge Road, (now U. S. Hwy 10. D.Z.)  It is believed the house construction was completed in 1878.  The two-story brick home’s interior displayed an open staircase and woodwork of oak, depicting a style of design used by craftsmen in that era.


Construction of the Charles Foote house, one-half mile east of Neillsville, was completed in 1878.  The wood frame windmill near the back door was a style of the 1870s.



Foote died Mar. 17, 1902, at the age of 66.  His wife, Margaret, passed away on Aug. 12, 1915.  They had five children, Frank, Nellie, Grace, Blanche and Oscar.


Actively involved in his community, Foote served as treasurer of Pine Valley Township and was Assistant Commander of Clark County Soldiers and Sailors Assoc.  Also, he was a great supporter of the Clark County Agriculture Society, being a stockholder and life member of the organization, exhibiting sheep and cattle raised on his farm.


The Foote homestead was sold to Joseph Chase in December 1909.  There were other owners after the Chase family sold the property.


A Chase family photo taken some time after they purchased the Foote house in 1909, Mother Chase, second from the right, raised 14 children in this home.  (Photo’s and information courtesy of Pat Lacey)


Presently, Mike and Pat Lacey are owners of the Italianate-style home.  They have refurbished the house, accenting its original design.  As travelers drive past the home, about one-half mile east of Neillsville on Highway 10, they will see a white picket fence edging the lot which enhances the home’s white porches and trim.  The Lacey’s have placed their house on the State and National Historical Register, preserving a Pleasant Ridge historical site.


A Civil War Veteran’s Family


Horace Lawrence, a Clark County resident and Civil War Veteran, left a wife and nine children when he died.


The Lawrence family had lived on a farm at York Center, in the Town of York.  When Horace died, his wife decided to stay on the farm with her family.  Her youngest child was two months old, and the oldest was not yet twelve.  She had the farm, a widow’s pension of ten dollars per month, and a pension for each child of two dollars per month until each became 16 years old.


With these resources, Mrs. Lawrence managed to raise her family.  She let the farm out on shares to neighbors, kept two or three cows, a horse, some pigs and chickens.  She managed to care for her family with these provisions until her sons became big enough to take responsibility of the farm work.  Mrs. Lawrence was the manager and a hard worker.  She kept the family together until they were all grown up, and until one by one they married and left to establish homes of their own.


But, that wasn’t the end of Mrs. Lawrence caring for children.  Her oldest son’s wife died, leaving a two-year old girl and a little baby boy.  Mrs. Lawrence took the little girl, raised her, assisted her in going thru grade and high school, and helped provide financial assistance for her musical education.


Mrs. Lawrence accomplished caring for her family under difficulties which would now seem impossible.  All of her children were born without the aid of a doctor or nurse.  She had the help of a hired girl for two weeks after each child’s birth, to help with laundry and other household tasks.  The third birth was twin boys, and then when they were 14 months old, she gave birth to twins again.  To enable caring for the first set of twins, she then placed them in a hammock suspended over her bed, conveniently nearby where she would easily attend them as well as the new born twins kept in her bed.  She was able to care for four babies at a time.


When the Lawrence children were little, their mother washed clothing three times a week, and some were very large washings.  She, never in her lifetime, owned a washing machine.  She had a washtub, washboard and a strong back for washing clothes.


If times were hard for Mrs. Lawrence, she didn’t know it and did not complain about it.  She took hard times in her stride, as a matter of “that is the way it was to be.”


As for what they had – Sugar?  Yes, she kept a little on hand as a treat, to be put on the table when there were guests, but not otherwise.  Wee the children choosy about their food?  They were not; they ate what they could get and were delighted to get it.  Nothing was wasted.  If a little piece of bread was left over, it was put into the bread jar and accumulated there until the supply was sufficient, then the family got a treat of fried bread – and they liked it.


Mrs. Lawrence’s husband was a Civil War veteran.  She survived him by more than 40 years.  The farm and home remained in her possession until her death.  It was then sold to settle the estate and the monies were distributed to the heirs.  Those who knew her marveled over her strength and determination.



People, like nails, are useless when they lose their heads.


Better than being the head of the business is being the heart of it.




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