Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

August 5, 1998, Page 28

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 

The Good Old Days


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Main Street

Neillsville’s Early Businesses


A merchant for many years, William J. Marsh gave an account of the Main Street businesses through the years, as he remembered them.  Marsh went into the merchandise business in 1887.


In the late 1950s, Marsh sat down with a Clark County Press reporter, drawing on his excellent memory to give his recollections of the various stores at the turn of the century.


Starting on the west of Hewett Street at O’Neill Creek, the grist mill was located on the creek’s south bank.  Its first owner was Scott Colburn, later sold to A. B. Marsh, then Marsh to Robert Hemphill, J. D. McMillian and Warren Page.  For many years the mill ran as a center for farm trade, grinding the farmers’ grist, grain.  It was finally sold and became the Oatman Condensery of the American Dairy Co.  That site is now occupied by the new Neillsville Fire Station.


Continuing southward, and on the north side of the former railroad track bed, there was the millinery shop of Mrs. Kemmery.  She was one of many old style milliners in a day when all women’s hats were made to order.  The frame building which she occupied, later became property of the American Stores Dairy Co., was moved several blocks south on Hewett Street.  It was reconstructed and became the home of the Condensery superintendent, at first A. B. Sheddan, then L. P. Barton.


Directly south across the railroad tracks was the Central Hotel.  It was a frame building owned by Jacob Rossman, head of the Rossman family and patriarch of he various Rossmans of the area.  After the Central Hotel was removed, the Merchants Hotel was moved from north of O’Neill Creek and placed on the site where it still stands today.


Crossing the Seventh Street intersection, the corner lot was occupied by Fred Klopf’s General Store.  The important factor in that business was Mrs. Klopf, a shrewd and energetic business woman.  The property, a frame building, was later sold to B. Dangers and continued as a general store until fire destroyed it.  After the lot was cleared off, Harry Rosenquist built a new filling station on the site.  Strangfeld’s Auto Body Shop is now at the location.


The next business south was John Kopf’s saloon, the entire building was of wood construction.  Later, the building’s front portion was brick veneered.  During the Depression of the ‘30s, the saloon was closed, re-opening later as a saloon again.


An old building next door was later bought by Jesse Lowe, who erected a brick structure, leasing to Moldenhauer Jewelry and Mabie’s Barber Shop.  One of those shops is now the office for H & R Block.


Next was an old frame building constructed by O. P. Wells and occupied by his hardware business.  He was the father of the young woman who later became the wife of Wm. J. Marsh.  The building later became a tavern and pool hall.  It is still occupied by a tavern business: The Office.


Another small wooden building next door was used as a grocery store by Charles Lee.  Lee’s father was an express agent in Neillsville for many years.  About 1905, Mrs. Gress had a restaurant in the remodeled building.  Northern States Power Co. occupied the structure for several years.  Presently, the Clark County Press is located there.


The next lot was occupied by a hardware store owned by E. E. Crocker, father of Mrs. George Zimmerman.  Crocker sold his business to Dennis Tourigny, and eccentric French bachelor.


Tourigny’s store extended to the back with an L-shaped extension toward Sixth Street.  He slept on a blanket thrown on the store floor and cooked his meals on a small stove at the rear of the store.  He avoided women and saved hi money in a miserly fashion.  Often, at the end of a busy day, Tourigny hid the day’s cash receipts, here or there, around the store if he hadn’t had time to go to the bank.  After one of those busy days, the following morning an employee sold a new stove which had been on display in the store.  A short time later, Tourigny discovered the stove was missing and immediately questioned who had purchased it.  Upon learning the customer’s name, he hurriedly went to the buyer’s home asking if he could look inside of the stove.  He had hidden the previous day’s receipts, a sizable amount of cash, inside of the stove.


Tourigny wore a dark-colored, long trench coat, the only one like it in town, so he was easily recognized by what he wore.  One year, he wore his old summer straw hat well into winter.  When a friend teased him about it, Tourigny said that he intended to get it lathed and plastered so as to wear it all through the winter.  As for his bachelorhood, Tourigny weakened as his years increased and finally married a young woman.  As a matrimonial prospect, he had integrity and considerable property.  He also had longevity, outliving his wife.


Tourigny had a very prosperous hardware business which required additional warehouse space.  A large building was built on a lot along Tenth Street, facing Hewett Street, to be used as a warehouse.  It occupied three lots which would later be the sites for houses owned by Dern, Yule and Lyons. Tourigny was long remembered as one of Neillsville’s most “colorful” businessmen.


The Tourigny hardware store was razed in the early ‘20s.  William Tragsdorf had a new building erected on the lot and operated a theater in it.  Tragsdorf later sold the business which was under the name of Adler and later as the Neillsville Theatre.  A year ago, the building was razed and the lot is now vacant.


The northwest corner lot, Sixth and Hewett Street, was the location of the Cole & Pashell store which sold dry goods, shoes and clothing.  The building was then of frame construction.  In 1878, at the age of 16, Marsh left Black River Falls to work at the Cole & Pashell store by the request of Jerome Cole, a Black River Falls druggist; creator of “Cole’s Carbolic Salve,” who had interest in the Neillsville store.  For his clerical services at the Cole & Pashell store, Marsh received $200 per year and room with board which was very good.


H. A. North purchased the former Cole & Pashell frame building and in its place erected a brick building in 1892 which he used for his Tin and Hardware business, formerly operated in the Lloyd building.  During the ‘30s, many will remember Wagner’s Café in the corner building and later Becker’s Café.  Most recently, First Financial Bank occupied the structure which is now vacant.


Across Sixth Street, on the corner, was a large frame building owned by Gates, Stannard & Co. which was used for a grocery business.  Gates of the firm was James Gates, who organized a private bank.  The private bank was succeeded by the Neillsville Bank, which came into ownership of that site.  The old frame building was removed to Fifth Street, was re-constructed and became what was known as the Howard apartments, 212 West Fifth Street.


Next, was another frame building of light construction, used as a drug store owned by Meyer Bros.  It was later sold to C. C. Sniteman who constructed a brick building around the old frame building, removing the wood frame after the new structure was completed.


The neighboring frame building housed the Clark County Bank.  President of the bank was Levi Archer who lived on a farm south of Neillsville and drove into town by horse and buggy every morning.  The bank’s cashier was W. G. Klopf.  In later years, the building housed the August Snyder Men’s clothing Store, then the Berger Clothing store.  Advanced Chiropractic is the building’s occupant.


Next door was a wooden building owned by W. C. Crandall and used as a drug store.  Crandall was also a physician.  In 1950, the Coast-to-Coast business occupied the brick structure which had been previously built on the site.


The next two old wooden frame buildings were razed by Jesse and Tom Lowe in 1898, replacing the structures with fine brick buildings.  The first wooden structures held various businesses in the beginning.  The third building from the Fifth and Hewett corner, one of the two, was a bakery for many years with Ed Bast as an owner to be succeeded by Derns, Beleaus, (and) Aumanns.  The building now is owned by M & M Catering, Meats & Seafoods.  The second building when a frame structure had been a warehouse owned by James Hewett.  The brick building was the location of Kearn’s Drug Store for many years.  Later, it would be Rexall Drugs until it closed out and is now occupied by Floral Creations.


Clark County’s first brick building, the pride of the town, was built by Hewett & Woods in 1872.  The solid brick structure was used for James Hewett’s general store business, specializing in supplies for loggers.  Hewett sold the property to Wm. J. and Lute Marsh.  The Marsh brothers had formed a business partnership in 1887, having a dry goods, clothing and shoe business which they had leased a building for until purchasing the Hewett & Woods building in 1891.  Soon after the building purchase, Lute sold his interest to his brother, William, and moved to the West Coast.  Wm. J. Marsh continued to run the business until 1938.  After retiring, he leased the building to J. C. Penney’s, then McCain’s and later, Skogmos.  Recently, Dianne Murphy purchased the building and is restoring it.


Across the street, on the corner of Hewett and Fifth, was an old wooden livery stable, owned by Captain Talford. It was a large barn extending over a big area.  Eventually, the old barn was torn down.  It was succeeded by a small frame building on the corner, used as a candy store.  Next, was a small building used as an office by Dr. Frank.  Later, the two buildings were removed and one building was erected on the lots which were occupied by the Prochazka Food Store.  The Walk Bros. Store was also there at one time.  In later years, the First National Bank was on the site.  The building now is used for office space, as Town Square Plaza.


The next lot was purchased by Unger who put up a brick structure to be used for a shoe store and later sold to Hinshaw.  It is now the site of The Tannery.


Dr. Samuel Esch, a long time Neillsville doctor, constructed a building, prior to 1900, to be used for his business.  It was later used for the Sheddan Variety Store, then the Benson Hardware business.


H. H. Eberhardt operated a furniture store next door in a building which was later the Schiller Funeral Home, then Russell’s Hardware.  In the early ‘50s Glen and Metty Roberts purchased the Eberhardt building and Benson Hardware building, combining and remodeling the space to accommodate their newly acquired Russell’s Hardware business. 


Across the alley, stood a two-story frame building which was used by L. B. Ring as a printing office and the upper story served as his living quarters.  The old building was torn down and later a new one-story brick structure took its place, now the offices of TDS Badger Telecom.


The rest of the block to the Fourth Street corner, was occupied by Bernhardt Tragsdorf and Rella Balch for their business.  Shortly after its completion, Balch sold his interest to J. G. Zimmerman, becoming the Tragsdorf & Zimmerman Store.  After Tragsdorf’s death in 1909, Bertha Tragsdorf sold her interest to J. G. Zimmerman & Sons.  When J. G. Zimmerman retired, the business became Zimmerman Bros. Co.  Years later, Zimmerman Bros. sold their business to the Farmers Store Co. and it operated as a general store for several years.  The building now provides space for Clark County and state government offices.


(Next week’s article will include the history of east-side of Hewett Street. D. Z.)


O. P. Wells was an early Clark County Businessman who had a hardware store on the 600 Block of Hewett Street, Neillsville, in the 1800s.  The Wells Family included: (Back row), Left to right: Bertie Wells Marsh, William J. Marsh, and Sibyl Wells Clark.  Front row: O. Phillip Wells, Helen Marsh North, and Mrs. O. P. (Angeline) Wells.



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