Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

September 30, 1998, Page 28

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 

IN THE Good Old Days


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County’s First Courthouse


Clark County’s first courthouse was a frame building erected upon the present courthouse square.  It was constructed in 1857.  In preparation for building the structure, the Clark County Board levied a tax of $2,000.  Bids were opened Jan. 2, 1857.  Two brothers were competitors in the bidding.  James Furlong’s bid was $1,800 and Edward Furlong’s bid was $1,895.  James Furlong decided to withdraw his bid and the construction contract was let to Edward Furlong.  The construction progressed throughout the year of 1857 and the final payment of $1,895 on the contract was made Jan. 1, 1858.  The payment did not include chimneys, underpinning, stairways and some other unspecified items.


The building was 40’ x 50’, two stories high and was painted white.  From the present viewpoint, it would seem impossible to cram all the activities of county government into a 40’ x 50’ building.  However, in the beginning, Clark County was small and had few residents, so county business was small.  The county officers were part-time workers with their main income derived from other sources.


A county history published in 1918, says: “In the early days the officers spent but little time in their offices.  Persons desiring to transact business with other officials found them at their homes or places of business.  Citizens desiring to examine the records did not trouble the officer, but went to the courthouse and found the information they needed.  If, by some rare chance, the office should be locked; entrance could be made through a window, which was always unlocked.  There were no vaults or safes until a later date.  The books and records were strewn promiscuously about the tables and chairs.”


Upon the decision of Clark County’s Board to build a larger courthouse building in the 1870s, the first frame structure was sold and moved to a lot on Lot 49 (middle of east [south] side of Fifth Street).


The story of that property dates back to Neillsville’s original founder, James O’Neill. He had platted that part of Neillsville and on Feb. 1, 1867, he sold all of lot 49, Block 6, to George Adams.  The transaction included two-thirds of the site where the former courthouse building was moved to.  An additional frontage of 44 feet was added to the west side.  The frontage of 66 feet on Fifth Street was purchased for $75.  Then, as now the government was looking for revenue and the deed carried stamps of 50 cents to show that the government had received its due.


An oddity in the deed document was the spelling of the name O’Neill.  All of the present generations are accustomed to the spelling used as above.  But the deed to Adams was signed “O neille”, with a final “e” and no apostrophe.  The spelling discrepancy is without explanation.


The Adams family owned the property from Feb. 1, 1867 to Dec. 2, 1876.  It was then that the property transferred to George J. Hart.  The transfer took place just after the old part of the new courthouse construction was started.  It was approximately at the time the courthouse site was cleared.  The frame building used for the early Clark County records and business was moved down the hill to set on East Fifth Street.  It was placed on the east 22 feet of Lot 49 and the west 11 feet of Lot 48, giving a frontage of 33 feet.  The price paid by Hart to Adams was $375 which presumably included both the land and the former courthouse building.


Hart set out to make something of the old frame building.  He veneered it with brick and built in its basement a great furnace, capable of consuming wood in three foot lengths.  The most noticeable improvement made by him was the projection, with a bay window, on the second-floor front.  The bay window was made under the insistence of Mrs. Hart, for a special vantage point.  She was a woman of initiative and resolution.  She also was actively involved with the Congregational Church and Sunday School.  From the second floor window, she had a commanding view of Fifth Street and especially the intersections of Hewett and West Streets.


The property remained in the Hart family until 1931.  Meanwhile, Hart had died and his widow had succeeded to the ownership.  She made a deed to share a joint tenancy with her daughter.  Hart’s daughter completed dealings with the Bradbury family.  The Bradbury’s had taken a land contract on the property in 1931.  The title was taken on July 29, 1937, in the name of Minnie Bradbury and Lewis G. Bradbury, in joint tenancy.  Upon the death of his mother, Lewis G. Bradbury became sole owner.  His father, E. L. Bradbury, had died earlier in 1937.


In Dr. Bradbury’s young manhood, he was a butter maker at Sechlerville in the Hixton/Alma Center area.  He had a strong ambition to become a doctor, though he was married and had a family to support.  Various friends tried to discourage him, but he stuck to his ambition.  He and his wife worked hard and made sacrifices to make his education possible.  Even with their savings, an additional amount was needed, beyond what they could muster.  A friend, Jess Lowe, gave them a loan of $250 which enabled Bradbury to pursue his studies.


After the medical education was completed, Lowe advised Dr. Bradbury to come to Neillsville. Dr. Bradbury followed Lowe’s advice and completed a long career here as a doctor.  It was only the last five or six years of his life in Neillsville that he had offices in the Fifth Street Building, the former courthouse.  His office was in the east front, where a beauty parlor was later set up.  There he practiced and from there he never sent out any statements of account.


In another coincidence, just as his daughter would later own the east portion of Lot 49, so her father once owned the west portion of it.  Dr. Bradbury bought the west 17 feet of it from Guy C. Youmans on Aug. 26, 1907.  He paid $350 for it and sold it on Mar. 23, 1909 to Alfred C. Klopf.  From Klopf he received $250, taking a loss of $100 on the deal.  His percentage of loss was a little more than 20 per cent.


For several years, the building on Lot 49 was referred to as the Bradbury Apartments.


At the time of Dr. Bradbury’s death, in 1937, the property was assessed at $2,500.  An assessment a few years later brought the valuation up and in 1948 the assessment was $6,120.  Then was a fire requiring considerable repair and remodeling, raising the assessment to $7,620.  In 1959, the inflationary trend, after the World War II years, had kicked in on property values.  By the year of 1951, the building’s value was up to $18,000.


For almost a century the first courthouse building, later Bradbury Apartments, had been owned by only three families during that span of years.  One of the families owned it more than 50 years.  The owners, after 1957, were Selk and Ferrand.


In recent years, the 1857 building was amongst some other buildings razed, making room for Neillsville’s Town Square, which includes the gazebo-style band shell, park and parking lot.


It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s wise to check once in a while to make sure you haven’t lost the things money can’t buy. – George Horace Lorimer


Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.

  Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

--Martin Luther King, Jr.


The concrete Grand Avenue Bridge which spanned the Black River for about seventy years was replaced in recent years.  (Press Photo)


The Victory Arches appeared on Hewett Street in Neillsville after the close of World War I.  The Arch on the South Side was located at the Fourth Street intersection.


 The Victory Arch on North Hewett was on the Seventh Street intersection with one post near the Merchants Hotel. (Photos courtesy of the Strangfeld family)



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