Compiled by Dee Zimmerman

Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

February 17, 1999, Page 36

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 



Clark County 1939


Town of Grant Pioneer, Tom Wage


Living in the Town of Grant since 1856, Tom Wage was four years old when his parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Wage, brought their family to Clark County. The Wage family had lived in Bradford County, Pennsylvania before coming to Wisconsin.


Even though nearly 80 years have elapsed since the family’s westward journey, Wage has vivid memories of his childhood.  He recalls a number of incidents on his arrival in the Wisconsin wilderness.


An older brother, Fernando Wage of Neillsville, who was then 15 years old, was sent on a journey.  He was assigned the task of taking a team of horses, on a ship from Buffalo, N.Y. to Chicago, Ill., in the fall of 1855.  The father and a neighbor Levi Marsh accompanied the rest of the Wage family to Chicago by train.  Mrs. Wage, whose maiden name was Susanna Fowler, but who was the widow of Fred Cogswell when she married Wage, had a sister living in Monroe, Green County.  The Wage family and Marsh traveled to Monroe by team of horses and wagon to visit Mrs. Wage’s sister before selecting a place to reside.  They later drove to Sparta where they rented rooms and remained for the winter.


Another couple was added to the Wage party, Mr. and Mrs. George Williams of Ohio, whom the Wages found mired on the swampy road to Sparta. At Sparta, Wage traded his teams of horses for a team of oxen and also acquired two cows and a pig.  Williams decided to take some livestock along as well when the group started on their trip to Clark County in the spring of 1856.  At Black River Falls, the travelers were forced to cross the Black River, with a successful crossing.  Nearing Neillsville, the party had to again cross the Black River and Williams’ pigs were lost in the stream as they forged the river.


Arriving in Neillsville, which then consisted of a dozen buildings or less, the men found it necessary to cut a road to the 160-acre tract of land pre-empted by Wage.  The land was then in the Town of Pine Valley, later to become the Town of Grant.  The women and children were left in a shack at Neillsville, while the men made a small clearing and erected a floorless log cabin on the Wage homestead.  On June 6, 1856, the rest of the party arrived at the homestead and Wage recalls that 22 people found shelter in the new cabin that night.  That was the first settlement in what if (is) now the Town of Grant.


When Wage was seven years old, a school house was built on his parents’ farm and when he was 13; his father built the first frame barn on the settlement.  A new frame house was built on their farm the next year.  Another event of the early days, to be remembered, was the enlistment of Fernando Wage in 1863, following Lincoln’s call for volunteers.  In 1866, after Fernando had returned from the Civil War, the boy’s father, then past 85, was struck by a falling tree.  The nearest doctor was at Black River Falls and word of the accident was conveyed to him.  The doctor arrived several days after the accident but he found Wage’s condition beyond medical or surgical aid.


Among the proudest moments of Wage’s youthful years was that of one of his first employments.  At the age of 18, he was hired by the Walker-Paige lumber company to drive a team of oxen in the camp near Black River Falls.  His salary was $35 a month, the highest wage paid to any of their teamsters.


Wage married Miss Henrietta Foster of the Town of York in 1876.  A few years later, they purchased 80 acres of land, which included the present site of the Village of Granton, from Fred Davis. They paid $1,700 for the property and after making improvements, Wage sold all but ten acres to Sylvester (Vet) Marsh in 1890 for $2,500.  The Neillsville and North-eastern Railway had just been completed between Marshfield and Neillsville.  Marsh had the land platted for the Granton Village site on Nov. 22, 1890, after the railway company had agreed to build a station there.


The Tom Wage family continued to live on the ten acres they had reserved.  Wage devoted part of his time to raising and teaming horses.  After the death of his wife, in 1918, Wage made his home with his home with his daughter, Mrs. F. E. Winn.  He related an incident which illustrates his love for horses.  He had received a good offer to sell one of his best horses, against the wishes of his daughter.  She had inherited her dad’s love of horses, but he decided to sell the horse any-way.  Shortly afterward, the team he was driving in the woods failed to stop at a critical time and Wage’s foot was crushed between a tree and the logging sleigh.  If only he hadn’t sold that good reliable horse.  When he was carried into the house, his first words were, “Don’t blame the horses.”  His daughter recalled that when the doctor was called he brought no assistant with him to their house. Those attempting to administer the anesthetic to Wage became sleepy before the patient did.  The injury kept Wage from working for months, and he never fully recovered from the injury’s effects.


In spite of his handicap, Wage managed to maintain his reputation as one of the leading berry pickers in the Granton vicinity.  The finest blackberry patch he ever found, he claims, was in the Town of Sherwood, near Brooks.  One year, in two days, between farm chores, he picked a total of 90 quarts of the largest wild blackberries he ever saw.  The dry seasons of the ‘30s put an end to his berry picking.


During the course of his reminiscence, Wage disclosed the fact that his paternal grandfather was a Hessian soldier (a native of Hesse, Germany).  Fighting in the Revolutionary War, he became an American citizen after the war’s end.  He then returned to Germany and later was accompanied by his wife back to this country.  They settled in Massachusetts and later moved to Pennsylvania.  A number of interesting traditions could be included in the family history, but owing to a slight change in the spelling of the name and the loss of records, it has been impossible to verify them.


When John D. Wage came to Clark County, he left behind the children of his first marriage, none of whom ever came west.  His second family consisted of Fernando, Tom and two daughters, Susan and Bianca.  Susan married a name named Green and they lived near Wedge’s Creek, south of Neillsville.  Bianca became the wife of George Brooks, one of the earliest settlers in the Town of Lynn. Tom Wage’s family consisted of three daughters, Jessie (Mrs. Norman Pearce of New Orleans), Dora (Mrs. F. E. Winn) and Gladys who is a member of the faculty of the Langlade County Normal School in Antigo.


Although living in the same township for nearly 80 years, Wage held public office only once and never cared to accept an-other office.  He was town treasurer at a time when the nearest bank was at Neillsville and the means of transportation was limited.  The worry and inconvenience caused by the responsibility of keeping the town funds in the house more than offset the small salary paid.  Mrs. Winn told of an amusing incident in retrospect, but which wasn’t funny when it occurred.  For a time the town funds were locked in one of the drawers of the sewing machine.  An itinerant repairman appeared one day, making needed repairs about the household.  Mrs. Wage nearly panicked in her efforts to keep him away from the sewing machine, which really needed an overhauling. She feared he would discover the hidden money.


For many years, Wage celebrated his birthday with two friends: E. A. Beeckler, whose birthday was also on April 26, and C. C. Berg who was a year older, on April 27.  The two octogenarian birthday friends also are longtime Granton residents, Beeckler residing there for 50 years and Berg for more than a half century.  With all three men having been early pioneers of Clark County, they must have shared many stories of similar experiences.


V. P. Barager Marks 25 Years as Owen Enterprise Publisher


V. P. Barager, well-known and respected Clark County editor and publisher, this week observed his 25th Anniversary at the head of the Owen Enterprise.


It was a quarter of a century ago – St. Valentine’s Day, 1914 – that Barager, then publisher of the Withee Sentinel, and his mother, the late Mrs. A. L. Barager, formed a partnership.  They purchased the Enterprise in the then small, but growing northern community.


The partnership was closed in 1929, when Mrs. Barager died after working enthusiastically for 15 years toward the progress and building of the newspaper.


In last week’s Enterprise, a story related to the newspaper’s last 25 years.  “At the time of the purchase,” the Enterprise recalled, “the village of Owen was in a primitive stage and was being rapidly developed.  Thus many changes were occurring with the growth of the business enterprises and the addition of new businesses, progress was made hurriedly.”


For the last few years, Barager has been ably assisted in the operation of the Enterprise by his son, James, who all but grew up in the plant.


The newspaper plant was in poor condition when purchased by the Baragers.  They started a period of rebuilding the plant which has lasted to the present.  The white frame building which house the Enterprise today was moved from Withee by the Baragers shortly after their purchase.


During the 25 years that have passed, the entire equipment of the plant has been replaced three times, and now is an unusually well-equipped commercial printing and weekly newspaper plant.

A month ago, the “Good Old Days” included news of a 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration for Mr. and Mrs. John Howard held in late 1933.  It was also mentioned that of the 150 guests at the event, 132 were related.  Some of the families represented were Vine, Huckstead, Buss, Howard, Swann, Selves, Counsell, Schultz, King, Wren and Snyder, all members of the “Buffalo Tribe.”  The name “Buffalo Tribe” was derived from the fact that the first Pleasant Ridge settlers, between Granton and Neillsville, had come from Buffalo, N. Y.  Fred Vine had served as the scout; he was the first settler who came to Clark County to determine the new location’s value for homesteading. 


The Howards anniversary party was held at the I.O.O.F. Hall at 140 West Fifth Street (now Dave’s Auto Parts Store).  Everyone gathered for a photo which was taken across the West Street intersection, at 204 West Fifth St., in front of the Neillsville Tire Shop.  (The two story building was later torn down and replaced by a one story structure).  Mr. and Mrs. John Howard are standing in the center of the first row with two children (Marguerite Brown Tibbetts and Jan Brown Tibbetts), and surrounded by relatives and guests.  (Photo courtesy of Marguerite Tibbetts)



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