Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

March 10, 1999, Page 24

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 

The Good Old Days 


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Village of Unity’s Beginning


The village of Unity is located on the Marathon and Clark County line.  It occupies the highest point of land between Medford and Stevens Point.


Started in 1873, Unity came into being when D. J. Spaulding arrived there and erected a large saw mill.  The station was called Brighton.  Soon after building the mill, it became a busy lumbering town.  John Sterling put up a store and a post office.  However, another post office in the state bore the name of Brighton, and the name Maple Grove was suggested.  That name was also rejected for the same reason, and the post office officials selected the name “Unity”.  Ed Creed was appointed the first postmaster but did not serve, and John Sterling was appointed. Sterling soon sold to S. A. Cook, who followed him as postmaster.  In 1878, J. A. Pettet came and opened a store.


The village was platted May 23, under the name of Brighton, and was surveyed by Charles W. Johnson.


In the village’s early years, electricity was supplied by the Abbotsford Electric Light Co.  Fire protection was furnished by a volunteer fire department, equipped with a hook and ladder truck and two chemical engines mounted on wheels.


Early in 1903, a movement was started for the incorporation of the village.  A census was taken April 4, by Erwin Schmitz and L. H. Cook, showing a population of 405.  A survey was made on April 6 to 9 by R. H. Brown.  The application for incorporation was made April 15, 1903.  The petition was signed by J. H. Clark, F. A. Schmitz, G. Groelle, D. M. Jones, H. M. Brintnall, J. K. Horn, O. H. Groelle, J. Raymond, G. W. Feuerhelm, C. Heally, E. R. Mayville, Aug. Wiede, E. J. Healy, E. Creed, V. R. Misener, H. Oberbillig, L. H. Cook, Eli Milton, J. F. Fry, C. Balle, E. W. Schmitz, J. P. Johnson, O. C. Haman, A. Cook, Percy Thayer, Ben Fuller, D. H. Shepardon, J. A. Pettet, James Garnett, H. J. Sumner, William Creed, Julius Kock (Koch), Joe Greenwood, H. J. Kohlhepp, E. H. Hemp, Oscar Bergstrom, F. Busche, R. H. Brown, Geo. S. Cook, D. K. Hall and Sam House.  The petition was granted June 4, 1903.  The charter election was held June 27 at Pettet’s Hall, the judges and inspectors being J. H. Clark, J. A. Pettet and O. C. Haman.  There were 74 votes cast, of which 52 were in favor and 22 against the proposition.  The incorporation was nullified by reason of irregularities in the census.


On April 28 and 29, 1904, a new survey was made by R. H. Brown.  On June 13, 1904, a new census was taken by L. H. Cook, showing 424 names.  Application for incorporation was again made.  A remonstrance prepared by 50 or more persons, headed by J. W. Salter, was presented, embodying the following objections: That the survey of the territory shows that the land does not contain one square mile, but contains less than one square mile; that the territory is not compact in form; that territory within 100 rods of the center said proposed village has been omitted in order that 40 acres on Section seven included in said village might be taken, and that the said 40 acres on Section seven is all of a mile or more from the center of population of the village, is not suitable and not needed for any village purposes.  It is suitable only for purpose of agriculture, and contains the farm buildings of an extensive stock farm owned by the said J. W. Salter.


Beaten in the Circuit Court, the remonstrant’s carried their case to the Supreme Court, but were again defeated.  On May 26, 1906, an election was held in Pettet’s Hall, the judges and inspector’s being L. H. Cook, J. A. Pettet and J. H. Clark.  Fifty-one votes were cast, the ayes numbering 50 and the nays only one. 


The first officials of Unity Village were: President, Alfred Cook; trustees, J. H. Clark, F. L. McMiller, E. Creed, D. K. Hall, J. A. Pettet, C. Heally; Clerk, L. H. Mumbrue; treasurer, W. E. Morgan; assessor, R. H. Brown; Village justice, J. P. Johnson; police justice, William R. Zell; constable, G. W. Feuerhelm; supervisor, Wm. Creed.


The first schools started in Unity in 1875.  In 1909, a brick building was constructed of two floors and a basement.  The brick structure was built for cost of $12,139.50.  It provided room for the eight elementary grades as well as a high school.  The ten-room building was steam-heated.  The state high school was organized in 1880 by J. W. Salter, who was the principal.  It occupied the old school house space in the Creed lots.


The Unity Cheese Factory, located in the village of Unity, was first built by Crosby & Meyers, of Chicago.  Afterwards they sold the factory to Julius Koch.  Koch sold it to the area farmers who ran it as a cooperative, for several years manufacturing butter and cheese.  The factory was sold to Otto Rohde, who, in 1915, sold to L. P. Taplin.  Taplin rebuilt the plant, putting in new cement floors and machinery, and made other improvements.  In 1917, the factory had about 50 patrons, with milk from 400 cows, and for the year of 1917 received 1,830,930 pounds of milk and butterfat.


In 1909, the village of Unity was visited by a fire which destroyed the old Forest House, Fred Wescott’s Saloon, Button Membrue’s Hardware store, Zell Bros. Store and Aug. Weide’s Butcher Shop & Shoe Shop.  Another fire occurred in 1917, on Feb. 23, which destroyed Dr. Clark’s drug store, the Clark County Telephone offices, and the residences of Christian Vogt and Julius Luchterhand. 


(Fires were a menace to many towns and villages throughout the Midwest.  The wooden structures burned rapidly and the means of heating the building with wood fired heaters also posed a threat.


One of Unity’s early brick buildings remains where it was built in 1909.  It was erected by Peter Fritz who built many structures in the Unity area in the early 1900s.


Ray’s Market, specializing in retail and custom homemade sausages now occupies the building.  As customers enter the front door, they are greeted by the aroma of freshly smoked sausages.  Roy and Al Gurtner have kept the buildings interior as it was designed in 1909.  The hardwood floor and pressed metal ceiling belie their age.  


Different items were found stored and forgotten in the basement and back shed.


Appreciating Unity’s history the Gurtners have brought the forgotten treasures out for display in the front window and within the store.  The butcher’s block, which we of the older generation remember seeing in butcher shops, is near the meat display case.  Al Gurtner said, “That butcher’s block doesn’t get moved very often as it takes the strength of five men to move it.”  Seeing the butcher’s block and the old scale displayed on it, adds to the atmosphere of the market.


Anyone visiting Ray’s Market will be impressed with the building and the variety of homemade sausages, a reminder of our heritage. D.Z.)


Christensen Abel Company’s General Store as it appeared, about 1915.  As the word “general” implies, it carried a variety of merchandise, everything from sewing notions, fine china, grocery items, clothing meats, etc.  Located along Highway 13 in Unity, the building is now occupied by Ray’s Market.  (Photo courtesy of Al Gurtner, Unity Historian)



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