Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

June 30, 1999, Page 24

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 

IN THE Good Old Days 


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County News


June 1869


Between here and there, that is to say between Neillsville and Staffordville, the road between is being made a smooth, broad gauge track.  It now has enough room for four abreast horses going at lightning speed – no stumps, no roots, and no brush – all clear!  The obstructions that had been upon the road in the shape of poor bridges, stumps and numerous mud holes have been eliminated through Stafford’s efforts. The new stump machine was used to uproot the three to four foot width stumps.  In five minutes time after fastening on to a stump, it was pulled from the ground.


There has been rain fall here everyday for nearly two weeks, in consequence of which the roads are in a horrible condition. But grass is growing with rapidity. Saw logs are being carried by a rushing torrent of water downstream to market on the Black River which is up to a good driving stage.  Wedge’s Creek is also high enough for a good driving stage.


A new addition has been made to the village of Neillsville.  Mr. Orson Bacon has added land situated on the south side of the road running west from town (What is now Fifth Street. D. Z.); extending about eighty rods in the direction from the road (Grand Ave.) running south.  It comprises three blocks and two lots (4’x8’ rods) in a block.  On the south side of the addition is Deer Street, running east and west, and three others, named respectively Clay, Oak and Forrest Streets, run north and south.  We understand the lots are for sale upon very reasonable terms.


Preparations for the July 4th celebration are all in order and everything bids fair for a rousing old time.  Some first-class musicians have been engaged and we may feel assured that part of the program will be excellent.  The grounds for the event will be located in the beautiful grove southwest of Orson Bacon’s house (318 Grand Ave.) and will be fixed up in good style.


The general committee has arranged the following speakers: J. S. Carr, Orator; B. F. French, President of the Day; W. S. Covill, Marshal; Harvey Palmer, Chaplain; G. W. King, Reader of the Declaration; W. T. Hutchinson, Toast Master.  A National Salute will be fired at sunrise.  A procession will form at the Neillsville courthouse square at 9:30 a.m. under the direction of the marshal and proceed to the grove headed by the band.  The program will commence at the grove at 10 a.m.  Dinner will be served 12:30 p.m. at the O’Neill House.  Reading of toasts and responses will be given at the grove at 2 p.m.  A social baseball game will be played on the grounds of the pioneer Baseball Club at 3 p.m.  A display of fireworks will be shown at the courthouse square at 8:30 p.m.


In the company of three other people, we made a ride into the country the other day.  We stopped at the J. J. Enhelder farm, about two miles west of town.  They have a large patch of luscious strawberries and we didn’t wait for a second invitation to “wade in” and help ourselves to the ripened fruit.  Through Enhelder and his spouse’s kind hospitality, we had, before going away, strawberries served up to us in all forms – berries on the stem, berries in shortcake, strawberries in cream, strawberry pie, etc., until our capacity was severely taxed.  We were compelled to cry out, “Hold, we’ve had enough!”


The old frame house which stood in this village on a little hill on the south side of O’Neill Creek will be demolished to make way for a new residence. The old house was the first building of its kind erected in Clark County, built 23 years ago by Jas. O’Neill.


The Road Commissioners have given notice that the job of repairing Sections 2, 11, and 12 of the main Black River Road will be let to the lowest bide at the courthouse on July 10 at 10 a.m.  We hope the jobs will not be let to any person who will bed so low that the work cannot be performed right. There are some pieces of road work which the maker ought to be ashamed of and the County refuses to pay for.


June 1929


A splendid life was ended here in Neillsville on June 10.  It was the life of Judge James O’Neill, age 81 years, 9 months and 7 days.


James O’Neill was born in Lisbon, St. Lawrence County, New York Sept. 3, 1847.  He was the son of Andrew and Mary (Holiston) O’Neill.  His grandparents on his father’s side were the first settlers in Lisbon Township and the old farm which they first settled had continued to be owned by his descendants.  Judge O’Neill grew up on the family farm and attended the district school. At the age of 15, he began to teach school, later entering Lawrence University at Canton, N.Y.  After attending the university for three years, he again taught school.  In 1868, before he was 21 years of age, he won a scholarship in a competitive examination, to enter the newly organized Cornell University and enrolled in that institution as a sophomore. There, he distinguished himself as a scholar and debater.  He left college in the fall of 1870 to become principal of Ogdensburg High School, meanwhile continuing his studies by himself, so that he graduated with his original class at Cornell in the summer of 1871.


O’Neill was a charter member of Delta Upsilon Fraternity at Cornell, and in all of his future life maintained a great interest in the fraternity.  At the university he enjoyed the privilege of instruction under men of the faculty, who were then famous, among them the president, Andrew D. White, James Russell Lowell, Louis Agassiz, Baynard Taylor, George William Curtiss and others.  In his graduating class were a number of men who later became prominent in public life, four of them became members of the Supreme Court.  His home community seemed favorable for the development of scholars and statesmen, as from St. Lawrence County came such men as Secretary of State Kellogg; Ex-Mayor Eustis, the famous philanthropist of Minneapolis; Irving Bachellor, the noted author and many others.


After graduating from Cornell University, O’Neill entered the office of James McNaughton, a famous lawyer at Ogdensburg and studied for some time.  He then entered the Albany Law School, receiving his degree in Law in 1873.  His uncle, James O’Neill, Sr., who was the founder of Neillsville, was then a prominent man of affairs in the village and Clark County invited his nephew and namesake to travel west to visit him.


The young lawyer arrived in Neillsville, Sept. 1873, and was persuaded by his uncle to stay, to practice law.  From that time on, he became identified with the progress and development of Clark County, in whose resources and future he became a firm believer.


Young O’Neill at once took a leading place in law practice; for a time he practiced alone, then entered into partnership with H. W. Sheldon, who later died.  Joseph Morley was a partner for at time until he entered the banking business. For a time, H. E. Andrews of Portage practiced with him.  Later he entered into partnership with S. M. Marsh, now District Judge at San Diego, Calif.  That partnership lasted until O’Neill was elected Circuit Judge in this circuit in 1897.


Soon after coming to Clark County, O’Neill began to take an active part in politics, being a life-long Republican.  He was prominent in county conventions and in 1885 he served in the State Legislature.  He was appointed District Attorney in 1887 and elected again in 1888, the same year also being a delegate to the Republican National Convention.  He was twice the party’s nominee for Attorney General.


After going on the bench Jan. 1, 1898, O’Neill avoided partisan politics.  He took great interest in the schools, serving on the school board; was active in securing the Carnegie library; supported the Clark County Fairs, and lent a helpful hand in many other public enterprises.


O’Neill served as Circuit Judge until Jan. 1, 1922, making a splendid record of fairness and judicial insight in his decisions, and securing a wide circle of friends throughout the state.  He brought to this community in the pioneer days some culture he had acquired as a university scholar.


Being brought up in the Episcopal Church, he gave the church his earnest support all his life, while taking an interest in other religious organizations.  He helped build the People’s Church and during the years it had services, he helped to support it.  In recent years he has been a regular attendant at the Congregational Church. 


James O’Neill was married June 6, 1876, to Miss Marian Robinson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. David Robinson, pioneers of Weston Rapids, an early village north of Neillsville.  To them were born two children, Ernest Andrew, who died October 5, 1905, a young man of 28; and Marian, Mrs. F. D. Calway of Neillsville.  Besides his wife and daughter, Judge O’Neill leaves one sister Mrs. Geo. W. Sparrowhawk on the old home farm in St. Lawrence County, New York and one brother, William H. O’Neill, of Lisbon, N.Y.


Judge James O’Neill, third from the right, back row, with his wife Marian, circa 1920, enjoyed socializing with family and friends.  Arriving in Neillsville in 1873, to practice law, O’Neill became Circuit Judge in 1898, serving that position until Jan. 1, 1922.  The O’Neill home was on the southeast corner of State and Fifth Street intersection.


The annual Levis Picnic put on by the Levis Progressive Club will be held July 14. The entire program has not yet been planned, but will be published in full when completed.  The picnic has been held each year for many years, and is greatly enjoyed by all who attend. It is a day when the people of Levis, the surrounding county and city of Neillsville get together to renew acquaintances and enjoy a program and a picnic dinner.


One June 12, Wednesday afternoon, the Globe church was the scene of a very pretty wedding when Mr. Leo Hemp and Miss Clara Poppe were united in Holy wedlock.  Rev. W. Motzkus, pastor of the Globe church, officiated.  The young couple was attended by John Hemp, the groom’s brother and Miss Sophia Poppe, the bride’s sister.


The bride was dressed in a white silk wedding dress, wore a veil and carried a bouquet of white roses.  The bridesmaid wore a pink silk gown and carried pink roses.  The groom wore a suit of blue serge and groomsman wore a brown suit.  After the ceremony the bridal couple drove to the home of the bride’s mother where a bountiful dinner was served.


The groom is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Hemp of the Town of Weston, attended rural school and helped on the home farm.  He is considered an industrious young farmer of his community.  The bride is the daughter of Mrs. Chas. Poppe of the Town of Weston.  After completing her rural school education, she entered Neillsville High School, and graduated from the Teacher’s Training Course in the class of 1925. Since receiving her teaching certificate she has taught successfully in rural schools.


The bride and groom are taking a honeymoon trip by auto, visiting relatives in Sheboygan and other points in Wisconsin.  On their return they will set up housekeeping on the groom’s farm in Weston.  (Leo and Clara Hemp celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary earlier this month.


After retiring, and in recent years, they have lived in Neillsville.  Few married couples live to celebrate 70 years of wedded life.  Our congratulations to a fine couple! D.Z.)




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