Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

November 1, 2000, Page 32

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 

The Good Old Days

Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County News


November 1875


Ungrateful is the man who does not take his wife or sweetheart to Ren Halstead’s Thanksgiving party.  He wants to make all of who attend, happy.


Hank Myers has joined the lumbermen and is not numbered with those who go north to spend the winter.  The roads are getting badly cut-up in some places, which is why lumber teamsters are thought by some to be profane men.


Hon. W. T. Price has repaired the dam on O’Neill Creek near Austin & Co.’s mills.  The only use to which the old dam had been of lately, is that the flooding-out logs had to be put in farther upstream due to the dam’s poor condition, hopeful that the dam would hold.


D. J. Spaulding, of Black River Falls, is one of the largest property-holders in Clark County. He has emphatically denied, in a written reply to W. C. Allen, of recent date, having supported a division of Clark County.  Spaulding states that it is his wish that the county would retain its present boundaries and that he is working to keep them so.  He does not think that the formation of a new county out of the territory embraced in the old Colby County bill would be a positive move.  The Colby county bill was killed by the State Legislature last winter.  There would be an increase of expenses in running another county government where it is not needed.


W. W. LaFlesh, editor of the Clark County Republican, has brought his family to town and has set us an establishment of his own west of the Court House.


A party of hunters from abroad, among whom we noticed, Wm. J. Whipple, of Winona, Minn., stayed over night at the O’Neill House.  Friday morning they all started for hunting camp in the timber.


J. H. Reddan has had a very comfortable little room, done-up in the corner of the O’Neill House horse barn.  It is supplied with a stove and other conveniences for the use and comfort of Hank Lincoln who presides over the establishment.


For the past week or two the hotels in this village have been over-run with men enroute to the woods.


The job for building a new frame school house, 22’ x 34’, in district No. 2, in Nasonville, is to be let to the lowest bidder.  Sealed bids are to be sent in, on, or before January 15, 1876.  For further particulars address John H. Ebbe, Nasonville, Wood County, Wis.


Having become engaged in another business, Emery Bruley offers his saloon and blacksmith shop, in this village, for rent or sale. The property offered is conveniently located and can be procured on the most liberal terms.  This is the most desirable property in Neillsville and Bruley’s only reason for disposing of it is due to another business which requires his whole attention.


To all the citizens of Clark County and to the traveling public generally, I respectfully announce that I shall open a new and convenient hotel in the village of Greenwood.  It shall open on Monday, Nov. 22nd and it shall be furnished with good accommodations for both man and beast.  A share of public patronage is respectfully solicited.


The old Court House furnishings have been traveling eastward to the new Court House building.  The new roof has been completed, workers have finished the lathe work on its inner walls and the plastering has commenced.  Bradshaw has done a skillful job in the superintending of the work on the building.


Friday evening, December 10, the pupils of the Neillsville Graded School will give and entertainment, the object of which id so be able to purchase a set of the American Encyclopedia.  The program, which is to be an interesting one, will consist of plays, tableaux, charades, pantomimes, etc.  The interesting and exciting drama entitled “The Toodles” will constitute the main feature.  A laughable pantomime, “A Clean Shave”, will be one of the many other interesting features of the entertainment.  Messrs. Whitcomb and Van Waters, of Humbird, will furnish music for the occasion. We hope all who can, will be there to give the school a start in this project as the proceeds will go for buying the encyclopedias.


It is estimated that about 240,000,000 feet of lumber will be put into the Black River and its tributaries during this coming winter.  This will give employment to about 2,500 men, 1,200 horses and 800 oxen.  In connection with this business over $1,000,000 will change hands within the next five months, the greater part of it being handled in Neillsville.  The wages paid to the men employed will amount to over $200,000.


November 1930


Recently, the Clark County Highway Committee let the contract for paving 4,000 feet of street and highway extending from Granton Post office to Highway 10 at Trimberger’s Corners.


The Lex Construction Co., now doing the paving on No. 10, having a bid of approximately $15,000, gets the contract and work will begin as soon as the east end of Highway 10 is completed.


The forest fires are finally out in Clark County.  Last month’s rains extinguished numerous forest fires in this district which have been raging for weeks.  There has been great damage to the wild lands and heavy loss to game.


Automobile thieves stole two automobiles in Neillsville last week.


While Edward Cook, who sold out his interest in the Quality Bakery, to his partner, Joe Bush, was getting a spare tire repaired at the Neillsville Tire Shop about 7:30 that night, someone drove off with his machine, a Ford roadster.  He had intended driving back to his home in Milwaukee.


The next morning an abandoned 1927 Chevrolet coach bearing the following Illinois license number, 1-161-681 was found on the opposite side of the street from where the car had been stolen. The gasoline tank was empty and the motor was out of order.  A battery service station tag was found under the front seat which bore the name of C. F. Smith, 814 Col. St. City.  An old baseball and tennis ball were found in the tool box.


The next afternoon about 5:30 p.m., Morris Weaver parked his Chevrolet coach in front of the post office and stepped across the street to Lipkie’s pool hall for cigarettes.  When he came out, his car was gone and has not been seen since.


“Bunkey” Lyons, who lives in our area, shared in telling his experiences of the old logging days recently:


About 100 years ago the first logger’s ax was swung in this territory and for more than 70 years the lumberjacks, those romantic figures of a passing age, hewed their destructive paths up and down the wooded slopes along the crooked, rocky basin of Black River.  The lumbering days were days of fascinating activity.  A new country was being slashed from the wilderness.  Men of all types were assembled in the rush to sweep away the forests.  The spirit of the new frontier attracted youth and youth answered with its boundless energy and volatile exuberance.  Life for them was running at top speed with a full head of steam.


Into this period came Angelo Lyons, better known here, as “Bunkey”, who with hundreds of others of his day, is able to look back over many interesting years.  Bunkey, 71 years old, March 10, was brought to this country from Dodge County by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Elijah Lyons who settled on a place one and a half miles south of Loyal and the same distance west of the old 26 Road.  There were six boys and four girls in the family.


At the age of 15, Bunkey got his first logging job with James Hewett on Cawley Creek where he “tended chain” for his brother-in-law who was skidding logs.  Hi Palmer was running the camp with Hugh Rogers as cook.  Frank and Albert Marth were also employed and Louie Brillion was one of the three choppers.  It was at that camp that Angelo was nicknamed “Bunkey”, because the blacksmith with whom he bunked always came to bed late which made it necessary for Lyons to make up the bunk at bed time.  (The fellow, who was designated to make up the bunks each day, was called the “Bunkey”.  D. Z.)


The next winter found Bunkey working for Hewett on the Popple River with Palmer again in charge.  It was there Bunkey met O. L. Eddy who became a life-long friend, from whom he still gets letters.  Eddy lives at Eagle, Mich.  In the years that followed Bunkey worked for C. L. Coleman east of Longwood, at Spokeville, Greenwood and Withee and hauled logs through the site of Owen when there was not a single building where the town now stands.  For six years Bunkey was toting for Coleman.  To the younger generation who may not know what the term toting meant, Bunkey explained that it was the hauling of supplies for lumber camps.


Bunkey later worked for loggers named Bryden, John Paul, Jim Kennedy, and in the England Empire camp on the Chippewa River where he drove three yoke of oxen.


“Those oxen’s tails would stick straight out when we started down a hill with a big load of logs,” commented Bunkey.  “They’d bellow at the top of their voices and acted scared to death.  I hung on to the bow of the last team as it didn’t pay for a fellow to fall with a load of logs whizzing along at his heels.”


“A lumberjack’s day began as soon as the sun could be seen coming over the ridges,” said Bunkey, “and ended when it went down.  The foreman came around every morning and yelled ‘Daylight boys.’ And we tumbled out, crawled into our clothes and started for the cook shanty.  Bean-hole beans were the principal bill of fare, although once in a while they’d throw in a few potatoes, cabbage and pork with black strap molasses to sweeten things up a little. They had no coffee, sugar or butter.  No camp was complete without its taffler, an individual who started the fires in the morning, carried in wood, water and made himself generally useful, including being assistant to the cook.”


“A saw gang was comprised of two sawyers with a chopper and could cut about 125 logs daily.  The number of saw gangs varied with the size of the camp, usually three or more; then came the skidders, each skidder being assisted by five men, a chopper, two sawyers, a swamper and a chain tender.  The swamper cut away the bush so that the logs could be skidded out and the chain tender placed the chain around the timber.”


Entertainment in the camps was limited to the ingenuity of the men themselves and assumed many forms.  At night the lumberjacks gathered around the big stove and spun yarns, sang songs or staged stunts which usually ended disastrously for some of their members.  On Saturday night a stag square dance was often held with the aid of a fiddler which was rather common in those days.


“New-comers in camp were initiated by being forced to play head in the hat,” said Bunkey.  “After bending over and hiding their face in a hat somebody would spank them with a slab that would make their teeth chatter.  If a man failed to tell a story or sing a song when his turn came he was in for a lot of trouble.  At 9 o’clock the foreman came in and put the light out and everybody went to bed.”


“Lice in a logging camp were almost a necessity, but once in a while they would get out of bounds.  Such was the case in a camp on the old Spaulding farm east of Longwood where Bill Johnson was foreman.”


“The lice got so thick it was impossible to sleep,” said Bunkey, “especially for a fellow with a tender skin like mine.  We asked Johnson to get us a kettle so we could boil our clothes and kill the pests, but he paid no attention to us.  He slept in a separate shanty and evidently the lice had not found him.  Finally I got the boys talked into picking lice one morning and we got a pepper box full.  I walked over and dumped them in Johnson’s bed.  The next morning I saw him leaning against a tree scratching his back and it wasn’t long before we had a kettle in camp.”


“Each camp had a wannigan or store, which was simply a large box with a locked cover in which the foreman kept a stock of tobacco, mittens, socks, under-clothes, mackinaws and boot packs for sale to the men. The box also served as his writing desk. We didn’t know what candy was.  The only gum the boys got was what they picked off the pine trees.”


“Things warmed up when the camps broke up in the spring and the lumberjacks with their winter earnings reached Neillsville.  There were so many of them that there wasn’t sleeping room enough and they slept on floors or wherever they could find a place.  Tom Hommel was city marshal and he kept good order among that whole crowd of rough necks, single handed.  When Hommel spoke they knew he meant business.  Only once did I ever hear of one getting the best of him and that was a fellow named Jimmie Shean who hit Hommel on the jaw and knocked him down. But Shean quickly left town and never came back.”


“Shean had been a trouble maker.  One night about 35 years ago, Shean and Hank Hawks, Frank Ayers, Lute Meeks and a bunch from Blair got into a fight in a saloon on Brewery Street run by Lightholt.  Part of Shean’s nose was cut off and Meeks received a blow on the head from a club that knocked him senseless.  Hank Hawks escaped by jumping through a north window and ran across O’Neill Creek so fast he barely got his feet wet.”


For a time Bunkey worked for Ed Markey who ran a livery stable on the corner where the Star restaurant is now.  Markey’s home was up the street on the site occupied by Wasserberger’s store.  Bunkey drove traveling men to and from Hatfield, Humbird and Greenwood, “In mud up to your neck.”  He also drove for Philip Wells who ran a livery stable on the site of Stelloh Bros. building.  On one night, he took in $80 hauling lumberjacks across the river to Ike Field’s dive.”


“It was a fun life if you didn’t weaken,” concluded Bunkey, “and I’d like to be going back this fall to one of those old camps with everything just as it was 40 years ago.”


This load of quality logs required a two-team hitch to pull the heavily loaded sled across the snow-covered ground.  Such a site was commonly seen in Clark County during the late 1800s when the virgin timber was being logged off the land.   



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