Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

January 26, 2000, Page 17

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 


The Good Old Days


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County News


January 1900


The opening of Balch and Tragsdorf’s new department store brought scores of people from miles around into Neillsville last Saturday.  All day the new store was crowded with purchasers and spectators.  Whitcomb’s Orchestra presented the finest music during the day adding much to the holiday atmosphere of the occasion.


The appointments and conveniences of the store are metropolitan and no doubt the opening of this establishment marks a new era in the mercantile business of Neillsville. The proprietors, R. W. Balch and B. Tragsdorf have personal charge of the general dry goods and are assisted by three lady clerks, Misses Matie Bruley, Elva Huntley and Belle Darling.  F. O. Balch has charge of the boot/shoe and furniture departments; Ernest Kihn of Furnishing and Clothing; John Merrill is at the head of the grocery department, having Will Poate and Frank Hemp as assistants.  Leo Redmond is cashier, acting as central for the air-line system.


A refractory tramp was put into the city lock-up Monday night by Marshal Hommel.  The tramp got indignant, smashing the stove and other furniture of his apartment, after which he was removed to the stately castle on the hill.  On Tuesday, he was arraigned for vagrancy and given 30 days in the Bastille.


The Loyal-Marshfield Telephone Company last week elected new officers and directors of the company.


The post office of Heintown, northeast of Neillsville, has been discontinued.  Hereafter, mail directed to that office will be sent to Wilcox, which is the next nearest office.


The Omaha Railroad Co. has made a proposition to give the eldest Wepfer boy a course in telegraphy at Janesville and at the end of the course, will be given permanent employment in the railway company. The boy’s father, Wm. Wepfer, was killed on the railroad near Augusta last fall.


In order to accommodate our many customers, we have decided to accept farm produce, such as butter and eggs in exchange for our goods. We were compelled to inaugurate this change through well founded complaints made by our customers that they could obtain footwear at our store for cash only.  It is our endeavor to accommodate our customers in any way possible and with that end in view this new system was adopted.  We allow highest market price for all butter and eggs brought us in exchange for our goods.  We carry the largest and most complete stock of boots, shows (shoes), etc., in Clark County and are in a position to please everyone at Kapellan’s Shoe Co.


A benefit for Rev. John Willan will be given on Feb. 1 at Charles Sweetland’s home in the Town of Hewett.  An oyster supper and donations will be given at that time. There will be an oyster supper at the Visgar Church in the Town of York, on Saturday evening for the benefit of the Methodist church.


Four years ago, Sye Collins, a resident of Thorp, became dissatisfied with this part of Wisconsin and sold his farm which was within Thorp’s city limits.  He then left for the western states, purchasing farm land in Oregon. Now he has returned to live in Thorp again.


The iron bridge to be placed over Wedges Creek, near Columbia, has arrived at last and is on the railroad side track.


A telephone message came yesterday announcing the destruction of Hoover’s hotel and saloon at Lynn which was caused by a fire.

In the Clark County Treasurer’s office, you man (may) find an old chapter of Civil War history in the form of a tax roll of the Town of Pine Valley which then embraced a large portion of southern Clark County.  It shows the extension and collection of the war tax or bounty tax of February, 1865.  Among the names on the roll are those very familiar to the older generation, and included, such as C. E. Adams, Orson Bacon, C. Blakeslee, A. W. Clark, F. G. Cawley, B. F. French, Anson Green, and many others. The tax was levied, as nearly as we can learn, to pay local bounties to those who volunteered to fill up the quota of the town and save its citizens from the draft.  One can readily see that the burden was a heavy one; in fact, upon some of the large property holders, such as James O’Neill, Sr., it amounted to something enormous.


We are told by some who remember those times, that no other taxes were more cheerfully paid, large sums even were added to the amount be (by) private contributions.


Hereafter, Hal Kemery will have charge of the engine, etc. of the Neillsville Electric Light Co. and Will Neff will devote his entire attention to the lamps wires, wiring and putting in new lights.  The company will have an office and headquarters up town.  They announce that they will charge only for the wire in new lights, no charge being made for the work.


The cold weather of the past week has created a great demand for firewood in the city.  In fact, so great is the demand that a west side citizen was relieved of a cord or so by some nocturnal marauder.  The party took the best wood in the shed naturally, but there will be blood shed if this happens again.


January 1945


The Dickey property is now in the legal possession of the local school district.  The transaction was concluded a few days ago when C. R. Sturdevant, clerk of the board, drew an order for the funds, signed it with David E. Thayer, and made delivery to William A. Campman.  He then received the deed.


The completion of this purchase had taken some time, chiefly because of the necessity of adjusting the heirs’ interests. The years have brought changes to the Dickey family, including the death of Mary A. Dickey, the mother; Edgar E. Dickey, one of the two sons; and Blanche Dickey, who once taught the first and second grades in the public schools here.


Surviving of the family formerly living here are Marion Dickey, who taught the seventh and eighth grades, and Chauncey B. Dickey, a brother.  These two signed the deed, and also Marion E. Dickey, a son of Edgar.


The passing of this deed is an historic occasion, for it marks the first transfer of this property since May 15, 1865.  It was upon that date that Mary A. Dickey, the mother, bought the land from James O’Neill, Sr., who was one of the original O’Neills in this area, an uncle of Judge O’Neill.  Since that time the Dickey family has resolutely held out against efforts to get them to part with this land. Various persons have tried to buy it, but they would not sell; not until there was the prospect that the land could be used for a new high school.  That project appealed to Marion Dickey, the former teacher, and she promptly gave her consent.  This happened in the early summer of 1944.  The deliberation of the subsequent proceedings has been necessitated by the legal situation and not at all by the Dickeys, who have proceeded steadily in their purpose to get the property into the hands of the school district.  The consideration, $1,500, was a modest valuation for the approximately 15 acres, which is perhaps the most attractive sight and the best situated vacant piece of land in the residential area of Neillsville.


The Dickeys have been gone from Neillsville for many years, but their retention of the land was supposed to speak for the intention to return some day and to build upon it. The old Dickey home, a small frame house, is in ruins now, but it still commands one of the best views from Neillsville – the Neillsville mounds to the northwest, and the broad sweep of the golf course and the fair grounds to the southeast.  This little frame house is close to the highest spot upon the site; close to the spot upon which a new high school building would logically be constructed.


This land is but two generations removed from the government of the United States.  It was part of a forty upon which James O’Neill, Sr. entered August 4, 1853.  He was at that time consolidating the area which subsequently became the city of Neillsville.  He then entered five forties in what is now the central part of Neillsville, including the business district.  He took a patent from the government upon the forty in question November 15, 1854.  Presumably he paid for this land approximately what is now considered to have been the going rate at about that time or a little later, $1.25 per acre. The Dickey site presumably cost him about 20.


When O’Neill purchased this land from the government in 1853, it was just a piece of woods, located near a creek.  Nobody else would have given more for it.  Its increase in value has come slowly with the years.  Two full generations have come and gone since that purchase from the government.


The residence of the Dickeys upon this land must have extended close to 40 years.  Mrs. Dickey, the mother, is credited with extraordinary character and capacities, for her children were recognized for their good conduct and good manners. They did not have any great amount of money. The father had a little shop on the extreme northeast corner of the site, not far from the house.  The recollection as to what he made there is a little vague.  One of the old-timers thinks he did blacksmithing; another that he was cooper and sometimes made beer barrels for the local brewery.  He is also supposed to have worked the land.


As for the children, the two girls taught in the local schools.  Edgar was clerk in a local store, perhaps in the Dickinson store, or perhaps in the store of Hewett & Woods.  Like his sisters, he was a worker, and it was he who led the family to Portland.  The fourth child of May A. Dickey was Chauncey B., who is still living and who is with his sister in Oregon.  Chauncey is perhaps best remembered here by his old friend, Fred Ackerman.  In those days Ackerman was clerk in a local store and Chauncey used to come in to visit with him.  They visited by means of pencil and paper. Chauncey was deaf, but he had a good mind and was regarded by Ackerman as an interesting friend.


The nature of Edgar’s business in Oregon is not well known here.  Presumably he continued in the mercantile line.  He died Jun 25, 1941, leaving a son, Marion E.   The date of the death of Blanche was December 9, 1928.  The mother, Mary A., died August 15, 1912, after the family had moved. 


The decision to buy the property was reached at the annual school meeting, held last summer.  The vote was taken after Fred Bullard reported the successful conclusion of preliminary negotiations conducted by him with Miss Dickey.


As of January 1, Clark County has a newly elected sheriff, Herman Olson, who will assume the office.


Sheriff Olson made this statement to the Clark County Press, “I want all persons to take notice,” said Olson, “that the operation of slot machines will not be tolerated in Clark County during my term of office.  This notice is complete and final.  Any person operating a slot machine will be prosecuted to the limit and without further notice.”


The hard hand of war has descended upon Clark County as never before.  With the call for farm boys, who had been deferred, to enter the armed forces, farmers all over Clark County are overwhelmed with concern.  For them, production has already been difficult. What will it be with the young men moving out?


And they have started to move.  On Monday of this week, close to 100 men went to Milwaukee for a pre-induction examination.  Most of these were in the class of younger men who had been deferred for farm work. In the county there are about 750 men in the age group most affected, from 18 to 25 inclusive.  The local selective service board, meeting at Loyal Friday evening, recognized that it had no alternative.



The history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom.

George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel


I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. – Thomas Jefferson


Never tell people how to do things.  Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. 

George S. Patton



The Farmers Store building on the Fourth and Hewett Street intersection in Neillsville was a familiar business at the time of this circa 1930’s photo.  The building was erected for the Balch & Tragsdorf Store with its grand opening in January 1900.



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