Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

May 17, 2000, Page 11

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 


The Good Old Days 


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County News


May 1900


The Cotton Ball, put on by the ladies of our city at the Armory last Friday night, was well attended.  Notwithstanding the presumably cheap nature of the fabrics, there were many beautiful costumes.  It demonstrated that if the day would ever come when the “open door” of China should close and reduce the supply of silks and satins, the southern staple can be relied upon to discount the silks in all its finery.


A recent letter from James L. Gates informs us that he and his associates expect to land at least 5,000 European emigrants in Wisconsin this season. A large number of these people they hope will settle on lands in Chippewa and Clark counties.


Wren’s saw mill, about three miles east of Neillsville, was totally destroyed by fire on Monday afternoon. There was only a hired man in the yard at the time. The fierce wind which was blowing, rendered efforts useless to save the building.  The origin of the fire is not known.


S. E. Hutchings had a telephone placed in his residence at the corner south of Neillsville.  He can now order their groceries; call out the fire department if the need be, etc.  It will be a great local convenience.  Every telephone user is interested in expanding by system and should do what he can to increase its general use.


French’s saw mill, in the Town of Levis, furnished its first load of lumber for the Neillsville furniture factory last week.


There are some golden weddings taking place around the country.  These old couples must have taken Rocky Mountain Tea in their young days.  Rocky Mountain Tea can be purchased for 35 cents at C. C. Sniteman Co.


M. A. Pettit, Wm. House, A. F. Beeckler and yours truly, editor of the Press, attended the dance at Loyal last Friday.  The music was furnished by the Neillsville orchestra and a great time was enjoyed by all.


Arbor Day was observed in Neillsville city schools by special exercises held at the high school assembly room, by all departments.  The Senior and Junior classes each planted a class tree. Some time ago a considerable amount of work was done and a number of trees were planted on the grounds of the Northside School.


August Mueller and family arrived here Monday morning, direct from Seidek, Russia.  Mueller has purchased the John Paul farm near Lynn, consisting of 320 acres, plus 160 adjoining acres, paying therefore $5,200 spot cash.  A number of people are leaving the old country of Europe and coming to Clark County to settle on land in this area.


Last week, a carload of machinery was delivered at the Neillsville railroad depot.  It was then hauled down to the new creamery being built in the Town of Levis by Gregory and Henold.  Nothing speaks better for the future of this region than these new creameries and cheese factories being started in our county.


Dr. C. E. Brown, veterinary surgeon, has purchased a lot on Seventh Street and is placing a building upon it.  A. Gress is doing the job of moving a building from Dr. Brown’s North side residential lot, which is quite a feat of engineering. The doctor will have a fine appearing and substantial place of business when the work on it is finished.  It is needed to meet the demand of his growing practice.


Lea Gower, of Alma Center, and Miss Ida Wilding were married at the residence of the bride’s mother, Mrs. Wm. Wilding, in the Town of Grant on May 3.  Rev. A. B. Scovill officiated the ceremony.  The happy couple took the evening train to Alma Center, where Mr. Gower has charge of a creamery.  The bride is one of the lovely young ladies who grew up on the Pleasant Ridge which is noted for having beautiful women.  The groom has many acquaintances in this vicinity who will wish him and his wife joy and prosperity.


H. M. Root sold his family team to W. H. Turner of the Town of York.  He purchased a pretty span of bay driving horses from a party in Jackson County.


The baseball team of Laurence University will be in Neillsville to engage in battle royal with our city’s nine on June 1st and 2nd.  Our boys will be in good training by that time.  The university’s team has a reputation of being fine players.  The games will be worth witnessing.


Jas. L. Gates closed a large land deal last week in Chippewa County with the Weyerhauser people.  He has purchased 240,000 acres of land since January 1st.


The wool business in Clark County is becoming very important as an industry.  E. D. Murphy, of Loyal, paid out $1,800, which is 20c per pound and represents 90,000 lbs. in all.  This is only a small fraction of the wool of the county attributed to the Loyal area.  Wool is being brought in every day and the total will be something worth noticing.


The woods have taken on their summer costumes and the fields are carpeted with green.  All the crops are forging ahead and Clark County is a picture of loveliness.  Nowhere can a place be found that is as lovely as Clark County in its summer garb.  The soil, crops, timber, wildlife, climate and last, but not least, its go-ahead people – we have it all!


A new cement sidewalk will soon be laid from Walk Bros. store corner to Balch & Tragsdorf’s corner, between Fourth and Fifth Streets. There is talk also, that it will be extended along Hewett Street from Marsh Bros. store to the Neillsville Bank.  This will give Neillsville a metropolitan air and the pedestrian with any imagination may feel as if he is walking the streets of Chicago.


The latest addition to O. B. Spelum’s grocery is a new cash register that out-registers any thing of its kind in the country.  In addition to indicating the amount of the purchase it give the sum total of the day’s sales, charges, cash on account, etc.  It also indicates time of opening and closing and various other things.  This fine machine has cost in the neighborhood of $200.


Last Thursday, Dr. T. F. Conroy purchased the fine residence of W. J. Marsh on Clay Street.  It is a beautiful house in a fine location with an attractive lawn, hedge and grounds.  This will provide the doctor with a pleasant home.  We were given a clipping from the Chicago Herald which indicates Dr. Conroy will not occupy the house alone, but more so, on the prospective joint occupancy.  Congratulations!


May 1940


The working model of a wheat cockle separator on which F. A. Balch, one-time local store-keeper and inventor secured a patent about 65 years ago was uncovered last week.


For years the small model lay forgotten in a hen house attic on the property of F. O. Balch, retired and son of the inventor.  It was coated thick with dust and the metal portions were cut deep with rust. Balch dusted it off, oiled the ancient cogs and put it back into working condition.


As he turned the crank of the small separator, Balch explained its function and use.


Wisconsin once was much more of a wheat growing country than it is now. But the wheat grown here had a dark cockle which made the wheat dark.  The cockle was about half the size of the wheat kernel.


The cockle had to be separated from the kernel when it was used for seed.  As Balch thought about it in the 1870s, he came up with an idea of developing a machine which would separate the cockle from the kernel.  His separator device was patented and successfully accepted to be used for that purpose.


F. A. Balch had 14 other patents which were familiar to Clark County residents of that era.


Long ago it was said that the world would beat a path to the door of the man who invented a mouse trap.


Balch invented that mouse trap; but the world failed to beat the pathway.


The story of the Balch mouse trap – the original of the type that now is in universal use – goes back to a Sheboygan country store, which Balch ran before the family moved to Clark County.


The hotel across the road from the country store was plagued by rats.  So Balch, always exercising the mechanical twist of his mind, pieced together a spring mouse trap.  This first trap was large, as it was made with the hotel’s free boarders in mind.  The wire which springs over forcefully as the vermin nibbled at the cheese in the trap was almost as heavy as a ten-penny nail.


One completed, Balch carried the trap over to the hotel for the test.  It seems that a whole nest of rats must have spied the bait at once.  When the spring was released, five rats were caught.


Although F. A. Balch took out a patent on the mouse trap, nothing was done with it.  Seventeen years later, after the patents had expired, a firm took the trap design and started commercial production.


People the world over, particularly farmers, are familiar with kerosene lanterns, the chimneys of which raise to allow lighting of the wick.  The little gadget for raising the chimney is another of the Balch inventions. Balch received $300 for his patent rights on the invention.


Balch had become tired of striking matches to put up the little hole at the bottom of the old-type lanterns.  Usually the flames snuffed out before the wick was lighted. Tiring of the arrangement one day, Balch disappeared from his little store for half an hour.  He returned with a lantern on which the chimney could be raised.


Sometime later, a well-dressed man walked into the Balch store and looked at one of the old-type lanterns with the match hole in the bottom.


“It’s funny,” he said to Balch, “that no one ever invented something to raise the chimney on these lanterns.”


“I have,” replied Balch.  He brought out his own lantern for inspection.


The man looked it over and asked why he didn’t market the invention.  Then he offered Balch $300 for the patent rights. Balch accepted and papers were drawn up immediately by an attorney.


After the transfer was completed, the well-dressed man told Balch he represented an eastern manufacturer.


“You might just as well have had $10,000 for it,” he said, “for that is what the company authorized me to pay!”


(There are those of us who can remember the kerosene lanterns and we had lit the lanterns many times by pressing the little lever to raise the chimney before lighting the wick.  Little did we know at the time that a Neillsville man had thought of the idea to make the operation easier?)


Several other products of the elder Balch’s inventive mind still are in common use.  For instance, the glass washboard which was manufactured in Neillsville for a time is being made by a St. Louis, Mo. Manufacturer.


Recently, Allison Flagg shared his memories as an early settler, coming to Clark County 35 years ago.  A few families arrived in the fall of the year, settling on the western edge of Eaton Township, a community to become known as the Janesville Settlement.  The families put up buildings and turned to clearing the land for spring’s planting.


Spring came and soon after, the same year, 1906, a vicious tornado that all but wiped out the Janesville Settlement.


It picked up members of the Louis Webber family and carried them across a field slamming them into a fence; luckily they received only minor injuries.


The tornado smashed Webber’s log house into kindling; crushed John H. Stoddard’s house; moved on to destroy Allison Flagg’s homestead and finally, tore George Flagg’s house and buildings into many small pieces.


But the tornado merely proved the hardiness of the settlers, strength of toughness they have had to prove since the beginning of the community.


“The tornado took everything most of us had,” Flagg commented, “but we just slapped some lean-tos together and went on about our business.”


This simple statement appears to be the key to the whole scheme of living for the residents of that section of Eaton Town-ship.  In spite of the hardships, they have gone on about their business.


The early settlers of the Janesville Settlement clustered about a hardwood ridge.  This hardwood was their first crop and it was a crop upon which they depended to tide them through the winter.


The major problem was to convert the hardwood crop into cash. In those early days there were no roads and the market for the most part was in Neillsville, 16 miles away.  So, for several years the Janesville people sent sleighs loaded with wood along the frozen beds of the Black River and by a more circuitous route over Wedges Creek and its tributaries.


Two sleigh-loads of wood went out at the same time from the Flagg land.  Each sleigh carried two cords of four-foot length body maple, most of which was sold at the Neillsville electric power plan and waterworks, the Clark County courthouse and a few other private business places.  The wood brought four dollars per cord and when a driver was hired, he was paid four dollars for the 32-mile trip.  One winter Stryker Flagg, son of Allison, and Frank Hatton made 30 trips over the Black River ice to Neillsville, which meant a winter’s income of about $240.


Each summer, the Janesville Settlement’s people fought for a road.  At first it was a one-sided fight.  The town officials turned their heads against the idea.  Allison Flagg and John Stafford were selling the land on commission for J. L. Gates Land Co.  That may have had something to do with the attitudes of the officials.  They thought the road was wanted merely to sell the speculator’s land.


Nearly ten years later, the western half of the Town of Eaton was broken off, forming the Town of Hendren.  Then the road to Globe was put in.  Those who fought for the road were: John Stafford, Albert Dillenbeck, Allison Flagg and Frank Hatton.


Twenty-five years after the settlers came, the Janesville Settlement had access to a road.  Not all was rosy, the summer rains turned the road into a quagmire and winter blizzards drifted snow deep over the road.


As of now, the snow drifts get plowed out and the roads have been improved for summer driving, as well.  Living in the Janesville Settlement had become easier.


The ladies dressed up in their finery and stood in front of a vaudeville stage to be photographed at a Neillsville Theatre.  City businesses often sponsored the shows which came to entertain for two or three days.  (Photo from Glass family collection)



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