Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

August 30, 2000, Page 9

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 

In The Good Old Days


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County News


August 1920


Neillsville was visited by two movie celebrities during the past week.  Jack Dempsey, champion heavy-weight boxer, ate dinner here last week while traveling through in his auto.  As a coincidence, a moving picture in which he is playing is presently showing at our local Badger Theater.


On Tuesday evening, Dustin Farnum was in our city having rode (ridden) down from Greenwood with John Charles. Farnum was at Greenwood looking after some land which he owns east of here.  He had picked up a ride with Charles in order to take the train from Neillsville.


Wednesday afternoon, in the presence of a number of relatives and friends, Rev. Stricker, pastor of the German Lutheran Church of Fremont pronounced the sacred words that united Mr. Ed Guk and Miss Erna Steinbach in the holy bonds of matrimony.  The groom is the only son of Mr. and Mrs. Chas. Guk and the bride is the third oldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Steinbach.  The contracting parties were born and reared in this township, both well known to their host of friends. Guk must be congratulated for his ambition and undaunted courage to take the above mentioned step in these times of high cost of living, but the cream of the pudding goes to the pretty bride for having the foresight to provide herself with a protector before Leap Year is over.


The Grand Avenue Bridge which spans Black River collapsed on Monday.  Jack Verkuilen driving one of the large county highway trucks, at about the center of the bridge, was killed when the bridge collapsed without warning.


Black River Bridge Wreck


The photos above were added by Steve Roberts in 2020 from his personal collection.


John Gullickson and Henry Seidelman were also driving county trucks across the bridge at the same time, as was William Meihack who was driving a car over it.  Fortunately, they all escaped injury.


The bridge was a long structure about 200 feet in length and had been recently repaired. There were no supports in the center of the bridge and it is supposed that the heavy traffic of the large, loaded trucks gradually weakened it until it collapsed.


Thursday morning of last week, E. J. Roberts, Miss Jessie Wolff and Miss Helen Nemitz took the early morning train to St. Paul.  Mr. Roberts and Miss Wolff were married there that day at St. Marks English Lutheran Church.  The bridal couple was attended by Miss Nemitz and Clare Charboneau.  They returned home to Neillsville on Friday and began some preparations in making a home here.  They left again for a brief wedding trip in Mr. Roberts’ car.


The bride has been an employee at Zimmerman’s Store.  The groom has been operating the Doc Chapman farm north of the city, having rented it last fall.  He was, for a number of years, engaged in railroad work, being a conductor.


Through the cooperation of the US Dept of Agriculture and Wisconsin Highway Commission, the College of Agriculture will distribute 550,000 pounds of T.N.T. to the farmers to use on cut-over lands in Wisconsin.  The allotment for Clark County is 20,000 pounds.  It will be shipped in one carload lot and unloaded at Greenwood, near the center of the county.  If rail cars are available, it will arrive the last part of August.


The cost is going to be about ten cents per pound including freight.  Not more than 200 pounds will be allotted to one farmer.


Unity, located on the Yellow-stone trail, about seven miles south of Spencer, has engaged the services of a motorcycle cop.  The new cop’s duty will be to pinch all those who disturb the tranquility of the peaceful little village by driving their cars through town at a greater speed than 15 miles per hour.  Among those pinched last week was Sheriff Weaver of Clark County, who was rambling through at about 35 miles per hour.


There are a lot of pop bottles scattered around Neillsville.  If people have any empty bottles on their yards, call 230 and they will be picked up.  James Paulus, will gladly pick them up and will appreciate the favor shown in advising him.  (Paulus owned the Neillsville Bottling Company. D/Z.)


On Sunday evening, Henry Schier of the Town of Lynn smashed his Ford on the Ridge Road.  His car’s lights went on the bum and he ran plump into a stone culvert.  The culvert is still there. The Ford is at the Byse garage in Neillsville.


All the young folks from the Janesville Settlement attended the dance held at the brick cheese factory along the 26 Road, Saturday evening.  A prize was awarded for the best waltzers, with Raechel Clintsman and Albert Susa winning the prize.  The dance to be held at the Janesville school house on August 13 was canceled when the school board learned there is to be a dance on the same evening at Globe.  They have postponed the Janesville dance to be held at the school house on a later date.


On Monday, the Clark County road trucks pulled up stakes and left for the north end of the county.  They will have to put gravel on a new piece of road which is located four miles west of Colby.  The trucks will be there for several weeks and a big camp has been put up for the men working there.


Visit the Clark County Fair next week.  You may purchase season tickets from your Neillsville bankers, good for one person’s entry four days or four people’s entry one day. The State Agriculture Department serves notice that there is a fine of $50 liable to any person who slips into the fairgrounds without buying a ticket.


George Cook of Unity, an automobile license inspector for the state, made things hot here last week and had a lot of delinquent auto owners on the jump for a few days.  He drove into town and went on the job immediately. In a few hours he had located and rounded up about 40 automobiles and truck owners who were running their vehicles without licenses.  He made no arrests, but gave the delinquents until the following Monday to send their money into the office of the Secretary of State and buy their licenses.  He was instrumental in having about $500 turned into the state treasury in the one day he was here.  He said Neillsville was the most delinquent locality he had visited.  He promises to return in a few days and try to dig up about 40 more delinquent auto owners who don’t have license numbers on their cars.  So, those car owners had better take time by the forelock and either dig up their license numbers or buy a set.


August 1955


Mr. and Mrs. John Rauha, Sr., celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary on July 23.  On Sunday afternoon, they joined family and friends at the Bethany Lutheran Church, in Withee, where a program had been arranged by Pastor and Mrs. Puotinen.  Hjalmer Heikkinen, a life-long friend and neighbor shared the Rauha’s family history, which he had learned through the two families’ enjoyable life-long companionship.  Singing was provided by Mrs. Puotinen, Mrs. Hjalmer Heikkinen, Mrs. William Kangas and Mrs. Frank Luoma.


Both Mr. and Mrs. were born in Finland and came to America on the same ship in 1899.  They were married in Ishpeming, Mich., on July 25, 1900, by Pastor Charles Tolonen and established their first residence in Negaunee, near Ishpeming.  The couple was one of the early settlers of Hoard Township in Clark County, arriving there on a farm northeast of Owen on May 1, 1912.  In May, 1948, they sold the farm to their son, John Jr., and moved to the north end of the Village of Withee.  They are members of the Bethany Lutheran Church of which they were charter members.


John G. Gerlach, who was a colorful figure in baseball about 50 years ago, is spending the summer at the home of his sister, Mrs. Virgil McHone, near Granton. The last time the two sisters and brother were together was 23 years ago in Port-land, Ore., at the time of the death of their mother.


John G. Gerlach created a baseball legend which drew attention through out all of Central Wisconsin near the turn of the century.


Old-Time baseball fans of the Granton and Pleasant Ridge vicinity enjoyed recalling the days when John Gottlieb Gerlach was pitching baseball for them.  A perfectionist, he practiced unceasingly until he had perfect control and such speed that but few catchers could hold the ball.  Mrs. Albert Degner was a witness to the fact that he once stood in the yard of Otto Walter’s farm and threw a stone which fell in the yard of the Spiegel farm one-eighth of a mile away.  He repeated this feat many years later on his sister’s farm by throwing a stone completely across 40 acres.  Standing beside one line fence he threw the stone which landed in a pond beside the opposite line fence.


From Will Scharf comes the yarn that he gambled silver dollars with Gerlach’s throwing strength, and never lost a dollar.  Neillsville, Marshfield, Stevens Point, Black River Falls, Arcadia and Whitehall often hired him to pitch for their teams.  For games such as these, he received $5.00.


Herman Henning says that when Marshfield had a visiting team there, Gerlach would start out from Granton on his bicycle, calling to the farm boys along the way to come along to Marshfield and clean up the winners.  With such support as they were to furnish, he would accomplish that very thing.  Herman Schoengarth says that Gerlach could go hunting in the woods, with but three stones for ammunition, and bring back a rabbit.


Gerlach and his catcher, Luzern Davis, played for a time in what is now the Wisconsin State League.  Gerlach pitched for Manitowoc and Davis for Fond du Lac.  It was there that Gerlach received the name “Dusty”.  Even the distance did not keep many of his Granton fans from attending his games at that time. 


He pitched at Oshkosh the day his team beat the top-notch team, the Chicago Union Giants, 8 to 1.  That day, with three men on base, he fanned the next three batters.  (In those days foul balls were not strikes, as that was before the days of the foul strike rule.)


After that scoreless inning the Chicago boys were berated by their manager for their failure to connect with the ball.  But, one of the players answered, “Boss, how can you hit da ball when it ain’t there?  Don’t you hear that ball go “boom” in the mitt?”


One Fourth of July, Marshfield’s team was expecting a visiting farm team from Milwaukee to play a baseball game which failed to arrive. So to pass time, they came out for a rollick with the “hicks” at Granton.  Expecting to mop up Granton without half trying, they were so mortified by their unexpected and complete defeat that they were ashamed to face their home town folks.  To wile away the time in Granton, after the game they went to a local saloon, missing the passenger train going east.  Time passed by, so the sympathetic Granton boys put them on the later freight train, loading them in a boxcar headed for Marshfield, to get them home.


When Luzern Davis died in a typhoid epidemic in 1898, James Hughes of Pleasant Ridge took the position at home plate.  Other players on that local team were: John Pietenpol, Price Lee, Albert Davis, Emory Davis, Fred McIntyre, Rollie Lee, Mahlan Davis, Joe Marsh, Myron Osgood and Kearney Davis.


Gerlach might have gone far in the baseball world of that day, but unfortunately a strain to his throwing arm forced him into other employment.  He still keeps a keen interest in baseball.  One of his favorite experiences as a baseball fan was being able to see Satchel Paige play in a game at Denver, Colo.


(Last week’s “Good Old Days’ Column made reference to a cemetery which had been located along the Black River before the Hatfield Dam was put in place for the making of Lake Arbutus.  One lone grave stone was sometimes visible on an island that appeared when the lake’s water level became low, being referred to as ‘Dead Man’s Island’.


Since the article was compiled, someone called with additional information in regard to the article.  The early cemetery’s remains were removed and placed in the Dells Dam Cemetery, located one mile east and three-quarters of a mile north of the Hwy 95 Black River Bridge.  It isn’t certain why the lone grave stone marker remains at the original cemetery site.  At one time, there was a church located near the Dells Dam Cemetery which was on the east side of the highway.  A large, lone pine tree still stands next to the site of the church which was destroyed by fire. D. Z.)



John G. Gerlach was the hero of a great baseball saga of Clark County. A native of the Granton-Pleasant Ridge community, he threw a baseball far, fast and he had control. With the support of fellow teammates in the home area, he won pitching duals owner what-ever team came to Clark County for a challenge.


The grass roots days of baseball in Clark County were exciting for a team made up of Granton/Pleasant Ridge area fellows.  An 1897 photo includes (top row, left to right): Jim Hughes, Albert Davis, Fred McIntyre, Emory Davis and Luzern Davis.  Bottom row: first on left unidentified, then John Pietenpol, Price Lee and John Gerlach.



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