Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

February 28, 2001, Page 19

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 

 In The Good Old Days


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County News


February 1881


The society of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the Town of Grant has determined to build a place of worship next spring if sufficient funds can be obtained for the materials and work.  Their success thus far appears very flattering as between $700 and $800 has already been subscribed.  The site selected for the church is at the corners, near Thomas Huckstead’s farm.


A daily mail route has been established between Neillsville and Withee, to go into effect this month. Will McCormick has been awarded the contract for carrying the mail. The advantages of this route will be readily seen.  All honor of this new mail route goes to Hon. H. L. Humphrey, whose efforts have brought about the change.


Korman and Taplin, of Fredonia, Wis., are the gentlemen who will start a foundry and machine shop here. They have sent the cash to A. S. Leason, the proprietor of the new pump factory on the North Side, with instructions to purchase a lot.  Leason thinks they will commence operations about the first of April.  The building site has not been selected yet, but will probably be the vacant lots south of the pump factory.


M. B. Warner purchased one of the finest light driving horses from Fred Hammel, that we have seen for many a day. Hitched to the new cutter Wagner recently purchased from Shenk & Gross, this horse will lay out just a little ahead of any other rig in Clark County.


We received a communication from our North Fork correspondent too late for publication last week.  Unlike bean porridge, the news isn’t best when it’s nine days old.


Neillsville, an energetic town, capital of Clark County, is now situated on a railroad and don’t forget it.  The first freight over the Neillsville railroad was reported being sent Monday by Harrison Lowry of Levis.  It consisted of three paper sacks of dried apples.


The first dray load of railroad freight ever delivered to Neillsville was hauled from the end of the track west of the Black River on Tuesday afternoon.  Sheldon’s dray line transported the freight of goods to J. L. Gates’ grocery store.


An important event occurred at the residence of A. Oldham, in Levis on Sunday, Jan. 30, 1881.  At that time, J. W. Colburn, Jr., and Miss Nancy Hanks were united in wedlock.


The editor of this newspaper met Phineas Phelps, who gave him this bit of early history of the Black River:


In 1850, Phelps, then 20 years of age, in company with two other young men, reached La Crosse from the East.  At that time, the city of Black River Falls consisted principally of wooden stakes erected in the sand, marking the site of the future streets and corner lots.  The traveling party easily found their way to the best hotel, which was a long, low house of logs.  Not liking the looks of numerous guests, the boys asked to have a room, to themselves.  They were shown to a room having 18 beds and told to choose the section where they wanted to sleep.


The next day, they made their way up the Black River to some point near Levis’ saw mill, where they expected to find employment.  Being disappointed in finding no jobs, they decided to remain and took up their quarters with the owner of a saw mill whose name is forgotten.   Soon after, Levis offered them work for the year with the condition that one (of) them was capable of taking charge of and running the mill.  Phelps decided, after looking the mill over that he could “run” any mill there.  Phelps would get $26 and the other two fellows were to receive $18 each, per month and take pay in some lumber at $6 per thousand feet.


They went to work amidst laughter of their companions at being such “greenies” as to take pay in lumber which they could not sell or “run out” down the river. At the end of each month the boys were careful to pile out their lumber, which they selected from the best.  The next year Levis’ mill failed and the boys were out of work along as well as having a pile of clear, dry lumber on their hands.


Levis’ creditors took possession of the mill and stock.  The creditors also attempted to gain possession of the lumber belonging to Phelps and his two friends.  Even though the fellows resisted, the creditors offered to buy their lumber. They refused the creditor’s offer and prepared to raft the lumber downstream.


Starting the rafts of lumber down the Black River, they proceeded without interruption until they reached a point below where there was an island in the river.  This was the same place where they had boarded when they first ventured northward up the river. 


The owner of the mill, at that location, had a dam across the main part of the river and a boom across the river’s adjoining branch, set up to run logs to his mill.


Here, they found a large crew of log drivers in the employ of Sam Weston, debating on how they could get their logs below the dam. Finally, Phelps was appointed as a committee of one to chop away the boom. As he stepped on the boom, ax in hand, the proprietor came out of his house, leveling a rifle at him.  He swore he would shoot, at the first blow of Phelps’ ax.  The log drivers then fastened a rope about the proprietor’s house and threatened to pull it “about his ears” unless he consented to some arrangement by which the logs and lumber could be run out and down the river.  After much pleading by his wife and threats from the crew, the gun was surrendered and the axes of the drivers soon cleared away the dam, which let the logs go with a rush.


Phelps and his partners proceeded down the river without further difficulty.  They sold out their lumber at Clinton, Iowa, for $13 per thousand, thus realizing a handsome profit.


After selling the lumber, Phelps intended to return and settle along the Black River, but, a wandering fever prevented him from doing so.  He now regrets the decision of not returning sooner. After serving in the Rebellion he took up the carpentry trade, which he is now working at.


The people of the southern part of Pine Valley, northern Levis, Washburn, Sherwood Forest and Scranton, are unanimous in wanting a new postal route established from Neillsville to Scranton by way of Hutchins’ Corners, Shortville and Nevins.  The country along this proposed mail route is now well settled and other families are continually opening up new farms. The country along the route is inhabited by settlers mostly from Southern Wisconsin and Northern New York.  These people have had regular mail facilities in their previous communities and realize that service as a necessity of life.


There seems to be an important preliminary step needed in establishing a post office at Hutchins’ Corners on the northern boundary of Levis Township at the northeast section.  Existing postal laws render it impossible to have the office on the Pine Valley side of the road.  Someone must buy a lot and build on one side of Geo. O. Adams Corners, near the school house, so this new postal route can be established.  Let the Town of Levis make the move for a new post office and the route will follow as a necessity.


February 1946


Dimple Irene French is dead.  She passed away in Los Angeles, Calif. on Jan. 26.  She was the youngest of four daughters of B. F. French, pioneer of Neillsville.  Marriage gave her the name of Oakley; her full name was Dimple Irene French Oakley. 


Dimple Irene was a character; Bereft of sight and hearing, she yet found means of expressing a brilliant intellect.  She wrote articles for magazines published for the blind.  She also wrote letters entirely legible to her relatives here in Neillsville, the Robert French and George Beeckler families.  About two years ago, writing to Robert French, she told him that, since he could not come to Los Angeles, she would take him for a ride around the city and describe the place for him. So this blind woman, who had seen nothing of Los Angeles for 25 years and who had heard no city sound for a period longer than that, gave her first cousin a vivid picture of the city.  It was a veritable ride in a “rubberneck wagon” and she could not even see the words that she was writing to him.


Dimple was born in the Neillsville community Oct. 2, 1869. The family resided in the early years in the town of Levis, near the Black River, on land adjoining the present French-Beeckler farm.  Later the family lived in Neillsville in the Dr. French home located on the present library site.  She was a beautiful girl, with a charming personality.  She became the bride of Edward Oakley, local Superintendent of the Neillsville Public Schools.  They were married in 1896, continuing to live here for a few years.  They then moved to Los Angeles, where her husband died in 1912.


Living in Los Angeles, Dimple was near all three of her sisters and two brothers – Dr. John French, an eminent physician, and Edwin. Two of the sisters were, like herself, widows.  So the three women, comfortably provided for, established a household of their own – Mrs. Nettie Youmans, oldest of the sisters; Dr. Viola French DeLane, the third sister; and Dimple, the youngest.  The household responsibilities were carried by Mrs. Youmans’ daughter Viola.  In the same city was the second daughter of B. F. French, Mrs. Elva Kemp, mother of 12 children, also a widow.


The passing of Dimple Irene leaves Nettie Youmans who is in poor health, Dr. Viola and Mrs. Kemp who is the most active, responding to her family’s needs. Their brother, Edwin, lives near his sisters and helps to care for them.


Long before Dimple Irene French Oakley’s death, she made a contribution to the Press.  This article refers to, many of the old families of this community, as follows:


Many of here today will remember when, as children, we used to attend the “Old Settlers Reunions” with our parents.  Sometimes these yearly events would be held in the beautiful groves of trees situated throughout Clark County and other times would be held in large halls.  Wherever the reunions were held, marvelous stories were told of the early experiences of these plucky pioneers. As we met to show our loyalty to our old home county, it seems fitting that we should mention the names of some of the people who blazed the trails and helped to make the paths smoother for the rest of us.


When the group of early settlers decided to name the town site which later became the county seat, in honor of one of their number, Mr. James O’Neill, there were magnificent trees growing on the hills which raised up from the settlement in all directions.  As newcomers entered the town, they cleared town sites, but later it was thought wise to clear larger tracts so the promoters talked the matter over and one of them said:


I suggest we let James, James Hew—ett down.  So James did and little homes sprang up on the hill to the West. While we were not menaced by wild animals stalking about, we all have seen Lyons, Wolfs, Baers and Campbells entering the homes of our best people.  We regret that we are not able to claim Henry Ford as a Clark County man, but we had Tolfords, Bradfords, Staffords and Hungerfords.


Although we had never heard of Firestone tires in the early days we had dependable McIntyres.  No one knows who was the first man that came to Clark County, but years and years ago a Snite—man came, then followed a Camp—man and a Zimmer—man, but even before they came there was a Never—man and two or tree (three) You—mans.  Later Greenwood sent a Ross—man down to the county seat, but California enticed him along with the rest of us.


Clark County was well supplied with birds as there were Robbins, Wrens, Swans and Hawkes.  There were Musical Hills, a music teacher, and grinding Brooks, a dentist and a number of excellent Wells.  Marshes were to be found throughout the county where many flowers grew.  Probably Lloyd George, the hardheaded English man never came to Neillsville, but George Lloyd, the American hardware man, did and lived there many years. 


There were well built Walks in our county and we still think there are no finer Walkers in the world than we used to have there.


While we did not have all of the colors of the rainbow, there were Belleaus, Blacks, Browns, Greens and Whites.


The Wests live out East of Neillsville, and the Eastmans lived over West and the Norths still live in the center of the county seat.  There is quite a number of worthy sons as follows: Davidson, Johnson, Gunderson, Anderson, Hanson, Peterson, Evenson, Leason and Robinson.


Although we could not boast of the Vatican, we had a Pope whose word was “law” throughout the county and his dwelling on the hill was guarded by strong Gates.


When it was decided to entertain a large company, the citizens of Neillsville did not worry as to where they should turn for dishes for there was a supply of Kettles, Potts, Pitchers and Glasses of all sizes close at hand any time we needed help to serve a crowd.  The people of Loyal sent up master hands to Philpotts and cleaned up things generally.


There were people who told us they were Short, but we thought of them to be very tall. 


No section of the county enjoyed a better reputation than Pleasant Ridge, but there were some Wildish and a few others, being younger, we called Wildings, although their friends always found them staunch and true.


There were others who were Riddles to us all and there were Vines who wound themselves around the hearts of Kings.  Sometimes it was difficult to know which were Vines, Selves, or Kings.


The Pleasant Ridge people had good Counsell to advise them and were always shown what was best to Reed, and although that district was not incorporated there were Wards which Politics could not corrupt. 


There was that French Colony.  All but one of them has been captured by California. We notice by the Press that he will occasionally Bob up so the old friends will not forget him.



Left to right: Dimple French Oakley, Dr. Viola French DeLane, Nettie French Youmans, Elva French Kemp and Viola Youmans, daughter of Nettie Youmans.  The “French Girls,” as they were often referred to, were the daughters of B. F. French, early pioneer, farmer, lawyer and doctor. French was very influential in developing the Neillsville City and Clark County governments.   French’s daughter, Dimple Oakley, a personable, intellectual lady, kept a positive perspective despite handicaps of being deaf and later blind, as she continued writing magazine articles.  (Photo courtesy of the Rita Youmans’ family collection)



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