Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

September 25, 2002, Page 32

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County News


September 1907


Last Saturday, the editor of the Republican and Press accompanied R. B. French Sr., of the Town of Levis, on a trip down the Black River to visit points of interest.  This included seeing the work being done at Hatfield and gathering a few chapters of Clark County history from a man who helped make it.


Robert B. French, born in New York State, was the son of Capt. John R. French.  The French family moved to Iowa when Robert was a small boy and then to Clark County in 1853.  There were six sons in the family, James, Joseph, John, Wash, Ben F. and Robert B., all remarkable men.  There were also three daughters in the French family, Mrs. Johnson who died in Washington, Mrs. Brooks in Pennsylvania and Mrs. James Sturdevant, Sr.  Of the nine French children, only Robert B. survives.


When only 17 years old, Robert B. got some land and his present home is on that land.  Soon after settling on the land, he went into saw milling, a trade that he became an expert in.  He also logged and ran lumber on the Black River, leading a very active life.


French was married in 1864.  In 1873, he went to Hatfield to run a hotel and remained in that business for 19 years.  His wife died in 1892, about the time he was moving back on the farm.


For years he did a considerable saw mill business at the farm, but about two years ago his last mill was burned and he has not rebuilt.  During his lifetime, he has met with six disastrous fires within his hotels, farmhouse and mills, losing many thousands of dollars.  For some years past, his son Robert B. Jr., has carried on the business of the farm and mills.


While on our trip, we stopped for dinner at “Paddy’s Rest,” located about a mile below the site of the Hatfield powerhouse.  After eating, we drove down to Bright’s brick works at Halcyon, a short distance below “Paddy’s Rest,” where the fine quality brick and tiling is made.  All the business lacks is railroad transportation to make it become a great industry.  At present, the brick and tiling are hauled with teams of horses and wagons to Hatfield or Wrightsville.  Our interest was absorbed with the brick-tiling business as well as the work being done on the great dam and canal.


French pointed out sites and described the early days as he remembered them.  Those days enacted tragic and thrilling events that for wild romance and stirring details illustrate the adage that “truth is often stranger (stronger) than fiction.”


George Frantz, Sen., Mrs. Frank Cawley and French, at the age of 15, as far as know, were the earliest pioneers in this locality.  Ezra Tompkins and F. C. Wage came but a short time later, also taking a hand at an early age, in the events that were going on along the river.


Pioneer lumbermen had pushed up the Black River from La Crosse and had built mills along the bank where lumber was sawed from the pine which grew thick on all sides.  The lumber was rafted and run down the river to be sold.


Around each sawmill grew up quite a village.  Here and there, between the villages, at short intervals, were taverns where the lumbermen, passing back and forth and the settlers coming up the river, found stopping places.  All of those stop-overs, once teeming with busy life, are now obliterated and can only be identified by an old-timer like French, who can point out where they were and relate the history of each.


At Weston Rapids, two miles above Neillsville on the Black River was a large mill and quite a populous village.  James O’Neill, Sen., had a saw mill on O’Neill Creek and this by a course of events evolved into the city of Neillsville.


A sawmill was built at the foot of the rapids just above Ross Eddy and some lumber and “cants” were cut, then rafted from there.  Clark’s mill on the Cunningham Creek was for several years a busy place.  Major Wedge built a tavern near the mouth of Wedge’s Creek just above where the bridge now crosses.  Anson Green ran it for a time and later Mrs. Higgins, now Mrs. John Paulus carries on the business.


Below Dells Dam Bridge, on the west side, Jim French had a mill and here also is where Robert French first went into the saw mill business.  Near the mouth of the East Fork, there were two mills, one on the main river built by Leander Merrill and the other on East Fork, built by Eli Mead with whom Robert French afterwards went into a partnership. Farther down Black River was a mill built by John O’Connor; then next was the Mora Mill.  Near the mouth of Arnold Creek, Arnold had a big mill and lumberyard. Across the river, on the east side, is where Levi Archer had built his first mill.


Where Hatfield now stands, a tavern was built, known as the Mormon Riffles House and it was long used as a hotel. Three miles below the Riffles House was a sparkling creek where an Irishman kept a wayside tavern, called “Paddy’s Rest.”  The site where Bright’s’ brick works are now located was the Buchanan mill and so up and down the river poured a stream of busy life.  In running the rafts and later the logs down river, the men learned every crook and turn as well as every rock and riffle within its body.  French was able to point out and give the old local names along the stream, such as the “Hog Hole,” “Black Rock,” “The angles,” “Mormon Riffles,” “Big Eddy” and more.


When the driving of logs down the river began to increase, it interfered with rafting and the mills died out, sinking into ruins.  The lumber camps and river drives then grew for a pace of time, but as the pine grew scarcer and scarcer, they too have become a thing of the past.  The clearing of the pine-covered land has left the lumbering as a thing of the past, leaving to this and future generations the development of the farms.  French is one of the few who has passed through it all and now at the age of 69, he sits in his home that is among the cattle and fields on the land he bought over 50 years ago.  He sits down at nightfall in his farmhouse to smoke his pipe and relate stories of the olden days, stories that should be taken up by pen and made a part of our county’s rich history.


September 1952


A free ride to the polls and a baby sitter free of charge – that is the program of the Neillsville Chamber of Commerce for the primary election next Tuesday.  That service, worked out by the Chamber in cooperation with the high school and the Neillsville car dealers, will be available upon a telephone call.  The plan, as announced by James A. Musil, president of the Chamber, and by Herbert M. Smith, the secretary, is intended to bring out a record vote in Neillsville.  They say they look upon it as a practical way to encourage patriotism.


For anyone interested in a chartered bus for the Packer games at Green Bay, leave word at Minette’s Sweet Shop in Neillsville. The cost is $8.50 per person which includes the ticket and transportation, there and back.  The games at Green Bay are: Oct. 6 – Detroit Lions; Nov. 27 – Dallas Texas.  If there are enough people who want to go to the games, 36 to 38 needed, a bus will be chartered.  The Milwaukee games are $10.50.  (Aren’t those prices hard to believe? DZ)


If you need a new heater for our home now that winter will soon be here, stop at the Gambles Store in Neillsville.  Purchase a new Coronado oil heater, 50,000 B.T.U. with a one-year warranty, for only $69.95 and get 100 gallons of fuel oil free with the purchase.  Chuck and Jim Jordahl are the authorized dealers of the Neillsville store.


Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Johnson, who have operated the Johnson nursing home since 1948, have leased the Gladstone hotel in Fairchild.  The Johnsons will be converting the hotel into a home for the aged and invalids. They will be assisted in this new project by Mr. and Mrs. H. J. Wright of Augusta.  Mrs. Wright will handle the business part and her daughter, Mrs. Ed Hong, who has had nurse’s training, will assist with the lodgers.


An old landmark has disappeared from the streets of Granton.  The old bandstand, erected about 25 years ago by Edward Schroeder, has been torn down.  The lumber will be used to make a garage for Schroeder.  For several years, the bandstand was used for weekly concerts put on by the high school band during the summer months.  It was also the auction block for the community sales that were held on Saturday afternoon.  Various programs and contests were held on the stand with the weekly concerts.  The bandstand was built by Schroeder during the time he was postmaster of Granton.  Being a public spirited man as well as an expert carpenter, Schroeder donated the use of the stand to the village and school bands.  The village and all those who used the stand say “Thanks, Mr. Schroeder.”


The Central Wisconsin Cheese & Butter Festival will be held at Greenwood on Saturday, Sept. 13.  There will be a program starting at 1:30 p.m.  Free cheese sandwiches will be served all day.  There will be prizes and contests, bands and clowns with entertainment of all kinds.   A street dance will be held in the evening.


The incoming children swamped the arrangements for the kindergarten class at the opening of the Neillsville Public Schools this year.  Perhaps most swamped of all was Miss Tessie Rybicke, the experienced teacher, who has for a few years handled the kindergarten all by her self.  With about 75 children on hand this fall, she was obliged to call for help.  On Monday morning of this week, she was relieved to the kindergarten work at the North Side School kindergarten, with that having been taken over by Mrs. Helen Smith.


A celebration of the completion of Highway 95 and of the opening of the new Dells Dam Bridge will be staged on October 11.  Arrangements for the celebration are being made by the Neillsville Chamber of Commerce.  An all-day program is being prepared, starting with the formal opening of the bridge Saturday morning, October 11.


The bridge opening program will take place at the bridge, with music, speaking and an opening ceremony.  It is anticipated that there will be participation by the communities of North Jackson County and by the communities of Clark County.  John Bergemann, secretary of the Chamber, is making arrangements with George Pernell of Merrillan, leader of the North Trempealeau organization.


The bridge opening will be followed by an all-day celebration at Neillsville, with free coffee and free doughnuts served all afternoon.  There will be a pet parade, with prizes.  A great number of toy balloons will be provided for the youngsters.


A new hospital is projected for Neillsville.  An application for federal aid has been made by the directors of the Neillsville, Incorporation and has been approved by the state authority.  Action by the federal authority is awaited with confidence.


The tentative project calls for a building with 34 beds, to be constructed at a cost of $560,000.  Of this, it is anticipated, the federal government will supply $252,000 and the local area $308,000.


Francis F. Schweinler, publisher of the Mosinee Times, has been appointed public relations director for the McCarthy club; as announced by Steve Miller of Marshfield on Saturday.


Schweinler is past president of the Wisconsin Press Association; was chairman of the “Day Under Communism” staged in Mosinee on May 1, 1950; served on the public relations commission of the Wisconsin department of the American Legion and has been active in promoting programs in his home community.


Schweinler has been publisher of the Mosinee Times since 1932, except for six years when he served in the U. S. Army during World War II.


Schweinler, who was born and raised in Neillsville, is the son of Mrs. Lillian Schweinler.  He secured his early training at the Press.


The annual Poultry Shoot will be held at Keiner’s Resort on the north shore of Rock Dam on Sunday, Sept. 21. The event is being sponsored by the Rock Dam Rod and Gun Club located 18 miles southeast of Thorp, or 14 miles west of Greenwood.  Turkeys, geese, ducks and chickens will be provided for the shoot.  Bring your own guns for the trap and target shooting.  Bring the whole family as there will be fun for all with all kinds of skill games available for everyone to enjoy; Hot lunch and coffee to be served on the Gun Club grounds all day.


The Greenwood Pharmacy has been purchased by Harold Trom of Withee and is to be open again, after being closed two months.  The purchase, made from the Lund estate, includes building and fixtures. Trom states his purpose is to remodel the building.


Harold Trom has operated the store at Withee for the past 17 years.  He will now take personal charge of the Greenwood store and place the Withee store in charge of his brother, Milton Trom.


Some Clark County historical facts are as follows: The Town of Hendren was created in 1911.  The largest cut of lumber to be floated down the Black River, in any one year, was 350 million feet. The population of Clark County in 1880 was 10,715.  The Town of Butler created in 1916, was the last township organized in Clark County.


Make your car like new again with a guaranteed rebuilt or new engine. It will give you more economy, new car performance and trouble free operation.  You will have a renewed car at a low cost.  Urban’s have on hand, for quick installation, new and factory rebuilt engines for Chryslers, Plymouths, Dodges, DeSotos and International trucks on all models from 1935 to 1952.


The Palm’s Pine Grove Tavern, 2 miles south of Hatfield, on County Trunk K, is owned by Ethel & Harry Palm.  They are serving the delicious Chicken-in-a-basket every night but Tuesday.  They also have Shrimp-in-a-basket and a variety of sandwiches on the menu.




An early photo shows remains of the Old Dells Dam and a bridge that spanned the Black River, in the background. (Photo courtesy of the Keller Family Collection)



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