Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

August 31, 2005, page 13

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Good Old Days" Articles 





Clark County News, August 1905


Any account of Neillsville, or its people, would be sadly incomplete did it not embrace an article on Richard F. Kountz, whose intrepid life and unfaltering vigor, honesty of purpose and zeal for our benefit is matchless.  He is the heart of the commonwealth.  His life history is the history of Neillsville.


Born Oct. 23, 1848, in the great industrial city of Pittsburgh, he early imbibed the spirit of enterprise as that which marked the “Smoky City” and made men marvel by its vast industries.  Until the age of nineteen, he was a denizen of the splendid city in the Keystone State.  He then moved to Black River Falls, with his brother, W. H. Kountz, now of San Francisco.  He came to Neillsville in 1874 and embarked in the grocery business, buying out James O’Neill, Sr.  He then ran a store where M. Kappellen’s building now stands, on the corner of Hewett and Sixth streets.  This avocation occupied his time for two years, later selling out to Hewett & Wood, who continued the business.


Mr. Kountz then turned to the law and applied himself diligently being a close student of the thick books of knowledge.  He was admitted to practice in 1878 and opened an office, occupying rooms with Sheriff Thos. B. Philpott, in the courthouse.


The need of a railroad being urgently felt, the Black River Railroad Co. was organized and Mr. Kountz became secretary.  This famous company included such old timers and influential citizens as N. H. Withee, James Jewett, D. Gates, George H. Lloyd, James L. Gates and Free Lindsay.


In 1880, the 23rd day of August, work began to grade a railroad bed from Merrillan to Neillsville, a distance of fourteen miles.  On the fifth day of the next January, rails had been laid, with engine and cars on the track as well as all equipment necessary for operation, completed.  The first train with two cars of freight was then run into Neillsville, on that day.  The road operated out of sheer grit and public spirit.  On July 4th, 1881, Neillsville had a big celebration and the railroad was opened for public traffic.  The first depot was then across the Black River, west of town.  This old station house was brought here on a flat car from Valley Junction.


The railroad was sold to “Omaha,” and in 1885, the track was brought across the Black River, with the depot to its present location.  The old depot is now used as a coal shed and stands near the present depot.


The Omaha railroad line was extended to Marshfield in 1889.


James Flynn, as engineer, and Dennis O’Grady, as fireman, have been continuously on this railroad branch since the road was first built.


Mr. Kountz was a moving spirit in the organization of our fire department.  This safety measure was the out-growth of a terrible electrical storm that visited the city May 6, 1875.  Lightning struck a house where M. C. Ring now resides, struck the house where O. Radke’s warehouse now stands, and hit the O’Neill House, setting all three afire within twenty minutes of each other.  This threw the people into a panic.  They thought the thing to do was to organize a fire department, at once.  A meeting was held in the old courthouse.  Mr. Kountz said enthusiasm was so great that they believed they could buy out the whole apparatus used in the city of Chicago!  They decided to organize in three divisions; an engine company, hook and ladder-company and a gunny sack company.  This latter company was to carry gunny sacks so that in case of a fire, they could rush in and carry out the goods in the sacks!


Mr. Kountz was the first fire chief of the company and J. W. Hommel was its first captain.  There were twenty to thirty men in the company.  They held public dances to pay for the hook and ladder wagon.  One dance was given in the city hall and another in the new courthouse.


After the city was incorporated, in 1882, it was deemed necessary to have a waterworks system.  Mr. Kountz was appointed chairman of the committee to let the contract for the construction of such a system.  The dam for the water supply was built at that time, but in 1896 the water supply failed.  The plant was then moved and built on the Black River.


In 1885, some of the public-spirited citizens organized the Electric & Water Supply Co. and Mr. Kountz was made secretary of the company, retaining this position to the present time.


In his other busy life, he was a member of the Clark County Board for several years, was also city attorney, police justice and filled several other offices.


Indeed, such is the life of Richard F. Kountz that mirrors the advancement of Neillsville from a very early period to the present day.


August 1945


The Moose Lodge of Thorp is celebrating its first anniversary with a membership growth of 350 per cent in the year, and an enviable record of activities for a club of such a short history.


Organizing a year ago under the leadership of Art Jacque, the lodge had a membership of 50.  That membership has jumped ahead so rapidly that it now numbers 175.


On January 1, of this year, the lodge rented the Morgan building, and has used the ground floor as a club and lodge room, with the exception of a tavern space, which is run under the supervision of the lodge.


The Moose lodge has been instrumental in bringing to Thorp many attractions in the field of sports.  It backed an outstanding basketball team last winter, which played against top-notch competition.  The team closed the season with a record of 10 victories and five defeats against such clubs as the Oshkosh All-Stars, Truax Field and Camp McCoy.  It averaged 61 points per game, which speaks for offensive class in anybody’s league.


This summer, the lodge’s sponsorship is behind the Thorp baseball entry in the Cloverbelt league.  The team is composed entirely of Thorp boys, and at present is showing itself as the class of the Cloverbelt. 


A critical shortage of passenger tires for essential users was revealed in Clark County, Tuesday, following a meeting of the tires panel of the local War Price and Rationing Board.


At present, the board has approved 1,200 applications from essential drivers.  These applications date back less than six weeks.


On the basis of its July quota of only 377 passenger car tires, the board expects to have only enough to take care of one-third of the present backlog of applications; at the rate of one tire per application.


The acute situation, which has developed in the county, has prompted the tire panel to fix a policy of limiting approval to one tire per applicant until such time as the available supply can be reconciled with the demand.


Members of the tire panel are: W. J. Mahoney of Owen, R. J. Lawrence of Thorp, and A. E. Kumbier of Abbotsford.


Sgt. Norbert N. Fredrickson, Curtiss, Wis. recently was awarded the Bronze Star medal for heroic achievement in action in Italy.  He served on the Fifth Army front with the 338th Infantry regiment of the 85th “Custer” division.  His mother, Mrs. Rose Fredrickson, lives on Rt. 1 Curtiss.


And old and sunken cemetery was brought to the surface a few days ago when the water backed up by the Harfield Dam was released to permit repairs to the dam.


The cemetery is located off the shore of the C. A. Olson cottage, several hundred feet northwest of the Boy Scout Camp.  It is at the southern end of a small island.  To those familiar with artificial Lake Arbutus, this island is known as “Dead Man’s Island.”  Apparently this name was given to it because of the position of the one-time burial ground of early white men in that area.


Under ordinary lake levels, the cemetery is under from three to six feet of water.  Thus, a few days ago when the level of the lake was lowered to the original river channel, the cemetery was uncovered for the first time in several years.


Its only marking now is a single headstone, which still can be recognized as such.  The inscription upon it has been so worn by the washing of water and the action of erosion that it now is difficult to read.


Edward Murphy recalls that the inscription read:


“As you pass by

So once was I,

And as I am now

So you shall be,

So prepare for Death,

And follow me.”


According to information that could be gleaned from almost legendary stories, this spot once contained a large cemetery.  It was made up mostly of the mortal remains of loggers who worked through the Hatfield area during the lumbering days.


Mrs. Mary Schultz, 84 year-old mother of Guy Schultz, of the Town of Dewhurst, recalls the cemetery.  She came to Clark County in 1861, as a child of three.  It is her recollection that the remains were removed from the cemetery before the Hatfield Dam was completed and closed to form the artificial Lake of Arbutus in 1910. 


But whether all bodies were removed, or one was left, is something she could not state with certainty.  The story, which has grown up about Dead Man’s Island, is that the grave still lies beneath the headstone.  Usually, the grave has been buried by the water.


The Hatfield Dam was completed about 1910 to form the artificial Lake Arbutus.  The above photo was taken during the earth excavating process necessary in building the base of the dam. (Photo courtesy of Bill Roberts family collection.)


Pfc. Benjamin Winneshiek, Neillsville Indian, has received his honorable discharge from the Army.  Benjamin was graduated from the Indian School here about six years ago.  His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Willie Winneshiek, now both deceased, formerly lived at Dells Dam.  His brother, John, was formerly employed at the Indian School, here.  He and his family now live in Madison.


Benjamin left here with the Service Company in October of 1940, receiving training in Louisiana then went overseas to the Pacific area.  He fought with the 32nd Red Arrow division and saw considerable action in the Buna campaign, in New Guinea.  He also took part in the landings at Hollandia and Leyte and later moved up to Luzon in the Philippines.  It was during the latter campaign that he was notified of his discharge under the point system.


Pfc. Winneshiek was awarded the Bronze Star medal for heroic action when a medic truck was in danger of Jap sniper fire.  Winneshiek drove his own truck into a dangerous position and in so doing, rescued two wounded men.  He also wears a Presidential Unit Citation ribbon, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Philippine Liberation ribbon with one battle star, the Asiatic-Pacific ribbon with four battle stars, the American Defense ribbon and the Good Conduct medal.  He plans to be employed at the Nekoosa-Edwards paper company plant at Port Edwards.


Japan surrenders!!


Neillsville did not wait for V-J Day.  This city is attending to its celebration while the mood is on.  With gathering momentum, the happy crowds celebrated informally Tuesday evening and planned a more formal celebration for Wednesday afternoon and evening.


The Kiwanis and Rotary club members have organized a program.  The preliminary discussion indicated that there would be a parade at 2 p.m., followed by a bonfire, and a street dance in the evening.


The route for the new school bus of the Neillsville High School has been decided upon.  It will serve the Globe territory, the York Center Territory and the areas between.  The first route, lying southwest of the city, will continue during the coming school year on approximately the same roads as last year.


From all over the world, Clark County’s soldiers are returning to their homes to take their places in the world of peace for which they have fought.


So far, the return of veterans has been a trickle.  A little more than 300 have received honorable discharges to date.  But, with about 5 million scheduled for release in the next 18 months, the trickle will grow to a joyous roar.


With the prospect of an estimated 2,200 Clark County servicemen returning in the near future, County Register of Deeds Henry Rahn, is another of the public officials who is having his problems of “re-conversion.”


How the register of deeds gets mixed up with the army, navy and marine corps is this: honorable discharge certificates may be filed in the Register of Deeds office.  There, they are safe; they will not be lost.  Therefore, a certified copy of the discharge will always be available in the event it is needed for a particular job or for any other of the many purposes which may arise.


Neillsville will celebrate a big event on Sunday, Sept. 2, when it will open the city airport.


The feature will be a great air meet, the first to be held in Clark County.  A great army of airplanes will be here.  They will come from near and far; one promise is for two or three planes from Texas.  The whole fleet of the Twin City Aviation Company will be on hand.


While there will be other features of the celebration, the big events of public interest will be in the air.  There will be opportunity for local people to see Clark County from the air.  There will be stunt flying by a master of aerial acrobatics.  There will be the coming and going of a host of planes.


On the ground, there will be band music and a program.  There will be some speeches, a ceremony, for the airport will be dedicated to the veterans of all American wars.  For that reason, the program is announced as being sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  The Neillsville High School band will give the musical program.


The occasion will mark the debut of Neillsville as a city of the air.  It will signalize the start of a new epoch.


A& P Food Store specials: Apricots, crate $2.29; Vine Ripened Cantaloupe, each 17¢; large, crisp head lettuce, 2 for 29¢; Bologna, lb. 28¢; cottage cheese, 12 oz. 17¢.


100 Years Ago

Eighteen percent of households in the U. S. had at least one full-time servant or domestic.



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