Clark County Press, Neillsville,

August 8, 2007, Page 17

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 



Compiled and contributed by Dee Zimmerman



Clark County News

August 1907

On Saturday, the Press editor with his family and nieces had the pleasure of viewing the work going on at Hatfield.


Where a few months ago, there was a flag station in the midst of a solitude are now gathered a force of nearly 600 men, a large number of teams and gigantic mechanical appliances and all in operation under the direction of skillful engineers and workmen.


The form of the river valley is such that it seems as if nature intended it for a great pond and planned the place for a dam and its great adjunct, the canal.  Just above the railroad bridge, with its base laid deep in the granite rocks, the dam is being built where the channel closes down narrow at the east end and an embankment of considerable length will be built, making the entire length of the dam, 475 feet.


On the west side of the river, a canal two and one half miles in length is being built.  In this waterway is secured not only the fall of 45 feet, which is fully 40 feet more, making a total of 85 feet fall where the water goes from the canal down to the water wheels in the powerhouse.


A large rock crusher is in operation at the dam, crushing the granite dug from the riverbed where the foundation of the dam is laid.  Sand is secured near the upper end of the canal, scooped up with wheel scrapers, dumped into a sifter and elevator, then loaded on a little work train, which takes it a short distance to the steam mixers where it is mixed with the crushed rock and cement, thus made into concrete.  Big cranes, operated by steam, swing the material from place to place, as needed.  Along the line of the canal two big excavators, which work on the same principle as a steam shovel, are in operation and another is being built at the lower end.  These scoop the dirt from the canal site and dump it far out on the bank.  At the site of the powerhouse, cofferdams keep the water back and the vast work of building the powerhouse is just starting.


The main pond will cover a tract of 1,200 acres, and we are informed that two creeks between the main dam and the powerhouse will be dammed and the creek’s water stored in ponds will cover 400 acres more, to be drawn off in times of very low water in the river.


The entire plant is planned to give a constant force of 15,000 horsepower.  It certainly took the eye of a civil engineer to discover all the possibilities of location and a bold financial engineer to push the project to completion.

Besides the power to be generated, we can see the big pond becoming a summer resort that will grow in popularity as the years go by, with summer cottages dotting its banks and launches speeding back and forth on the pond’s surface.


Shortly after the turn of the century, in 1907, the Hatfield Dam was completed.  Excavators, with many laboring men and teams of horses, worked at moving earth, rock and timbers in the molding of the waterways, canals, cofferdams and the foundation for the controlled waterway and dam.  It took the eye of a civil engineer to foresee the possibilities of the dam’s structure and the financial engineer to push the project to completion.  (Photo courtesy of Bill Roberts’ collection)



Tuesday night, John Lange, Sr., found a little girl about six years old, crying in a pasture near the road east of the city, near Grottke’s place.  He made inquiries of he people living along the road, but could find no one who knew anything about the lost child. She is somewhat dazed, and can only state that her name is Anna.  She speaks German only, and can give no account of how she got lost.



The odd, but gigantic Levis Mound lies in Southwestern Clark County, in about the center of Dewhurst township, and three miles south of Columbia.  It is comprised of a major ridge, about one-half mile long, with several small ridges projecting at right angles to the main one.  It rises to a height of several hundred feet.


As one passes along the highway, the mound draws no special attention.  On closer observation, however, it becomes very interesting, and is well worth the while of the sight-seer to visit it, peeking into its curious cut caverns; its natural bridges, its unusual shaped boulders and its abrupt ravines.


A few years ago, when the red man courted his young sweetheart upon the mound’s summit, nothing but a huge forest extended from its base, to all directions.


Today, it provides the most scenic view within Clark County.  On can see the Omaha trains run from Fairchild, to below Black River Falls, a distance of 30 miles; also from Merrillan to Neillsville, 16 miles and all the way down to where the Green Bay railway travels from west of Merrillan to the Saddle Mounds, 30 miles or more; you can see teams pulling wagons for many miles on various roads.  Six towns, along with hundreds of farm buildings and clearings can also be seen.  (Having lived for 18 years at Bruce Mound only a few miles from Levis Mound, I never heard knew of it until this writing. Dmk)



R. B. French, Jr., of Levis, has for years felt he had the abilities as a fisherman, but he has patiently taken a back seat to Dick Lynch, Sol Jaseph, Robert Johnson, and in fact any one who has made claims to skills as an angler.  He knew all the time that it was only small stuff that they were catching.  At last as a pointer, he and his wife went down to the iron bridge, over the Black River, Saturday and landed a muskellunge, which weighted a little over 23 pounds. It measured 44 inches, from tip to tip.  We believe this to be the biggest fish caught in that joint of the Black River and the winner’s belt goes to Bob, until someone else beats his record.


August 1957

The words “Neillsville High School,” in solid-cast aluminum letters, now appear on the front of the high school.  The money for the purchase and installation was furnished by the classes of 1955, 1956 and 1957, and the class of 1925.  At the reunion of the class of 1925 two years ago, the donation was made by the assembled class members.  Donald E. Peters, Neillsville superintendent of schools, reports that the letters are of highly polished aluminum.



Clark County put another peg in its title as “Cheese Capitol of the World,” last year.


It produced more than 41 million pounds of American cheese, or just over two-thirds of the total American cheese produced in the entire Ninth Congressional District, according to Congressman Lester R. Johnson.  The total district production was 61 million pounds.


“Clark County produced more than the whole state of New York or the next five of the top 10 states manufacturing American cheese,” he stated.


Also in his district-wide analysis, Congressman Johnson declared: “The same statistics show that the Ninth District shipped out of state, a total of 186,568,000 pounds of milk.  This is more than all the milk produced during 1956 in either Rhode Island or Nevada.  Likewise in butter production, the Ninth District turned out 83,089,000 pounds of butter, or more than was produced in Nebraska, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan or Kansas in 1956.


The Clark County Homemakers held a meeting, Tuesday night at Neillsville, and decided to have a booth at the Clark County Fair again, to boost the sale of dairy products.  Ice cream sandwiches, milk, and malted milk will be handled.  The committee members will be: Mrs. Ernest Kissling, Granton, as chairman; Mrs. Dale Short, Granton; Mrs. Francis Suckow, Greenwood; and Mrs. Vernon Drescher of Neillsville.



When he celebrates his 50th birthday anniversary, Friday, Ed Marg also will celebrate 50 years of living on the same farm.  The son of Mr. and Mrs. August Marg, now deceased, Ed Marg was born on this Pine Valley farm, which his parents had cleared for farm use.  The early buildings were of logs, but Mr. Marg was born in a wooden frame building on the home farm, located about three miles northwest of Neillsville.


Ed Marg has never lived or worked away from this farm.  In 1929, he was married to Lillian Hagedorn and to this union four children were born, Donald and Melvin as twins, Irvin and Caroline. The farm consists of 52 acres under cultivation, 12 acres of woodlot and 56 acres in natural pasture.  During the years, he has specialized in Brown Swiss cattle, now having a herd of 34 cows, and has built up the condition of the soil so that last week he harvested 82 bushels of oats to the acre.  His corn crop is also excellent each year.


For the birthday party Friday, Mr. and Mrs. Marg will have Ed’s brothers, Fred and Albert Marg, his sister and husband, Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Bardeleben, and the Donald Marg, Melvin Marg and Irvin Marg families, for the celebration.


At the meeting held Tuesday night at the Forman School, located two miles east of Christie, just off highway H, it was decided to dissolve the Forman School, and split the area with the north section going to the Loyal School District and the south section going to the Christie School District.  “Sixteen children were involved,” states County Supt. Leonard Marley (Morley).  Eight will go to the Loyal District and eight to the Christie District.



Twenty-eight Neillsville High School boys reported to Coach Gene Staffen for the opening football practice Monday afternoon, including nine lettermen.  After the first workout, Mr. Staffen commented: “We have the best prospects in the three years that I have been in Neillsville.  We have the heaviest team I have seen here and we have some fellows who like to play football.”


Coach Staffen expects the squad to total 40 when freshmen and a few others report.


Lettermen returning, around whom the team will be built, include: Charles Swann, fullback; John Schwellenbach, quarterback; Gordon Zicerkert (Zickert) and Allen Kotchy, halfbacks; Tom Overman, end; Ted Ormond, guard; Don Pagenkopf, center; Jack Kluckhohn, guard; and Tom Dorski, tackle.


“Chuck” Hoehn and “Hank” Lukes, assistant coaches, will give special attention to the line and beginners, respectively.



Elmer William Sterr has been the owner and manger of the Loyal Canning Company for over 30 years.


He was born in Leroy, Dodge County, June 7, 1897, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Sterr.  Raised on a farm, he attended rural school for three years, and when 10 years of age, he moved with his parents to Lomira, near Fond du Lac.


The family of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Sterr had no daughters; but there were six sons, all of whom attended the grade school at Lomira.  Elmer was graduated from eighth grade in 1912, and attended high school there for one and a-half years. During his brief stay in high school, he played trombone in the band.  He became interested in piano and took enough lessons to play for personal enjoyment.


In 1914, as a youth of 17, he became manager of a garage business in which he had worked after school, weekends and summer vacations for two years.


Four years later, when 21, Elmer and a brother Melvin purchased the garage and operated it as a partnership. When the garage was sold two yeas later, the young men went to work in the Lomira Canning factory, which was operated by their father.

Elmer started learning the canning business when he was 23.  For more than 30 years he has followed the canning of vegetables as a business and profession.


In the year of 1926, Mr. Sterr moved to Loyal and built the Loyal Canning factory, which was operated as a partnership for the first three years.  Then he became owner and manager.


“Our first year of canning, the summer of 1926,” states Mr. Sterr, “was 450 acres of peas; but in later years we added snap beans and corn. This year finds us canning 1,000 acres of peas, 1,000 acres of corn, and 400 acres of snap beans.

“With limited capital,” relates Mr. Sterr, “we built the factory and office building and changed a hay warehouse into storage for canned peas.  Since that time, there has been gradual growth and improvement, adding a warehouse in 1930, another in 1934, a Quonset storage building in 1945, and a commissary and bunk house in 1946 to accommodate migrant workers.”


During the Second World War, Mr. Sterr found it difficult to obtain sufficient labor during the canning season.  In 1944, he imported 45 men from Jamaica; in 1945, 45 came from Barbados; in 1946, he employed about 45 German war prisoners; and in 1947, 45 Mexican nationalists.


When asked which labor he found the most efficient and most capable, he replied: “There is no question about the relative caliber of the labor.  The German prisoners were tops, with Mexicans considerably better than those from the West Indies.”

With the shortage of labor, much labor saving equipment had to be added.  In 1957, seven modern viner combines replaced 14 conventional viners.  This also eliminated 10 trucks and 30 people; but still there is a shortage of labor at the Loyal Canning factory.

Ten capable men and women are employed on an annual basis at the Loyal factory, and during the canning season about 90 additional men are needed, which, in normal times, are available from Loyal and surrounding rural area.

Mr. Sterr is serving his sixth year as a director of the Wisconsin Canners’ Association, an organization, which he served for one year as president.  He also is serving as a director of the National Canners’ Association.  For the past three years, he has served on the Clark County Farmers’ Home administration committee, one year as chairman.


Mr. Sterr served for many years on the Loyal School Board; as a member of the Loyal Municipal council; is a past-president of the Loyal State Bank; and is a past member of the Loyal Rotary and Commercial clubs.  He is a member of the Trinity Lutheran Church.


Mr. Sterr married Dorothea Kletti in Lomiara (Lomira) and to this union three children were born, Mrs. Jerome (Ethel) Will of Loyal; Mrs. Willard (Janet) Lee of Loyal; and Richard, who lost his life in a motorcycle accident in July 1954. His son-in-law, Jerome Will, is associated with him in the Loyal Canning factory.


At the age of 48, Mr. Sterr took to flying, obtained a pilot’s license, and flies his own plane.  He enjoys good health, but feels that he has remained too near the grindstone and finds it difficult not to take up other activities.





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