Clark County Press, Neillsville, Wisconsin

October 21, 2009, Page 17

Contributed by "The Clark Co. Press"

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County News

October 1929


Thursday the courtroom was crowded with interested people from the Willard country to hear what might be presented in the hearing in the matter of the discontinuance of trains and dismantling the roadway on the Fairchild and Northwestern Railroad.  Hon. Sam Bryan of the State Railroad Commission was present to hear the representatives along the line on the one hand and the representatives of the railroad on the other.  Mr. Bryan, however, was acting for the Interstate Commerce Commission, which has final jurisdiction in the matter.


Train service on this line, which extends between Fairchild and Greenwood, was discontinued on May 1, 1929 without any order from the State Railroad Commission of the Interstate Commerce Commission.  A committee of citizens interested along the line was organized to appeal the matter to the Commission.  Some 85 people contributed voluntarily in small amounts to pay the expenses of presenting their case and Attorney F. D. Calway was employed to secure data on the subject, have necessary witnesses subpoenaed.  Ignac Cesnik of Willard, who was instrumental in bringing many settlers into that region, was active in giving assistance, as he is familiar with all the details of the settlement of the country between Fairchild and Greenwood.


Attorney E. B. Bundy of the firm of Bundy, Beach & Holland, of Eau Claire, was present to represent the Fairchild and Northeastern Railroad.  The attorneys went into conference in the matter and finally agreed on a stipulation to be submitted to the Interstate Commerce Commission. 


It is quite probable that the Commission will approve these stipulations and the way will then be opened for those interested in beginning negotiations with the Soo line, which runs trains into Greenwood from Marshfield, or with the Omaha line, which runs through Fairchild, to take over either portion of the Fairchild and Northeastern road or all of it.


What will become of such negotiations remains to be seen.  The Fairchild and Northeastern rail lines were built many years ago by the N. C. Foster Lumber Co. interests and was used quite extensively. One branch extended from Fairchild through Greenwood to Owen; the western branch extended from Fairchild to Cleghorn in Eau Claire County. Both lines were active and probably profitable for many years during the logging days, and during the immigration into the Willard country.  Later when the logging business was over, the railroad became unprofitable and fell into poor condition; train service became irregular and in time abandoned.  The Fosters finally sold out to other parties.  The present officers are: R. G. Jones, President; F. B. Parker and L. C. Parks, Vice Presidents; J. A. Barthel, Secretary; R. R. Hawxhurst, Treasurer; C. M. Sherwood, Traffic Manager.


It is claimed by those who are protesting against dismantling the entire road, that the purchasers have already secured a considerable amount of what they invested, by selling the rails from Greenwood to Owen and from Fairchild to Cleghorn and for sand and gravel along the grade, and that the remaining part of the line still intact, really means but a little, that this at junk prices would be a good investment for either the Soo line or the Omaha line, and with their lines already in operation, it might be possible again  to establish train service if the present owners are prevented from tearing up the rails until some plans can be matured.


The people along the line argue that the loss of the rain service will mean a big deflation in the value of their property; that people settled in this region because the railroad was there, and its abandonment would result in a heavy loss to the individuals and to the towns and the county in taxable property.  There is no question that this is true, and it is hoped that some plan will be worked out during the winter to reestablish at least partial train service.



The N. C. Foster Railroad had a railway line that went from Fairchild to Owen. 

The above photo was taken in 1917 at the Tioga depot, showing passengers waiting for the train as well as some freight items to be sent.


The dam on Wedges Creek at Pine Crest Golf Course has been completed by Ernest Snyder and is a fine piece of construction.  The dam is eleven feet high and will form a picturesque pond for a considerable distance. As re-enforcement, discarded parts of automobiles were used, including frames, axels and steering rods.  No doubt archeologists in the future may be puzzled when they come across the contents of the dam and ponder over the strange civilization that prevailed in the ancient Twentieth century. 


Snyder plans on making a bathing beach at the pond and adding playground equipment as the beginning of a large recreational center.


(The Snyder Dam of 1929 was replaced with a new structure when the first creek water ran over it Jan. 17, 1995. D. Z.)


Somebody with a desire to start farming without taxing his pocketbook much can have his wishes taken care of by W. D. Martin, who formerly lived here, but now is a resident of Mineral Point. While in Neillsville last week Mr. Martin called on friends at The Press office and during the course of the conversation mentioned a farm he owns in the vicinity of Columbia.


Rather than have the place remain vacant, Mr. Martin stated he would let a reliable tenant run the farm without charging him rental and even go as far as to pay the taxes himself.  There are comfortable buildings on the farm and a considerable tract is clear.


Tom Wren refuses to admit that the lumber days, of Neillsville and vicinity are over or anywhere near it.  This summer he has moved the old Wren sawmill from the Bob French farm in Levis, where it has been for the past 12 years, to his home at Sydney station west of Neillsville.  He has bought the old, stone cheese factory at Sydney for a boiler room with the boiler and engine set up inside, and has thoroughly overhauled and rebuilt the mill, so that it is in fine running order.  This mill is 48 years old, having been landed here Dec. 1, 1881 when the railroad station was across the river near the Ed Hubbard farm, only a short distance from where the old mill is again stationed.  It was taken to the Sereno Wren farm east of the city where it was in active operation for many years.


Much of the lumber in the big Altemus house on the Ridge road was sawed at this mill, when John S. Dore built the house.  Also a great deal of lumber material went into farm buildings around the area, which was sawed by this mill.


The original flues are still in the boiler, all in perfect condition. A few years ago the manufacturers of the boiler heard of its existence and sent Tom Wren a fine steam whistle.  Tom tuned up the whole outfit the other day, blew the whistle and sawed a log or two, and says everything ran like a top.  With this engine and boiler inside, he plans to saw logs at any time regardless of the weather.


On the spot where this mill now stands there was for many years a battery of brick kilns for burning charcoal. Thousands of feet of fine red oak logs were sawed into cord wood and then burned into charcoal, logs which would have now made their owners wealthy and kept Tom Wren’s mill busy the year round.  Of course those days are gone never to return but there is still a considerable amount of logs to be cut each year and the mill will be a convenience to the community.


(The Wren sawmill, at Sydney, was located 1 ½ miles west of Neillsville and just south of where new Highway 10 crosses Sydney Avenue. D. Z.) (The property now is owned by a great-grandson of Tom Wren.)


The PTA of Wild Rose School, in the Town of Grant, is giving a chicken pie supper Tuesday evening, Oct. 22, at the schoolhouse, which is two miles north of Kurth’s Corners.  They will begin serving at 5 p.m.  The Menu is: Chicken Pie, Mashed Potatoes with Gravy, Cabbage Salad, Fruit Salad, Pickles, Coffee, Cake, Pumpkin and Apple Pie, 50’ and 25’.


The old John Hein building north of O’Neill Creek Bridge is being torn down by Pete Warlum, who states that the building if built at present cost of materials would cost about $8,000.  Mr. Warlum estimates the building was put up about 35 years ago by John Hein, who used it for a store.  Mr. Warlum hauled some of the building, from the Town of York.  Lumber at that time was selling around $3 a thousand.


George Butler and son, Clarence, of the Town of Foster, were in the city Friday getting a trapping license with view to trapping a few wolves.  A wolf, counting bounty and the value of the hide, is worth about $35 so it is well worth catching.  Mr. Butler does not get to Neillsville often, but as the roads improve he expects to come more frequently.  His father, George Butler, Sr., was the original settler in the Town of Butler.   


The new sidetrack into the coal sheds of the Tibbett Ice and Fuel Co. is completed so that rail cars can be set directly along side the sheds. A crew of railroad men assisted by teams of horses and men of the Tibbett Co. made a quick job of it.  The rail spur is about 200 feet long.


One of Clark County’s Pioneers was Charles Foote who was born in England, the son of Samuel and Hannah Foote, both natives of that country.


He came to America in 1852 and in 1854 located in Clark County, on a farm in section 24, Pine Valley Township.  His early education was received in his native land, and when he came to the United States he was entirely without means.  For a time he worked in Racine, Wisconsin.  He was engaged in lumbering, working in a mill and farming until 1861.  In that year he enlisted in Company I, Fourteenth Wisconsin Regiment and participated in the battles of Shiloh and Corinth and other important engagements.  He was honorably discharged in 1866.


In 1866 he was united in marriage to Maggie Ross.  To them five children have been born; Frank, Nellie, Grace, Blanch, and Oscar.  One child is deceased.  The others are receiving their education in the local school.  Since the war Mr. Foote has been engaged in farming in Clark County.  He owns a farm, located two miles east of Neillsville, and it is well improved.


October 1944


On this October 1st the Van Gorden’s reached the 55th anniversary of their business experience as a family in Central Wisconsin.  It was on October 1, 1889 that the late S. H. Van Gorden started the mercantile business at Hixton, which has continually proceeded under the name of S. H. Van Gorden & Sons.


When the sons grew up, a branch store was started at Taylor, with B. L. Van Gorden in charge, and then H. H. was put in charge of another branch at Alma Center.  Then Clyde was located at Osseo.  Still later Bruce was established at Black River Falls and Archie (Red) at Neillsville.  The latter two are grandsons of S. H. the Hixton founder.


The original Hixton store is now operated by Mr. and Mrs. Co. O. Pratt and Mrs. Emma Northup, both women being daughters of Mr. and Mrs. S. H. Van Gorden.


W. C. Wells re-visiting Neillsville after many years started in the dairy business here more than 50 years ago.  His first work was to drive a team of mules and gather up the cream for the S. A. Walker creamery.  That plant was a frame structure, located east from the present Indian School.


Mr. Wells worked at this job three days of the week and worked inside the plant the rest of the time.


The Walker plant was without competition in Neillsville and for miles around. Hence its operation gives a fair picture of the volume of milk in the 1890s.  In that plant was a churn for about 600 lbs. capacity.  They usually churned butter about three times per week and made about 300 pounds at a time.  They might have handled as much as 25,000 pounds of milk in a week in the flush, but Mr. Wells thinks that figure would be high.


Presently the dairy receipts of the two Neillsville city plants may be said to run about 140 times the amount of 50 years ago.  In addition, there is now the milk received by neighboring plants, none of which was in existence 50 years ago.


Mr. Wells is making a visit on his brother, Berton H. Wells.  He is stopping here en route to his home in Hamilton, Montana, where he has for years operated a dairy plant and a retail business in food and ice cream.  He has been attending a convention at Toronto of the sovereign grand lodge, I. O. O. F., to which he was a delegate of the state of Montana.


Lieut. Guy B. Hagen of Hixton was one of the six officers and men to be rescued from the Lost Battalion. This is the battalion, which gained a hill top in France and was surrounded there by Germans.  For six days and nights they held out without regular rations or medical supplies.  Their food consisted of raw vegetables and fruit, foraged at night.  Finally six survivors were rescued.  All of the others were crossed out; killed, wounded or prisoners.  Lt. Hagen is a son of Ben Hagen of Hixton and is married to Phyllis, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ray Linnell, also of Hixton.


S/Sgt. Vernon F. Meacham, son of Mrs. Myrtle E. Meacham, Loyal R.1 is a member of a bombardment group, which has been cited by President Roosevelt for a bombing attack on targets in Germany on Jan. 11, 1944.  S/Sgt. Meacham is an airplane armorer.


Pfc. Robert H. Millis has been one of the guard honors to Gen. Clark.  He has served in France, Belgium, Luxemburg and is now in Germany.  He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Eben Millis of Black River Falls.


Major Donald K. Acher, of the Greenwood community, received wounds of both legs, which were broken and his left hand was injured.  He was hurt by the explosion of a German mine on August 20 and is now in an English hospital.




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