Clark County Press, Neillsville, Wisconsin

December 29, 2010, Page 9

Contributed by "The Clark Co. Press"

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County News


The Day They Gave Babies Away

(Continuation of the Eunson story)


Annabelle Eunson had become a great dowager with a home in California and one in Chicago. She ruled her children with an iron hand.


Elizabeth taught school, then married, had two children and after her husband died, became a housemother at a girls’ school.


Jane never married. She taught music lessons, voice, and she possessed a sweet contralto. She, of course due to her young age, had no memory of the evening’s ride on the sled up the river’s ice, to her new home when two years old. But Jane and Robert were always very close. As a boy, Dale Eunson remembered his Aunt Jane’s visits to their home in Neillsville.  A fond memory was of Jane sitting at the piano singing, “In the Gloaming” and then breaking into “The Irish Washerwoman,” and his dad would leap to his feet doing a real “Irish Jig” that made the furniture jump from the floor’s vibration.


(Some of us older people remember those Irish – Scottish songs and having watched them do the Irish Jig. D. Z.)


James became a successful lawyer in Wisconsin, married and had three children.  He and his brother Robert wrote each other.


Kirk was the only tragedy amongst the six children. Life was too much of a struggle for him and he “took to drink,” as his older brother used to say, Kirk died mysteriously when he was only 26.


Robert himself, felt he needed no adoptive home at the age of 12, except what he could find in a lumbering camp.  He went to work in the woods, growing up to be a very dependable man.


Eventually, Robert Eunson made his way to Clark County with his family. At first he was a farmer, living on what would later be known as the Schmidt farm south of Neillsville.  Next, he moved to the Naedler farm next to Cunningham Creek and along Highway 73.


A short time later Eunson left farming, relocating to a little house on the south side of Fifth Street, the 300-block in Neillsville. The house was on the west side of Goose Creek and east side of the Claude Sturdevant home.


(In later years, Goose Creek was diverted into a culvert system, running underground as it is presently. D. Z.)


Eunson became a partner of Charles Crocker in a livery stable business, which was located on the northwest corner of Grand Avenue and Fifth Street.  The building was later occupied by the Stellow (Stelloh) Implement business.  At the close of the implement shop, the building was razed providing space for the IGA food store, which is now the store’s parking lot.


Dale Eunson, author of “The Day They Gave Babies Away,” was born in Neillsville August 15, 1904.  His mother died when he was 15 months old. At that time Robert Eunson’s household was not organized to care for the baby.  Arrangements were made that little Dale should go into the Sturdevant home.  The Sturdevants were pleased with the little one being in their home from the start, eager to provide the care he needed.


Of his own childhood, Dale Eunson, while editor of the Cosmopolitan magazine related some people considered him a spoiled boy, thinking he begged Neillsville shoppers for nickels to buy candy.  But that is not quite the way it was according to Mrs. Sturdevant.  She said Dale was a very winsome little child with large brown eyes and dark brown hair, and everybody took to him.  Neillsville people who knew the Eunson family situation felt sympathy for the little boy whose mother had died.


They expressed their sympathy in a way, which Dale could understand and appreciate – they bought candy for him.  Over-eating candy, occasionally caused Dale indigestion and tummy aches.


As the Sturdevants loved the little boy in their home, so he loved them.  Though living in the Sturdevant home as a member of the family, Dale never lacked for interest or attention from his own father.  Robert Eunson was a great family man, who bestowed affection upon members of his family.  He was remembered as being kind and faithful to his family members.


Those who knew Robert Eunson well, remembered him as being exceedingly generous, a man who willingly helped others.  However, he never wasted money on himself, careful in his personal expenditures. His generosity stood in the way of any considerable accumulation of funds.  His philosophy seemed to be “use money instead of hoarding it.”


In 1908 Eunson went into politics and was elected sheriff of Clark County.  He left the livery business and moved his family out of the little house next to Goose Creek and into the sheriff’s residence at the county jail building.


Also, Eunson married again, his wife being Jesse Romaine, a former Loyal resident who owned a millinery shop on South Hewett Street.  With a woman again in his home, Eunson took Dale back into the family fold. Dale remembered and revered his step-mother in one of the novels he wrote.  Departing from the Sturdevants, Dale’s absence left a void in the people’s lives.


Reading “The Day They Gave Babies Away” story, Mrs. Sturdevant remembered Robert Eunson repeatedly telling the story to them. The writer, Dale, held to the facts as his father had related them to him and the Sturdevants.


Robert Eunson got the western fever while he served as sheriff.  He headed for a homestead in Montana a few weeks before his term as sheriff had expired in 1910.  Dale grew up in Montana and at the age of 17 moved with the family to California.  Eunson married twice and had seven children. Three of the children died as infants. Robert died in 1937 or 1938.


Prior to the family’s move to California, Dale, his father and step-mother returned to Clark County, visiting the Sturdevants and other friends.


It was Dale Eunson’s great interest in music and skillfulness at the piano that encouraged him to enter a business course. The knowledge gained in the course could enable him to learn how to get enough money to purchase a grand piano of his dreams, or so he thought.  He found an opportunity in publicity work for Metro Goldwyn Mayer, and later became private secretary to Rupert Hughes, the writer.  Hughes gave Eunson the push that got him started in the writing business. While working for Hughes, Eunson wrote the short story, “Sun Dog” which was sold to Woman’s Home Companion magazine.  Thereafter Dale Eunson went to New York and became secretary to Ray Long, the editor of the Cosmopolitan magazine.  Upon Long’s leaving the business, Eunson became associate editor, eventually giving up the position to devote himself exclusively to writing.


Most of Dale Eunson’s work was devoted to the short story line.  However he did write a novel “Homestead” and ghosted “Arctic Adventure” for Peter Freuchaen. Also he co-authored three plays – “Guest in the house,” “Public Relations” and “Leo,” the latter with his wife, Katherine Albert.  In addition there were television series that he wrote stories for such as, “The Walton’s,” “Little House on the Prairie,” and “Leave it to Beaver,” plus others.


Eunson’s work “The Day They Gave Babies Away” was the most widely acclaimed. As of the year 1947, it was in its third printing by the publishers, Farrar, Straus & Co.  The story was amazingly successful when first published in the Cosmopolitan, followed with a version on radio and later sold to a movie company.  The movie version of the story was entitled, “All Mine to Give.”


During World War I Eunson returned to the Cosmopolitan as a fiction editor, Eunson was married to Katherine Albert in 1931; they had a daughter, Joan to whom “The Day They Gave Babies Away” was addressed.  The Eunson family returned to Neillsville when Joan was three years old. Visiting in the Sturdevant home brought back memories for Mrs. Sturdevant.  It was a happy reunion and pleasure for her to see Dale as an adult.  Seeing Joan with big brown eyes and brown hair, was much like the baby she had once taken into her arms and home.


Eunson’s daughter, Joan later became a movie star known as Joan Evans, who took parts in several movies. 


A weekend in 1983 was designated “Dale Eunson Days” in Neillsville, in honor of the nationally known author who revisited his hometown.


Highlight of the celebration, was an open house at the Clark County Historical Society’s Jail Museum. The local Historical Society unit sponsored the celebration and an open house. Eunson autographed his books and met people of the area.


Sharing some of his fond boyhood memories, he recalled and told of riding on his Flyer sled from the jail building’s front door, sliding down the winter’s snow covered Fifth Street, through the Hewett Street and Grand Avenue intersection as far as Goose Creek. There wasn’t enough traffic at the intersections in those horse and buggy days to cause any safety problem.


Neillsville was prominently mentioned in his novel, “Up on the Rim.”  It is a story of the hardships and experiences of a family, which moved from Neillsville to homestead “Up on the Rim” near Billings, Montana, in 1910.


(Of all of Dale Eunson’s writings, the true story told to him by his father, Robert Eunson, inspired a masterpiece, “The Day They Gave Babies Away.”  It is a story from the heart, the heart of a man who as a 12-year-old became a man in a day, the day he had been assigned the task of finding homes for his younger siblings. D. Z.)


December 1930


Elmer Erickson, who rents the Otis Slocumb farm in the Town of Grant, recently attended a meeting of the Renters’ Craft at Menomonie. This seems to be an organization of farm renters who are striving to improve their conditions and do creditable work on the farm.


An inspector of the organization visits the farms rented by the members and prizes are given for the best cared for place.  Mr. Erickson won a $50 cash prize on the report of the inspector.            


The largest dance crowd that has attended a dance in Neillsville in many years packed the Armory Saturday night to take part in the celebration put on by the leading businessmen of the city to mark the completion of 13 miles of concrete on Highway 10.  It was estimated that more than 300 couples danced while hundreds of others thronged the gallery as spectators.


The open-air ceremony was held at the corner of Fifth and Hewett Streets at 8 p.m. at which F. D. Calway, C. R. Sturdevant, Chairman of the county board; and O. W. Schoengarth, county judge gave brief talks. The “Golden Ribbon” was cut by Mayor S. F. Hewett.  The Neillsville High School band played several numbers, which were enthusiastically applauded.


The final work on the paving between Neillsville and Granton was completed last week by the Lex Construction Co., according to N. C. Miller, timekeeper.  Some of the equipment was to be stored at Granton over winter.  Mr. Miller and C. C. McCaughey have returned to their homes in Milwaukee.           


Learning that Joe Saltis the Chicago racketeer, had left his Northern Wisconsin lair to visit his son, who was injured in an auto wreck, Walt Dangers and Ed Kutchera worked up courage to shoulder their rifles and go into Joe’s neck of the woods looking for deer.  They left last Friday.                                                   


Burleigh Grimes, the famous baseball star, visited at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Nick Grimes, in Owen this week.  He left Tuesday for New York City where he is appearing in vaudeville. Burleigh will return to Owen for the Christmas holidays.                                                                                   


Mrs. Alvin Vandeberg hosted a poultry-cleaning bee last Thursday evening, plucking 19 geese and 9 chickens, after which they all enjoyed a good supper.                                                                  


Shopping Specials at Roehrborn’s Store – Navel Oranges, medium size, 2 dozen 49¢; small oranges, dozen 19¢; Greening apples, one bushel $1.35; Raisins 2 lbs. 17¢; shelled walnuts, 8 oz. 28¢; Cabbage, 100 lbs. $1.33; Grapes, 3 lbs. 25¢; Holly Wreaths 25$.                                                                                                 


There will be a Christmas Program at the Silver Crest School, also known as the Cement School, two miles west of Neillsville on Highway 10, then two miles straight south. Santa Claus will pay us a visit.  Everyone welcome!  Mrs. Frances Marg, teacher                                                                           


The Golden Rule Dairy will soon be in business, giving its patrons Purer Guernsey Milk before breakfast every morning.  Thirteen-quart tickets can be purchased for one dollar or 67 tickets for $5.00.


Dr. Wink visited the Lindsey School community Monday morning to lift the quarantine on five families and open the school again.  Every child received a thorough examination, which might have done much good.


The Rust-Owen saw mill at Drummond closed Nov. 7, after operating for 48 years.  None of the virgin timber is left, which covered the country half a century ago, and the mill will be dismantled.


Martin Sorlic, who took the first edging from the saw, took the last one Nov. 7.  Head Sawyer Hugo Haselhuhn also sawed the first and last cut.


It is estimated by some who have studied the question that if conservation had been carefully practiced, the mill might have run continuously, the growth of 48 years ago would now be fine saw timber.


Notice to Businessmen – Those who have strings of Christmas lights are requested to hunt them up and have them ready for putting up when the workmen put the trees up in front of their store or business to avoid delays.




 The Neillsville City Streets were lit up for the holiday season as far back as 1930 when strings of lights were hung across Main Street

and Christmas trees were placed along the curb in front of each store or shop. (Photo courtesy of the Bill Roberts collection)






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