Clark County Press, Neillsville, Wisconsin

June 8, 2011, Page 9

Contributed by "The Clark Co. Press"

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County News

Neillsville’s First Hospitals


Neillsville’s first hospital was established in the early 1880’s. B. F. French’s house was on the corner of Hewett and Fourth Street, where the public library is now located.  Drs. Esch and Lacey, along with Frank Archer, a city resident, rented the French house to be used as a hospital. Drs. Esch & Lacey wanted a place where their patients with diphtheria and non-contagious diseases could stay for treatment. Both doctors were also pharmacists.  The hospital was called Esch, Lacey and Company, which issued tickets and certificates for health care.


During that time logging was in “its boom.”  The logging and lumbering owners would purchase tickets for the fee of $3.00 to $5.00 per season for each lumberjack or employee.  If or when an employee was injured in the woods, he could go to a doctor, or the hospital, to be treated and make payment for the services using the tickets.


B. F. French, who practiced law in the city, had first studied medicine, but later chose law as his profession.  However, many times, in case of emergencies, he would be called upon for medical assistance and due to that was often referred to by most residents within the community as, “Doc French.”  One of his daughters Viola became a doctor.


Lewis L. Ayers purchased property on Neillsville’s south west side, in 1871. A Clark County Press news item, stated: “L. L. Ayers has platted off a block of ten very beautiful lots directly west of his dwelling, extending to the crest of the hill.  In our opinion, they are the best lots for residences to be found in our city. Ayers’ house was built at 612 West Fifth Street.  Later, a street on the west side of the house was added and named after Mr. Ayers.  The first virgin pine timber and lumber were used in constructing the house.


Ayers purchased additional land, 80-acres in 1881 and 40 acres in 1885.


Drs. T. Frank Conroy and John Conroy established a practice in Neillsville near the close of the lumbering era, first locating on Hewett Street. There soon became a need for larger quarters in serving their patients.


Lewis Ayers and his wife, Elizabeth transformed part of their large home into a hospital in 1893, being owners and operators of the city’s second hospital.


Two quotes, which appeared in the Clark County Press’ local news, in 1901:


“Drs. T. F. Conroy, John M. Conroy and Viola French performed a difficult surgical operation upon Geo. Jones, who is a young man living a few miles north of the city.  He is the son of Henry Jones. The patient is being cared for at L. Ayers’ hospital and is doing very well.”


“Drs. Conroy and Viola French operated on the removal of crushed bone from Herman Ketel’s leg, this week.  Mr. Ketel has been at the Ayers’ hospital since his accident several weeks ago.”


Lewis Ayers died at age 73 in Oct. 1905.  Elizabeth lived to be 86 years old, passing away in March 1930.


After Elizabeth’s death, the Ayers home became the property of their daughter, Mary, who owned it for 15 years.  The next owner was Mary’s nephew, Claude Ayers who purchased the house after he returned from the armed forces in 1945.  Claude and his wife sold the property in 1958 to Roy Stitzman.


In 1969, Walter Barlow purchased the residence.  Barlow remodeled the house exterior into a Spanish villa style appearance, changing some of the windows, porches and added an attached garage.  The structurally sound, well-maintained home remains on its original site in Neillsville.



June 1931


The history of Memorial Day, with its inception in Mississippi in 1886, was told by Rev. P. B. White as he delivered the Decoration Day address at the cemetery. Rev. G. W. Longenecker led with a prayer.  A large throng of people attended.


The parade was made up of the Service Company, High School Band, American Legion, Spanish-American Auxiliary, Woman’s Relief Corp, Boy Scouts and many school children.  Frank Lavine and Nelson Robb, the two surviving Civil War Veterans, occupied the place of honor at the head of the parade.


A firing squad from the Service Company fired three volleys across the graves of the buried veterans followed by taps that were sounded by Lieut. Arthur J. Haugen.                                                  


Work on the Farmers’ Union bulk oil station in Neillsville will be started here at once. The stock has been subscribed and arrangements are being completed for the construction.  Similar stations a re to be built at Loyal and Chili, according to Farmers’ Union officials.                                                                           


George Glass and his sister, Mrs. Will Dahnert, have started a small greenhouse, which they expect to develop so as to furnish Neillsville and vicinity with plants and flowers for all occasions in the near future. They have started in a conservative way with choice varieties and have made a most creditable beginning. Visitors are welcome.


The Hatfield Amusement operations; concessions, including the pavilion, store, boats and a dwelling has been lost by Clarence Hell, through bankruptcy action.  The Hatfield Amusements business is now being leased for the season by Archie Van Gorden of Neillsville.  Mrs. Van Gorden and her brother, Glen Fremstad, of Whitehall, will run the store and other business during the day and Mr. Van Gorden will be there evenings to attend to the enterprise.


Mr. Van Gorden announces that he is rushing plans for a big celebration there for July 4 and 5.


The Boy Scouts camp near the mouth of the East Fork has been named “Higichara,” which is taken from the Winnebago Indian language, meaning Scout Camp.  The Scouts plan to go into camp for ten days beginning June 18 and are making an appeal to the public for the use of tents during that period.  If you have a tent, which you would permit the boys to use; just tell any scout about it and they will appreciate it very much.                  


T. Christofferson has rented land near Fairchild and is starting a turkey farm.  He expects 1,000 young turkeys to arrive this week and will devote a considerable part of his time to the business during the summer.  The land is sandy and free of parasites, as no poultry has been kept on the land. The results of the experiment should be successful.


Vigilantes from Neillsville; William Schwellenbach, F. E. Brown and Walter Dangers, headed by Sheriff William Bradford, joined in the hunt Tuesday near Curtiss for two young bandits who robbed the Fenwood State bank of $3,228 earlier in the day and shot at two officials who attempted to halt them.


The bandits were believed trapped in a mile-square section of windfall timber northeast of Curtiss, where several armed men searched until late into the night.  The posse came across a spot on the Popple River where the gunmen had changed their clothes and shaved. They left a shaving mug and brush along side a raincoat, in the pocket of which was found a $50 bill.  Their stalled car was found at the edge of the woods.


The group from this city left the hunt at 8:30 p.m.  The timber in that section was recently blown down by a cyclone and searching was difficult in the tangled debris.


At Abbotsford and Athens the bandits shot at constables, who attempted to halt their flight.


The car left by the gunmen carried license plates, which had been stolen from Elmer Gilbertson, editor of Melrose.  Another set of license plates belonging to Frank Peterson of Winona was found under the front seat.


Fifty years of life’s journey together was celebrated Sunday at the home of Mr. and Mrs. W. C. Thoma by a large gathering of relatives and friends; June 5 was the anniversary, but for convenience, gathering was held on Sunday.  Few married couples reach the half century goal and few there that have led more active and useful lives to the community than Mr. and Mrs. Thoma.


After the manner of women of pioneer times Mrs. Thoma’s activities were confined largely to the duties of home, family and neighborly needs.  Mr. Thoma’s energies carried his work in many and various private as well as public enterprises.


William Carl Thoma was born at Oak Creek, Milwaukee on September 16, 1860.  His father was a Lutheran minister, who died when the son was three years old.  The mother moved to Jefferson County where William C. grew to manhood, attended school and engaged in farm work.  On June 5, 1861 (1881), he was united in marriage with Miss Amelia Floerke, who was born in Jefferson County. They engaged in farming in the southern part of the state until 1892, when they moved to the Town of Weston in Clark County, securing land of their own.  Gradually they increased their holdings and enlarged their clearing.  They put up modern farm buildings and equipped the farm with good machinery and fine livestock.  Mr. Thoma helped to organize the Clark County Butter Co., one of the first successful milk business in this region.  He was president of this company for more than ten years.  He took an active part in town affairs, holding the offices of Town treasurer, assessor and represented the town for some time on the county board.


In 1907, he was elected Supervisor of Assessment, serving for four years most efficiently.  He was later elected County Highway Commissioner.  He had long taken an interest in highway construction; at the time of his election the road systems of the state were just in their infancy and Mr. Thoma had to depend largely on his own constructive ability in carrying out his work, but he was considered one of the most efficient highway commissioners in the state.  In 1920 the Wisconsin Highway Department offered him the position of State Road Inspector, but on account of poor health, he was obliged to decline, resigning from all roadwork that year.


Mr. and Mrs. Thoma moved to Neillsville in 1913 and have since made their home here. He was elected to the city council in 1921, serving until 1924, when he was elected Mayor, holding that office several terms.  In every public office and in all his public and private business Mr. Thoma has shown himself to be a worthy and upright citizen.


Mr. and Mrs. Thoma are parents of five children: Paul in Roswell, New Mexico; Will H. at Toledo, Oregon; Carl in Neillsville; Ben on the home farm; and Helen, Mrs. Wm. F. Beyer in Pine Valley.  They also have 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.


The gathering at the home to commemorate their marriage was greatly enjoyed by all present.


The Prohibition Law is making itself felt in more ways than one, the latest evidence being a claim for $15 worth of home brew equipment listed among the loses suffered by a farmer recently, according to W. B. Tufts, secretary of the Lynn Mutual Fire Insurance Co.                                                                              


The contract for oiling the nine-mile stretch of road on Hwy. 10, Wedges Creek to Fairchild, has been awarded to J. W. Craige of St. Paul has been announced by Otto Weyhmiller, Clark County Highway Commissioner.   The job also includes the road from Humbird to Fairchild.  The two projects will be done at a cost of $1,261.


Carl Walk, for many years a resident and prominent businessman here, passed away on Wednesday, June 27, at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Harry Roehrborn.  He had been in poor health for some time.


Carl Frederick William Walk was born in the Town of Farmington, Jefferson County June 9, 1869.  He grew to manhood there and at the age of 22 went to Wausau where he worked in a saw mill, remaining there two years.  He then came to Neillsville and went into partnership with his brother, Paul, in the mercantile business.  They had a store where the Lewerenz filling station now stands, later building a new store across the street on the side now occupied by the Unger Shoe Store and Prochazka Bros. Market. This place burned in 1905, but Carl had previously gone to Abbotsford and established a store there.  After operating this for two or three years, he moved to Bay City, Mich., and went into business there.  In 1918 he returned to Neillsville and went in partnership with Wm. Heiking carrying on a garage business for some time.  In 1925 he again went into the mercantile business on West Seventh Street, near the depot, selling out about a year later to his son in law, Harry Roehrborn.


Mr. Walk was married to Miss Emma Sontag on May 12, 1896.  Mrs. Walk died June 27, 1928, and Mr. Walk’s serious illness dates from that time.  Since then he has been cared for at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Roehrborn.


Walk is survived by his daughter, Mrs.  Roehrborn, one granddaughter, Arlene, and three brothers: John L. of Neillsville; Paul of Clarkston, Wash.; and Rudolph H. of Lewiston, Idaho.            


The State Boiler Inspector was through this vicinity last week and tested the boiler in Tom Wren’s saw mill at Sydney.  This boiler will be 50 years old this fall but stood the severe test and was pronounced in perfect condition.


Mr. Wren, last week, sawed out a lot of pine logs of the Dells lumber Company cut, which was stranded in Wedges Creek and his mill, ran to perfection.  Although the logs had been cut over a year ago they made fine lumber, no wormholes and all were sound.                                                                                           


The 2nd anniversary of Farmers Union Local #105 of the Town of Hendren will be celebrated by a picnic at Matt Brombach’s farm, near Willard Sunday, June 28, afternoon and evening.  Klarich’s orchestra will furnish music.




The Ayers’ house at 612 West Fifth Street, as it appeared in 1950, was built by Lewis Ayers in the late 1800s.  Lewis and his wife, Elizabeth, transformed part of their large home into a hospital in 1893, being owners and operators of Neillsville’s second hospital.  (Photo courtesy of Joan (Ayers) Bertz)






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