Clark County Press, Neillsville, Wisconsin

March 25, 2015, Page 14

Contributed by "The Clark Co. Press"

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County News

 March 1880


That rotund proportion knows as Judge Newman, rolled into town last Monday and has since listened to cases before the circuit court as presented by our able corps of lawyers.                       


The bidding for the construction of the county poor house took place at the County Clerk’s office immediately after the adjournment of the Board last Monday afternoon.  Nearly all the members of the Board remained to hear the reading of the bids, and as most of the bidders were present, the occasion was an animated one.


Tuesday, a proposition from Mr. Blakeslee was submitted to the Board, to build all the buildings on the poor farm, dig a well and put all in shape for occupancy, in consideration for the debts he owes the county.  The proposition created quite a debate.  Messrs. Evans and Fullmer lead the debate in favor of accepting the offer and Messrs. Wilson and Vernam opposed it.  The total indebtedness is $5,200.  Mr. Evans said the committee had figured up the expense and had found the total cost of putting all the buildings up in good shape would come to very near $5,000 and although Mr. Blakeslee’s paper was good, it was wise to accept this offer and he moved that it be accepted.  Mr. Ayer demanded the ayes and nays.  The roll was called and the vote stood 11 to accept and 5 to reject.  Mr. Blakeslee submitted a few remarks in reply to Mr. Wilson, stating that he was not asking a cent of alms from the county.  The buildings, as he proposed to build them, would cost every cent of the debt, but he wanted to work it out.  He thanked the board for the acceptance of his offer.


Neillsville market prices are as follows: Wheat, $1.10 to $1.15; corn, 40˘; oats, 32˘; pork, dressed, 5˘; beef-dressed, 4 to 5˘; hides, 4 to 6˘; chickens, 7 to 8˘; eggs, 15˘; butter, 15 to 20˘; hay, $8 to $10.


For Sale, a Snug little farm of 40 acres, with 18 acres cleared, good log house and stable.  Located in the Town of York, near to the County Poor Farm; Highway on two sides, six miles from Neillsville.  It will be sold cheap, or exchanged for other property.                                                                                       


News from Lynn:


A good time is expected at F. Sternitzky’s next Saturday, a neighborhood quilting party will be held.


We expect to have a town hall built here this summer.  A petition has been signed to have the matter submitted to the voters at the town meeting.


School, next Tuesday, will end for the winter term.  We understand that Miss Honeywell is to teach the spring term, so it will be only a vacation after all.


Logging is brisk in Price’s camp as ever as the logs boom into the nearby creek wonderfully.


The Sternitzky boys are busily at work making buckets, so to be ready for sugar making.


O. P. Wells’ Hardware Store is a very busy place these days.  A large tank, or pan, for maple sugar was made there this week, and sugar will soon be in order.                                                   


There was a dead fly wrapped up in the Augusta Eagle newspaper that reached us last Monday and we take it as an indication that they are having a streak of warm weather over in Eau Claire County.


Fred Greenaght, charged with larceny and confined in the Clark County Jail, climbed out of limo through the stovepipe hole last Sunday night or early Monday morning and departed for parts unknown.  He was supposed to be guilty of monopolizing property belonging to Al Bass, in the northern part of the county.


February 1960


A ‘Quitting Business Sale’ opens today at the Lowe Furniture Store, at the corner of West Fifth and West Streets.


G. H. Lowe, who has operated the store for the last several years, said that he plans to sell out to the walls and then will go to Montana, where he has interests in the Whitetail oil field in which many local people are interested.


The closing of the Lowe store will mark the end of 62 years of business for the Lowe family in Neillsville.  Mr. Lowe also owns the Lorraine apartments, at the corner of Clay and West Seventh Streets.  He said he also expects to sell this property.


The old Withee farm in the Town of Warner, site of ancient Hemlock, has been sold by George Speich of Greenwood to Anthony Suda.  Its sale coincides with the departure from it of the Windom family and is in the final step in erasing the last contact between Clark County and the old Withee family.  The Windoms worked the farm in the last years of Theodore Withee’s ownership and bade him farewell as he left the scene of his earlier happy and generous living.


To the Sudas the purchase means the acquisition of some 560 acres of land and an unusual set of farm buildings.  In addition, they have acquired one of the most historic and interesting sites in all of Clark County.  Upon it stood for many years the dam, which marked the upper limits of the log drives of the old lumber days.  Upon it once ended the first telephone line, which ran into Clark County.  Upon it once stood a busy sawmill and a thriving flourmill and a hamlet supported by them.  The hamlet consisted of a boarding house, a store and eight houses, including that of the Withee family.  This hamlet bore the name of Hemlock, a name which was adapted from a stand of hemlock trees in the area, and which is continued in the name of a cheese factory a mile or two to the east.


Hemlock came into being originally through the creation and activities of the Black River Improvement Company.  This concern, holding a monopoly of log driving upon Black River, built two dams from Onalaska up the river, the lower one at Dell’s Dam, the uppermost at Hemlock.  This Hemlock Dam backed up a large pond, in which were accumulated great numbers of logs, preparatory to the drives.  When logs were ready and water conditions were right, the dam was opened and the waters rushed down, carrying the logs on their crest.


Black River has always been a rocky stream, with great variations in its fall.  It was the despair of the early lumbermen, who tried to float down rafts of cut lumber on the river.


Often their rafts were wrecked upon the rocks and the lumber was often lost.  The economic answer to lumbering in Clark County was the Black River Improvement Company, with its dams and its service to the great saw mills of Onalaska and La Crosse.


The Black River Improvement Company was really the creature of the lumber barons, organized by them to serve their mills at the river’s mouth.  The Improvement Company was managed by Joseph Nesbitt, whose daughter, Mrs. Edna Newell, now resides in the Zimmerman building, Neillsville.  Mr. Nesbitt, in the early years, journeyed up and down the river and also assisted in his management of the first telephone, which was run up from La Crosse to the terminus at Hemlock.  This line was used, in part, to time the release of the log drives.


Active in the early use of the river was Niran H. Withee, who was born in Maine in 1827, came to La Crosse in 1852 and soon embarked in the lumber business.  His lumber interests were extended into Clark County, and he came into the county himself in 1870, identified himself with the affairs of Clark County and became the county treasurer in 1875, holding that position until 1882, when he was succeeded as treasurer by his brother, Hiram.


N. H. Withee doubtless had at least friendly interest in the Black River Improvement Company and perhaps more than that.  Hence, he found it logical to own the land around the company’s dam at Hemlock and to establish there the saw mill and the grist mill, which provided the real occasion for the old hamlet of Hemlock.


The Black River Improvement Company began in the very early days of lumbering in Clark County, being organized in 1864.  In the 1880s its activities were tapering off and in the 1890s were being pinched out by lack of logs.  And so it happened that the Withee operation came to be the big enterprise at Hemlock, with the Improvement Company fading out into less and less of a memory.


The elder Withee was a pioneer of resource, energy and vision.  He died in La Crosse in 1897, at the age of 60.  Since he was then not a resident of Clark County, the records here do not tell about his estate, but old-timers knew him as a ma n of wealth and it was commonly accepted that he left each of his three boys $75,000 to $100,000 in addition to the real estate, which went to each.  Thus, the son Theodore became the owner of the property at Hemlock, the son William the owner of the Withee farm near Longwood and the son Niran Haskell owner of the large Withee farm upon which the Clark County Hospital now stands.  To these three sons he bequeathed his property, and to the village of Withee his honorable name.


The three Withee boys had come up in a life of relative ease and luxury.  They had lived through years of national prosperity and the business going was good at the time of their father’s death.  But soon came the 1890s, with their stress, strain and terrible losses.  The going was hard for young men of their background.


Theodore had added to the house at Hemlock and had made it his home.  There he had taken his wife, who had come of a family of wealth and who was accustomed to gracious living.  They had servants to ease the labors of an 18-room house.  They knew how to use money for pleasant living and were generous and friendly with it.  Theodore bought one of the first Fords of Clark County and the folks knew from its noise when Theodore Withee was driving nearby.


To the tear of the depression was added the wear of the years.  The old mills began to go to pieces.  Fred Limprecht, who still resides at Hemlock, remembers the worries of his mother about his father, as the father worked in the saw mill. The old mill used to shake when the heavy logs rolled through the saw and those who labored there wondered if it might not, at some critical juncture, shake itself apart and collapse.


But the end of the mills came at the hand of nature.  Came the great flood of 1914, which tore the dam out and left hardly a trace of either sawmill or grist mill.  Fred Limprecht was then a boy and he remembers how his father was absent at the time and of his gather’s deep regret when he returned.  For the father felt that, had he been present, he could have dynamited out the dike on the west bank and could thus have saved the dam itself.



The loss of the mills meant the end of industry at Hemlock.  Theodore Withee was then involved.  He had not the resources with which to tackle the restoration of the mills.  Perhaps, indeed, the time had passed for their usefulness.


The wind also struck, tearing down the cow barn and the Warner town hall across the lane from the east side of the Withee lawn.  To replace the cow barn Theodore Withee took two old buildings from below and adjusted them to the old foundation, one at one end an d one at the other.  The space in between, he filled in with new construction.  It was a makeshift.  Later, George Speich, when he became owner, tore it down and built a new barn.


The site of the Warner town hall had by that time become awkward.  It had been located there in the old lush days, when Hemlock promised to become a real village.  It had been a lively place with preaching, dancing and Sunday school, in addition to the infrequent town meetings.  But the dream of a Greater hemlock had by then faded away and the old site was alongside the Limprecht barn.  The town cheerfully accepted from Theodore Withee the present site in place of the old, that site being on the west side of the river at the southwest corner of the old Withee farm.


The years had thus witnessed the attrition of such resources as had remained to Theodore Withee and he had not managed to create new ones.  Money had been secured by a mortgage and in 1924 the farm was taken over on the mortgage.  The end had come of the easy days on the old place.  His wife had died there.  Theodore Withee had to move on.  The Windoms were about to move into the big house.  They recall, with a touch of pathos, the scene of his departure.  Into his old car he loaded his dog and gun and was about to enter the driver’s seat.  As he stood at the door, he called to the Windom boys, ‘Don’t take any wooden nickels.’  Then Theodore Withee, kindly and generous scion of an honored family, turned his back upon the old place and the old affluence, never to see either again.


The last years of the life of Theodore Withee were spent first briefly in Alaska and then in northeastern Montana.  At the little hamlet of Carson he ran a pool hall and soft drink place.  He married again.  A heart attack ended his life not many years ago.



The Theodore Withee’s had two daughters, both of whom reside now in Montana.  Their old neighbors remember them pleasantly as out-of-door girls, devoted to ponies.  Their father kept ponies for them and they are remembered as hitching ponies to a little hand sled and thus journeying for the mail.  This love of ponies has lingered all through their lives.  Out in Montana they now breed Shetland and other ponies.


The Windom family came into relation with the Hemlock property in 1920.  Then they lived in a tenant house, while the Theodore Withees lived in the big house.  But in 1924, when the farm was taken over on a mortgage, they rented from the mortgage concern and moved into the big house.  The Windoms consist of seven brothers and two sisters, all of them still living as one family.  They departed from the Withee farm with more practical relief than sentimental regret, for they found it hard going.  They had cultivated about 250 acres and had broken up several acres of virgin land.  They cared for a herd of over 60 milk cows, in addition to other stock.


Two or three weeks ago, the Windoms moved about a mile to the Steve Checky place on Highway 73.  It is an eighty, with a square frame house, large enough to care for the Windom family.  There their labors will be reduced.


Buying the old Withee place in 1931 after its foreclosure, George Speich is understood to have paid something like $10,000 to $12,000.  He built a cow barn during his 24 years of ownership and added to the arable acres.



This photo taken in 1953 of the old Hemlock Dam site, about four miles north of Greenwood where most of the large rocks on the far side of the Black River remain from the old dam structure.  Along the dam site was one a thriving hamlet, Hemlock, with a boarding house, little store run by Baxter Shaw, two houses and two shanties.  Nearby was the Withee farmstead.





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