Presbyterian Church

Neillsville, Pine Valley Township, Clark County, Wisconsin



July 1874
A lot has been purchased west of the old Journal office building, opposite Mrs. Stafford’s boarding house. The Presbyterians are the new owners and have bought the lot for the purpose of erecting a church building upon it. The location is an excellent one, and we hope to see it improved soon by a new edifice. (The church was built on the south side of East Fifth Street, west of what is now Dr. Foster’s office building. The church structure was destroyed by a fire, circa 1930. D. Z.)
What is believed to be the oldest Bible in America is owned by a resident of Clark County. The Bible’s owner, John Reidell  (Riedell), of German descent, is a farmer in the Town of Grant, and a leading member of the Lutheran church. In Reidell’s library, rests a huge Bible, 22” by 14” in size, and eight inches in thickness. Its covers are fully half an inch thick, and composed of wood, covered with leather, fastened together by ponderous brass clamps. This wonderful book was printed with wood type, pica size, and on parchment of yellowish hue, and some three times the thickness of legal cap paper. It is in the German language, and was printed about the year 1457, or within the first quarter of the century after the discovery of the printing art. Its age antedates the discovery of America, and this strange relic of the past was read and re-read in the ancestral homes of the Reidell family, long years before Zunigle, Melanchthon and Luther unfurled the banner of reformation. It was in existence more than a century before the Pilgrims landed upon the coast of New England.

Since this venerable book was printed, the Bible has been revised, and the King James translation has been given to the world. Strange and almost bewildering have been the changes that have taken place since this grand old book had a place amid the cherished keepsakes of the Reidell family. The family has handed it down from generation to generation, until it has become a book of priceless value, and could not be bought with the wealth of the Indies.

The Hon. G. W. King, of Humbird, has provided the material facts contained in this statement, which has examined the book, and pronounces it the most wonderful curiosity in the line of books he has ever beheld.







Storm Fanned Blaze Destroys Presbyterian Edifice


Sunday a fire so small that at first it was put out with a damp rag rekindled itself undetected and forty minutes later was burning the Presbyterian church to the ground in a roar of flames that raged unabated until only one black spear of charred frame work rose above the heap of ruins where before the steeple had looked out across the city for the past 55 years.


Fanned by a 40 mile snow laden gale from the west the blaze spread through the time dried timber like fire in a brush pile and despite heroic efforts of firemen it swept on, first demolishing the main structure and finally making a spectacular torch of the steeple which soon toppled over and crashed on the front steps of the edifice in a shower of flaming fragments.


Within a few minutes after the firemen arrived it was seen that the church was doomed and they concentrated their efforts on preventing the fire from spreading to the homes of  R. F. Kountz and C. Krumery as flying embers tumbled down upon their roofs. With the terrific wind blowing toward the east the vast crowd that watched the fire expected to see the burning steeple fall directly on top of the Kountz residence. As the steeple weakened it leaned slightly to the east, then twisted back and if guided by unseen hands it tipped at right angles to the wind and fell directly in front of the door of the church. The home of Kountz had been saved and a sigh of relief came up from the hundreds of onlookers.


In the meantime the spray of flying water was rapidly encrusting the firemen with a white mantle of frost and ice that clung to their coats and froze to their faces. Yet none faltered and some without boots stood in slush and water for more than an hour. The Sweet Shop came to rescue and served a large quantity of hot coffee and sandwiches to the firemen and Miss Kitty Kountz and Mrs. Carrie Neverman furnished a supply of coffee.


Preparing for Play


The fire started about 2:30 p.m. the first time while Rev. Lane C.Findley, pastor and several members of the cast of “Corporal Eagen,” the benefit home talent play, were gathered in the basement of the church preparing to rehearse. Those present were Ray Munger ,Everett Klechner, Dr. W. F. Kunert, Dr. Lynn Morris, Howard Dodge, Lowell Schoengarth, George Prochazka and Miss Marjory Smith, coach.  A smell of smoke was noticed and a search revealed that a composition insulating board over the furnace was burning, which Rev. Mr. Findley extinguished with a damp rag. Seeing no other evidence of fire the party resumed its work on the play until a short time later smoke was again noticed.

Returning to the furnace, they found the fire burning between the floor near the back wall in an inaccessible place and an alarm was turned in. A few moments previous the Northern States Power Co. had shut off its power to make repairs at the local substation and the electric fire siren would not operate. It was not until the third telephone call had been put in that the American Stores Dairy Co. was appealed to and the condensary whistle blown to summon the fire department. While it is probable the delay had little to do with the fire company not saving the building, because of its peculiar construction, it did give the flames a chance to gain considerable headway before the water was turned on. The church was built with a space between the back wall and the woodwork leading up through the attic and out the belfry, so that a perfect draft resulted and the fire swept up through the opening, which acted as a huge wooden chimney. Holes chopped through the back inside wall before the smoke drove the firemen out, added to the draft and the intense heat caused the rear brick wall to buckle, several firemen narrowly escaping with  their lives when it collapsed and fell toward them.


Insurance of $6,400 was carried on the church, $5000. with the Clark County Agency and $1,400 held by the National Board of Missions.


The history of the Presbyterian creed in this city goes back to an early date when preaching services were held by Rev. Mr. Harris. Later the congregation was served by Rev James Mair,, a Scotchman. For some years services were held in the schoolhouse and courthouse. The organization was perfected Aug. 2,1869 and in 1875 the church was erected. The next pastor was W.T. Hendren, who was instrumental in building the church and responsible for raising the funds.


King Made Bricks


The bricks used in the construction were made by Edward King who then ran a brick yard south of the Big Store on the land between Hewett and Clay Streets. The weather vane was made by Tom Hommel who was then running a blacksmith shop. This weathervane was a durable thing and through the 55 years it was battered by the elements. It stood unscathed and until the moment it fell it was registering the path of the wind with as much fineness and delicacy as it did the day it was put in position—indeed a tribute to the genius and thoroughness of the man who shaped its metal on an anvil when Neillsville was still but a clearing in the forest.


A copy of the Clark County Republican and Press of Oct 21,1876, in possession of Mrs. C. Stange, carries a notice of the death of her grandmother, Mrs. Mary French and states that her funeral was the first ever held in the church.


Hope to Re-Build


The future of the Presbyterian church here has not been decided, but there is a strong sentiment in favor of re-building the church, according to Rev. Mr. Findley, who stated that Rev. C. Giesselbrecht of Waukesha, head field executive, is expected to be here by Sunday and will give the problem of re-establishing the church his consideration.

Plans for holding the play, “Corporel Eagen” will go on uninterrupted and will be given at the Opera House next Tuesday and Wednesday nights.


Source: Neillsville Press February 13,1930, transcribed by Lani Bartelt.




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