History: Colby (Pioneer Days - 1896)

Contact: Stan  

Surnames: Parkhill, Ghoca, Daniels, Blake, Nason, Peterson, Loos, Holden, Eggleston, Prosser, Chase, Wilm, Woodbury, Graves, Spence, Darling, Hull, Graham, Beckius, Deschamp, Rector, Pierce, Borden, Guilford, Wicker, Harris, Yerkes, Pitcher, Jeddy, Grey, Dailey, Collins, Grow, Blanchard, Walbridge, Monaghan, White, Diamond

----Source: Colby Phonograph (Colby, Clark Co., Wis.) 29 Jan. 1914

Echoes of Pioneer Days

[Forward] The letters and articles published under this head were collected by Geo. H. Parkhill, of Thorp, Wisconsin, some years ago and we are indebted to him for their revision for publication together with other historical matter prepared by him. Editor

Waupaca, Wis. - Feb. 3, 1896

I will write from memory what I know about the early days of Colby, Wis. It was in March of 1873 that I landed in what is now the "Midget City," looking for a place to locate. The only building there at that time was a board shanty occupied by Dan Daniels and Charles Blake, the latter was selling baled hay and a few odds and ends for his uncle, S. L. Nason of Nasonville. A man named Holden was building a shanty hotel on the site where Peterson’s (now Loos) blacksmith shop stands. This was presided over by Holden and his brother-in-law, whose name I do not recall, and afterwards by John Eggleston and later by John Prosser and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Chase. An amusing incident occurred while Eggleston was proprietor of the hotel. At a party given by Mr. E. they obtained from Wilm’s drug store what they supposed was lemon extract for a cake, but it proved to be hair oil. The error was not discovered until some of the cake had been eaten, and considerable merriment was had when it was known that it was nothing poisonous.

Levi Woodbury, wife and son, Percy came to C. on the same train with me, he having been up before and built a log house on his homestead just north of the present city limits. The track was laid some distance above Colby but the trains at that time ran only to Unity, Wis. I bought a lot of Ira Graves, agent for Graves and Spence, of Fond du Lac, went to Stevens Point and bought lumber and shipped it up and in April put up my store building which is still standing. Henry Darling of Unity did the work. I landed with my family and store goods and one cow on the first day of May. The settlers there at that time which I can recall were D. B. Hull, James Graham, Peter Beckius, Peter Deschamp, E. T. Parkhill, Danforth Rector, D. C. Pierce, Borden, Guilford, Wm. Wicker, Nick Harris, Ol Yerkes, Pitcher and Frank Prosser on the Marathon county side and Ira Graves, Jeddy and Al. Grey, John Dailey and A. Collins on the Clark county side. I did not know those on the Clark county side as well as the others, and many of them sold out and moved away and I have forgotten their names. Ira Graves had a small sawmill about one mile below where the station at Colby was then, and he was the first postmaster and I was his deputy until the fall of 1873, when he resigned and I was appointed. D. B. Hull was chairman of the town named him in the years 1873 and ’74, and James Wicker Jr. was in 1875 with James Wicker Sr., as clerk. I held the office in 1876 and ’77 and Charles F. Grow was clerk. I was elected sheriff of Marathon county in 1877 and moved to Wausau and lived there two years. On my return to Colby I was again chairman of town of Hull during the years 1880-1, during which time I think your father was town clerk.

During the summer and fall of 73 our little village grew quite fast, some of those settling there at that time being, H. J. Blanchard, Chas. F. Grow, G. J. Walbridge, H. B. Monaghan, Aug. Wilms, John Prosser, N. J. White, Dan Diamond, whom I can recall from memory. Ira Graves, Levi Woodbury and myself were the first school board and Geo. J. Walbridge was the first teacher.

April 7th, 1874 I began building the Commercial Hotel which was opened to the public June 27th and was called the "Colby House." H. J. Blanchard kept the hotel while I was in Wausau. In 1882 I traded it to Nels Hull, for his farm in the town of Holeton. The great events of the early days were the many petty law suits incident to pioneer life in a new country. They were generally presided over by "Squire" Parkhill, with Chas. F. Grow and H. B. Monaghan opposing counsel, with J. D. Wicker, Sr., as associate counsel. These trials afforded us much amusement and diversion, and as I look back now I recall that we had good times in our simple ways. The trials and hardships of the early settlers were not as great as in the case of most pioneers for we had a railroad right at our door. True we had no wagon roads and for a number of years the "jumper" was the principle vehicle for transporting the settler’s goods when a horse or man’s back did not take its place as was frequently the case. Well, those days are over for Colby, for now we can ride out in the country over the best of turnpike roads, and instead of a few acres of clearing in which stood their log "shacks" we can now see the large frame houses and basement barns and silos which proclaim to us that this is now the best dairy section of the banner dairy state of the Union.

Geo. W. Ghoca



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