Bio: Marsh, William J (1954)

Contact: Dolores Mohr Kenyon


Surnames: Marsh, Cole, Bruley, Wells, North, Devos, Unger, Naedler, Hoesly, Thomsen, Smith, Brown, Press, Jones, Bigger, Jackson   

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI.) December 30, 1954 

Marsh, William J.  (? - 22 December 1954) 

William J. Marsh, whose early experiences in merchandising in Neillsville carried him back into the days when lumbering was the flourishing industry here, was laid at rest in the Neillsville City Cemetery Monday afternoon. 

He died last Wednesday, December 22, at his home on East Fourth Street, where he had been in semi-confinement since an extended illness earlier in the year.  Death was due to the complications brought on by old age.  

Although 93 at the time of his death, Mr. Marsh was youthful in step and outlook until the end.  His was a familiar, spritely step as he walked the distance between his home and the downtown business district, where he spent more than 50 years of his business life.  In late years his eyesight had failed, and he was able only to make out outlines of shadows and light; but this fact, while lamentable to him, did not affect his cheerful outlook.  Nothing pleased him more than for friends to stop him to pass the time of day, or to talk about memories of the olden days gone by. 

A respected and highly successful merchant and businessman, Mr. Marsh had operated a retail dry goods store in Neillsville for 51 years.  During that time he had watched much of the change in the business face of Neillsville, as well as the development of the great dairy farming industry.  And with these developments came changes in business methods, which found Mr. Marsh in hearty accord, for he was a meticulous businessman. 

Not the least of these was the change in credit business.  In the day when Mr. Marsh gained his start as a dry goods merchant here, the custom was for an annual settlement.  It was the custom in those days for a customer to charge purchases throughout the year.  On January 1, then, an annual statement was called for and settlement was made.  With this loose method of doing business, it was possible for a man to be "broke" a year without knowing it.  It also was possible for a merchant - even the most careful and selective one - to be caught with a few bad accounts.  Mr. Marsh was careful and selective; and he also was caught. 

The store in which Mr. Marsh spent most of his business life in Neillsville is that which now houses the J. C. Penney Company at the corner of Hewett and West Fifth.  It is the first brick store building erected in Neillsville and was purchased by Mr. Marsh and his brother and partner, Lute Marsh, in 1891. 

Before making this purchase Mr. Marsh had been engaged in retailing in Neillsville for several years.  He came here from Black River Falls as a lad of 16, being sent here to look after the interests of Jerome Cole, Black River Falls druggist, and creator of the remedy "Cole’s Carbolic Salve."  For two years young Will Marsh worked from early ‘til late and received the great sum of $200 per year. 

That relationship was broken, however, one Saturday night when his pay envelope did not disclose a raise which Mr. Marsh believed he had coming.   The following Monday morning he went to work across the street for Emery Bruley, pioneer clothier, for $600 per year. 

For two years he remained with Mr. Bruley then he went to Eau Clarie, where he worked and where he missed his Neillsville friends.  He returned to work briefly for Thayer & Manes in a general store on the present site of McCain’s. 

By 1887 Mr. Marsh had saved $1,500, which was a tidy sum for a young man to have in those days.  And, with $4,000 borrowed from a brother at 10 percent interest, he launched his partnership with his brother Lute.  They set up their business in the old Gates building, which was on the site of the building now occupied by the F. E. Brown Jewelry Store.  The venture was successful, and when Hewett & Woods put their brick building up for sale, the Marsh brothers bought it.  Not long afterward, Lute Marsh was bitten by the bug to go west, and Mr. Marsh bought out his brother’s interest in the store.  

Retiring from the merchandising business 16 years ago last August, Mr. Marsh has kept his mind occupied and has kept busy with the management of his financial affairs and a considerable amount of real estate in which he is interested, both in Neillsville and elsewhere.  He also has long been a director of the Neillsville Bank, and has taken considerable interest in the affairs of the bank. 

At the time of his death Mr. Marsh was the oldest member of the Masonic Blue Lodge, No. 163, F. & A. M., which honored him several years ago by presenting him with a 50-years certificate.  He also was a member of the Neillsville Chapter, No. 66, R. A. M. and of Neillsville Commandery No. 36, K. T.  

Mr. Marsh was married in 1882 in St. Paul, Minn. to Bertie Wells, who died in 1929.  

Surviving are his daughter, Mrs. Herman North; two grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. 

Masonic services were held at 2 p.m. Monday from the Temple, with A. L. Devos reading the Masonic rites.  The Georgas Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements. 

Pallbearers were Adolph Unger, Henry Naedler, Jake Hoesly, Henry Thomsen, William Smith and Herbert Brown.  

Close relatives from out-of-town attending the rites were: Mr. and Mrs. Walter Pree and daughter, Karen, and Miss Ruth Jones, all of Minneapolis; Mr. and Mrs. Ray Bigger, Mr. and Mrs. Don Bigger, Black River Falls; Col. Leo M. Jackson, King, Wis. 



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