A Glimpse of Neillsville, Wisconsin



When we took the stage at Humbird, one bright, winter morning, for the above named place, with something of the feeling that we were sorry we had decided to go; for we dreaded the ride in a crowded vehicle, and then, we half imagined that a town which was not to be reached by a railroad, could not amount to much, anyhow.  But in both cases we were happily disappointed.  In the first place, the ride proved to be a very amusing and, consequently, a pleasant one.  It is a wonder that some bright stage driver does not write a book and call it “Life in a Stage Coach,” for there is a wonderful field for somebody’s genius.  Among the passengers, on the above mentioned time, were a fine looking lady, who was evidently a woman’s righter, and her invalid husband, who did nothing but smile at her sallies; a “traveling man,” who took upon himself to defend and uphold “the down-trodden men,” as he called them; a woman, shielded with orthodoxy, and a man who professed to be an Atheist; and, lastly, besides the writer, a youth, bundled up to the eyes in furs, who uttered not a word during the whole journey, and who only showed his appreciation of the sharp remarks and sharper retorts by a decided elevation of his red, turned-up nose, the only feature of his face not hidden by the afore-said furs.  He became more of an amusement to us than all the others combined, and every time the red nasal organ jerked pleasantly upward,  we laughed aloud, to the evident surprise of our companions, since we laughed where they did not consider “the laugh came in.”  At last we called the attention of the “traveling man, “ who sat upon the same seat with us, to the phenomenon, after which he laughed in chorus with us, when the nose jerked upward.  It was a jolly crew, and a jolly time we had of it.  Indeed, we were half sorry when the driver bawled out “Neillsville.”


Neillsville, like nearly all of the villages on or near the West Wisconsin Railway, is a lumbering place.  Looking at the view, we find it backed by a heavy forest, which not only tells some of its past, present and future history, but also lends to the thriving village a beauty not found in localities devoid of timber.  “Man makes the cities, but God makes the country;” and somehow we always feel nearer to God in places where trees shiver the sunbeams into showers of gold.  However busy or thriving a village may be, a forest, near it, is an additional charm to any true lover of Nature and Nature’s God.  The view, which appears in this article, shows only one side of the river; the factories and many of the finest residences are on the other side.  The O’Neill House, of which a second view is given, may be plainly seen at the left of the road leading to the village.  It needs no description to tell the reader that this is what may be called a fine building in a village “out in the woods.”  (Engraving of the O’Neill House) There is another feature added to this hotel, which may in time make it a popular resort for invalids.  The proprietors, while recently digging a well, struck upon a mineral spring, one which is so strongly impregnated with iron that it is apparent to even the most casual observer.  This well, and the purity of the atmosphere in this section of the country, will, in some not far distant day, make it a powerful rival of Sparta, if the proper means are used in placing it in a true light before the health-seeking portion of our people.  Another fine building is the court  house, now in process of erection, which also appears in the view at the left of the road.  The plan adopted was furnished by Mr. C. J. Ross, of La Crosse, one of the best architects in the Northwest.  The building will be ninety-six feet in length by sixty-four in width, and two stories above the basement.  There will be six large offices, two private offices and four vaults on the first floor.  The court room, sheriff’s office and one jury room will occupy the second floor.  The outward appearance of the building, judging from the sketch on exhibition, will be very fine.  It will be an ornament to the village of Neillsville and a credit to Clark County.  The school-house, which may be seen at the right of the road, is a magnificent edifice.  Its dimensions, we are unable to give, but we can say, that in architecture, size and finish, it is not often surpassed, even in places three times as large as Neillsville.  The plan of this was also furnished by Mr. C. J. Ross.  In addition to these, there are many other fine buildings--stores, dwellings, factories, etc., which lack of space prevents us from noting, one of the best of which is the large mercantile house of Hewett & Woods.


Neillsville is the home of some of the noted men of Wisconsin.  We called upon one of these--the Hon. B. F. French.  He is truly an original character, and he might make a subject for study to even a practical phrenologist.  In common with all members of the French family, he possesses a great love for dogs and hunting.  On entering his office, we were surprised at the unusual number of dogs scattered about the room.  In each corner, sat a dog, erect and stately, evidently awaiting his master’s bidding to start out.  A very large one sat on his haunches at the desk, and needed only a pair of glasses over his eyes and a pen behind his ear, to give the observer the impression that he was head clerk.  A sixth was sleeping behind the stove; and a seventh kept guard at the door.  The last was a large Newfoundland, and we were scarcely surprised, upon his being told to close the door, to see him do so as intelligently as a child might have done.  On remarking, a little sarcastically, that he ought to have a few more dogs, the gentleman informed us that he intended to have two or three more as soon as he could get them:  Though just what places they are to occupy we are at a loss to guess.  For some reason or other, Mr. French is dubbed “Doc,” Though he tries to reject that title of honor.  We understand that at an early day, he followed at one and the same time, all the trades and professions known in the then uncivilized wilderness of western Wisconsin, and was one of the best physician in this part of the country.  Be this as it may, the title of “Doc” sticks to him in spite of his assertions that he does not want it.  “Doc” informed us that one of his peculiarities is “hatred of women.”  He loves dogs and to hunt deer but he hates women.  He always likes to assist them, however, because they are such weak, insignificant creatures; and we must say that his hatred amounts to more, in this line, than most men’s friendship.  But we are not writing Mr. French’s biography, and so must desist, or Mr. O’Neill will have nothing left to say on the subject.


There are many pleasant people in Neillsville, and one must get fully acquainted to form a correct estimate of them.  Though not on the line of any railroad, it is a remarkably busy village, and as such is noted throughout the state.  It may be reached by a few miles of staging, either from Green Bay or West Wisconsin railroad; and a project is now on foot among the citizens to build a railroad from Neillsville to connect with the Green Bay railroad, in which event her star would be rapidly in the ascendant.


A view of Neillsville and the portraits of Hon. B. F. French and Hon. James O’Neill, were engraved by Thomas Robinson, Esq., of St, Paul, from photographs by Mr. J. H. Crowns of Neillsville



            A person is seldom sorry for a sin until after it is found out. It is wonderful how the finding out of a fault affects the conscience of a sinner


            Money cannot heal a wounded heart, a perjured soul, or a diseased liver, but is is a very soothing poultice for all three.


The good wear their years as a crown of glory upon their heads; the bad, as a heavy burden upon their backs.


Source: The American Sketch Book by Bella French.


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