Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

 March 23, 1994, Page 32

 Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Good Old Days" Articles 



Good Old Days   



By Dee Zimmerman


Did you know there was a town named ‘Staffordville’ in Clark County, at one time?  That comes as a surprise to many of us, I’m sure.


In the 1870’s, as someone would travel north, on what is now Hewett/Highway 73, they would cross the O’Neill Creek Bridge and then soon would be in the Stafford Territory.  The name Stafford was used because of Stafford owned the land and town.


Solomon and Anna Stafford lived in Hartland, Maine.  They had 13 children.


Elizabeth, born in 1807, married John Dore, Sr. A son, John S., was born in 1839 and as a family they moved to Green Lake, Wis.  When John S. was 16 or 17 years of age, he left home and seeking adventure, made his way northward to work on Wedges Creek moving logs down the stream.  After Neillsville’s first school house was built, he was the teacher.


He married Jennie Angell and in 1872 began building the big house along Pleasant Ridge, in the Town of Grant, later known as the “Youman house.”


Leonard Stafford was born in 1823 and married Meribah Elliot.  He came to Clark County in 1858, staying at the Weston Rapids Hotel.  The following year, he purchased forty acres of land from Samuel Weston.  The land was located about a half a mile south of the Weston Hotel.  After the forty acre land purchase, he moved his family to Clark County.  Stafford continued buying forested land so he could harvest the trees, thus he prospered in the lumber business.  The family home was located on what is not the Gary and Patricia Steel farm.


A crossroads and town grew up around where he lived, the southeast corner of what is now Granton Road and Highway 73.  The town extended southward from that point.  An 1873 edition of the Clark County Press listed the following property in Staffordville: one Hotel – Stafford House, two store buildings, a saw mill, one saloon, one billiard hall, one dancing hall, three barns, one blacksmith and carriage shop, and one farm with buildings, etc.


The above property was listed for rent by Mrs. L. R. Stafford in 1873.


The Stafford Hotel was a stagecoach stop for the stage line that drove the turnpike to and from Humbird, three days a week.  The stage line was owned by Stafford.


By the year 1870, Stafford listed his assets at about $200,000, a large sum for those days.  In 1871, he died at the age of 48.  The estate was in probate for many years.  The estate executor was a son-in-law, Ed Robbins, and beyond that-not much was revealed as to the property’s distribution after the settlement.  The village prospered until Stafford’s death in 1871.


Stafford’s wife, Meribah, tried leasing out the town’s buildings with no success, so eventually most buildings were abandoned with the farm buildings and the hotel building remaining.  The hotel continued in business until the small pox outbreak when it was used as a “pest house,” after which it slowly fell apart.  A farm above the settlement, known as the Cawley farm, remained in Meribah’s possession.


Meribah opened a boarding house called the Reddan House in Neillsville.  She married James H. Raddan in 1883 or 1884.  The Reddan House was located at 135 East 5th St.


Leonard and Meribah had five children: Abby, Alice, James E., Albion and Maud.


Alice was a school teacher for some time and was married to Ed Robbins of La Crosse.  He ran a hotel in La Crosse and Alice lived in Neillsville most of the time during their marriage as she took over the management of the Reddan House when her Mother, Meribah, died.  After Ed Robbin’s death, Alice married Frederick Underwood, president of the Erie Railroad.


The Underwood’s maintained a home in New York City and owned a beautiful home at Wauwatosa, Wis.  They traveled in a luxurious private rail car, often visiting Neillsville.  Alice passed away in August of 1929 at the age of 79.


There four more of Solomon and Ann Stafford’s children who came to Clark County.  Harrison and a son, Nelson, came in 1868, working for Leonard, temporarily.  Albion K. came to Neillsville in 1868 and began buying property of which was the “Stafford Addition” on the north side of O’Neill Creek; about 1873 he moved to Chippewa Falls.  His wife, Eva, was Meribah’s sister.


Richard Stafford left Maine in 1870, living in Montana until Leonard’s death when he came to Neillsville.  During his residency here, he bought some property.  After three years, he moved to Chippewa Falls to be with his brother, Albion.  He returned to Neillsville periodically because of his land holdings and upon one of those visits purchased the John S. Dore place in the Town of Grant.


Johnston Stafford came to Staffordville in 1868 and worked for Leonard.  He died in 1875.


(The Stafford family data has been gathered by a great-granddaughter of Richard’s, Ruth Cournoyer of Illinois.  She was kind to let me copy some of her findings, which includes many pages of copied material obtained from several sources.)


(Click on this map to enlarge it)

A portion of the 1881 Clark County map shows how the first settlements followed the Black River with a turnpike running parallel to the river.  Every 4 to 6 miles there was a hotel for the convenience of the stagecoach travelers.


(Click on this map to enlarge it)

A map of Neillsville as is recorded in the Historical Atlas of Wis. c.1880.  Humbird Road is now West 5th ST., the intersection of 5th St. and Grand Ave., was referred to as the “Quarter Post,” East 5th St. was Third St., Hewett St. was East St. and 6th St. was 2nd St. “Stafford’s Addition” was on the north side of O’Neill Creek.


As the lumbermen arrived in Clark County, their first choice in cutting was the huge towering virgin white pine.  The big pines were cut down, but they left big stumps and those stumps created a problem.  Getting them out of the ground was the first hurdle, then what or how to get rid of them.  Some were made into fences, while others were burned.  Both ways were slow and time consuming.  Pictured above is D. Cook with his team of horses in the process of pulling a pine stump on the Stafford farm.



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