Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI
November 1, 1995, Page 32
Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.
Index of "Oldies" Articles
Good Old Days
By Dee Zimmerman
Orson Bacon, one of Neillsville’s earliest settlers, born at Burlington, Vermont, July 1810, became a resident here in 1856. He settled in a home on the corner of Grand Avenue and Fourth Street where he lived for twenty-six years, passing away in June, 1882.
One of Neillsville’s first home was built on the southwest corner of Grand Avenue and Fourth Street. Unique with its second story Belvedere or widow’s watch, it graces the corner lot a reminder of Neillsville’s heritage.
The west side view of the 318 Grand Avenue home with the original garage – workshop that was located on the lot’s edge. (Thanks to Kay (Overman) Johnson for photos and info.)
The lot his home was located on was referred to as part of the Bacon addition. The original landowner was Henry Rodman who sold to Bacon in June 1856.
Bacon’s wife Uretta continued to live in their home, after his death, until it was sold. Bacons had seven children: Everett H. Bacon, who built a home and resided on Third Street; Mary H. Pritchard (formerly Sturgeon); Edgar W. or Willard Bacon; Abigail L. Wilson, formerly Abbie L. Kees; Ellavesta Bailey; Minette Sturdevant; and Charles Bacon who died in December 1862 at Shiloh during the Civil War.
On September 5, 1889, Eugene D. Webster became owner of the beautiful corner lot home. Webster, born in Green County, lived there until he left home as a young man, traveling to Whitehall where he started a livery business. After eight years, he came to Neillsville, purchasing a livery stable located along Hewett Street, near O’Neill Creek Bridge. An 1890 statement described Webster’s livery stable as one of the largest and best managed establishments of its kind in the county. From sixteen to eighteen horses were kept, along with fine carriages and turnouts (a team of horses with carriage and its equipage) of all kinds available for hire.
A Neillsville Times, October 8, 1891, issue ran a news item, “The Webster carriage house is on the way across town to join its long lost partner the stable.” The following week another news item: “Gene Webster’s barn has arrived at its new site, and will soon be encased in brick. The old site looks like a fat man’s vest before dinner – vacant.” The carriage house was moved to the east side of Grand Avenue and the Sixth Street Corner.
The brick covering hid the wording “E. D. Webster Livery Sale and Exchange Stable” for many years, until it was dismantled for parking lot space sometime after the Mid-Wisconsin Bank was built on the southeast corner of that block. As the brick was removed, behold, the original façade appeared.
The old livery stable building served a purpose for about a hundred years; the latest was that of the Fel-Gross garage business.
The former Fel-Gross garage building, 6th Street and Grand, before it was dismantled.
As the brick shell was removed from the old Fel-Gross building the old livery building was revealed by the original façade of the business that stood there even before the turn of the century. The sign on the façade read “E. D. Webster Livery Sale and Exchange Stable.”
E. D. Webster and wife had a son, Thornton. While they lived at 318 Grand, their home was described as one of the prettiest and most desirable residential locations in the city. Also, it was recorded that Webster made improvements on the house and yard during his ownership.
Webster’s son, Thornton, who later resided in California, wrote of having been born in the house in Nov. 1889. He recalled that his father had the home remodeled in 1898, at which time a bathroom was installed, a modern convenience in that era. At the age of ten, a new sidewalk from the front steps to front walk was constructed, at which time he carved his initials on a portion near the front walk that would have been the year of 1909 and the initials are still visible, dating the original sidewalk at nearly ninety years and it is still there.
A second story front porch or Belvedere is believed to have been added near 1900 or possibly by Webster. Such second or third story open porches have been referred to as a “widow’s watch” having originated on the Oceanside homes of eastern states. When the fishermen were out to sea, the wives anxiously awaited their husbands’ safe return and could look out from the “widow’s watch” tower scanning the waters for a certain fishing trawler.
Other owners of the house have been Maggie and Joseph Dillman 1904; John and Barbara Wolff, 1905; George Wolff, 1948; Jessie W. Roberts, 1949; Donald W. Johnson, 1961, (purchased while a single man and later married Kay Overman), through a period of about 140 years, there have been eight-nine owners, very few for that many years.
The original structure of the house hasn’t been changed, only additions built on during different ownership – keeping the basic design intact. The 318 Grand Avenue home was painted a year or two ago; its appearance now defying its age.
An 1880 view of Neillsville as drawn by an artist
The 318 Grand Avenue home is included on the Fourth Street and Grand Avenue corner.
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