Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI
April 14, 1999, Page 13
Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.
Index of "Oldies" Articles
Compiled by Dee Zimmerman
Good Old Days
Continuation of the Thomas LaFlesh biography (Credits)
During the 1870’s and 1880s, LaFlesh was extensively engaged in the logging business and kept his associations with C. C. Washburn. By a special act of the state legislature, Tom was authorized to construct and maintain dams on the East Fork of the Black River in Clark, Jackson, and Wood counties beginning June 1, 1880, for a period of ten years. Among these was the logging dam in Section 14 of Sherwood Township. In 1883, he was in charge of building a dam three miles north of Scranton (just east of City Point) on the East Fork of the Black River. In January of 1884, he was in charge of five logging camps on the East Fork and foresaw the best winters logging ever, expecting to put in 15,000,000 feet of logs.
Articles have been found which give credit to Tom LaFlesh for inventing the road sprinkler and its heater attachment. The sprinkler was a sort of huge wood tank mounted on a wagon and pulled by a team of horses. Logging roads were wetted down by the sprinkler, which poured water into the road ruts. When temperatures were right, the water froze in the ruts making a smooth icy surface. This smooth surface allowed horses to pull huge loads of logs they otherwise would have been incapable of. Attached to the rear of Captain LaFlesh’s sprinkler was a heater to raise the temperature of the water in-side. This would prevent ice from building up around the sprinkler in extremely cold weather. He did not seek patents on either invention, allowing every logger in the country to copy his designs for their own benefit (which they did).
A tragic incident occurred in the LaFlesh family, in March of 1885, at their home in Nevins. The oldest son, William Washburn LaFlesh, just shy of 16, ran into a clothesline in the yard and fell to the ground landing on his back. He suffered a concussion and died the following day. William had planned to attend a business school in La Crosse that summer and take over the bookwork for his father’s business. Losing their first born son was a terrible blow to the family. William was buried in the Neillsville Cemetery. His funeral was well attended by associates and friends of the family from as far away as La Crosse. [LaFlesh Cemetery Records]
Tom loved to entertain at his Nevins home and had company often, including General Washburn. In January of 1886, none other than Buffalo Bill (William Cody) and White Beaver (Dr. Frank Powell) came to visit Tom LaFlesh. Dr. Powell was the mayor of La Crosse who later was heavily engaged in the patent medicine field. Mr. Yank Adams who was the publisher and editor of the Chicago Sporting Journal, Sir E. Booth from England, and two businessmen from La Crosse accompanied Cody and Powell on the visit. They spent time touring Tom’s logging camps in Clark and Wood Counties and enjoyed the hospitality of his Nevins home. Hunting was included in the visit; the group was able to round up a few deer and some small game. The party also visited the city of Neillsville, dazzling the eyes of many onlookers.
In 1887, LaFlesh began having major financial problems with his logging business. In May, a “Notice to Creditors” was published in the local newspaper, in which he turned over all his property to an assignee to pay off his mounting debts. Part of his problem was said to come from taking a Levis Creek logging contract too low the previous winter where he had employed about 80 men. The c. C. Washburn estate was also settled about this time, leaving no favors for LaFlesh. At the same time in 1887, Tom LaFlesh built a new home for his family on the east side of Neillsville, north of what is now Highway 10 on the present site of Nelson Industries. It was a large home and an excerpt follows from the LaFlesh Chronicles written by Mary (LaFlesh) Hunter describing the dwelling. “Nearly every room was finished in a different wood. The big square hall and stairway were oak; the living room to the left as you go in was maple, double doors into the dining room finished in ash, beautiful grain, natural, the floor ws laid in narrow strips of the red oak and a light wood, probably ash. The parlor to the right of the entrance was cherry and Mother’s room was maple. I have forgotten the wood in the kitchen. Upstairs, the two adjoining rooms, Alice’s (her younger sister) and mine, were finished in butternut. The boys’ (her brothers) room, George and Tommy, had a finish of pine that had been allowed to redden. It was very attractive. The guestroom was maple and the maid’s room was in pine too. I believe there were two large rooms on the third floor, one was to have been a billiard room and one “Maymie’s Studio.” I was supposed to be artistically inclined. Just what happened I do not know, but suddenly we moved to the new house and Sherwood Forest was gone?” Even though their stay in the huge house at Neillsville’s east edge was short it was known for many years after as the LaFlesh farm. The home was believed to have burned down in the 1940s.
In early 1889, Tom LaFlesh left Neillsville for California to engage in logging and make a new start. Mrs. LaFlesh sold their stock and farm implements and joined her husband in October of that year near Hornbrook, California. Tom was at first employed by the Klamath River Lumber Company from Klamathon, California. He also superintended the building of a dam on the Klamath River at Keno, California. In 1900, a Butte County, California census listed Thomas with his wife and 5 children, also 2 grandchildren. His occupation was given as a quartz miner.
The LaFlesh family continued to live mainly in California, venturing in logging and mining until shortly before Tom LaFlesh’s death on Sept. 21, 1905, in Portland, Oregon. Thomas left behind his wife and five children: Mary, Alice, George, Lizzie, and Arthur. The son, William, who died in Sherwood and his youngest son, Thomas predeceased him.
Thomas LaFlesh has been gone from Sherwood Township for over 100 years but he has left much of his legacy behind. Clark County topographical maps still show the location of Tom’s home place, Nevins, in Sherwood Township. Remains of the logging dams on the East Fork of the Black River and its tributaries can still be seen, many may have been constructed under Tom’s direction or were used by him. Tom’s Creek bears Tom’s name as it still flows past the old LaFlesh homestead on its way to the East Fork of the Black River. One can only imagine the huge log cabin at Nevins; the post office, the logger’s quarters, and all the log outbuildings accompanying them, spread out over a vast opening in the woods.
In 1905, at a reunion held for survivors of the Wisconsin Second Cavalry in La Crosse, a letter was read to the attendants from Capt. LaFlesh. He was unable to attend from California because of his declining health. Here is an excerpt from this letter in Tom’s own words: “I hope you may reap a rich harvest of enjoyment at this meeting. I had hoped to be with you at this time, but my health would not permit; though I still hope to meet many of you at some future reunion. As I sit in my cabin door on the lonely Sierras, looking to the west, the sun is slowly dipping behind the hills on its way to the broad pacific. To the east, its rays still brighten the high and hoary peaks; then the brightness vanishes from them, too, and soon all will be folded in the robes of silent night. Thus it is, my comrades, with the grand old army. Morning and noontide have passed; our star is also dipping behind the western hills as our eventide draws on; its lingering rays still rest upon a few of our hoary heads; they, too, will soon vanish and all will be dark in the silence of the grave, leaving only the records of our words and works for future generations.”
Sylvester Nevins came from New York to La Crosse, Wis., in 1859, to assist C. C. Washburn with logging and other business ventures. Through their partnership, he came to temporarily settle in the Town of Sherwood, Clark County. He obtained large acreages of land in the area while working with the lumbering business.
The Nevins community derived its name from Sylvester Nevins, where the area’s post office had held his name from its inception.
Also, as a state senator, Nevins maintained his residence in La Crosse during most of his career in Wisconsin. A few years prior to his death in 1901, he returned to New York.
Clark County News
Mrs. French has put her store building, on the corner of Hewett and Fifth Street, in complete repair. Now, she has rented the building to John Stannard, a successful grocer, who has moved into the new quarters.
Ross Paulson, the Granton Creamery man, was in Neillsville this week. He says he expects to have a big run in business this summer and his creamery will start operations in two weeks.
Neillsville’s new fire bell has arrived and is a stunner. Then the time comes for it to go off in the dead of night, the city’s folks will know it.
Dr. Esch rushed the real estate business here last week. He sold a half interest in the land across the Black River from Ross’s Eddy to Stockwell, his co-tenant; the post office building to C. Rabenstein for $4,500, and purchased Rabenstein’s half interest in the building opposite the post office.
Contractors are hiring men and teams of horses to work on the railroad between Merrillan and Fairchild. The roadbed is being shortened; the track and cut of the grades will be altered. Surveyors have been laying the lines this past week.
A portion of Clay Street, in Neillsville, is to have water mains. About 1200 feet of pipe will be laid as soon as it arrives from Chicago, and when the frost is out of the ground. One block of Seventh Street will also be supplied with water mains.
E. E. Coon, of Loyal, representing the Brayhum Pen Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, was in the city yesterday. He was showing a new style pen, which for practical use possesses considerable merit. One feature of the new pen is an attachment which olds more ink than the ordinary Spencerian pen. A whole page of manuscript can be written without one dipping of the pen in the ink well. (We called such a pen – a fountain pen. D.Z.)
Jas. Johnson, of Milwaukee, who recently purchased the Neillsville Stave & Spoke Factory, is now a full-fledged citizen of Neillsville.
The warm weather of the past few days has called forth a large delegation of fishermen. The river banks have been lined with anglers since Sunday. No great catches have yet been reported, but as usual several big ones have gotten away.
It will be a matter of interest to Neillsville people to learn Dan Higgins is a member of the University of Minnesota base- ball team. He is holding down the position of left field. We know he is fast enough for the company he is in and that he can give a good account of himself.
The O’Neill building on Hewett Street is undergoing improvements in the way of new brick veneer front. Thos. Morris has the contract for doing the work.
Charles Burpee has returned from Haverhill, Mass., where he delivered a carload of horses purchased in Clark County. During his absence, Mrs. Burpee visited her parents in the Town of Green Grove.
Frank A. Carter, a Menominee lumberman, has been in Neillsville during the week. He is superintending the loading and shipping of a quantity of lumber recently purchased by him from the Bahr Bros.
It adds spice to a dreary life, encourages the human heart, lifts one out of despair; breathes new life and confidence – that’s what Rocky Mountain Teas will do. It’s only 35¢ at C. C. Sniteman Co.
Samuel J. Schafer, editor of the Colby Phonograph, and a prominent Clark County politician has been in our city this past week on legal matters. He is the same jovial “Sam” who in the early ‘90s graced the legislature halls at Madison with his genial presence. Schafer was at that time Chief Clerk of the Senate, having defeated Charles Bross, by a vote of 25 to 7. Bross was a previous incumbent of the office for six successful terms.
Shop at W. H. Butler’s General Mercantile Store in Granton; It has the largest and best stock of ladies and gents furnishings, dry goods, groceries, and crockery. Farm produce can also be bought and sold at their General Mercantile Store.
A farewell was held for Wm. Eilert who has made a departure from our city. It is with much regret to his wide circle of friends and acquaintances that Eilert has left their midst. An enjoyable event was planned for the farewell with a banquet which was held at the O’Neill House parlors. Members of the “Pintail Grouse Club” with which Eilert has always been identified, tendered the banquet and farewell program. The program was well arranged and, designed to perpetuate the memory of, and show their esteem for Eilert, whom his associates have ever held in high regard. Speaker, Harve Rickard, presented Eilert with a group picture of the members of the Club. It was a happy event and will be long remembered by those who were present.
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