Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

July 11, 2001, Page 24

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 

The Good Old Days


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County News


July 1886


Ed Wheelock has turned the Medford Star and News over to Alfred Dodge.  He has gone to Winona to work for the La Crosse Chronicle.


The month of June Poor Farm expenses, added up to $84.82.


Last Thursday, the Hanson residence near the hub and spoke factory here in Neillsville, was burned to the ground.  It was a small frame building.  The fire hose company responded to the call promptly, but the fire was beyond the reach of the water hose so the fire fighters were powerless in their efforts.


Notices are out that cattle owners are to have no livestock running at large contrary to such ordinance.  The ordinance permits the running at large of milk cows during the day until 8 p.m., the evening limit.  The city now has a snug and safe stock yard behind the city hall.  The stock yard is provided with a watering trough, meaning the city marshal intends to strictly enforce the ordinance.  If he finds any cows wandering around after 8 p.m.; you will know where you can find them the next morning.


The celebration at Hubbard’s Hall, just west of the Black River Bridge, on Monday night, was well attended.  Dancing was the principal attraction and a large contingent from the city of Neillsville was enlisted in the event.


If you must borrow money, you can get the best rates by applying to M.C. Ring, of Neillsville.  Ring is now making loans without commission, at the usual rates of interest.  Only farm securities are taken and no loans smaller than $200.


A special meeting of the Neillsville City Council was held this week.  A committee of three was appointed to be known as the Water Pipe Committee.  Mayor Hewett, aldermen Taplin and Johnson make up the new committee.  A resolution was adopted to place water pipe and hydrants from the water works building on East Street to the corner of East and Third Streets.  A second resolution was adopted authorizing the city clerk and mayor to execute two $1,000 dollar bonds, to pay for placing said water pipe and hydrants.


A new hose cart and 500 feet of the best rubber hose available have been purchased by the city authorities.  This will greatly increase the efficiency of the fire department. With the new water main to be laid from the waterworks building on East Street to Third Street, the new water hose, the additional protection from fire will be gratifying.


Next winter, the waterworks extension will be completed and working full blast.  That certain man, who strews ashes and likes to spoil the ice for sledding down Fourth Street hill, will have a hard contract if he tries that this winter.  An alarm can be sounded, the hose run out, the water turned on and his little game of spreading ashes will only cause him frustration.


Dr. J. A. Templeton sold his horse and buggy for $131.00 on Saturday.  He has returned to Virginia after living here since 1879 or 1880, serving patients in our area in that time.


The Central Wisconsin newspaper of Wausau estimates that 120,000,000 of the 2,000,000,000 feet of logs put into the Wisconsin River last winter are still in the river. The logs are far from market because of a mammoth log jam at Grand-father Falls.  The jam is several miles in length.  Unless this jam can be broken, many mills below the site cannot run during the summer.


A couple of rain showers during the week have contributed somewhat to the feeling of security in the farming community.


Several buggy-loads of people living on the north side of our city went raspberry picking the other day.  They went to the Robbins farm located nine miles north of town on the tote road.


Carpenters have started working on the LaFlesh house.  We can soon expect to see it loom up in a conspicuous way on the Pleasant Ridge landscape east of our city.  (The LaFlesh house was located on the site of the present Nelson Industries Park. D.Z.)


Men have been at work this past week, blasting and digging a trench along the west side of the East Street Bridge for reception of the water-main pipe.  The line will be laid below the frost line and will run to Third Street. While blasting on Saturday afternoon, enormous rocks were tossed high in the air.  One piece of rock, weighing 40 or 50 pounds, landed in front of Webster’s livery stable.  One of the large stringers under the west walk of the O’Neill Creek Bridge was broken, either by flying rock or the concussion by the blast.


Dense masses of smoke in the direction of Hewettville last week tells of the danger to timber which has become very dry with lack of rain.  The sight of smoke reminded us of the villainous fire of four or five years ago.  That fire played sad havoc with Free Lindsay’s summer logging.


July 1941


No more sardines for Dr. Hable.


Stolid fishermen around Loyal were making some bitter observations this week.


One was that no one will have the effrontery to present Mrs. A. P. Hable with a can of sardines when her husband goes fishing.


Another was that, unless someone can catch a Muskie longer than 46 inches, the wind will never leave the sails of the good Dr. Hable.


It all started some time ago when the doctor told the boys the right way to fish for Muskie.  He laid it on pretty thick; so when he returned time and again after fruitless hours of fishing this season, the stolid fishermen of Loyal took pity on him.  They got together and presented Doc and Mrs. Hable with a can of sardines.


But last Friday, the doctor turned the tables.  Fishing in the Black River near the site of the old Greenwood Dam, he hooked a 46-inch Muskie.  The doctor landed the Muskie and when he returned to Loyal with the catch, a gigantic gust of wind had filled his depleted sails.


Happy to get home after a long absence and eager to greet his friends, Heron Van Gorden hurried across the yard at his home.  In his rush, he ran pell-mell into a picket fence, cutting a big gash in his left leg.  The wound required several stitches.  The young man is able to get about but with less haste than is his custom.


A donation of a sum of money sufficient to establish the Windfall Library, in Granton, has been announced this week.


The donor is Mrs. Augusta Samson of Minneapolis, Minn., who, at 16 years of age was engaged to teach the newly organized district school in 1868, on the day after her arrival from New York State to visit relatives. 


A library board has been organized and plans are being made to open a library this fall.  Efforts are now being made to secure donations of books and money for the library.


Life began again at 75 for Harry F. Wilsmann of Neillsville.  At that age he went back into the hotel business.  After complete retirement, he has returned to build up again the business at which he had succeeded for nine years prior to his retirement.  Today, his experience bears testimony to the fact that Neillsville is a good hotel town.  By improving the building equipment with personal attention to service, Wilsmann has again made Neillsville the popular stopping place which it should be, in view of its geographical advantages.


Though for a few years Neillsville was in disrepute as a hotel town, it is now a popular stopping place for commercial men and others. Through the week Neillsville entertains at its hotel from 25 to 40 persons per night.  The hotel has available 35 rooms.  The normal staff consists of 10 persons, in addition to Wilsmann, who, at 78, has his eye upon the whole operation.


When Wilsmann returned in early 1939 he faced a major problem.  The hotel, which had succeeded under his earlier management, had run down. The roof leaked; six rooms had been put out of commission entirely.  Linen was short.  The food was not inviting.  Wilsmann began with the roof and he has kept on going from one thing to the other, including linen, and furniture, until he has expended some $8,000 in improvements.


The activity of Wilsmann is as surprising to himself as to those who knew him well in his earlier work in Neillsville.  When he sold out in 1928 he was warned that he was just one jump ahead of the undertaker.  The work was too much for him at 66, he was earnestly advised.  To his own situation was urgently added the ill health of Mrs. Wilsmann, who had a bad heart and other troubles.


So the Wilsmanns sold out and returned to their old home surroundings at Two Rivers.  There they bought two residences, occupying one.  Wilsmann kept a garden, looked after the lawn and took it easy otherwise.  Soon it became evident that they must return to Neillsville and to their old work.


Mrs. Wilsmann, after simple corrective for her health problem, has been restored to normal health.  She is about the hotel in the afternoon and evening, at the age of 81.


Wilsmann, at 78 years of age is the hotel manager and there is no doubt about his abilities.


A recent item in the York Center news carried the story of the young wife who made her first trip to Neillsville in two months.  Mrs. Mary Hannah would have thought that unusual and would have considered the young wife a gadabout.


Coming to Clark County from Canada about 1870, Mr. and Mrs. Hannah and their family of three children were forced to stop at Ross’ Eddy near Neillsville, where their baby Al was born.  Two weeks later they went to the timbered tract of land owned by an uncle, Charles Ross.  This farm, about 15 miles from Neillsville is better knows as the Jornsby farm and is in the Town of Eaton along the Black River.  The region was dense woods with no neighbors nearby.  But with her time taken up cooking for a crew of ten or eleven men, in addition to caring for her brood of little ones, Mrs. Hannah had no time or inclination for social affairs.


For five years the Hannahs remained on this place and two children were born there.  Clearing the land in summer and logging it in the winter was the work of Mr. Hannah and his crew, hence the large number of men whom his wife and a hired girl had to feed all the year round.  It was here on this place that Mrs. Hannah, then a young woman, did what would be almost an impossibility today.  She remained the entire five years there without once getting off the place.


The Hannahs lived in a way which now seems primitive.  Their furniture consisted of benches and tables made by the young husband.  He was an ingenious soul and invented a piece of furniture which was unique then and would be regarded as still more unique today.  It was a combination rocking chair and baby’s cradle.  Made of a long plank, the baby’s cradle was lengthwise of the plank.  The plank was mounted at either end on the rockers and at the far end, where the baby wasn’t, a back was put on sidewise, so that the mother could sit and rock the whole contraption.  Mrs. Hannah used to tell in later years of the hours she spent in this combination rocker and cradle, rocking herself and the baby all at the same time.  Those were the days when men and women had to be inventive and self-reliant.


The first shirt Mrs. Hannah made for her husband was done without using any scissors.  Undaunted she cut the material out with a butcher knife.  After five years on the place Hannah moved his family to 160 acres near Christie.  This farm, which became the Hannah homestead, is now operated by Hugo Halle.  When the Hannahs moved there, a little log house had just been “rolled” up, a garden spot cleared and they had one cow.  There were no roads; the trip was made through the woods.


After moving on the farm, the Hannahs went to Neillsville twice a year, where they purchased clothing for the family.  Later, in the summer, Mrs. Hannah spent the summers with a son on the farm now owned by Carl Kessler. So the Hannahs went to town on a Saturday in the fall, did their trading and went on across the Black River to the home of the son. The next day, Mrs. Hannah’s daughter, Mrs. Northup, started for their home, taking Grandma Hannah with them.  When they made their spring shopping trip to town, Mrs. Hannah returned to her son’s home.   The trip to Neillsville was made with horses along the tote road.  Nancy and Jim, the eldest children, milked the cow and looked after the younger children while the folks were away.


The Fourth of July was a real day for the Hannahs, for it was then that the father took his family to the Bowery or, in reality, Boughery, for that is just what it was: a dance floor canopied with boughs. The one to which the family went was all of two miles away from their home in the Lavene woods.  Bass viols and fiddles made the dances exciting times for the Hannah children, who went to the event barefooted.  The girls were all dressed up “special” with their pretty sunbonnets.  A lemonade treat for the family made the day one to be remembered.


Mr. Hannah owned the first windmill in the Christie area.  After he moved to his own place he worked for Whipple and Ray.  His 16-year-old daughter Nancy, now Mrs. John Richardson of Neillsville, cooked for the men in camp that winter, crippled with rheumatism, Hannah “wood-butchered” on his knees all one winter, making ox yokes, ax handles, cant hooks and “go devils.”  Mr. Hannah died about 34 years ago and Mrs. Hannah 10 years ago.


Besides Mrs. Northup and Mrs. Richardson, the other children are Cindy, Mrs. Van Langford of Portland, Oregon; Minnie, Mrs. George Barr of Silverton, Oregon; Eliza, Mrs. William Hurlburt, Neillsville; James of Priest Falls, Idaho; William, Mineral Point; and Robert of Portland.  Reunions of the Hannahs are occasions for the retelling of the tales of their youth and the time when their mother stayed home for 5 years or when she made those semi-annual trips to town.



Occupying the northwest corner of Hewett and Seventh Streets for over 100 years, Merchants Hotel has had various owners and managers.  Harry F. Wilsmann owned and managed the hotel in two periods of time.  This circa 1920 photo includes one of the Victory Arches built after World War I.  During Wilsmanns second ownership, Suzie Puttkammer Schultz was the hotel restaurant’s cook, where hotel guests and other customers could dine.  She had the reputation of being an excellent cook.




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