Clark County Press, Neillsville, Wisconsin

October 13, 2010, Page 11

Contributed by "The Clark Co. Press"

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County News

October 1930


Men like R. F. Kountz, better known as “Dick” who lived through the formative age when America was growing and being shaped into the greatest industrial empire the world has ever known, are becoming scarce and within a few years their great legions will be lived only in the great deeds they left behind.  When Dick was born Oct. 23, 1848 the life of the average American was primitive beyond belief to those who now live in ease due to the contribution of science.


There were no telephones, no furnaces, no movies, no milking machines, no automobiles, no airplanes nor radios, which are now regarded as necessities.  The spirit of the pioneer prevailed by its own insight and boundless faith in itself and its future.


It was in 1867 that Dick Kountz, his brother, W. H., and their parents came west from Pittsburgh to cast their fortunes with the new west about which little was known in the east.  In fact, their knowledge of this district was so limited that they bought two “nearby” farms from a Pittsburgh real estate man and later found that one was seven miles south of Ft. Dodge, Iowa and the other east of Nasonville.  The farms proved to be hundreds of miles apart.  The family came down the Ohio River by steamboat, then up the Mississippi to Ft. Dodge where they inspected the Iowa farm, and the next spring Dick boarded a stern wheeler at Dubuque and headed up the Mississippi with Stevens Point as his objective, that being the only town in Central Wisconsin anybody in Iowa knew about which might be near the farm.  A fellow passenger on that boat informed Dick that La Crosse was the best point at which to land and from there he took a train to Tomah, finally arriving in Black River Falls in April 1868 aboard a construction train.


At Black River Falls, Dick obtained a job as a clerk in Dr. Warner’s drug store and for the next six years lived in that city, working also for a time as an express clerk in another store.  In January 1870, he concluded he would look for his farm and after a long and laborious trip he stopped at the home of Sol Nason, whose land adjoined his.  He had purchased a yoke of oxen, a wagon and a few tools for commencing his career as a farmer.  The weather was cold and Dick almost froze to death that night.  The situation looked gloomy the next day and before another night had settled in Dick made up his mind that he had no desire to farm and abandoned his newly acquired equipment.  He returned to Black River Falls and resumed his job in the drug store.


In 1874, Dick came to Neillsville having traded his farm to James O’Neill Sr., for a grocery store on the site of the Kapellen building and after running the store for a year, sold out to Hewett and Woods.


In the spring of 1876 the people of Neillsville decided the town needed cleaning up and Dick was prevailed upon to run for justice of the peace, to which office he was elected.  Carrying out the wishes of the voters was attested to the fact that during the first year every person appearing before him was sentenced to jail.  Nobody was allowed to go free with a fine.  At that time Dick took up the study of law by himself and in 1878 was admitted to the bar.


Neillsville in those days was a primitive looking settlement.  The bulk of the population was hardy businessmen and loggers who had followed them in to supply their wants.  At night the town was buried in darkness and persons coming up to the stores after sunset carried lanterns to light the way along the dark paths.


C. C. Sniteman arrived at the settlement in 1879 and he and the young lawyer founded a firm friendship, which has become deeper with the years. Things in the town commenced to move. Charlie and Dick began to figure out ways to make the town better.  They saw the need of a railroad and through their influence the line to Merrillan was established with Dick as the “general manager walking boss, engineer and everything else” as he himself described the incident.  Through the keenness of their vision they saw the future of electricity for lighting purposes long before others in the state were able to grasp its importance.  They organized the electric company, the second established in the state, and soon spread the fame of “the little town in the woods with electric lights.”


They refused to sit still.  No sooner had one thing been accomplished then they launched into something new. The furniture factory was organized with Dick as secretary and Sniteman, Klopf and Kapellen as officers.  Hundreds of men were given employment in the new plant. The town was growing under the leadership of the two young men.


When the subject of a city water system came up Dick was on the committee and with W. W. Taplin and Charlie Breed installed the pumping station on the north bank of O’Neill Creek.  No pipes were laid at first, but 1,500 feet of hose allowed water to be pumped from the station to almost any building in town in case of fire.  Later Dick backed the move to lay pipes and build the old standpipe, which cost $6,000 in contrast with the $23,000 paid for the present reservoir.  Later he and Tom Hommel established the sewerage system.


After the railroad had been built as far as the Hubbard farm west of town, Dick got an idea that the city needed telegraph service, but the railroad company refused on the grounds that it had the use of telephone over a logging line, which ran down through Hatfield. Dick ended the argument by hiring Hi Hart with a team of horses to go down to Hatfield and tear down that old telephone line, which was rolled up in a ball and thrown out behind Dick’s house.  The railroad company decided to build a telegraph line.  Many of the people in town then had telegraph lines strung up between their stores and homes until the electric light poles were a tangle of wires and the electric light company had to order them taken down.


Dick found time to ride a bicycle in those days and he and his wife, who was Emma Bailey of Black River Falls previous to their marriage in 1872, often took trips together around this part of the country.  One trip, which Dick made by bicycle would be quite a task even for a motorist in these days.  He journeyed to La Crosse, through Minnesota to St. Paul and back to Neillsville via Hudson. Traveling by bicycle was inexpensive.  He stayed at farmer’s homes at night and said he had a hard time making them take even a quarter for the lodging.  Usually he had to “give the money to their kids.”


When the automobile came out, Dick was one of the first to purchase one. Dr. Bradbury bought the first in the county and Dick had the second.  For the first time the other day, Dick explained how he adopted the steam car of which he had three.  He had decided to buy a gasoline car and purchased one for $1,200 in Milwaukee.  The dealer agreed to send a man with him as far as Fond du Lac.  The first day they got to Sheboygan Falls, and Dick decided he knew enough about cars to drive on alone and told the expert he could return to Milwaukee the next morning.


Dick was up at 5 a.m. the next day so as to get an early start for home.  He began cranking immediately and at suppertime was still cranking without getting more than a half dozen explosions out of the motor.  Dick concluded he would rather have his $1,200 and called the dealer at Milwaukee who said he would take the car back if Dick would throw off $65, which he gladly did.  Dick took the train home and Mrs. Kountz was much disturbed to learn that he had not bought a car, inasmuch as she had told all her friends that her husband was “driving through” with a new automobile. To make good Dick went out and bought a steamer, which a short time later caught fire in front of the Tom Chadwick farm as he and Mrs. Kountz were spinning along about ten miles an hour.  Mrs. Kountz jumped out at the first hint of flames and sat down on the side of the road. “Let it burn up,” was her comment as Dick frantically threw sand and dust on the blaze without any appreciable effect.


Dick occupies their residence on Fifth Street with his daughter, Miss Kitty.  The home was purchased in 1880 from L. B. Ring who had used it as a printing office.  Mrs. Kountz died in 1919.


Dick still attends to his legal profession and the duties of court commissioner, which he has assumed since 1879 with the exception of a six-year period some years ago.  He enjoys life, getting about the city with all the alacrity of a man many years younger.  The old spirit of social ability, which was so highly developed in the pioneers, still characterizes his life and he finds much pleasure in visiting with the few men who were here to share the glories of Neillsville when it was just beginning to take root and grow.


Cesnik of Willard says he has a handcar, but no railroad to run it on; if anyone has a railroad not otherwise engaged there is a chance to buy some “rolling stock” below par.  This was Mr. Cesnik’s “private car, back in the grand and glorious days of the Foster railroad, but the scrapping of the road left this piece of property high and dry on the grade.  It is rough and disagreeable work running a handcar on the ties, so Mr. Cesnik is willing to sacrifice something on the vehicle.



Foster’s rail line arrived at Truman, also known as Truman’s Crossing, in 1896.  The subsequent settlement was called Willard. Ignac Cesnik was hired by F. N. Foster in 1907 to work as a land agent, finding people who would be interested in settling on the cutover land, establishing farms.  Cesnik often used a handcar as a means of transportation on the Foster Railroad line.  Left to right in the photo: Joe Jordan, Joe Prestor, Ignac Cesnik standing on the railcar, Anton Trunkel and Frank Petkovsek


The Frauen Verein ladies of Humbird have canned over 1,100 quarts of fruit of different varieties for the Indian School at Neillsville, and Mr. and Mrs. E. J. Duerkop presented the school with seventeen sacks full of good winter apples, which Mr. Stucki and children from the school picked last Friday.  The school has canned 1,500 quarts of tomatoes, besides many other fruits and vegetables. About 5,000 quarts are needed for the year’s supply.  There are about 75 to 80 children enrolled and the eight grades of common school work classes are provided.


Fred Bruley has a carload of onions coming in on the railroad, selected and graded, only 60 cents per bushel basket if you bring your sacks, still less if you take a sack full and if you kick about the price. Fred will make them cheaper.


Fred also has available the highest grade of Patent Flour, $4.95 per barrel at the depot.


The new wing on the Wedges Creek Dam was finished last week by Ernest Snyder. The flood of last spring washed out a new channel around the south end of the first structure and necessitated extensive repairs.  The new wing is of heavy concrete construction and should withstand any future flood.               


Old pine timbers of mysterious origin were dug up out of a hole eight feet below the surface of the basement in the American Stores condensary last week.  The timbers were 8 by 16 inches and covered by 2 by 12 lumber.  Underneath that structure was another 8 by 16 timber.  R. E. Schmedel, manager of the plant, said he believed the timbers might have been the bottom of an old flume used there in pioneer days.  The timbers were perfectly preserved, although it was thought they must have been buried there for more than half a century.


A professional football team was organized here this week and will play its first game Oct. 26 against the Marshfield squad. The team will make its first appearance here Nov. 2 against Marshfield.  Those on the team are Wendell Claflin, Walter Weaver, Homer Ralph, Melvin Ure, Herbert Neilsen, Carl Roder, Earl Bruhn, Glenn White, Ray and Clifford Shaw, Harry Donahue, Richard Becker, Jim Vincent, Leo Barton, Louis Bradbury, H. Frantz, Kenneth Keach, C. Seif, and Swann.  Harold Dean is manager and Claflin coach.                                  


A very pretty wedding took place at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Neillsville on Wednesday, Oct. 15, at 2 o’clock by Rev. Bauman, when Miss Elnora Ulman, the oldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Ulman of York, was united in marriage to Mr. Calvin Mills, the oldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Claude Mills of Weston.


The bridal pair was attended by Mrs. Everett Shaw, sister of he bride as maid of honor and Miss Carol Asplin, cousin of the groom as bridesmaid.  The groom’s attendants were Mr. Everett Shaw and Lee Mills.


The bride was beautifully gowned in white satin and lace and wore a veil of white tulle caught with a bridal wreath. She carried a shower bouquet of yellow roses and baby breath.  The maid of honor was attired in pale green chiffon, the bridesmaid in pale pink chiffon.  They carried bouquets of pink carnations and baby breath. The groom and his attendants wore dark blue suits.


Following the ceremony a reception was held at the home of the bride’s parents for about 120 guests.  The rooms were beautifully decorated in white, pink and green.  The waitresses were Miss Carol Huntley, Miss Violet Johnson, Miss Hilda Edens and Miss Frances Schafer.


The bride has been employed in Neillsville for the past seven and a-half years, three years in the Merchants Hotel and the last four and a-half years in the Neillsville Bakery.


The groom attended Neillsville High School, graduating in the class of 1925. Since then he has carried on his father’s farm.  He has served as town clerk for a number of years and is now manager of the Farmers Livestock Shipping Association, and secretary-treasurer of the Weston Local of the Farmers Union.  He is a very ambitious young man, well qualified for his duties.


The evening of the wedding the young couple gave a wedding dance at Barton’s Barn. They will go to housekeeping on the groom’s father’s farm.                                                                                


Prochaska Brothers Store Sale: Picnic Hams, 15¢ lb.; Rolled Oats, 5 lb. bag 19¢; ½ lb. pkg. Tea 21¢.


W. G. Woodward Co. – Men’s Denim Overalls 98¢; Men’s Denim Blanket-Lined jackets $1.69; Heavy Flannel, 10¢ yd.





© Every submission is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.


Show your appreciation of this freely provided information by not copying it to any other site without our permission.


Become a Clark County History Buff


Report Broken Links

A site created and maintained by the Clark County History Buffs
and supported by your generous donations.


Webmasters: Leon Konieczny, Tanya Paschke,

Janet & Stan Schwarze, James W. Sternitzky,

Crystal Wendt & Al Wessel