Richard F. (1848 - 1934)
Contact: Crystal Wendt
Surnames: Kountz, Sirwell, Morgan, Bailey, White
----Source: Neillsville Press (Neillsville, Clark County, Wis.) 11 Oct. 1934
Kountz, Richard F. (23 Oct. 1848 - 4 Oct. 1934)
PIONEER OF CITY TAKEN BY DEATH
R. F. Kountz, Promient in Civic Affairs, Dies After Long Illness
Another of the few remaining pioneers of Neillsville passed away from the scene on Thursday, Oct. 4, when Richard F. Kountz died at his home in this city. He had been confined to the home for many months, but had no specific disease - he apparently weakened gradually by reason of old age.
Richard F. Kountz was born at Pittsburgh, Pa., Oct. 23, 1848, the son of Hiram and Elizabeth (Sirwell) Kountz. The father was for a year a steamboat captain, plying on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. He was of Holland descent. The mother was a native of England. When Richard was only six years old his father died. Four years later, his mother married again and the family soon after moved to Ohio, where they lived until 1865. His step-father enlisted in the Union Army and Richard, and then a lad of about fifteen years of age was left to help support the family. It was at this time that an incident occurred while greatly impressed his mind and influenced his future life: Gen. John H. Morgan, the noted Confederate cavalry leader, with a body of troopers crossed the Ohio River from Kentucky and invaded Ohio. Rumors of Morgan’s dashing bravery and the devastation of his horsemen spread fear throughout southern Ohio. While passing through the region where Richard lived, Gen. Morgan took him along as a guide for several days. While he was practically a prisoner of war, he was so kindly treated by Morgan and so deeply impressed by Morgan’s gallantry and humane treatment of the people as his troops passed –especially his care and protection of the women and children, that he became an ardent admirer of Gen. Morgan and his men.
In October 1868, he left home and went to Fort Dodge, Iowa, where he spent the winter. In March he came to Black River Falls, Wis. there he worked in store, bought wheat for an elevator, and later established a store at Humbird which he carried on for a time.
In 1874 he came to Neillsville and went into partnership in a store with his brother, W. K. Kountz. A year later they dissolved partnership and Richard followed various occupations. About 1876 he was elected Justice of the Peace, an office that he held for many years. Soon after his election he began the study of law by himself, and in 1879 he was admitted to the bar. Previous to his election, law enforcement in Neillsville had been very lax, as in most frontier villages and lumber towns, but Mr. Kountz as Justice of Peace and later as Police Justice and City Attorney brought in an era of strict law enforcement.
For many years he represented Neillsville on the County Board and was easily the most influential member. While looking well after the interests of this city, he was active in all measures to promote the welfare of the county as a whole.
Locally he was always alert for the public interests. He organized the first fire company, was active in getting the railroad built into the city from Merrillan; helped to organize the first electric light company and was for many years its manager. For many years he was a Court Commissioner, and for several years past was County Divorce Counsel.
Because of failing health and poor eyesight he has not been able to practice his profession for the past few years. During this time he has been tenderly cared for by his daughter, Kitty, now the sole survivor of the family.
Mr. Kountz was married at Black River Falls, in 1872 to Miss Emma Bailey. To them were born two children, Winnifred who died in infancy and Kitty who lives at home.
Mrs. Kountz died on March 15, 1919.
Funeral services for Mr. Kountz were held at the home Saturday afternoon, Rev. Paul White officiating.
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