Frantz, George (History - 1848)


Janet Schwarze





----Source: 1918 History of Clark County, Wisconsin

GEORGE FRANTZ, a notable pioneer of Clark County, who came here as early as 1848, and who has the distinction of being now the oldest resident in the county, was born at Sarbrucken, on the Rhine, Province of Prussia, Germany, July 8, 1829, a son of Conrad and Julia (Brur) Frantz. The parents, who were farmers, lived and died in their native land. The father was a soldier under Napoleon, and served ten years in the army. While quartered in Switzerland he learned the trade of distiller, which he followed in connection with farming after the war was over. He was a member of the Lutheran Church.


He and his wife had five children-Conrad, Julia, Sophia, Laura, Henry and George. Of these children George was the only one to come to the United States, which he did at the age of 18 years, taking passage in a sailing vessel and landing in this country after a voyage of fifty-two days. In his native land he had learned the trade of butcher. From New York he made his way by canal boat to Buffalo, whence he came West to Milwaukee. In the latter place he stopped only two days, going on to Ft. Atkinson, where he stopped for a while, finding work on a farm. While there he visited Black River Falls. In 1848, about a year after his arrival in this country, Mr. Frantz came to Clark County and went to work making shingles by hand, afterwards working in various places. Then, securing 100 acres of land, he began farming in Pine Valley Township, Section 23, erecting a log building and leading a bachelor life for a while. His next move was to go to Jefferson County, where, on Nov. 15, 1855, he was united in marriage with Barbara Sontag. With a covered wagon he and his wife started for Clark County, to take up their residence on his land, but when they had nearly reached it he was told that his log house had burned down, so, as there were no accommodations in the neighborhood, he and his wife sought and found employment in the timber woods, he driving a team and his wife cooking for the camp.


The next spring Mr. Frantz returned to his land and built a one-room log house, with a fireplace, to replace the house that had burned, and he and his wife began pioneer life together under primitive conditions, having before them the task of carving a home from the wilderness. Their stock consisted of one cow, some pigs and chickens and two geese, which last mentioned fowls were the pioneers of their tribe, as they were the first geese in Clark County, though it is not recorded that they manifested any undue pride on that account. Mr. Frantz often drove to Black River Falls for provisions, taking a week for the trip by ox team. Had any one then told him that in a few years he would be able to go to San Francisco in less than the same amount of time, he would have thought they were joking. For transportation purposes he at first made use of the rude sort of sled which the early settlers called a "jumper," probably from the somewhat uncomfortable manner with which it made its way over rocks and stones, though when drawn by a pair of good oxen, its progress, if slow, was fairly sure, unless a tree got in the way.


Though many tender recollections are associated with this now ancient means of locomotion, Mr. Frantz today prefers a ride in a smooth-running automobile. He did not altogether depend on the jumper, however, as being ambitious, he set to work to make a wagon, cutting solid wheels for it from the trunk of a tree another device adopted by many of the pioneer settlers. When completed, though not up to the standard of the modern "Studebaker," or other good wagon of today, it answered its purpose, which was to transport the products of his farm to the nearest market and bring home needed supplies. It is said that the approach of one of these home-made wagons was invariably announced long before its appearance by the terrific creaking of the wheels, which could be heard over a mile or two of intervening territory. But, though, living under such primitive conditions, Mr. and Mrs. Frantz enjoyed life together and were happy, making progress slowly but surely with their farm and plodding along hopefully on the road to prosperity.


New settlers came in from time to time, and they formed neighborly friendships, the people helping one another readily, as is natural in pioneer communities. There were occasional entertainments, also, to which practically an were invited, and on Sundays men, women and children put on their best clothes and proceeded to the little church of their own faith to hear the preaching and take earnest part in their religious duties. Neither were holidays forgotten, and in this respect Mr. Frantz attained distinction, for it was he who promoted the first Fourth of July celebration in the then small hamlet of Neillsville, where at the time only seven or eight families lived. In this notable work he had willing and delighted coadjutors in the boys, those belonging to the Sturdivant, Ferguson and O'Neill families--for whom he devised an imposing uniform, consisting chiefly of paper caps, and organized a parade. The music consisted of a drum, which Mr. Frantz himself manufactured by nailing a piece of buckskin over a nail keg. Who was the happy drummer has not been narrated, but it is probable that each of the boys got a few whacks at the buckskin before the fun was over. That drum, had it been preserved and presented to the State Historical Society, would now be an object of more than ordinary interest to every true American.


On his farm, which was not far from Neillsville, Mr. and Mrs. Frantz and their family resided for 35 years. Mr. Frantz, indeed, was one of the fathers of the village, as he not only helped to lay out its site, but also to give it its name. Some of his pioneer experiences have been mentioned, but it may be added that when he and his wife first began domestic life, or as soon as they were able, they procured a few sheep, which animals they always kept, and from the wool they thus obtained, Mrs. Frantz would make her husband's socks and she is not only able to, but does actually knit and make socks to this day, probably having a record in this respect that is not equaled by any other woman in the country. Tin pans and crockery being scarce in early days, they used to make their bread on shingles. At one time they had no bread for several days, but Mr. Frantz traded some buckwheat for wheat, which Mrs. Frantz ground up in a coffee mill, and with that coarse flour made dodgers. As real coffee was also scarce they made use of a substitute of rye and wheat. Besides clearing up his farm and erecting buildings on it, including a nine-room house, to replace the old log structure, and a large and substantial barn, Mr. Frantz witnessed many improvements in the neighborhood.


Twice he served as chairman of Pine Valley Township, being elected on the Democratic ticket, at a time when the board was constituted of only three members. About 1883, Mr. Frantz and wife removed to Washburn Township, taking eighty acres of wild land in Section 9. There was a frame house on the place, which he improved, also erecting a barn and, subsequently, clearing part of the land. This place, which his son, Rudolph, now owns, has since been developed into a good farm, and here Mr. Frantz and his wife resided until moving to Neillsville in October, 1917. In November, 1915, they celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of their marriage, having ten years before they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary, both occasions being notable events.


Mr. Frantz is an old member of the Odd Fellows Lodge at Neillsville, and also of the Order of the Sons of Herman and the Workmen's Lodge at Neillsville Mrs. Frantz being a charter member of the Rebeekah Lodge. They have been the parents of nine children-Conrad, David, Julia, Sophia, George, Henry, Minnie, Rudolph and Frederick. Five of these children are now deceased. Julia died at the age of seven years, as also did Frederick. Minnie died at the age of 29, and David at that of 15 years and 9 months. The death of the last mentioned was a tragedy, as he was accidentally shot while out hunting. Sophia, also now deceased, was the wife of George Becker, of Ft. Atkinson, Wis. The living children are: Conrad, of Pine Valley Township George, who resides in Neillsville; Henry, also of Neillsville; and Rudolph, who runs the home farm, but now resides in Neillsville.

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