Tolford, J. W. (History - 1831)







----Source: 1918 History of Clark County, Wisconsin, pp. 620-621.


                      Mr. & Mrs. Joshua W. Tolford

J. W. TOLFORD, who died at his home in Neillsville on Saturday morning, Dec. 20, 1913, was for many years one of the best known and most highly esteemed citizens of Clark County. That the honor in which he was held rested upon a substantial foundation, may be seen in the following brief review of his life and character. Joshua Woodbury Tolford was born in New Brunswick, Oct. 31, 1831. At the age of 17 he went to Portland, Me., and learned the trade of carriage painter. In 1852 he came to Madison, Wis., and worked at his trade. He enlisted as first lieutenant in Company D, 23d Wisconsin Infantry, in 1862, and was afterward made captain of Company G in the same regiment, remaining such until the close of the war, and being mustered out July 4, 1865. He was engaged in business in Madison, and was also chief of police of that city for some time. In July, 1872, he came to Neillsville and went into the livery and stage business, operating a four-horse coach between this place and Humbird, the firm name being Lynn Tolford. He took a leading part in building a telegraph line from here to Hatfield, which connected Neillsville with the outside world. He served the county as sheriff, making a fine officer, and later was assistant clerk of the circuit court. He was one of the oldest Freemasons in Wisconsin, joining the order in Madison about 1853. For many years he remained a member of the Madison lodge, but after coming here attended and worked with the Neillsville lodge, later, becoming a member of it. He organized the Sherman Guards, the first militia company in Neillsville, and was their first captain. Captain Tolford was married Sept. 29, 1858, to Julia E. Jewett, who was born at Keysville, Essex County, N. Y., Sept. 27, 1837. To them were born six children, four of whom are now deceased-Arthur, who died in 1864 Frank, in 1866 Minnie, in 1918, and a baby, in 1874. Two sons are living-Ralph H., of Thorp, and Joshua W., Jr., of Jerome, Ariz. Captain Tolford also left three brothers-Frank, of San Francisco Ed., of Blaine, Wash., and George, of Boston, Mass. Captain Tolford's death was due chiefly to old age, and he had been in failing health for several months before he received the final summons. Funeral services were held at the Unitarian Church, Monday, under the direction of the Masons. Besides the Masonic ceremonies, an address was delivered by Judge O'Neill, and also by S. M. Marsh.

Address by Judge O'Neill: "For forty years Captain Tolford was an intimate and constant friend. It was my good fortune, to become acquainted with him soon after I came to Neillsville. I have known him as a businessman, as a public official, and I have often met him at his home. Especially during the period of his last illness I have often visited him. Now that he has passed from our midst it seems words are lacking to express my appreciation of his life and character. There is so much to admire, so much to praise, and so little to criticize by those who knew the dear Captain during all these years of a long and active life. Captain Tolford went out as lieutenant in the 23d Wisconsin, which was mustered into the service at Madison on Aug. 30, 1862. That regiment entered the service with 1,010 men. It was mustered out July 4, 1865, and there returned only 318 men and twenty-seven officers. The regiment traveled 11,000 miles, participated in fifteen engagements, and was under fire ninety-four days. The young lieutenant discharged his duty faithfully, served his country with courage and devotion, and returned with the rank of captain. Captain Tolford was the first commander of Lucius Fairchild Post of the Grand Army at Madison. The charter of the post is the oldest under which any Grand Army Post exists. The captain was in business in Madison until July, 1872, when he removed to Neillsville, which has ever since been his home. The record that our friend has made here in Clark County is well known. It is one of which his friends and family may justly be proud. As a public official he faithfully and honestly discharged his duty.


As a citizen he was patriotic. In all the walks of private life he was true and generous. Who can look back over this record of forty years in this community and point to a stain or even a fault in the life of him whom we today lay away to rest. Captain Tolford was about the most unselfish man I ever knew. He never seemed to think about himself he was always ready to render a kindly service to others. An illustration comes to mind.


A few years ago, Mr. Stockwell came to me and said that Captain Tolford was not drawing a pension that nearly all the old soldiers were getting pensions, but that the captain was too modest to apply. It was a surprise that one who so richly deserved his country's benefactions should not be receiving it. We went to our friend, obtained permission to act, and through Senator Spooner and Congressman Esch, secured the passage of a special act, giving the captain $30 a month. I recall that a letter from Col. William F. Vilas, under whom Captain Tolford had served, praising the conduct of his officer, assisted in securing the passage of the act of Congress. All who knew him remember the constancy of his friendship. It has been said the only things worth while in this world are its loves and its friendships. Captain Tolford made all who became intimate with him his friends. No man in this community has had, more friends or more deserved them. He had a great, big, warm tender heart. He nursed the sick. It would be a long list if we should set down the names of all whom he attended in illness.


There is a beautiful chapter in the Memorabilia of Socrates on friendship, in which it is stated that a true friend serves you without calling. Your ox will serve- you if you will house and feed him well, but then only, when you call upon him. But a real friend does not wait a call. He is always looking for an opportunity to do you a kindness. It may be said of Captain Tolford that he was always ready and anxious to render a service to those who were in trouble. This was his nature. His deeds came forth like water from a bubbling fountain. We shall remember him as a brave soldier, a citizen of public spirit and zeal in every good cause, and an honest and upright man in all his relations with his fellows. We shall cherish his memory and emulate his virtues. Society has been made better and sweeter for the life and example of Joshua W. Tolford."



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