Chapter XXII, 28 October 1909 -- Thorp Courier, Clark County, Wisconsin

Written by R. J. MacBride and transcribed by Crystal Wendt.








"Tis education forms the conscious mind Just as the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined."



Some five or six years before the war there were but three school houses in Clark county, one south of Neillsville, one in the vicinity of Weston’s Rapids and on in the town of Levis on the west side of Black River, a mile north of Wedge’s Creek.

John S. Dore who for a number of terms, was county superintendent of schools in Clark county, was on of although of although not the earliest of the teachers.

In a written statement made by him in the year 1909, Mr. Dore gives as the date of his settlement in Clark county, the year 1858. He spent part of the summer of that year in the town of Levis.

He finally settled at Neillsville on the 22nd day of June, 1858, and in 1859 commenced teaching school in the old school house about half a mile south of Neillsville, on what is now know as Geo. E. Crother’s farm. He began teaching on the 14th day of November 1859, and had nineteen pupils, their ages running from 5 to 26 years. In the year 1860 the attendance had increased until it reached forty-one.

Mr. Dore states that in 1850 there were only three schools in the county including his own. Another of the early teachers, who followed Dr. Dore teaching, was Miss Babcock.

The old school house south of Neillsville was continued in service for a number of years after 1860, until in 1865, a new one story frame school building, enjoying the luxury of a cost of paint was built near the corner know known as Fourth and Court Streets at Neillsville.

This new building did serve until the first brick high school building was erected in the year 1874, on the ample school square at Neillsville, dedicated for the purpose.

In early days there were several private schools, that were held in the court room of the old frame court house, among the teachers was conducted such private schools, was Henrietta Nettleton who afterwards became the wife of Ira B. Pope, at one time district attorney of Clark county, and afterward county clerk of the county. Miss Nettleton also taught the district school in Levis in 1858, and she was succeeded by R. F. Sturdevant. After the building of the frame district school building at Neillsville, the county board prohibited school being at the court house.

As the county settled up and new towns were organized, school houses began to increase and multiply, and today the county enjoys having a first-class educational system, in the high schools, and graded and district schools.

The first high school building in the county was erected at Neillsville in the year 1874. It is still used, in connection with the magnificent new brick high school building, to be hereafter more fully referred to.

The free high school at Neillsville was organized under the Statutes in 1878, although high school work had been carried on previous to that time. The building erected in 1874 was a two story brick building with cupola, and stone basement, and accommodated six departments. The cost of the building was in the neighborhood of sixteen thousand dollars.

The new high school building at Neillsville was completed in 1904 at a cost, including heating and seating, of thirty thousand dollars. It is a handsome structure, two stories in height, with a stone basement surmounted by a cupola with flag staff. The architect of the building was A. E. Parkinson of La Crosse, Wis., and the contractors was Olson & Son of Musekgon, Mich. The brick used in the building were pressed brick from Menomonie, Wis. The new high school building it occupied by the scholars of the high school proper, and by the pupils of the eighth grade. It also houses the Neillsville Public Library. There are twelve teachers including the principal, and in addition there are three teachers in the school house on the north side, in the first ward of Neillsville. All of the schools being under the jurisdiction of joint school district No. four of the city of Neillsville and the town of Pine Valley.

In addition to the free high school at Neillsville there are five others in the county located at Abbotsford, Colby, Greenwood, Humbird, Loyal and Thorp, all of which maintain a four year course of study. There is also a free high school at Unity maintaining a four year course. All of these schools have fine commodious buildings, well adapted for their purpose.

There are four State graded schools of the first class in the county, located at Dorchester, Granton, Owen and Withee respectively. There are also four State graded schools of the second class. These graded schools all receive State aid, and the classes differ in respect to the amount received from the State, the number of departments and the qualifications of the principal and assistants, as to the diploma or certificate they hold that it is necessary to posses, to authorize them to teach in one or the other of the classes.

The last published report of the county superintendent of schools, for the year 1908, give the number of school districts in the county at 141, and the number of schools house 150

The number of children of school age (4 to 20) 11,476, of which number 6,150 were between the ages of seven and fourteen years, between which ages education and attendance at schools is compulsory.

The coming report of the county superintendent for the year 1909 will show a slight increase in the number of schools, notably the erection of a fine brick school house in 1909 at the village of Curtiss, that cost in the neighborhood of eight thousand dollars. The number of children of school age will also be increased in the report for 1909.


According to the census in 1905, there were thirty-four clergymen enumerated in Clark county. The number of church buildings are not given.

There is probably but a slight increase in number of resident clergymen, and the number of church edifices at the present time, over the number that existed four years ago.

Religious services were had at Neillsville, at district intervals prior to 1850, by an occasional Methodist clergymen. Just before the commencement of the Civil War like services were held more frequently averaging about once a month, at that time Neillsville was attached to a neighboring circuit, and was supplied by outside preachers.

Services were held at one time in the old original grist mill, and afterwards in the old frame court house.

In the early days of exploration and discovery, it was the Roman Catholic church that led the van in disseminating the gospel to the Indians, with such men as Father Allouez, Pere Maquette and many more like them engaged in the religious work, but when the white man came and settlements were made in the clearings and on the prairies, it was the Methodist church that wad the pioneer in the field, and it was the Methodist circuit riders, with their saddle bags, and bibles that were found in the front ranks of the new settlers, and sharing with them their hardships and privations, giving in return for hospitality, and comforts and solace of religion.

The first Protestant minister of the gospel to come to Wisconsin, and preach west or north of the Wisconsin River was the late Rev. Alfred Brunson of Prairie de Chien, a Methodist minister.

The life of Peter Cartight and the book published years ago by W. H. Milburn, the blind preacher of Illinois, entitled ‘Ten Years of a Preacher’s Life," are as interesting as one of Cooper’s novels, descriptive of the woods and the prairies.

Ad it was generally, so it was in Clark county the Methodist were not only the first to hold services in the county, but they erected the first church building in the county at Neillsville in the year 1869.

The second church building in the county was built in the town of Grant, east of Gottelieb Garbishes corners. This was built in the early seventies by the Lutheran Society.

The Presbyterian church had an occasional visiting preacher here in the early days but no regular organization of a church society was perfected until about forty years ago; preaching was had in the old court house, and occasionally in the country at school houses or town halls.

The Presbyterian Church at Neillsville was built in the year 1875, and has been used regularly ever since as a place of worship by those connected with that faith.

The Roman Catholic Church was erected at Neillsville in the year 1877, and has connected with it a large parochial school. The Catholic church has also fine edifices at Colby, Humbird, Thorp, town of Withee and other places, and generally have parochial schools in connection with the church. This is true also, as to parochial schools, with the Lutheran Churches in the county.

There are in all, eight church buildings at Neillsville: Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Congregational, Episcopalian, German Lutheran, Unitarian and Norwegian Lutheran.

All of these church buildings, are built of brick or brick veneered, except the Episcopal and the Unitarian churches -- both of which are frame structures.

In the last named two churches, regular services are not held, but preaching is had occasionally in both. Pastors from the various churches at Neillsville frequently hold divine services in several towns near Neillsville.

Among the earlier of the Methodist ministers were W. T. Broughton and Rev. Mr. Walter. Some time after them came Bert E. Wheeler, Rev. Mr. Foster, J. D. Brouthers, and others.

While all of the ministers enjoyed the respect and esteem of the whole community, Wheeler and Foster were great favorites with all classes, in and out of the church.

Rev. Father Volz was among the earliest pastors of the Roman Catholic church, coming to Neillsville about the time the church was built and remaining for quite a number of years. He was also a popular pastor and was highly respected.

For the Presbyterian Rev. James Mair held regular services in the old court house more then forty years ago, some few years after and shortly before the building of the Presbyterian Church Rev. William T. Hendren, became pastor. Mari was a Scotchman and had taken the degree of master of Arts at one of the Scottish Universities, he invariably added to his signature the letters, M. A. to indicate it, although in this country, those who affect such additions usually use the initials of the Latin equivalent and write it A. M. (Atrium Magister.)

On one accession in 1868 the members of the Methodist church had a donation and raised quite a sum of money, some sixty odd dollars, besides quantities of flour, groceries, other articles of that kind. Inspired by their success, the Presbyterians resolved to have a donation for the Rev. Mr. Mair, and they enlisted the services of half a dozen young men who were not members of any particular church, and who assumed the charge and management of the whole affair.

It was just prior to the election of county officers and the committee in charge promptly assessed all the candidates on both tickets in sums from two to ten dollars each, which assessments were promptly paid.

The donation party was held at the hall of the O’Neill house, a large room or hall upstairs, that was used for dances, concerts, and theatrical performances, and when not so used, it accommodated a dozen or more beds for sleeping purpose, and was called the school section. Without the knowledge or sanction of the church members, the committee in charge sold dance tickets, and when the older of the people had gone home the donation party was turned into a dancing party. Mrs. Jane O’Neill, the wife of our first settler, was landlady of the hotel, she was very religious, and was shocked to learn that dancing was going one. She appeared on the scene and forbid it, but the hall been rented and paid for and her expostulations were without avail.

When the net results were figured up there was raised at the donation party $165.00 in money, four barrels of flour and groceries in great quantities.

Mr. Mair made a speech but did not participate in the dancing part of the program. He afterwards studied law, was elected and served as justice of the peace, finally removed to Minnesota, and died there a number of years ago.

Rev. William T. Hendren was largely instrumental in securing the construction of the Presbyterian church at Neillsville and for many years after its construction he was pastor of the church. He removed to Greenwood in Clark county in 190? Where he and his faithful wife still reside, having the love and confidence of every one in the county, that have the good fortune and pleasure of their acquaintance. Mr. Hendren still has the armor on and occasionally conducts divine service at Greenwood and in the surrounding neighborhoods.

The late Rev. Harvey Palmer of the town of Pine Valley, was a regularly ordained minister and preached occasionally in the early days, and the same many be said of the late John Graves of Loyal and no doubt of others in different sections of the county.

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