Chapter IV, 24 June 1909 -- Thorp Courier, Clark County, Wisconsin

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



"Thinned the rank woods;

And for the cheerful grange

Made rooms, where wolf and bear

Were used to range."



It is almost impossible to obtain an accurate list of the early settlers, who were residents of Clark County, in November, 1854, at the time the county was organized.

From an examination of the records, and from information believed to be trustworthy, the following list was secured. It is arranged alphabetically, and not in the order in which those named settled in the county. It does not include women, but embraces those only who were heads of families, or adult single men, and actual settlers, and does not profess to give the year of their settlement:

James Burke

Jack Murphy

Allan Boardman

J. McLaughton

S. C. Boardman

Miles Murray

R. McCalep

Eli Mead

Samuel Cawley

James O’Neill

Moses Clark

Robert Ross

James Conlin

Henry Rickerman

N. M. Clapp

Reuben Roik

Conrad Dell

Lyman Rodman

Elijah Eaton

Henry Rodman

George Frantz

Nicholas Snyder

Samuel Ferguson

James Sturgeon

William Ferguson

Cyrus O. Sturgeon

John French

Washington Short

B. F. French

Harris Searls

James French

Jas. W. Sturdevant

Robert French

Robert Scott

B. Hamilton

Edward Tompkins

William Heath

Hugh Wedge

John Hoofer

S. F. Weston

Martin Moran

Thomas Wilson

The foregoing list is probably inaccurate in two respects. On the one hand it may include two or three persons, who were not residents in November, 1854, and on the other it may omit the names of a few, who were residents then. It has been obtained from sources deemed to be reliable, but at this late day absolute accuracy is out of the question.

Shortly after the county was organized, the population increased rapidly.

The years from 1855 to 1859, was a period when many new settlers made their homes here.

Prominent among such of the earlier settlers who came within that period, some of whom were largely identified with the building up and improvements, of the county were James Hewett, Richard Dewhurst, John S. Dore, G. W. King, Chauncey Blakesless, S. N. Dickinson, W. C. Tomkins, L. K. Hubbard, James Lynch, Orson Bacon, James Furlong, G. Sterns, Edward Furlong, Anson Green and others who settled either at or near Neillsville. Daniel Gates who first located in the town of Levis, at the mouth of Wedge’s Creek, but who afterwards removed to Pine Valley, adjoining the city of Neillsville, David H. Robinson who settled at Weston Rapids and Leonard Stafford, who founded the village of Staffordville, that at one time was a rival village with Neillsville.

Settlers in the eastern part of the county, in that territory now known as Grant and Lynn, were Nelson Marsh, Robert Reidel, Levi Marsh, who located in or near Maple Works of the windfall, as it was sometimes termed, and Charles Sternitzky, John D. Wage, Archibald Yorkston, William Yorkston, Bartemus Brooks, Carl Schlinsog and Ferdinand Yankee, settled in what is now the town of Lynn or in that vicinity.

The Huntzickers, Henry, George, and Jacob, located in the central part of the county in or near the present town of Eaton.

There were other, but space does not permit of a full list.

Many of the ones named were candidates for county offices, and there were had some close elections.

The voters were so few, that a poll was often made in advance, that was verified as correctly by the result of the election. For supervisor at one election, S. N. Dickinson received ninety-nine votes, and Richard Dewhurst ninety-eight. John S. Dore was defeated for the office of county superintendent by W. C. Tompkins with one majority. O. S. Crossett won by one vote over C. W. Carpenter. For county treasurer James O’Neill had ninety-seven votes, and Orson Bacon ninety-five, and for the office of coroner Charles Sternitzky received ninety-five votes against ninety-four given for Geo. Frantz. Anecdotes are abundant about some of these men, and what transpired in the olden days.

Archibald and William Yorkston were "canny Scots," the former was married but William was a bachelor and lived with his brothers family.

At one of the early terms of the circuit court, both brothers were drawn to serve on the jury. In those days there were always two juries drawn, one set of the jurors to serve upon the grand jury, and another list was drawn to serve as petit jurors, for the trail of causes.

When the day arrived for court to convene Archibald and William, arrayed themselves in their Sunday raiment, and were about starting for Neillsville, when the wife exclaimed, "I have forgot to put up something for you to eat while you are away." The reply she received was, "Woman we take nothing to eat with us to court, we are jurymen and we eat with the Judge."

On arrival at court, it was discovered that neither were citizens of the United States and in a few minutes they were discharged from attendance. Thereupon Yorkston told the Judge he wanted his pay, and was informed by the Court that the clerk would draw him an order for his one day’s attendance and mileage. In a loud voice, and in great wrath Yorkston shouted: "I’ll ha’e na’ne of your orders I want my cash."

County orders were then a quite a discount, worth thirty or forty cents on the dollar. In fact county orders as last as the year 1871, sold for cash from fifty to seventy-five cents on the dollar.

They were receivable for county taxes, but not for state, town or school taxes. It was either just before, or during the administration of N. H. Withee as county treasurer that county orders became good as gold, and were paid promptly when presented at the county treasurer’s office.

In the fall of 1870, a judgment for the sum of five thousand four hundred and eleven dollars, was rendered against the county in favor of D. D. Cheney of Sparta, for unpaid county orders. Through the early seventies, the business of buying county orders was quiet a lucrative one, and numerous of the citizens, to a greater or lesser extent dealt in them. Reube Roick was known to the first settlers as the man who wouldn’t "accept service." An officer new to the business was given a criminal warrant for his arrest. Roick was either hare-lipped, or spoke through his nose, in such a manner, that his speech alone, would excite the risibilities of a stranger. The officer approached his victim, and carefully read the document to him. In an instant Roick in his peculiar nasal tones, said to him, "By the Great Godfrey, I won’t accept service," and he didn’t, the officer departing without his prisoner.

The first murder trail ever had in the county was the case of the state of Wisconsin against George Petingell who was indicted by the grand jury for the murder of an Indian, in the north central part of the county. The Indian was shot and killed and Petingell was supposed to have been the slayer.

One of the witnesses for the prosecution and a very reluctant one, was David W. Smith, familiarly known as Dave Smith. Smith was an odd character, a genuine Yankee from the state of Maine. He was a trapper in those days, afterward, he became interested in tax sale certificates and tax deeds. When he would apply for a tax deed, if the County Clerk would write it real nicely and rule it with red ink, he would always pay to the officer a liberal sum for the embellishment.

He occasionally would take a trip to the state of Maine, where he would stock himself with genuine spruce gum, sell it on the way back to the West or dispose of what remained when he returned. He left Clark County, quite a few years ago and when last heard from as in Barron County, in the vicinity of Rice Lake.

At the murder trail, the state was represented by B. F. French district attorney and J. W. Losey of La Crosse; the defendants counsel were S. N. Dickinson and Mr. Montgomery.

It was believed that Smith had knowledge of the homicide, and he was one of the witnesses for the prosecution. He proved to be an unwilling witness, and returned evasive answers to many of the questions propounded to him. It was deemed important to prove that Petingell’s gun was loaded when he started to go into the woods but the witness professed ignorance regarding the fact, when finally the district attorney sharply inquired of him, "What are guns usually loaded with up in that country?"

Smith replied, "Wa’l they are usually loaded with rust." Thus ended his examination.

The defense introduced no evidence and the jury in a short time acquitted the defendant.

Note -- In the article published in the issue of June 17th it is stated that Geo. Frantz now lives south of Neillsville about one mile. This was an error of the writer. Frantz now lives in the town of Washburn, but he has always resided in the county since his first settlement here.

In the issue of June 10th, the printing made an error by dropping out a line of the manuscript copy. The types made it say that Columbia was named after Capt. Clarke the explorer. It should read that Clarke’s fork of the Columbia river was named in his honor.

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