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City of Neillsville CemeterySelf-Guided Cemetery Tour
James O’Neill Sr Born: Died: Buried City of Neillsville Cemetery
James O’Neill Sr, founder of Neillsville, and pioneer of Clark county, was born in Lisbon, St. Lawrence County, New York, May 4, 1810, son of Andrew and Jane (Armstrong) O'Neill. With is brothers, Alexander and Henry, he came to Wisconsin 1836 and located at Prairie du Chien, coming from there to Black River Falls in 1839, and to the present site of Neillsville in 1844. Here he started a mill and established a town. the story of his life is a part of the history of the county. He was first chairman of the town of Pine Valley which preceded the organization of the county he was first superintendent of schools of Pine Valley when the township took in the whole county, he was chairman of the first county board and served as such for several years he was county judge and county treasurer. In 1849 and again in 1868, he did distinguished service in the legislature.
All in all, his life was a useful one, and his influence is one which will never be forgotten. He died March 28, 1882. Mr. O'Neill was married March 7, 1847, at Melrose, a Jackson County pioneer. This union was blessed with three children: Isabella, the first white child born in the county, is the wife of Wilson S. Covill, and lives at Tacoma, Washington. Maria, now deceased, married Frank Darling, of Washington. Thomas died March 2, 1872, at the age of 21 years and 20 days. Mrs. Jane O'Neill was a woman of kindly gracious culture, and her influence had much to do with making early Neillsville a desirable place of residence. She made her home the county center of religious, educational, social and philanthropic work, just as her husband made it the center of public affairs. After a long and useful life, she died June 9, 1873, at the age of 59 years, 7 months and 22 days. For his second wife, Mr. O'Neill married Mrs. Caroline Teller, who bore him one son, James, now of Tacoma, Wash.
James O’Neill, the founder of the city of Neillsville, Clark Co, Wis. came to Wis. In June 1845 with his brother Henry O’Neill (who died in 1858), E. L. Brockway, and brothers Samuel F and William Ferguson and they became the first permanent settlers in what became Clark Co, WI. The party came overland in a wagon drawn by oxen, cutting their way through the brush and the trip took two days. That was the first road ever made in Clark County.
Shortly upon arrival the O’Neill family felled trees and built a rough log cabin about 18 feet by 24 feet on the banks of O’Neill Creek. Next a mill was built and by the end of the year it was ready for work.
Constructed of logs and located in the bed of the creek it was supplied with one upright saw with a capacity of 4000 feet of lumber every twelve hours and it worked continuously.
The pine logs were easily obtained along O’Neill Creek and they were floated down to the mill. The lumber was rafted at the foot of the mill, run to the mouth of the creek and combined in rafts, which usually contained 10,000 feet. Having reached the falls these rafts were again combined into still larger ones containing 40,000 to 50,000 feet and ran to the Mississippi, then to Burlington, Iowa, consigned to Alexander O’Neill and sold for an average of $10 per thousand.
In 1846 James O’Neill erected a larger home to live in and the abandoned log cabin, undermined by the water, fell into the creek. In the summer, John Kennedy and his wife arrived and Mrs. Kennedy became the first white woman in the county.
She became the housekeeper at the O’Neill place, where the entire colony boarded.
One of the recreational activities in Clark and Jackson Counties in those years was to have parties at the various homes with people traveling to a particular home via sleighs over the frozen Black River One winter persons from Clark County would go to the homes of persons in Jackson County and then the next winter persons from Jackson County would come to homes of persons from Clark County.
On Christmas Eve, 1846 James O’Neill gave such a party at his house. Among those that attended were the Douglas family from Melrose, Jackson Co, WI including one of their daughters, Isabella.
Here began the courtship of James O’Neill, which when completed ended in his marriage to Jane Douglas on 7 March 1847 officiated by John Valentine, Justice of the Peace.
The following March their first daughter, Isabella Jane would be born, as the first child born in Clark Co. WI She would later marry Wilson S Covill. Following next another daughter Maria would be born in 1854. She would marry Frank Darling. A son Thomas would die as a young man and another son, John would die in the Civil War
James O’Neill had the first farm in the county and by 1850 he had about 50 acres cleared on his lands. A Mr. Hamilton McCullom opened a small farm in connection with his mill near the mouth of Cunningham Creek, and a little later, Moses Clark opened a farm near his mill on the creek.
James O’Neil would have a son, John, who would serve as a Private in the Civil War in Co I of the 14th Wis. Infantry. He would serve from 10 Feb 1862 till 15 April 1862 where he would die at Paducah, KY. He too is buried at Neillsville City Cemetery.