Point in History: June 1915
By Kris Leonhardt
William H. Skinner was born in New York in July 1847. At 8 years of age, his family moved to Oshkosh where they purchased a saw mill. Life in Oshkosh provided a fairly comfortable way of like for the Skinners for the next six years.
In 1861, misfortune tore through their family, as William watched his mother die.
That same year, war broke out between the North and South. William, now 14, enthusiastically heeded the call to defend the North and headed down to enlist. There, he was turned away.
While the Confederacy set no minimum age for battle, the Union army required enlisted men to be a minimum of 18 years of age. Still, many underage men made their way to the battlefield.
Some simply lied about their age to officers who turned a blind eye to their obvious youth just to fill their quotas. Others gained access with the help of supportive and forceful parents, while the remainder ran away from the community of their youth to places they were unknown.
After several tries, William was finally admitted to the Union defense and marched off to fight in the Civil War.
After becoming ill, Skinner received an Honorable Discharge and returned to Wisconsin a hero. He then worked his way around the northern and central regions of the state as a millwright.
While employed at a mill near Rib Lake, William lost his right arm between the shoulder and elbow, ending his ability to work in any mill.
Devastated, Skinner looked for opportunities elsewhere. Arriving in Stevens Point, he briefly operated a sporting goods store and a grocery business, before setting up a news depot and variety store on Strongs Ave., between Main and Clark streets.
Skinner maintained a long-running and successful business at that location, building a solid reputation in the city. Skinner became known as a charitable businessman. Over his many years in business he was given great respect, as he never spoke ill of anyone.
In April 1914, Skinner became severely ill. When doctors found a cancerous tumor in his stomach, Skinner was sent to Chicago for surgery. Doctors in Chicago determined that the tumor was too far developed for such treatment and Skinner returned home.
In the early days of June 1915, Skinner succumbed to the cancer and died at his home at 951 Main Street.
The pioneering businessman was laid to rest and his buried in the Forest Cemetery in Stevens Point.
Kris Leonhardt may be contacted by mail: P.O. Box 51, Marshfield, Wisconsin, 54449 or email: [email protected]