ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


John Clifford

1873 - 1922






Was on Way to Visit at a Friend’s Home

When the Accident Happened

Wife and Son are Out of Danger




An accident which shocked the entire community and resulted in the death of John Clifford, editor and one of the publishers of the Watertown Daily Times, occurred Monday afternoon at the Eighth street, crossing of the Milwaukee Road when passenger train No. 7 going west struck the closed sedan in which he, his wife, son, John aged 13 years, and Mr. and Mrs. M. Bock of Lowell were riding.  They were on their way to visit at the home of Walter Blaesius, nearby, when the accident happened.


The auto was crushed into a heap by the impact and the wonder is that any of the occupants escaped with their lives.  Mr. Clifford, who was fatally injured, was taken to the home of Louis Benzel, nearby, and the others were rushed to St. Mary’s Hospital.  An ambulance was secured and Mr. Clifford was also taken there but died before he reached there. 


He was conscious to the last and remarked to those near him that the end had come.  Both his limbs were fractured and his skull was crushed.  He was at the wheel when the train crashed into the machine.


Mrs. Clifford sustained severe injuries as did also the boy, but it is thought that both of them will recover.  Mr. and Mrs. Bock were also injured by not seriously.


How it Happened


At the crossing where the accident happened the view to the east is partially shut off by the malt house and it is thought that when Mr. Clifford saw the danger he turned the machine to the right to avoid the collision but one of the front wheels which had crossed the rail where the planking protected the crossing, could not be turned back over the rail in sufficient time to avoid the impact.  The machine was struck by the pilot of the locomotive and carried a considerable distance.  Mr. Clifford was thrown clear from the machine after sustaining the injuries which resulted in his death, and his boy was pinned underneath the wreckage.  His hip bone protruded and his foot was crushed.  The others were thrown away from the machine.


Officer Herbert Weis, who was at the depot at the time, was one of the first at the scene and with others rendered what aid was possible and phoned for doctors, but death called Mr. Clifford before he reached the hospital.


Dodge County Product


Mr. Clifford was a product of Dodge County.  He was born in the town of Emmet November 5, 1873, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Dominick Clifford, and was educated in the district school and completed it in Juneau high school from which he was graduated in 1890.  At the age of 16 he was appointed deputy clerk of the courts which he left five years later to engage in newspaper work and with his brother, M. W. Clifford, established the Juneau Independent, 1893, which he continued until 1906, when he was elected clerk of the courts.  In 1918 he was the choice of the Democratic Party for congress and made a remarkably good run under the adverse circumstances of that time.  In December of that year he purchased an interest in the Watertown Daily Times and devoted his time and talent to the duties of the publication.


On October 8, 1908, Mr. Clifford was united in marriage to Miss Emma M. Bohnert, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. August Bohnert of the town of Hustisford.


Mr. Clifford has held numerous positions of honor and trust as follows:  City clerk, Juneau, 1897 to 1898; justice, 1899 to 1906; commissioner of public works, 1904 to 1910; and secretary thereof for the first two years; secretary democratic county committee, 1902 to 1906; democratic candidate for chief clerk of Wisconsin assembly, 1905; elected clerk of the courts, sixth term, in 1916.  Mr. Clifford proved himself a capable official, fulfilling his duties with a rare sense of conscientious obligation, thus sustaining the confidence of his constituency and proving the wisdom of their choice. 


Possessed Fine Character


“It’s a fine thing to have faith” were the last words spoken to Rev. William Mahoney and those about him as he sank into the sleep that knows no waking on this side of eternity.  He knew the end was near but he bore up bravely despite the suffering and anguish he was bearing.  It was typical of his life; he had the faith not only in a religious sense but in every move of his active life.  While ever ready to grant to others the right of their opinion, when once he had made up his mind on any question which involved principle he was as adamant in maintaining it.  He possessed a genial and sympathetic nature which was always in evidence in his daily life.  Kind and considerate of others, he retained the right to think and act for himself on all matters concerning the public weal (sic).  He was primarily the keen man of business, but withal a man of liberal tastes with a fund of useful information acquired during his many years as a public official.  He had the social gift and a capacity for wholesome and liberal enjoyment that never flagged.  A public spirited man, he gave generously of his time and means to movements and institutions for public pleasure and improvement.  His purse strings were ever loosened for those in distress and by kindly acts he was endeared to all who knew him.  He was bright, kindly, witty and companionable and will long be missed in the social and business circles in the community where he was ever a welcome and animating figure.  He bespake confidence in all.  No man was more fair or just.  He lived according to the golden rule, at home, in business, in church.  Distinctly he was a safe, patriotic Christian gentleman who filled honorably and conscientiously every niche in which duty placed him.


A Companionable Man


Mr. Clifford was greatly devoted to his home and family and possessed a true fraternal spirit and was a valued member of many organizations.  He was a member of the Elks lodge, the Eagles, Catholic Knights of Wisconsin, Modern Woodmen, the Plattdeutscher Verein, senior counselor of the United Commercial Travelers, and a director of the Watertown Athletic Association and a valued member of the Chamber of Commerce, in all which activities he displayed a worthy zeal.  During the war he served Dodge County in a patriotic manner as a member of the committee on war activities and did much in the service of the government during that period.  He made many friendships and retained them by his genial good nature and engaging personality and was ever ready to render a favor or do a good turn for those in need.  A Christian to the core, he traveled life’s pathway with the golden rule as a guide and his tragic and untimely death is deeply deplored by all.  Hundreds of inquiries were received at the Times office today asking after the welfare of the other members of his family who were injured in the accident, testifying to the great esteem in which he was held.  In the death of Mr. Clifford this community has lost a man of sterling integrity whose influence during his life was a great asset and whose memory will be cherished by all.


He is survived by his widow and three children, John D. Clifford, William B. Clifford and Miss Emmalou Clifford.  His mother also survives as does three brothers and one sister:  M. W. Clifford, D. F. Clifford, E. A. Clifford, Miss Julia F. Clifford of Juneau.


The funeral will take place Thursday morning from the residence, 516 North Washington Street, to St. Bernard’s Church where services will be held at 9 o’clock.  The burial will be in St. Mary’s cemetery at Juneau.


The body will be taken to Juneau by automobile.


An inquest has been ordered and will be held before Justice Schmutzler at 10 o’clock Wednesday.



03 07 1955









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History of Watertown, Wisconsin