Local Histories and Places of Interest
Early settlers to southwest Wisconsin utilized the abundant rivers and other natural resources to their advantage when establishing communities. Each Grant County community has an interesting and unique history.
- National Register of Historic Sites for Grant County
- Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board
- State Historical Markers in Grant County WI
- Travel Wisconsin
Originally known as Blake’s Prairie, then as Tafton, the “Blooming Town” was named after the agricultural “blooming” that occurred in the area after a local blacksmith patented a device for sowing oats in 1867. (More about Bloomington history.)
Taft’s Mill Pottery – Highway 35, Downtown, 608-994-2337
Built by D.W. Taft in 1852, this stone mill was once described as “the best equipped merchant and custom mill in the west.” Now a pottery store. Open daily.
Blake’s Prairie Jr. Fair
The Blake’s Prairie Jr. Fair, established in 1867, is held at the fairgrounds on the north edge of Bloomington in July. The fair highlights the work of area 4-H and FFA youth and provides family entertainment for the weekend. The food stands are fund-raising projects of community church and service organizations. While visiting the fair, sample the smoked meats and sausages at Bloomington Custom Meats or try some tasty baked goods at Ma’s Bakery.
For more Bloomington information, call Grant County Tourism office at 608-822-3501.
When the railroad arrived in 1856, only two rugged loggers lived in the beautiful oak grove where the city now stands. They weren’t alone for long. The railroad’s arrival meant commerce, and Boscobel soon thrived. The concept of the Gideon Bible was born here.
Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Hall – 1860
102 May Street, 608-375-5257.
The only remaining Civil War veterans hall in Wisconsin. Now a Civil War museum. Open during community festivals or by appointment.
Old Rock High School – 1898
207 Buchanan Street, 608-375-5006.
(National Register of Historic Places)
Rehabilitated Romanesque Revival limestone school designed by Van Ryn and De Gelleke of Milwaukee. They were prominent architects who designed many Wisconsin schools, including the first Normal School (teachers college) in Platteville. Tours by appointment.
Boscobel Hotel – 1863
Wisconsin Avenue, 608-375-4164.
(Religious Beginnings, National Register of Historic Places)
In 1898, two traveling salesmen met in Room 19 and conceived the idea of a “Traveler’s Bible.” They founded what is known today is the Gideons. Tours By appointment.
Railroad Depot Museum – 1870s
800 Block Wisconsin Avenue, 608-375-2672 or 608-375-5741.
(Museums and Recreation)
The restored depot has been developed as a railroad and early America museum.
Boy Scout Cabin – 1913
Corner of LaBelle and Park Streets
Cabin has been renovated for a park building.
Wilson State Tree Nursery
Highway 133, 1 Mile East of Boscobel, 608-375-4123.
The nursery is the largest of its kind in the state. Tours are available.
For more Boscobel information, call 608-375-2672 or see the Boscobel website
The town of Cassville is located along the Mississippi River. In the 1830s, Cassville was a bustling river town which tried unsuccessfully to become the first Territorial Capital. The Town was named after Lewis Cass, Governor of the Michigan Territory, which then included Wisconsin.
Prime Street, Next to Riverside Park, 608-725-5180.
Cross the Mississippi River by car ferry on the historic ferry route traveled by Nelson Dewey in 1836. Nelson Dewey became Wisconsin’s first governor in 1848. The car ferry runs May-Oct. (Call 608-725-5180 for hours of operation. Answering machine provides 24 hour information)
Stonefield Historic Site
North of Cassville on Great River Road, County V V, 608-725-5210.
(Agricultural Beginnings, Museums and Recreation, Admission Fee)
This open-air museum depicts a turn-of-the-century farming community where you can learn how to make brooms, visit with shopkeepers, eat ice cream and stroll through the village park. Hundreds of antique farm implements are in the State Agricultural museum. Owned and operated by State Historical Society of Wisconsin, the Stonefield Village Historic Site is open daily Memorial Day weekend through early October.
Nelson Dewey Home Site
North of Cassville on Great River Road, County V V.
(Political Beginnings, National Register of Historic Places)
Costumed guides lead you through the reconstructed home of Wisconsin’s first state governor, elected in 1848. Hear the stories of his life and time. Open daily Memorial Day weekend through early October.
Nelson Dewey State Park
North of Cassville on Great River Road, County V V, 608-725-5374.
(Political Beginnings, Admission Fee)
The Nelson Dewey State Park features a breathtaking bluff-top view of the Mississippi River. See Indian mounds, watch eagles in fall and winter, and walk through native prairie. Camp, hike and picnic. Showers.
For more Cassville information, call 608-725-5855 or see the Cassville website.
Originally established as an agricultural and railroad community, Cuba City had a population of 48 people in the 1880 census. A roadside inn called “The Western,” built in 1853, provided room and board for many travelers. The official name of the town was changed to Cuba City in the 1920s. Cuba City is also referred to as the “City of Presidents.” Presidential plaques were developed in celebration of the US bicentennial in 1976 and continue to be displayed on Main Street today.
Parade of Presidents
Established in 1976, the Presidential Shields lining Main Street portray the silhouette, name and years of service for each President. Registered with the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration in Washington DC, it is one of the few remaining Bicentennial projects.
Visitors Center and Railroad Museum
Located on Main Street and is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day from 10 am till 2 pm each Saturday, or by appointment.
For more Cuba City information, call 608-744-2152 or see the Cuba City website.
This agricultural community was founded in the late 1840s, by a settler named Dickey.
Dickeyville Grotto – 1925-1930
Highway 61 North, Group Tours Call 608-568-3119.
A religious and patriotic wonder made of stone, mortar and millions of pieces of colored glass, gems, stalactites and more, the Dickeyville Grotto was built between 1925-1930 by Father Matthias Wernerus, Pastor of the Catholic Parish from 1918 to 1931. Open year-round.
For more Dickeyville information, call 608-568-3333 or see the Dickeyville website.
The story goes that Fennimore was named after John Fennimore, a farmer who settled near the Old Military Road leading to Prairie du Chien. He mysteriously disappeared during the Black Hawk War, never to be seen again.
Fennimore Doll & Toy Museum
1135 6th Street, 608-822-4100 or 1-888-867-7935.
(Museums and Recreation, Admission Fee)
Enjoy reliving the past as you meander through this collection of dolls and puppets, tractors, circus memorabilia, pedal cars and more. The Fennimore Doll & Toy Museum is open daily May 1 – October.
Fennimore Railroad and Historical Society Museum
610 Lincoln Avenue, 608-822-6319.
(Museums and Recreation)
A shiny black, 1907 Davenport 2-6-0 narrow gauge steam engine in front of the museum honors the “Dinky,” a train line which ran between Fennimore and Woodman. The Railroad and Historical Society Museum features train memorabilia and a miniature train available for rides on scheduled days. The museum also showcases an excellent collection of antique farm tools and equipment, military uniforms and war memorabilia, and home appliances and tools from the 1900 era. Open daily 10am – 4pm, Memorial Day – Labor Day; Week-ends only Sept.-Oct. or by appointment.
Dwight T. Parker Library – 1923
925 Lincoln Avenue.
(National Register of Historic Places)
The library was designed by Claude and Starck, Madison architects who were noted for their Prairie Style architecture.
For more Fennimore information, call 608-822-3599 or see the Fennimore website.
Between Glen Haven and Cassville.
Eagle Valley is a 1450-acre preserve along the Mississippi River privately owned and managed by Kohler Co. and Kohler Trust for Preservation. A large population of eagles make Grant County their year-round home. The winter months provide the ideal time for observing eagles between Glen Haven and Cassville. The wooded Mississippi River bluffs, open water, and public lands in this area provide ideal habitat for eagles, as well as other wildlife and plant species.
In the 1820s, a feud over possession of a lead mine between James Hardy and Moses Meeker gave this site its name of “Hardy’s Scrape.” Despite Hardy’s victory, the town’s name later became Hard Scrabble. The name of Hazel Green was adopted when the town incorporated in 1838. Many zinc ore producing mines were located near Hazel Green during the mining boom of the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Point of Beginnings Historical Marker
Highway 80, South of Hazel Green.
(Political Beginnings) Lucius Lyons began the land survey of the state Wisconsin near here in 1832.
Historic Downtown Hazel Green
Look for the Wisconsin House – 1846, a former stagecoach stop, the Simison brick building – 1847 and 1853, and the Opera House/Town Hall – 1898.
For more Hazel Green information, call 608-854-2953 or see the Hazel Green website.
Fenley Recreation Area
West of Kieler on Bluff Hollow Road.
Undeveloped recreation area, the Fenley State Recreation Area is open year round from sunrise to sunset. Hiking trails, bird watching, and scenic overlook of the Mississippi River. Located in close proximity to the ghost town of Sinnippi.
For more Kieler information, call Grant County Tourism office at 608-822-3501.
One of the earliest settlements in the state, lead prospectors came to Lancaster in 1828. But the real prize would be found later in the cultivating of the fertile prairie soil. Major G.M. Price, a land speculator, platted the town in 1837. He was persuaded to name it Lancaster by a homesick relative who emigrated from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Lancaster is the county seat of Grant County.
Grant County Courthouse – 1905 / Civil War Monument – 1867
130 West Maple Street.
(Political Beginnings, National Register of Historic Places)
The octagonal copper and glass dome on the county courthouse sparkles over downtown Lancaster. Open during business hours, self-guided tour information is available. The first Civil War monument ever erected in Wisconsin stands on the northeast corner of the square.
Grave Site of Governor Nelson Dewey
South Jefferson Street.
Learn about the tragic life of Wisconsin’s first governor from the marker at his modest grave site.
Grant County History Museum (formerly the Cunningham Museum)
129 East Maple Street, 608-723-2287 or 608-723-4925.
(Museums and Recreation)
African-American historic exhibits and a remnant of the original oak survey marker from the Point of Beginning. Open Monday-Saturday afternoons or by appointment.
Pleasant Ridge Cemetery – 1860s
Slabtown Road, 5 Miles West of Lancaster.
See the tombstones of the Shepard and Green families in this scenic ridge top cemetery located near their former farmland. Historical marker. (Also see display at Grant County History Museum). This area was one of the first African-American settlements in Wisconsin.
Grant County Fair Grounds
County Road A (Elm Street), 608-723-2135.
The Grant County Fair Grounds is the site of numerous activities, including the Grant County Fair, and the Wisconsin High School Regional Rodeo.
University of Wisconsin Research Station
Highway 81 and 35, West of Lancaster, 608-723-2580.
Tours are available.
For more Lancaster information, call 608-723-2820 or see the Lancaster website.
Rural Route One Popcorn
Rural Livingston, 608-943-8283.
Popcorn is grown and packaged at rural Livingston with the good earth all around. Visitors can buy popcorn in 2# bags or 25# bags, as well as microwave, and be delighted with caramel corn or white chocolate popcorn with almonds. Group tours by appointment.
For more Livingston information, call 608-943-6800 or see the Livingston website.
The community of Montfort is well-known for popcorn, wind turbines and delicious ice cream. The agricultural community is located on Highway 18 at the Grant – Iowa county line.
Rural Route 1 Popcorn Retail Store
Rural Route 1 Popcorn Website
101 Hwy 18 Montfort, 1-800-828-8115.
Visitors can buy a wide variety of popcorn flavors. Open daily.
For more Montfort information, call 608-943-6917.
In 1835, William S. Hamilton, founder of Wiota and Hamilton’s diggings, built a lead smelter along the Wisconsin River near present day Victora Park. Although Hamilton was active in securing Wisconsin’s territorial status, he eventually left to pursue California gold in 1849. Muscoda’s business district moved from the river to its present location after the arrival of the railroad in 1856. Most of downtown Muscoda’s buildings date to this post-railroad economic boom period.
Tanner Drug Store – 1898
139 North Wisconsin Avenue, 608-739-3218.
This old-fashioned working drug store has its original oak and white pine counters, and drawers full of herbs and other old-time remedies. Antiques.
Victorian Rose – 1897
323 South Wisconsin Avenue, 608-739-3218.
(National Register of Historic Places)
Along the river, lumber baron John Young built this mansion of the finest virgin oak, bird’s-eye maple and walnut. Antiques.
Ellis and Tom Nelson Sculptures
See scraps of iron and pieces of steel come to life in the form of animals, prehistoric dinosaurs and moving contraptions. Local welder Ellis Nelson and, upon his death, his son Tom, have earned a reputation as creative welders and artists. For one-of-a-kind creations, visit Dark Metal Artworks website .
Morel Mushroom Festival
Held each year during the weekend after Mother’s Day, in addition to the delicious fresh mushrooms, the festival features car shows, craft fair, and fireworks. See the Morel Mushroom Festival webpage.
Spurgeon Vineyards and Winery
Exclusive wines and host of many wine trail events, Spurgeon Vineyards & Winery offers free samples and tours year round. 608-929-7692 or 800-236-5555. 16008 Pinetree Rd., Highland, WI 53543
For more Muscoda information, call 608-723-2820 or see the Muscoda website.
“Old Military Road” Historical Marker
The Old Military Road was built in 1835-1836 and connects Ft. Crawford at Prairie du Chien with Ft. Howard at Green Bay. View the beautiful scenery.
For more Patch Grove information, call Grant County Tourism office at 608-822-3501.
Platteville began as Platte River Diggings in 1827. It is said that the Native Americans smelted lead and put it into “platts” or bowl-shaped masses which usually weighed about 70 pounds. Look for the world’s largest “M” located east of town, at the top of the Platteville Mound. Constructed of limestone and measuring 214 feet by 241 feet, the letter represents the first Mining School in the United States. Platteville’s newly renovated Main Street business district provides visitors easy access while maintaining the same picturesque, historic downtown feel.
Mitchell-Rountree Stone Cottage – 1837
North East Corner of Jewett Street and Lancaster Street (Highway 81), 608-348-2287.
(Geological Beginnings, Museums and Recreation, Political Beginnings)
A standout in the lead region, this limestone building is patterned after a distinctive Tidewater Virginia style. Built in 1837 by Revolutionary War veteran, Rev. Samuel Mitchell and his son-in-law, John Rountree, one of the founders of Platteville. It contains original furnishings. Tours offered Memorial Day – Labor Day or by appointment.
Mining Museum and Rollo Jamison Museum
405 East Main Street, 608-348-3301.
(Geological Beginnings, Museums and Recreation, Admission Fee)
Tour the 1845, Bevan’s Lead Mine and ride the above-ground 1931, mine train. Experience turn-of-the-century life with exhibits of farming, business and homes located in historic school buildings. Mine tours are offered from May – October, or by appointment year round. Changing exhibits are open November – April, M-F. Mining Museum and Rollo Jamison Museum website
Rountree Hall (Platteville Academy) – 1853
30 North Elm Street, 608-348-3301.
(National Register of Historic Places)
Established in 1839, the Platteville Academy was one of the earliest educational institutions in Wisconsin. Students were taught to teach in the state’s first “Normal School.” The Academy eventually became the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Named after the founder of Platteville, Rountree Hall is now private apartments. Historical Marker.
Area Research Center (Wisconsin Room)
University of Wisconsin – Platteville, Basement of the Karrmann Library, 608-342-1719.
The source of genealogical records, histories and archives for southwestern Wisconsin. Open Daily, Monday-Friday.
Ipswich Prairie Natural Area
3 Miles South of Platteville on Ipswitch Road (Off of Highway 80).
Ipswich Prairie protects the largest remnant of deep-soil mesic prairie that once occurred in southwestern Wisconsin. This long, narrow stretch of mesic to dry-mesic prairie borders an old railroad right-of-way on the gently rolling topography of Wisconsin’s Driftless Area. Ipswich Prairie Natural Area
Center for the Arts / University of Wisconsin – Platteville
University of Wisconsin – Platteville, 608-342-1491.
The Center for the Arts is a professional performing arts facility on the UWP campus. The CFA has two performance spaces. The acoustically designed Brodbeck Concert Hall seats approximately 500 and is home to numerous concerts, theater productions, and guest performances throughout the year. The smaller 200-seat flexible Theatre provides a more intimate setting for smaller play productions and recitals.
For more Platteville information, call 608-348-8888, or see the Platteville Regional Chamber website.
Native Americans and the French were mining lead here as early as 1690. More than a century later, Willis St. John staked a rich claim at the bluff-top cave which still bears his name. The twin communities of Potosi and Tennyson grew up as rival mining villages, called Snake Hollow and Dutch Hollow. Potosi and Tennyson are located along what is now the Great River Road, placing them strategically near the Mississippi River.
The Potosi Brewery was founded in 1852 by Germans Gabriel Hail and John Alrecht. The non-profit Potosi Brewery Foundation began efforts for a complete renovation of the building in 2000, and it is now home to a brewpub, The National Brewery Museum, the Potosi Brewing Company Transportation Museum and Gift Shop, and a Great River Road interpretive center.
Potosi Brewing Company Production Facility
The Potosi Brewing Company Production Facility brings large capacity brewing back to Potosi with craft beers produced, bottled, canned or kegged in this state-of-the-art facility. For tour information, please check the Potosi Brewery web site.
Holiday Gardens Event Center
Schedule your next business meeting, conference, class reunion, wedding reception, or family event at the Holiday Gardens Event Center. The banquet hall has a seating capacity of 500. We can provide state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment for your conference or business meeting, or a perfect social setting for your wedding party or class reunion. Call 608-763-2822.
British Hollow Smelting Furnace
Take Highway 61, Turn East on Hippy Hollow Road One Mile North of Potosi.
This smelter has a 200 foot underground chimney. It stands as the last of its kind in the lead region. Historical marker.
Grant River Recreation Area
The Potosi Recreation Area, operated by the US Corp of Engineers, provides RV and tent camping. Picnic tables, playground for the kids, and public boat landing are available. Panoramic views of river and bluffs make this a beautiful experience. Grant River Recreation Area website
Passage Thru Time Museum
-Experience the rich heritage of the area, with emphasis on mining, farming, the historic Potosi Brewery and the Mississippi River. Displays of Native American artifacts, World War ll memorabilia, historic business paraphernalia, and Agricultural history may be seen. The museum also houses an extensive collection of photos and historic records, perfect for both the casual history buff and intensive researcher. Open from May 15 to September 15, Tuesdays to Saturdays from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Potosi Point and National Wildlife Refuge
Extending a half-mile into the Mississippi and Grant Rivers, the Point is a great spot for fishing and appreciating sunrise and sunset views over a spectacular river. It is a great location to take a photo, appreciate the 274 different species of birds, or catch a glimpse of the variety of wildlife. An Observation Deck with a spotting scope is strategically placed for the best views.
Potosi-Tennyson Catfish Festival
Held in August. Community Groups and Organizations take part through-out Potosi and Tennyson Wi with truck and tractor pulls, garage sales, parade,games,music, arts and crafts, and food. Contact 608-763-2261
For more Potosi / Tennyson information, call 608-763-2300 or see Potosi/Tennyson website.
Sinsinawa means “Home of the Young Eagle” in the language of the early Sioux native settlers. George Wallace Jones bought land here for a lead smelter in 1827, and sold it to Father Mazzuchelli. Mazzuchelli built a men’s college here in 1846. He founded the Dominican Sisters in 1847. In 1865, the Dominicans founded a women’s college and High School at the Sinsinawa Mound.
County Highway Z, 608-718-4411.
(Religious Beginnings, Museums and Recreation)
The Motherhouse of the Sinsinawa Dominicans sits upon an outcrop of Niagara Dolomite. The Sinsinawa Mound Center complex of buildings date from the 1840s to 1960s, and serves as a conference and educational center featuring a Mazzuchelli exhibit, the Queen of the Rosary Chapel, and a sustainable agriculture farm. Nature trails, gifts, books, bakery goods and crafts. Tours by appointment.
For more Sinsinawa information, call 608-718-4411.
Wyalusing is a Munsee-Delaware Indian term that means “Home of the Warrior.” Wyalusing was once a bustling Mississippi River town of more than 600 people. It is now home to 12 year-round residents and hundreds of summer visitors.
Wyalusing State Park
County Highway C, 608-996-2261.
This large beautiful state park sits atop the Mississippi River bluffs, from which visitors can view the joining of the great Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers. This view was voted “Wisconsin’s best scenic view” by WISCONSIN TRAILS readers. The Wyalusing State Park offers camping, hiking, canoeing, boating, fishing, swimming and nature study. It features Indian burial grounds and a marker commemorating the spot where Marquette and Joliet entered the Mississippi River on June 17, 1673. The park is also used as an outdoor education area for youth and adults.