Main Street 1908

Main Street 1908

La Valle

Located in the south central part of LaValle Township, on Highways 33 and 58, the village of LaValle got its name from the French term for "the valley". Native Americans were the first to discover the lands surrounding the confluence of the Big and Little Baraboo Rivers, and established a settlement there. It was purported to be a rendezvous for the Ho Chunk from the Upper Baraboo Valley.

The first settlers arrived around 1849, drawn by the potential for good water power. J.F. Hamlin, saw that potential, and purchased the land upon which the village of LaValle would eventually stand. Hamlin, and a partner, Solon Rushmore, began construction of a dam and sawmill in 1849, with equipment being installed the following spring. The first lumber turned out by the mill went to construct a home for Hamlin.

Butterfield’s 1880 History of Sauk County notes that, "The early growth of the place was necessarily slow, situated as it was in a dense wilderness, scarcely accessible to ordinary road wagons. But the pioneer’s first pathway is always rough, and he is thankful if he can but discern the outlines of even an Indian trail."

In 1864, J.F. Sanford purchased the mill property and added a flour-barrel manufacturing factory, which also later turned out broom handles. A large three-story grist mill with three grinding stones, was added to the facility in 1869, so villagers would no longer have to travel to Reedsburg for flour.

The old sawmill was retrofitted in 1874 to produce barrel staves. A new building in 1876 housed a steam engine to power the equipment. It burned in 1878, and the business was moved back to the old sawmill building. Five hundred staves per hour were produced–most being shipped to Chicago for flour and pork barrels. The surrounding woodland provided an ample supply of basswood and oak, which farmers were glad to supply, thereby also clearing land for crops.

By 1855, the little village was sufficiently populated that a school was begun in a small shanty. A year later, a more commodious structure was built. By 1879, there were 127 pupils in the district.

A post office was established in LaValle in 1856, with mail being brought from Reedsburg by local citizens. Area residents drew straws to see who would assume that duty for the next two weeks. Some were not happy with this arrangement, so later a full-time mail carrier was hired. When the railroad arrived in 1872, the mail service was transferred there.

Methodist services were held in the shanty schoolhouse as early as 1856, and the Adventists also existed in limited numbers.

In 1880, the village of LaValle boasted 3 general stores, 2 hardware stores, drug store, grocery store, a hotel, 2 blacksmith shops, wagon shop, livery stable, shoe shop, millinery store, saloon, stave mill, grist mill, carding mill, a grade school, one church, Odd Fellows’ Lodge, Good Templar’s Lodge and one doctor.

Wm E. Schroeder opened a bakery in 1926, supplying the northwestern part of Sauk County with 400 loaves of bread daily. Baked goods were transported to Reedsburg, Loganville, Hillpoint, Ironton and Lime Ridge.

Electric generating equipment was installed in the mill in 1912, providing power to local customers. The mill burned in 1937, and was rebuilt. The plant continued to supply electricity until 1970.

With the arrival of the railroad in 1872, the little village grew proportionally. There were 4 hotels, 2 restaurants, 2 stockyards, poultry hatchery, livery stables, and general stores.

During the latter half of the 20th Century, LaValle became a major destination for sportsmen and fishing enthusiasts with the construction of Lake Redstone in 1968, and Dutch Hollow Lake in 1972.