Stagecoach and Tavern Days in the Baraboo Region


By H.E. Cole, 1923

Baraboo News Publishing Company

Baraboo, Wis.




In the following pages I have attempted to open the door of the days of the stagecoach and tavern in Baraboo and the region round-about. Although the railroad reached Spring Green in 1855 and Kilbourn about two years later, no railway line penetrated the picturesque and rugged region of the Baraboo Bluffs until 1871, keeping this favorable stage and tavern territory up to that time. But little attempt has been made to continue the story later than the advent of the locomotive into the valley, for the arrival of the trains changed the old order in hamlet and village.

By referring to the map one may observe how numerous were the stage lines and how close together were the places of entertainment. Much the same situation obtained over a great part of the inhabited portions of Wisconsin and of the United States before the coming of the express train and the motor, those great revolutionary forces in our modern civilization.

It is astonishing what a flavor of human interest lingers about the old taverns of the region. Many unusual fragments of local history are unearthed in telling their story. The stagecoach and taverns, the latter with spigot and glasses, once were a component part of the daily life of those who sought fame or fortune in the land north and west of the river Wisconsin. At one time eight stages left Prairie du Sac and almost as many rolled out of Baraboo, but for a number of years there has been none. Three inland hamlets in Sauk County are now the terminals of overland transportation as a means of keeping in touch with the outside world today; all that are left of a network of lines which once visited every village within the boundary of the geographical division. During seasonable weather the automobile is now used to cover the distances, no comparison to the tedious, irksome journeys that once were made over the same routes.

The entrance of the rural free delivery service at Spring Green in 1898, which afterward extended to every rural home in the county, has had much to do with the obliteration of short stage lines projecting inland from various railroad stations. The appearance of the motor and realization of various other ideas has transported the region into another world, a world perhaps no more appealing, perhaps no more pleasurable, yet a world we would not exchange for the old.

The incident of Abe Wood and the bear appeared in "Baraboo Bear Tales" published by the author in 1915 and the other chapters in this little booklet were in the columns of The Baraboo Daily News during the year 1923.

The writer has gleaned from local histories and is deeply indebted to numerous friends for incidents and information contained in the following pages.


This stagecoach ran between Baraboo and Sauk City, about 15 miles

This stagecoach ran between Baraboo and Sauk City, about 15 miles


Man has gone from the chaise and coach to the train and trolley, from the train and trolley to the automobile, and from the automobile to wings. While he has gained speed, yet much that is enjoyed today was not denied his forebears. In this fast-moving era it does not require the use of a century as a measuring stick to reach back to primitive passenger travel, for there are still living those who recall the days before the railroads, when the old stagecoach crept across the landscape at the amazing speed of four miles an hour.

A great step forward was taken by man when he invented the wheel, and a further step in advance was made when he applied the wheel to a chariot or coach as a means of travel. In 1280, when Charles of Anjou entered Naples, his queen rode in a highly decorated car. This is the earliest record we possess of this method of transportation.

The stage coach was invented in Europe in the sixteenth century but the exact date is lost in the maw of time. About the period of Louis XIV coach bodies were first suspended by straps. The use of these coaches spread until there was a network of stage lines in all civilized countries; the vehicle coming to America in due time, brought by our colonial grandfathers. The stagecoach system of travel spread over the United States, closely following the advance of the pioneers. The first coach was driven into Sauk County in 1844 by Prescott Brigham, as proprietor, jehu and mail and express man.

On the old Concord coaches and kindred vehicles, the driver was the important personage of the equipage, the autocrat of his day. Everybody of importance in the country round was known by him and at meal-time at the tavern, it was the driver who presided at the table when the passengers of the coaches were hurriedly refreshed at the remarkable price of twenty-five cents a person.

The aspect of the driver was usually rougher and more uncouth than a close acquaintance with him as an individual revealed. A flannel shirt, corduroy breeches stuffed into high boots a well-worn hat or cap and a fur or leather coat in inclement weather made up the usual costume.

In personal appearance he might be tall and lean or short and stout, always alert to meet the exigencies that were likely to arise as he traveled country roads. Usually he was under forty years of age, though occasionally older men assumed the responsibilities of guiding the destinies of a coach. His complexion, tanned by the winds, showed a reddish tinge that was often heightened from frequent visits to the tavern bar.

In speech he was more picturesque than grammatical, often voicing choice bits of humor or arguments that were graphic and convincing.

When the nineteenth century was young, at the period when the stagecoach attained its greatest vogue in this country, men almost universally wore whiskers. This was, as it were, the age of whiskers in American history and the important individual on the top of the old stagecoach was no exception in this particular. In fact the position of the driver of one of the ancient vehicles was one of so much exposure to variations of weather that it was incumbent upon him to endeavor to grow a more luxuriant crop than men in many other occupations.

Pictures which have come down to us illustrating the manner of traveling in these pioneer vehicles would indicate that if one were not perfectly balanced in the crude conveyance his extremities were scheduled for terrible punishment. It was quite possible that a passenger might be churned about in one of them until he would long for the services of an osteopath after alighting at his destination, had this form of treatment been known at that time.

On a protracted journey, the coach was liable to be dragged from one mud hole to another, over notorious corduroy roads and rocky stretches, up hill and down until the patience of not only driver and passengers, but horses as well, were near the breaking point.

General Jeremiah M. Rusk, born in a log cabin at McConnellsville, Ohio, June 17, 1830, was a stage driver in his native state. At 16 years of age he was in the employ of McNeill, Moore & Company, famous stage operators at Columbus, Ohio. His coach was of the Concord type, four horses being used, and his route was between Zanesville and Newark. Marrying, he migrated to Wisconsin in 1853 and acquired a stage line between Prairie du Chien and Black River Falls. Here he again became a stage driver and continued a man of the whip until the Civil War called him to the southland. He was also a Boniface at Viroqua and his hostelry proudly bore the name of "Buckeye Hotel". It may be said that as a result of his stagecoach experience, Rusk rode into military distinction, the governorship and the cabinet.

The artists of a century ago frequently pictured the horses of the stagecoach as prancing, fire-breathing steeds but upon investigation it is found that much of this picturesqueness was imaginative. It required highly practical teams to pull the coaches loaded with passengers and baggage, and the long monotonous journeys conspired to produce conspicuous ribs, pronounced backbone, and other obvious indications of arduous toil. The animals were toughened by hard hauls and were usually subdued in spirit and inured to heat and cold, as well as endowed with unusual patience necessary for the heavy burden man imposed upon them.

Occasionally, however, the animals possessed enough spirit to give the driver and passengers a fright. One night it is recorded that in Prairie du Sac four horses attached to a coach ran away, executed a number of fancy gyrations in the village, and gave some of the passengers violent attacks of heart disease. No great damage was done and no one was seriously injured.

The whip used by the driver was a long flexible piece of hickory to which was attached a braided buckskin lash. When the cracker at the end was made to perform its duty there was a sound like the explosion of a revolver.

The harness as often adorned with a number of ivory or imitation ivory rings. These circles, especially of ivory, were somewhat expensive and tempting to the drivers of teams of horses on rival lines. More than one driver has gone for his team and found the harness stripped of the ivory adornments.

It was the custom of the time for the driver, when he gathered up his lines in front of the tavern, to crack his whip with a flourish for the start, to depart with a great hurrah and whirring of wheels, and then lazily to creep along when muddy stretches or sandy wastes were encountered. As the destination drew near there was again a great flurry on the part of the driver, as he brought his horses to a stop before the tavern with august self-importance.

Besides looking after the welfare of his passengers and caring for the horses, the driver often had small packages entrusted to his care, a weigh-bill accompanying and the landlord collecting when delivered to the person addressed. James Curry once remarked that drivers collected nothing except deadheads—those obtaining free rides. To "tip" the driver with coin was never known but a drink was rarely refused by him.

Among the passengers, when the stage lines were first opened, were lawyers, doctors, preachers, newspapermen, lumbermen, and settlers seeking places of abode in the new country. There came, too, the homeseeker from across the sea in singular garb, clinging tenaciously to his queer looking hand-baggage. In the ‘50’s and ‘60’s many raftsmen floated down the Wisconsin River to some snubbing-post along the stream and then sought the highway conveyance on the return. During the Civil War soldiers were frequently passengers from the railway station to their homes in the interior, bringing back many a thrilling tale of the sanguinary conflict in the southland and not infrequently an empty sleeve or pantaloon. In this region during the frenzied financial hop-period, pickers arriving at Kilbourn and Mazomanie by the car load, were conveyed to the hopyards, and of hop pole-pullers there were not a few.

Not infrequently there would be suspicious characters, horse thieves, possibly. They never had their eyes on the stage property, however, for there were more spirited beasts to be had in an open pasture or unlocked stalls. D. Joseph Johnson, who drove the stage between Prairie du Sac and Mazomanie a number of years after he returned from the southern battlefields at the close of the Civil War, had more than one passenger into Prairie du Sac whom he never saw again and who probably rode a horse into Illinois to be sold to some unsuspecting purchaser.

Then there were the peddlers with their packs and speculators in prosperous dress, shrewd of eye and clever in trades.

In the 40’s and 50’s and 60’s, came many seekers for fortune among the Baraboo Hills; the new land naturally attracted passengers with varying degrees of prosperity. There was no limit in age nor in worldly possession to these birds of passage flocking into a new country. Heterogeneous was this flood of life and hope which was borne forward by the rumbling, rocking stagecoach of eighty, seventy or sixty years ago.

The ante-bellum and bellum periods in this region were the days of the grain cradle, the horse-power threshing machine, the tallow candle or kerosene lamp, house raisings, and spelling bees. The papers of the day advertised a preparation known as water lime, and salt, also sozodont, cholera mixture, vitalized air by dentists, pictures printed by the sun’s rays, galvanic belts, Arabian liniment for tic douloureux and neuraligia, bed cords, rafting cable, melodeons, ambrotypes, mozambiques, paper collars, hop-plows, hop-roots, and hop-poles. Those were also the times of log houses, cow bells, and well sweeps. A feather bed was not unfrequently a bride’s dowery and money was so rare that skins of animals and jugs of whisky were often pressed into service as legal tender.

Aside from the local paper the most popular reading matter was the New York Tribune, Godey’s Lady’s Book, the Drawing Room Companion, and Littell’s Living Age.

The men usually wore "homespun" and their boots had tops sufficiently roomy to admit the insertion of the lower portion of their pantaloons. "Stove-pipe" hats were popular with doctors and others belonging to the professional classes and were so universally worn by them that the glossy silk head-covering became, in a way, a badge of the professions.

Costumes for women were more picturesque than those for the men. Bonnets were capacious; those worn in summer were often made of Neopolitan braid and were perishable affairs as far as holding the shape was concerned. They were gaily decked with bows of corn-color ribbon or realistic artificial flowers, mingled with ribbons of various hues. The hoop-skirt held high favor for a number of years and the outer skirts of necessity followed its contour. How the ladies of that day were able to make a graceful entrance or exit through the doors of the stagecoach remains an unsolved enigma.

The middle period of the nineteenth century was the time when slavery or no slavery was the paramount question; when Whigs, Free-soilers, Democrats, and Republicans contended at the ballot box; when the Kansas-Nebraska bill, border warfare, the fugitive slave law, John Brown, and other topics were daily discussed. With such live issues in the public mind it may well be imagined that in more than one stagecoach there were debates of a Vulcan-like nature. In the 50’s a storm was impending, human volcanoes were in eruption, and souls were set on fire by wordy friction. With an atmosphere surcharged with these contending forces, it was not surprising that the passengers often found themselves in a turmoil of argument as the old stage rocked and bumped on its way to some frontier destination.

A century ago not even the most farsighted citizen of this republic ever dreamed the old stagecoaches on the great highways of the country would be relegated to oblivion. Such a thought was as impossible to them as the abolition of the railroad or automobile to the present generation. The old stage routes were the arteries of communication between city and city, village and village, and hamlet and hamlet. This conveyance was the accepted mode of travel. Especially did the venerable men of that day think the bumping coach, with plodding team attached, the extreme condition of comfort and speed and that no greater advance of transportation would ever be reached. These elderly individuals looked back to the time when the traveler prodded his horse for miles along an Indian trail or blazed way, fording unbridged streams, plunging through miring swamps, and penetrating dense forests beset with savages. No wonder they stood in admiration before a stagecoach with four sturdy steeds attached, ready to carry them in shelter from the penetrating sun or descending rain.

When the highways became snowy aisles through forest and farmland, and the sun looked down through flawless blue upon a world of glistening white, coaches were placed upon runners and the horses adorned with jingling bells. The passengers rode through a landscape of immaculate loveliness, free from dust and mud, their only inconvenience an occasional giant snowdrift which sometimes threatened to overturn the vehicle.

Great buffalo robes and the use of a contrivance known as a foot stove protected travelers from wind and cold. The latter device was made of wood and metal combined in such manner that when live coals were placed within, the stove would give off heat for a considerable time.

The blowing of a horn often presaged the arrival of the stage at a rural post office or village. A single blast from the instrument, particularly during the Civil War period, was sufficient to throw a hamlet into intense excitement, so eager were the inhabitants to receive news from the front.

James H. Dibble of Baraboo recalls that when the old stagecoaches from Prairie du Sac reached the crown of the hill on Walnut street, in the Third ward, a resonant note would echo through the valley which was the signal for the villagers to hurry to the post office to observe any new arrivals, obtain the latest news, and indulge in a bit of timely gossip or banter. The sight of the coach always brought the housewives to their doors with barefooted children clustered about them, exhibiting as much interest as might be expected if the stage were the advance van of a circus.

Before the departure of the coach, mail bags were exchanged and fresh horses took the place of those weary with this lap of the journey.

But what became of these vehicles when they passed to worthless property with the advent of the railroads? Concerning some of these faithful old friends of our forefathers, the Concord coaches, W.W. Warner of Madison, in his youth a resident of Baraboo, wrote as follows:

"This was, I should say, about 1868-69. Who among the boys who participated in that famous escapade, may ever forget? Be it known, there were fifteen or twenty antique, super-anuated Concord stagecoaches which had been one after another placed, so to speak, in dry dock and out of commission, having outlived their further transportational usefulness, and thus they were housed in a rambling series of sheds, just back of the present city hall. We young chaps, the day after a Fourth of July celebration, conceived the idea of decorating Oak Street with the dilapidated vehicles. Some of the chariots, I remember, bore euphonious names --- such as Argosy, Prairie Queen, and Western Monarch. Those who remember the one-time resplendent coaches, gorgeous beyond the dreams of a Ringling circus creation, will recall that they were integers connecting Baraboo with relatively near-by points of the outside world, such as Madison, Mazomanie, Portage, and Kilbourn.**

"It was long after midnight when we scamps, as expeditiously and as quietly as possible, hauled forth a score of the nondescript vehicles from their moorings, to the Western Hotel street corner, and thence made an imposing string of them, reaching almost to the present post office site, and a fine spectacle they presented early next morning! Not many citizens of Baraboo were aware that such antediluvian chariots were in existence, much less that they were right here in Baraboo. The general astonishment, therefore, may well be imagined. What opportunities were lost in their destruction, shortly after this, their last appearance, for securing matchless museum antiques! But soon trouble—our trouble—began. Somehow the city officials and many of the older and more staid, law-abiding citizens, did not take kindly to such deviltry, and public resentment was quite general, while diligent efforts were at once put forth to apprehend the several juvenile malefactors involved in the disgraceful escapade."

Some of the principals in this prankish adventure sought remote wheat fields and remained away from Baraboo until the turbulent state of the public mind had subsided.

Not all of the stage drivers were graduates from the college of Jehu. An incident is related of a stage bounding down the north slope of the Baraboo Bluff, striking the rocks with resounding impact, rounding the curves at a ruinous rate of speed, regardless of danger, and passing every other vehicle on the road. The four horses seemed about to take the lead and let the driver follow when the ancient coach came to a halt at the foot of a long incline. The passengers, who had realized their peril as the swaying vehicle threatened at every curve to overturn, rejoiced, as the youthful driver descended from his seat to make some adjustment about the harness. An elderly lady thrust her head out of one of the windows and exclaimed in a voice of distress:

"Will you not drive a little more carefully, please? This is the first time I have ridden in a stagecoach."

Surprise filled the minds of the passengers at the answer which came with alacrity from the adolescent holder of the whip:

"Lady, you haven’t the better of me. This is the first time I have ridden one of the things myself, mum."



The Baraboo region was favorable stage and tavern territory for no railroad entered Sauk County, except at Spring Green, until 1871, more than thirty years after the early settlements had been made. Numerous stage lines and many places of entertainment were required to accommodate the early travelers.


As previously stated, Prescott Brigham, brother of Ebenezer Brigham of Blue Mounds, established the first stage line between Madison and Sauk County, the route terminating at Sauk City and Prairie du Sac. The date was 1844, four years before Wisconsin passed into statehood. Brigham was an enterprising pioneer, and leader in many things. He came to Blue Mounds in 1838 and to Sauk County in 1840. Early he advocated transferring the county seat from Prairie du Sac to the Baraboo Rapids, as Baraboo was then called, and loaned the county the money to purchase from the government the quarter section of land on which the county seat was located. Mr. Brigham desired to name the place Adams, his esteem for John Quincy Adams prompting him to this. As Adams it was known for a few years, when the name was changed to Baraboo. In 1845 Mr. Brigham was elected the first register of deeds of Sauk County, serving two years. He spent his last days at the home of his son-in-law, T.B. Cowles, in the town of Sumpter, passing away May 28, 1862. He lies buried in the cemetery near Pine Hollow, about a mile east of King’s Corners.

After the line was opened between Madison and Sauk, the name given the two villages on the Wisconsin river, a network of lines spread to all parts of the county, every hamlet enjoying the visits of the stage, the great pre-railroad convenience. At one time eight stages left the Sauk villages, all in different directions, and almost as many radiated from Baraboo.

An amusing incident happened on the route between Madison and Sauk. John M. Meisser, now a resident of Baraboo, was the driver and on the way home from Madison one afternoon a keg of whisky consigned to Max Stinglhammer of Sauk City accidentally rolled from the stage. While the postmaster sorted the mail at a little hamlet between the terminals of the route, the driver hurried back in search of the missing property. By a twist of luck he had only gone a short distance when he saw the keg, resting upon the shoulders of a brawny individual, disappear behind a rick of wood by the roadside. Pulling the horses and vehicle up near the wood it was an easy matter to look over. There on the other side was an Irishman sitting on the precious keg. The following conversation ensued:

"Hello, sir! Have you seen a keg of whisky?" queried the driver.

"Yes, sir; it is right here," answered the Irishman in decisive tones.

"I lost it from my load and would like to have it again."

"Well, sir," came the defiant reply, "you will have to be a bigger man than I am to get it."

It required some time to nuzzle the keg out of the finder, but finally the release was given upon the promise of a free ride to Madison, at the convenience of the culprit.

The former driver of the stage tells this incident with satisfying relish. He is quite sure that for once he outwitted a son of Erin. It happened this was the last time he drove the stage.

Other drivers on this line were Bill Brown, Lee Baxter, and Ike Hubbard.

The railroad reached Mazomanie in 1857, and although this station was much nearer to the Sauk villages than Madison, yet the stage to the capital continued to operate for many years after that time. In 1880, at the suggestion of some postmaster, the line was abandoned, but the people were so indignant, having become attached to this mode of travel, that an appeal was made to have the route restored. This was done but after operating a number of years, the enterprise was at last abandoned.


When Joe Johnson, now a resident of Baraboo, returned from fighting Confederates in the southland, he arrived home in time to participate in another war—a contest between two rival stage lines. Robert Baxter owned a hotel at Prairie du Sac and operated stage lines out of the village, one of which had Mazomanie, the nearest railway station at that time, for its terminal. Joshua and James Long, brothers, erected a competitive hotel at Prairie du Sac and secured the government contract for carrying the mail. This was a bane to Baxter. Competition waxed so warm that for a time passengers were carried from Prairie du Sac to the railway station, ten miles distant, for the sum of fifty cents, including breakfast.

One of the amusing experiences on this line took place at a bridge just before entering the village of Mazomanie. In the morning sun at Prairie du Sac two glistening silk hats adorned the heads of two young attorneys, Messrs. Stewart and Tripp. Both were waiting to ride in the big stage to the railway station at Mazomanie, and Johnson, knowing Attorney Tripp well, asked him if he were in for a little fun. Not knowing what mischief was in the mind of the driver of the rival line the young attorney readily nodded his head in the affirmative.

Johnson, with his lighter vehicle, trailed the Baxter coach until near the bridge previously mentioned, when he cracked his whip and feigned to pass the other conveyance. The ruse worked and soon the wheels of the big vehicle were spinning as they seldom spun before. When the wheels of the coach struck the plank—there being a rise of several inches in order to get upon the bridge—the wearer of one of the plug hats sitting in the forward portion of the coach, found himself striking the roof and his precious silk hat shoved, in a dilapidated condition, over his ears. To make the situation more embarrassing he was thrown rearward into the lap of a lady sitting in front of him. The next breath the other lawyer, sitting at the rear, also went up to the roof, his beloved "stove pipe" being discourteously crowded down over his head and his body flung into the center of the vehicle. As the two disciples of Blackstone brushed their "tiles" while standing on the railway platform at Mazomanie they gave Johnston a stony look but he was too busy with his passengers to make observations or hear any caustic comment.

There was always apprehension on the part of the drivers of this line as to which one should gain the destination first. One day the big Concord coach owned by Baxter undertook to pass the lighter vehicle driven by Johnson. The latter, instead of permitting the larger conveyance to pass when its driver turned to the side of the road, pulled his horses in the same direction, sending the Baxter teams and swinging coach into the ditch. Both teams came to a dead stop. The Baxter driver was in a dilemma; he could not back out nor drive ahead, for Johnson’s vehicle obstructed his intended progress. After hastily looking the situation over he shouted loudly to Johnson:

"What are you doing?"

"Letting my horses rest," was the complacent reply. After a few more words were passed Johnson moved on and the big stage was pulled out of the ditch by the irritated driver.

One night at Mazomanie, Johnson found his lights had been stolen and later it was discovered the kingbolt of the big Baxter stage was bent. It never came to light just who committed the pranks but there were some knowing looks on the part of the owners and operators of the two stage lines.

In 1853 or 1854, Dr. Woodruff of Prairie du Sac and others procured a charter for a toll road over a portion of the highway between Sauk City and the present site of Mazomanie. After deciding on a new location for part of the highway and after expending a small amount in grading, a dwelling house was erected and a gate spread across the road at the present location of the Fossbender farm, near where the battle of Wisconsin Heights was fought in 1832. William Baker was placed in charge of the gate and given the liberty of selling "liquid refreshments." The traveling public objected to paying for the right of dragging their vehicles through the mud and the venture was not a success. All sorts of schemes were employed to avoid paying the toll. Sometimes a man would hold the gate open while another drove through but it remained for a stagedriver by the name of Forest George to bring an end to the toll road. One day finding the gate locked, he hitched a team of horses to it and dragged the obstruction out of the way. The company soon after surrendered the charter.

Forest George, a veteran of the Civil War, Ike Hubbard and Joe Johnson were the three best known drivers over this highway. George and Hubbard drove four horses, attracting much attention.

The line was abandoned with the advent of the railroad into Sauk City and Prairie du Sac, about 1881.


When the stage line from Sauk City to Black Hawk was opened but two trips weekly, on Wednesday and Saturday, were made. After following this schedule for a number of years, a tri-weekly stage was established about 1890, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday being stage days. In 1896 a daily service was inaugurated and this in the end succumbed to the rural mail carrier.

Martin Bernard drove the stage over this line for seventeen years, using the same team during the time. He had a cornet which he sounded at sharp turns in the road, when he approached the postoffice at Riches Corners and at Black Hawk.


A stage was operated between Prairie du Sac and Merrimack from about 1870 to 1882, the route being the present road along the Wisconsin river. Passengers, baggage, express and freight were carried, but not mail.


A light stage was operated for a time between Prairie du Sac and Leland, Denzer being an intermediate point. W.A. Powers drove this stage from 1898 to 1902 when rural mail delivery ended its existence. The stage went one way and returned another over part of the road between Prairie du Sac and Denzer.


In 1859, Alexander Stewart of Spring Green opened a stage line to Portage, the route being through Sauk City, Prairie du Sac, and Baraboo. Subsequently the line was shortened, terminating at Baraboo; still later another section was amputated, Prairie du Sac becoming the eastern extremity. One of the drivers on this route was John "X." Smith, so named because he could not write and signed his name by making an "X". Among the other drivers were the owner, Samuel B. Robson, and John Rauley.


The Baraboo Bluffs were such a formidable barrier that a stage line from Prairie du Sac into the boat-shaped valley to the north was not established until 1855. The way was over the East Sauk Road and so steep as in the incline up the stub of the ancient mountain that passengers usually walked up the slope. The initial line between Prairie du Sac and Baraboo was owned by Stanley & Bacon, two Madison teamsters, and they in time sold to Moore, who extended the service all the way from Mazomanie to Kilbourn. After the death of Moore the business passed to the firm of Emery & Houghton.

In letting the mail contract, Robert Baxter underbid Emery & Houghton, the former thus absorbing the business. Still later Long Brothers were the lowest bidders and a merry war followed between the rival owners of the lines.

For about three years both firms continued to operate lines between Baraboo and Mazomanie, neither being willing that the other should have a monopoly of the traffic. During the belligerence, passengers were carried for two shillings (twenty-five cents), including a steaming breakfast. Both lost financially but Baxter finally won the contest.

For many years Baxter continued to operate a four-horse stage between Prairie du Sac and Mazomanie, and a two-horse vehicle between Prairie du Sac and Baraboo. The conveyance used for the Baraboo end of the line contained four wide seats and would carry a dozen persons. This was much lighter than a Concord coach and more serviceable in crossing the Baraboo Bluffs.

The time from Baraboo to Prairie du Sac, a distance of about fourteen miles, was about two and one-half hours. The fare was usually $1.25, with 75 cents additional to Mazomanie.

In the 80’s, some time after the railroad had reached Prairie du Sac on the south and Baraboo on the north, the stage between the two places was discontinued. For years there had been a post office near the bluff and the residents were accustomed to receive their mail daily. With the discontinuance of the stage line there were periods in the winter season when mail arrived but once in two or three weeks.

Some time after the line on the East Sauk Road was abandoned a new line on the West Sauk Road, also over the bluff, was opened, the new highway lying about one mile west of the older one. William L. Tarnutzer owned this line for about twenty years and discontinued the service only with the inauguration of the rural mail routes at the beginning of the present century. In the letting of mail contracts, it was the custom for firms in other states frequently to purchase many routes and sub-let these star routes, as they were commonly termed. One day when Tarnutzer called for the mail at Sauk City he found a new stage driver ready to carry the mail. Some one had evidently made a lower bid for the business. Tarnutzer promptly collected what was due him and told the stranger to join in the excitement. Both stages were operated for some time but Tarnutzer, having a wide acquaintance with the passengers who patronized the route, won the war. The last years Tarnutzer received the microscopic sum of 61 cents for making the daily drive between the Sauk villages and Baraboo in order to carry the mail, a total round trip distance of about 35 miles. To be sure there was a revenue from passengers, each individual paying from 75 cents to $1.00 for the trip.

During the time that Tarnutzer carried the mail over the West Sauk Road the highway was often almost impassible, especially in the early spring season. During a mild winter, the road would thaw during the day and freeze during the night, but not sufficiently to bear the weight of the horses or vehicle. Frequently the animals would leave a trail of crimson from their bleeding feet along the way.

When the mail contract between the Sauk villages and Baraboo expired—some time after the rural routes were established—Tarnutzer took a contract for delivering the mail along highways about thirty miles in length and for this service, through the torrid heat of summer and sub-zero weather of winter, he received the munificent sum of $400 per year, furnishing his own vehicle and horses. A carrier is now paid about $1,500 per year for similar service.

After Tarnutzer gave up the stage route on account of the mail being transported by rural carriers, attempts were again made to operate a stage but the project failed. The arrival of the automobile in such great numbers was a leading factor in making the service unprofitable.


There is much of interest recorded in connection with the days of the stage over the line which extended between Baraboo and Madison, crossing the Wisconsin River at Merrimack. In crossing the stream on the ice it was sometimes necessary to go on a gallop in order to keep from breaking into the flowing water beneath the congealed bridge. One wintry day, Henry Cowles, the most famous driver on this line, did break through and the horses were extricated only with the greatest difficulty. Timid passengers always walked across the ice and those more daring who ventured to retain their seats usually held themselves in readiness to leap to safety at any moment. During the period when the river was open a ferry was used in crossing, the rude floating device being attached to a cable in such a way the current forced it along. Occasionally the ferryboat broke from the cable, landing the load far down the river. This resulted in a vexing delay and necessitated much labor to bring the cumbersome vehicle once more upon the highway.

Often it was necessary, when great cakes of ice were coming down the stream, to use long poles in pushing the craft across and during the fall when the Wisconsin was freezing over and when the ice was unsafe in the spring, the stage was driven to Prairie du Sac in order to cross on a toll-bridge. This left the village of Merrimack isolated.

Salmon E. Cowles was a driver when his brother, Henry Cowles, owned the line in the 50’s and one day while driving four horses between Lodi and the present site of Waunakee, one of the wheel-animals deliberately lay down in the water and mud which filled the highway. The horse was obstinate, stubborn. After much coaxing, threatening, and even punishing it became evident the coach with its load could not be pulled out of the tenacious Wisconsin soil. To step out meant to step into anything but a pleasant situation, the mud being well-nigh knee deep. For the ladies, especially, the situation was desperate. At last a good natured, imposing individual in the vehicle volunteered to relieve the situation by carrying the passengers to dry land. One by one he removed the women and children, then with much maneuvering the teams were induced to draw the coach upon firmer ground.

All kinds and conditions of people were transported on this line. One day an intoxicated individual managed to fall from his position on the vehicle and landed between the wheel and body of the coach. When liberated he was little the worse for the experience save that he had not only covered himself with degradation but with a liberal coating of mud and tar.

Since this was the most popular route from the Baraboo region to the capital of the state it was quite natural that those having business in Madison would go by this line. On one occasion Colonel S.V.R. Ableman, the founder of the village bearing that name, at the Upper Narrows of the Baraboo River, was accidentally thrown from a coach into the mud but a moment before he would have reached his destination, Madison.

On another occasion a passenger from New York arrayed in a silk hat, the tall head-covering being characteristic of the period, and otherwise fashionably dressed, was aboard the coach. Possessing an inquisitive inclination, he shoved his hat and head through an open window in order that he might enjoy an unobstructed view. No sooner had he framed himself in the aperture than a passing breeze or jounce of the vehicle dislodged the much-prized head-piece and a wheel reduced it to a shapeless mass, almost burying the property in the obnoxious ooze. Picture the cloud of despair which gathered on the physiognomy of the unfortunate gentleman, over a thousand miles from home, as he gazed upon his precious, half-buried "plug".

This same citizen related previous to his death that one day while dragging through the sand between Merrimack and the south range of the Baraboo Bluffs, five or six little Indians were espied playing by the roadside. When the passengers gave a simultaneous shout, the youthful aborigines hurriedly departed. Then it was observed they had been playing with rattlesnakes and on investigating further a box containing six of the reptiles was found half-hidden near by.

Mr. Cowles said the fare one way was $2.00 and one day there were twenty-five passengers to be transported. It was necessary to procure extra teams in order that all might reach their destinations.

Whisky in those days was worth 18 cents per gallon, corn was 20 cents per bushel, oats 15 cents per bushel, hay from $4.00 to $5.00 per ton, meals were 20 cents and 25 cents, and horses were worth about $60.00 each.

The driver received $25 per month, his duties being to unhitch the teams, curry them, hitch them up, care for the passengers, collect the fare, be responsible for the mail and express—in brief to act as a general Jehu.

John B. Dwinnell, Lodi, according to the "Columbia County History," 1880, page 991, established a stage route between Madison and Baraboo, by the way of Lodi, in 1853, which he conducted for one and a half years. This was the first public conveyance running between Madison and Baraboo.

The way from Baraboo to Madison led over the Ash Street or lower bridge; along what is now Walnut and Lake Streets to what became Crawford Crossing; then through a feral forest where a spring bubbles by the wayside and where Joseph Nedovitch, a "moonshiner", was killed by a federal officer in September, 1920; thence over the hill to the site of the "little red school house" where two roads now cross; up the long slope of the Baraboo Bluff; down the more abrupt descent on the other side; and along a diagonal way into Merrimack, a hamlet on the bank of the Wisconsin River. Mounting the Baraboo Bluff was a tedious task and the more vigorous passengers were often given an opportunity to climb afoot the long ascent.

After changing the mail at Merrimack and crossing the river, the next important stop of the stage was Lodi. To the south was the Harvey postoffice at what was then called Hundred Mile Grove; Dane has now taken the place of Harvey. Where Waunakee is located, at that time was an extensive wheat field and the postoffice, three-quarters of a mile away, was called Lester. Next came a stop at the Catfish bridge. Postmaster Hinrichs being in charge. The way into Madison was over a plank road, the stage usually arriving in time for the passengers and driver to obtain a late supper.

A coach of the Concord pattern was employed on the Lodi-Madison end of the route, a lighter vehicle usually from Baraboo to Lodi. The larger coach was called the Prairie Queen. It had thorough-braces of leather and went rocking along, jolted from side to side by the unevenness of the road. The larger vehicles of this type weighed about 1,800 pounds and carried from 15 to 18 passengers.

Those early days were not without their thrilling moments. Four horses attached to the Prairie Queen dashed away one day when Fred Wallace of Baraboo was clinging to the lines. Following this incident James Curry was sent from Baraboo and pressed into service as driver.

The stage usually carried a horn about four feet long and the instrument reverberated the air as an intermediate station or destination was sighted.

The distance from Madison to Baraboo was given on the schedule as 35 miles and time usually required was about eight hours. The distance was once covered by S.E. Cowles in six hours, when a Janesville sheriff was aboard and offered a reward of $10.00 providing the time was reduced two hours. A criminal had purloined a watch and was arrested in a barber shop after the stage reached Baraboo.

Besides James and S.E. Cowles some of the other drivers on this line were Dick Woodley, Ed. Pratt, John Howe, "Bugler" John, and Bill Stillson, better known as "Sandy" Bill.

In Baraboo the Western Hotel was the favorite; at Lodi, Daniel Mills, brother of Dr. B.F. Mills, pioneer physician of Baraboo, was proprietor of the Mills House for a number of years during the operation of the stage line. Nelson Burlingame was the landlord of the same hostelry for some time. The Northwestern Hotel was another place of entertainment and when James Cowles was driving a stage both houses were receiving guests. Both proprietors sometimes accused Cowles of favoring the rival house, but he maintained the strictest neutrality in the matter.

The United States Hotel at Madison saw more stages come and go than any other place of entertainment in the pioneer capital.

Moore & Davis, probably in the early 50’s, established a stage line between Madison, Lodi, Merrimack, and Baraboo. This became the Darnell’s express and was sold to James Cowles in September, 1855. The latter operated the line for eight years.

In writing of the stagecoach on this line, the late Peter Richards of Lodi related the following incident:

"Mr. (James) Cowles did some express business between the Capital City and Baraboo, and I do not believe another instance can be found where a carrier was blessed with such implicit confidence on the part of the people he served, as was Mr. Cowles. Money was freely entrusted to him to buy goods in Madison and bring to any home on the route, and I never heard any complaint made of any misuse of the money placed in his hands. I was with him one day coming to Baraboo, and when we had got about one mile out of Madison a buggy was driven up beside the stage and a voice called out:

"’Jim, stop a minute.’

"He stopped and Simeon Mills, the Madison banker and capitalist, handed Mr. Cowles a package, saying: ‘There is a thousand dollars in that package. I want you to carry it to Baraboo and give it to Mr. Thomas."

"’Well,’ said Mr. Cowles ‘I will do it this time, but I do not want you to follow me out of the town again in this way to give me money to carry. Everybody who saw you coming after me knew well enough what you wanted of me, and it might lead to my being followed, murdered and robbed for the money I was supposed to have in my possession.’"

James Cowles delighted in assuming the role of Joe Miller, sometimes to the passing discomfort of his passengers. One day when he was driving a stage between Madison and Baraboo he stepped into the hotel office in the Capital City preparatory to starting on the arduous journey to the village in the heart of the hills. As a diversion he feigned drunkenness and the ladies became frightened, declaring they would not ride with him. Perceiving he had carried the quirk far enough he lapsed into sobriety and the jest was duly enjoyed.


Although there are no records of a hold-up in the Baraboo region, as frequently occurred in England, New England, and the West, James Curry, the most noted of all the drivers on the Baraboo-Kilbourn line, once experienced all the sensations of such a situation. He drove a stage over the sandy stretches north of Baraboo from 1860 to 1871, when the railroad entered Baraboo and practically brought to an end this phase of life in the Baraboo valley. Mr. Curry owned the line during the last nine years of the above period. On account of the approach of the railroad to Baraboo in 1871, the express business from the railway station at Kilbourn to Baraboo became considerable, often yielding $75 per month. The charge was 50 cents per $1,000 for transporting money across the country, usually to the Terrell Thomas bank in Baraboo; and one night at Kilbourn Mr. Curry was handed $12,000 to be carried to the inland village. Just as he was leaving, two strangers crawled into the vehicle, taking their places on the rear seat and conversing in whispers. As the stage crossed the river and entered the pine woods, they continued to talk in low tones. With the memory of the notorious assault of Pat Wildrick on S.S. Gates and wife and later the murder of Gates by a pal of Wildrick’s near this very road not long before, in Curry’s mind, the situation was anything but pleasant. The driver urged his horses along with all possible haste but progress in the sand was not speedy. He expected an attack at any moment but his destination was reached without harm, the strangers being law abiding.

On another occasion Mr. Curry brought $40,000 from Kilbourn to Baraboo, the money being used in paying the employees of the Chicago & Northwestern railroad, the line then entering Baraboo. He received $20 for this express.

This driver stated that he was seldom uneasy on the route except when the bandit, Wildrick, was at large. The outlaw once escaped from the Baraboo jail and as Mr. Curry drove along the road near Ochsner Park, he observed him hiding in the woods. He called to the officers who were hunting for Wildrick and they speedily made the capture. As Pat was hurried toward the jail he shouted to the stage drive: "Young man, I’ll see you later." The Irishman was in the habit of keeping his word, but in this instance any attempt to do so would have been dangerous. His career ended soon after at the end of a rope in the hands of a mob at Portage. "An account of the lynching may be found in "Baraboo, Dells, and the Devils Lake Region.")

The mail was received at Kilbourn at 9 o’clock in the evening, Baraboo was reached about midnight, and Mazomanie at 9 o’clock the next morning.

When the business was at the flood tide it was often necessary to use an extra team, Mrs. Curry frequently driving the horses for her husband.

Mr. Curry made the last trip in 1871, quitting the business as the railroad reached Baraboo. He died fifty years later, in the late fall of 1921.

Prior to the founding of Kilbourn in the late 50’s, the terminal of the stage was at Newport, then a flourishing village about three miles down the Wisconsin River. A line was operated to LaCrosse, the road to Mauston (across the river from Kilbourn) being near the present location of the railroad.

At Kilbourn the stopping place was the Tanner House, now the Finch House; in the days when Newport flourished travelers stopped at the Steele Tavern; and in Baraboo, previous to the fire of 1878, the Western Hotel was the home of the passengers of the stagecoach.

One of the bitter experiences on this line was the cold New Year’s of 1864. The frigid temperature swept down from the north like a final sentence of death and the snow had been heaped wherever there was a break in the force of the gale, as it passed. On account of the almost impassable condition of the road, the time required to go from Baraboo to Kilbourn was seven hours. No trains arrived at the station at the Dells City from Friday until the following Thursday according to a statement given by an eyewitness of that day. Hands, feet, ears, and faces were frozen, some of the drivers on the Mauston Winona line meeting death as a result of the sub-zero storm.

One of the early firms to operate the Baraboo-Delton-LaCrosse line was Case & Wheeler. They sold to Moore & Davis, the terminals then being Kilbourn and Mazomanie. The fare from Kilbourn to Baraboo was $1.25. After the death of Moore the line passed to Emery, Buel & Houghton; Emery resided at Prairie du Sac and had direct charge of the business for some time.

After the beginning of train service at Baraboo, Colgrave at Washington succeeded in re-establishing a mail route, the contract being $250 per year. Ayers tried carrying the mail pouches across the country, usually on horseback, but after a short time abandoned the service.

Still later a stage was driven across the country by various owners, ___________________.D. Newell purchasing the line in 1914. He supplanted the horses with an automobile, and still later H.H. Hulbert operated with another machine. He was followed by various others but the absorbing of the mail service by rural carriers and the appearance of innumerable automobiles resulted in the final death of the business.

The road from Baraboo to Kilbourn was the same as it is today, except a turn was made to the right immediately after passing St. Michael’s cemetery, joining the present highway at the Frank Morley place near the southwestern corner of section 22, town of Baraboo.

Over this highway there was much hauling of freight after the railway reached Kilbourn about 1857, to Baraboo, until 1871—the year of the advent of the locomotive into the last named place. The drivers of the freight wagons had a unique method of obtaining the liquor to quench their unceasing thirst. Stopping by the side of the highway to rest a team after a long pull through the prairie sand, one of the six or more hoops on a barrel of whisky would be raised by pounding, a small hole made with a tool where the hoop had been; the bulging vessel was then tipped to one side, and a convenient jug filled to the neck with the liquid that is capable of giving a man something to think about "the morning after". A pointed piece of wood was then driven into the hole and the hoop pounded back into its accustomed place, the entire achievement being accomplished with sundry winks and smiles of satisfaction.

The shortage in the barrel was a mystery to the consignee and in the cases where he reported the discrepancy to the shipper, the darkness deepened. To solve the secret by attempting to locate the hole beneath the hoop where the liquor had trickled out was about as profitable a venture as searching for the buried treasure of Captain Kidd in the shifting sands of some island along the Atlantic coast.

The drivers of the teams along this road never admitted the secret of their well-filled flagons, so the consignors and consignees were never able actually to satisfy themselves as to the source of their various losses.


With the entrance of the Chicago & Northwestern railroad into Baraboo on September 12, 1871, the stage line between Baraboo and Portage was discontinued. In 1866 Stephen Emery and Fred Tobler owned the line, with James Curry as driver. Mr. Curry afterwards came into possession of the line and he in turn sold to William Wallace, proprietor of the Western Hotel, located at the southeast corner of Oak and Fourth streets, Baraboo.

Anton Kunzelman was the driver on this line during the last four years of its existence and relates that his most thrilling experience was meeting a "lynching bee". One September night in1869, the stage met a number of dark shadows near the Lower Narrows of the Baraboo River, going from Baraboo to Portage. Their mission was not known by the driver until he reached Portage the following day when, upon hearing of the hanging of Pat Wildrick, he went to the jail in the eastern part of the town where he saw the body of the notorious character suspended from the limb of a tree at the rear of the prison. The driver of the stage was approached by a number of citizens, as soon as he reached Baraboo, who desired to know if there was any excitement in Portage. He replied by offering copies of the village newspaper from a package with which he had been supplied by the publishers. These readily sold at ten cents per copy.

Wildrick had been accused of a number of crimes, the most serious being the murder of S.S. Gates who was killed by a pal of his near Kilbourn to remove him as a star witness against Wildrick.

The route from Baraboo was about three miles east, thence north-easterly through the Lower Narrows and on to Portage. In crossing the marsh near Portage it was often necessary to drive though the fields on account of the prevailing mud. When the river was high it was sometimes necessary to go through Fairfield, following the river road.

The coaches used on this line were of the Concord pattern, leather straps on the side, carrying eight passengers. The fare each way was $1.50, and express packages intrusted to the drivers were delivered at the hotels.

Moore at one time owned this line and Bill Stillson was once a driver.


In 1857, when Horace Coleman was postmaster at Russell’s Corners in Fairfield, a stage was operated between Baraboo and Portage. The route was past Leech Lake, thence along Leech Creek, north to the post office, east almost three miles, north a mile to the Plummer farm, then along the Wisconsin River to Portage. This was the year the first bridge spanned the Wisconsin River at the county seat of Columbia County. This line was soon abandoned, the route through the Lower Narrows of the Baraboo River proving easier to travel.


D.Y. Tyler, for fifteen years postmaster at Merrimack, was a stage driver between Baraboo, Delton, and Newport soon after he came to the region in 1854. Newport was then nearing the zenith of its glory, the inhabitants little dreaming that in a few years the prosperous frontier village would be reduced to a few cellar holes and a fading memory. In 1854 John Steele was conducting the big tavern in the village on the bank of the Wisconsin river and Adams & Wyley were operating a livery. Tyler was engaged to drive the stage over the sandy road covering the route. Postmaster Waite was in charge of the post office at Newport, Levi Huntington at Delton, and Mrs. Lucy Perkins at Baraboo. Webster Prairie was then thinly settled; a short stop was made by the stage at A.F. Washburn’s Inn, the half-way house, to water the horses. Often there were more passengers than one vehicle could accommodate and it would be necessary to engage another team, the extra service often costing as much as the total fare collected from both loads.

At one time Moore Davis owned this line. The stage at Newport was discontinued soon after the railroad reached Kilbourn, the station being located at the last named place and the travel naturally being diverted to the Dells City.


Between the founding of Newport, in the early 50’s, at the head of navigation on the Wisconsin River, and the building of the railroad about 1857, a stage line was operated between Portage and the Sauk County village. The road was on the south side of the stream.

J. Woodmansee, formerly a resident on the farm now owned by Asa Shults, about seven miles north of Baraboo, related that one cold morning, as the stage from Portage came in sight, the driver was swinging his arms in a vain endeavor to keep from freezing. As the stage passed the farmstead the man with the whip shouted concerning the frigid temperature to persons residing there and those were perhaps his last words for when the conveyance arrived at the Steele Tavern at Newport the driver was dead. How the horses went down the steep hill just before reaching the hostelry was an enigma, and to the passengers the thought of the driver perishing in the bitter air of the early morn was indeed gruesome.

This line extended from Milwaukee to LaCrosse.


A post office was established at White Mound, in 1859, in rather an unusual manner, and this innovation finally resulted in the operation of a stage line extending all the way from Reedsburg to Spring Green, the route being much the same as the State Trunk Highway of the present time. At this period the tension between Northern and Southern sympathizers was intense, political events of great import were being staged from day to day, and the shadow of an impending crisis was near at hand. The citizens in the northern part of the town of Franklin, desiring mail facilities, petitioned for a post office. Before the United States would grant this favor, however, the pioneer settlers were asked to carry the mail weekly for a year from Spring Green at their own expense as a test to the entreaty. Every Saturday for a twelve month the settlers, by turns, went to Spring Green for the neighborhood mail. They fulfilled their agreement with the government and at the end of the time specified, were given a post office and stage line sometime in 1860 or the year following.

The White Mound post office was in the home of William Hudson, who was the first postmaster. He retained the position until after the United States had passed through the maelstrom of civil War.

At first the line from Spring Green was by the way of Marble Ridge to the present location of Loretto and then to White Mound. A. Sweet was the postmaster at Marble Ridge, his home being located on the east side of the highway, about an eighth of a mile north of the south line of section 27, town of Bear Creek, nine miles from Spring Green.

John R. Lewis was the first owner of the line and his son, William, was wielder of the whip. B.U. Strong, afterwards state senator and at one time a famous boniface at Spring Green, was one of the early drivers; also Armstrong Benedict and John Wood. In the beginning there was but one round trip each week between Spring Green and Reedsburg. In 1888 the service was advanced to two round trips each week and in July, 1893, was made daily. About this time the route was divided, the drivers from Spring Green and Reedsburg meeting at White Mound where they exchanged mail pouches and returned.

Some time after the service was established through Marble Ridge the trips were made to alternate between the above office and Plain. Still later Marble Ridge ceased to be on the postal map.

The star route service, as it was called, between Spring Green and White Mound was abandoned about 1914, making Plain the terminal from Spring Green. About 1919 this was forsaken but about 1920 re-established, the carrier of the mail making one trip each day by automobile. The present contractor and driver is Herbert Schreiner.

Taking up the thread at the Reedsburg end again, about 1893 the line from Reedsburg was extended from White Mound to Woodlawn. On October 1, 1903, Woodlawn was discontinued as a postoffice, and White Mound again became the terminal. On July 1, 1919, White Mound was discontinued as a post office, the Reedsburg stage going only to Loganville. Double service was established between Reedsburg and Loganville on November 1, 1921. The present owner of the line is Fred Ninneman of Loganville and he has outstripped his predecessors in some particulars. As has been mentioned, in early times it was often necessary for the carrier of the mail to travel on horseback, so nearly impassable were many of the roads. Now, with the coming of surfaced highways and automobiles, this carrier drives over his route in a motor driven coupe, heated and electrically lighted, in which he is strongly fortified against wind and weather, making the trip in less than half the time consumed by drivers in early days.

Messrs. Kirby, Reilly Bridgeman, Benedict Wood and others were also drivers on the line between Reedsburg and Spring Green. For thirty years J.R. Donahue was either a driver or contractor of stages leaving Reedsburg. It is said he was as regular as a clock, seldom missed a trip, and this happened only when heroic efforts had failed to make it possible to get through.

The writer is under obligations to former Postmaster Thomas Hill and Postmaster Thomas McNulty of Spring Green and Assistant Postmaster George A. Claridge of Reedsburg for much of the information included in this chapter.


About the time the railroad reached Kilbourn, in 1857, a stage line was opened between Reedsburg and the station on the Wisconsin River. In 1872, when the trains came into Reedsburg, the route became a bygone enterprise.

While the post office in the town of Dellona was on section 21 the stage continued its way in a northeasterly direction to Kilbourn but when the office was moved about a mile south the stage continued to Delton, thence to Kilbourn, usually returning over the same route.

Civil war soldiers going to Kilbourn to take the train or returning from the south were frequent passengers on this line.

There was a half-way house, a rural tavern, about half a mile south and west of where the highway crosses Dell Creek, when the direct route to Kilbourn was taken.


In 1854, A.H. Clark established a tri-weekly stage between Reedsburg and Baraboo and this was continued until the railroad reached Kilbourn. After that event a stage carried mail and passengers from the Dells City six times a week.

In 1871, after the Chicago & Northwestern entered Baraboo, another line was established to Reedsburg, operating but a short time.

The route from Reedsburg to Baraboo was north of the north range of bluffs, entering the Kilbourn Road northwest of Baraboo, or across the Baraboo River in Section 18, town of Excelsior, thence easternly through the Ebenezer Valley to Baraboo.


In 1855, Wheeler & Chase began the operation of a stage between Baraboo and La Crosse, making weekly trips. It is thought this line went by the way of Delton, the Red Tavern, and Mauston.


About 1865, a stage line was established between Ithaca in Richland County and White Mound in Sauk County, the route being through Sandusky. The stage carried mail. Hatch was the driver most of the time, but the usefulness of this line was of a short duration.


The Ironton-Lone Rock stage was a veritable iron mine line. In the late 50’s, when an iron mine was opened at Ironton, there was no little flurry in the region and a stage was established to Lone Rock, a new station on the railroad recently constructed. In the town of Ironton the road roamed through unfenced land, a common situation in those early times, before boundaries had been definitely established. This highway was naturally a sinuous route, following valleys, avoiding elevations, and crossing the streams at the most favorable locations. Much of the way the highway was through an avenue of virgin hardwood. The road was to the east of the present one, connecting the hamlets of Ironton and Sandusky, passing through Lime Ridge about midway. From Sandusky the line extended into Richland County, touching the postoffice of Dederich, several miles above Lone Rock. Many tons of pig-iron, some of it worth $80.00 per ton, were hauled over this road to the station at Lone Rock, machinery and supplies in turn being transported to the mine.

About 1894, soon after J.W. Babcock of Necedah was elected to the House of Representatives at Washington, George J. Seamans appealed for better mail service at Lime Ridge, desiring to have the pouches brought to the inland village from Reedsburg instead of Lone Rock. The petition was soon granted and the stage-line between Ironton and Lone Rock became a memory.


The Reedsburg-Sandusky stage line was established in September, 1896, with the discontinuance of the route between Ironton and Lone Rock. Much difficulty was experienced on this line in the beginning as the business was owned by general stage line contractors, The Call Mail Company. The company employed various persons to operate the line but later the business passed to local residents, a much more satisfactory arrangement. In 1902, the line was extended from Sandusky to Keysville, a rural postoffice in Richland County, but in July, 1903, the postoffice at Keysville was discontinued and the line reduced to its original length. For a number of years Kirkpatrick Brothers of Reedsburg owned the line. They sold to Ralph Sorge who in turn disposed of the property to Cyril Johnson, in March, 1922. He is operating the stage at the present time.


For some time Mrs. Graham drove a stage from Spring Green to Hillside and other places in Iowa County, transporting passengers and mail.


A stage from Wonewoc to Valton was established about 1882 and the first driver was George James. The route was discontinued about 1908, a rural carrier serving Valton and the region roundabout with mail. The postoffice at Valton was established about 1862, the mail being brought from Reedsburg, at that time served by stage from Kilbourn. Alonzo McKoon was the first postmaster at Valton. The rural carrier service caused the postoffice to be discontinued on July 15, 1915.


At one time a stage was operated between Richland Center and a point across the Wisconsin River, probably Mineral Point. The stream was crossed on Haywood’s Ferry, nearly opposite where William Robson now resides. The ferry was reached by going south from the main road along the middle line of section one, southwest part of the town of Troy. One day this stage went through the ice into the river, the passengers being immersed in the chilly stream. The occupants were given care at the Wilson Tavern, a few miles away. One of the ladies wore a black velvet gown, an almost unheard of luxury in those pioneer times.


About the time the Chicago Northwestern Railroad was completed to La Valle, in 1872, a stage line was established from the new station, through Ironton to Cazenovia, bringing the lonely village and inland farms in touch with the outside world. In writing about this stage, Miss Mary Byrne, 1911, says the Indians came from their tepees along the river to watch the wagon that passed so regularly and so often. Those were the reconstruction days following the Civil War and the furnace days at Ironton when John F. Smith rode over his thousands of acres by day and watched the molten metal pour into the earthen beds by night. As over other lines, a motley procession passed along the route. Returned soldiers, young and old, rich and poor, of many races and creeds, knights of the grip, good fellows and good travelers, and many others found their way over this abbreviated line.

The list of drivers is almost as long as the stage line itself. First comes Alonzo Scott followed by Alf Banks, John Fitzgerald, Jr., Charles St. John, Daniel Wright, and Martin Hanzlik. The latter, a man with unlimited courtesy and ready wit, held the reins for a dozen years. Petie Durin was also a popular driver, passengers of the fair sex manifesting a spirit of rivalry for a place on the front seat beside him. Then there were genial John Leimknehler and the last, but not by any means the least, "Jolly Jim" Kitson. Jim held the lines for the last time before the new railroad took over the responsibilities of transporting the mail and passengers up and down the Little Baraboo Valley.

When Hanzlik drove his greys, he always swung proudly around the corner at the station; but one of the animals could not harmonize her nature with the on-rushing train. Daily for years at the station she would rear and plunge in spectacular manner when the train thundered down the track.

Along this route the Cazenovia railroad was built and for a number of years its existence seemed uncertain. Trains were irregular and sometimes not at all. In order to comply with the government contract, however, the mail must be carried over the route. At times horses were employed but eventually some one had a happy idea. The tires were removed from a small automobile and the machine placed upon the rails, the rims of the wheels serving as flanges. This contrivance would rumble down the track and when La Valle or neighboring station was reached the car would leave the rails, run over the earth street to the post office, deliver the mail, and return. This service ticked the risibilities of the citizens for miles around.


The owners of stage lines were not extensive advertisers else we should have a more complete history of their operations during the time they served the public. The following are a few efforts at publicity taken at random from old newspapers and directories in order to show they resorted to this means of informing the public in a modest way:

On August 10, 1853, A.H. and J.B. Dwinnell of Lodi advertised in the Sauk County Standard, at Baraboo, a tri-weekly express between Baraboo, Madison, and Milwaukee; time 36 hours. The stage met the railroad at Milton. The fare was $2.00 to Madison and $5.85 to Milwaukee.

On July 5, 1854, Wheeler & Case advertised in the Standard as express and mail line from Baraboo to La Crosse, leaving Baraboo every Monday at 7 o’clock and leaving La Crosses every Tuesday at 6 o’clock.

On November 1, 1854, Bacon & Stanley advertised in the Standard a daily stage, Sunday not excepted, Baraboo, Lodi, and Madison. Later the firm name was changed to Bacon & Davis.

On November 14, 1854, the Madison Patriot gave the information that Darnell’s Express ran daily to Lodi and Baraboo.

On March 12, 1855, an advertisement in the Baraboo Republic stated that Wheeler & Case operated a stage line from Baraboo to La Crosse.

On July 7, 1855, the Baraboo Republic stated the stage left Baraboo for Lodi and Madison at 7 a.m. and afternoons.

On July 12, 1856, the Baraboo Republic advertised that George Arnold was agent, that the stage left Baraboo at 4 a.m. for Madison, left every morning for La Crosse, left for Portage every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and returned on intermediate days. The picture of a Concord coach is used in this advertisement.

On November 7, 1866, the Baraboo Republic contained an advertisement that a stage operated between Baraboo and Portage, that it left Baraboo daily at 7 a.m., and that it left Portage, immediately after the arrival of the train from the east. Fare, $1.25; __________________ & Tobler, proprietors; J. Currie, driver.

On July 16, 1867, the Baraboo Independent advertised a Kilbourn and Portage stage, leaving for Portage at 7 a.m. and for Kilbourn at 2 p.m. Fred Tobler, proprietor.

On March 24, 1868, the Baraboo Independent carried an advertisement to the effect that the stage from Baraboo to Mazomanie left at 4 a.m., and arrived at Baraboo at midnight, trip from 5 to 12 o’clock, D.R. Baxter, proprietor.

In the Madison directories a few advertisements were found:

1855 – Stage office, the United States Hotel, corner Morris and Pinckney streets. Eight stages left Madison at that time; for Baraboo daily at 7 a.m.

1866 – Baraboo stage departs from Madison Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 8 a.m. Baraboo stage arrives Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays, at 7 p.m.

Sauk stage departs Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8 a.m.; arrives at Madison Mondays and Fridays at 6 p.m.


A great variety of vehicles have been used in transporting mail and passengers over the highways of the Baraboo region. The most imposing was the Concord coach with its painted body and plush seats. The last of these at Prairie du Sac was a palatial one, costing about $3,000. When there was little or no business remaining at that point, the vehicle was brought to Baraboo by Harvey G. Hyland and still later taken to Portage. From Portage it went to Chicago and its final ending is unknown here. Hyland owned the stage line between Baraboo and the Sauk villages about 1890.

Besides the regular coach there was a lighter vehicle called a Democrat wagon, curtains being used in inclement weather. These conveyances usually had three seats and would accommodate nine persons. There were also spring wagons of various sizes and types gigs and buckboards being pressed into service during the season when roads took on bottomless characteristics. A gig was light, had but two wheels, and carried no one except the driver; a buckboard was made for two, the seat resting on long, thin boards extending between the front and rear wheels. A covered buggy, drawn by one or two horses, was likewise used, also sleds and sleighs. When none of these could navigate the roads, the carrier of the mail rode a horse or made the journey on foot, the passengers remaining at home or covering the distance as best they could.

The nearest approach to a consolidation of the stage lines was in the days when Frink, Walker, Moore & Davis owned lines in Illinois and Wisconsin. This firm was dissolved, Moore & Davis securing the business in Wisconsin, and still later this firm also dissolved Moore retaining the business. Both resided in Milwaukee and operated lines over the greater portion of Wisconsin. When Moore died he left his wife a fortune, so considered in that time, of about $20,000; Davis died in Baraboo but his body rests elsewhere.

In the early days many of the roads were winding, following ridge or ravine, but these have largely been brought to sectional or intersectional lines, the location they hold today.

Gone are the old days of travel. The automobile with a mail pouch aboard, between Reedsburg and Loganville, also between Reedsburg and Sandusky, is but a fleeting reminder of other means of making a journey. With the coming of the railroads in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s into this region, and the advent of the rural mail service at Spring green in 1898, spreading over the entire county soon after, the "old whips" were forced to seek other vocations or retreat to far distant regions in order to perform their accustomed service.



"Whoe’er has travell’d life’s dull round,

Where’er his stages may have been,

May sigh to think he still has found

The warmest welcome at an inn."



There is a flavor of romance about old time taverns. Clinging to these primitive places of entertainment in this locality are rich memories of the middle nineteenth century. They followed closely the advancing rim of pioneer life as it spread over the section north and west of the Wisconsin River in the 40’s and 50’s, when the Baraboo country was a railroadless region and when the snail-like mode of travel of the stagecoach made it necessary for places of entertainment to be within brief distances of each other that the traveler might be conveniently refreshed.

Some of these old hostelries were crude and queer, and the bonifaces who presided over them often seemed a kind of reflection in character and appearance of the strange architecture of the buildings. These early landlords did not confine their responsibility to the physical comfort of their guests but were a never failing thesaurus on politics, crops, the weather, and the gossip of the country roundabout.

When journeying, if a traveler possessed a peaceful disposition, rarely did he need fear personal molestation, but if he were truculent in temperament he might have a fight at almost any of the stopping places along the way, for at these pioneer taverns there were bullies and rowdies, usually men returning to the pineries who preferred a trial at personal combat to any other kind of excitement.

The landlords in these days were prone to join their guests in indulgence in their libation. "Some of the virtues may be modern, but all the vices are ancient," declared Bulwer Lytton when he heard that loaded dice had been found by the explorers in the ruins of Pompeii.

There were no bathing facilities, except for the face and hands, as bathtubs were unknown in this region prior to the coming of the railroads. No one thought of taking a bath from a pail or small vessel during the winter and most people refrained from all efforts at ablution during the greater portion of the year. For washing the face and hands a sink with a small wash-basin was provided. Beneath the sink was a pail to receive the water which had been used and it was the never-ending duty of the handy man about the hostelry to keep a watchful eye that the receiving vessel did not overflow the surrounding territory. Near at hand was a dish of soft soap, a roller towel and a comb which had lost not a few of its teeth. But little time was consumed in these days in the making of one’s toilet.

Heatless were the sleeping rooms, which were small and without ventilation, except through the door or undersized window. The foundation of the bed was a tick filled with straw thrown upon a corded bedstead, the ropes running backwards and forwards from pins in the rails and end-pieces, so as to make numerous little squares about nine inches across. The timbers would sometimes split where the pins were inserted and the mortices were often rough, leaving ample crevices for uninvited guests. A bath of boiling water was about the only remedy in routing these from their undesired location. The ticks were not infrequently filled with musty straw and the covering was none too abundant. There were no washing machines, no laundries, so the sheets and pillow coverings were not always as spotless as they might have been. Even with this crude accommodation the taverns were sometimes so crowded when night arrived that lots would be cast to determine who should be the unfortunate ones to sleep on the office floor or convenient nook selected by the Boniface.

During the bitter season of the year a warming pan, a vessel into which live coals were placed, was shoved back and forth between the sheets or blankets of the bed in order to raise the temperature before occupancy by the guest.

For illumination at night, tallow candles were used before the advent of the kerosene lamp. Circular lanterns of tin or square with part of the sides of glass, a candle for the interior, were common up to and through the Civil War period. No tavern or hotel in this region was lighted with electricity before the 80’s.

Cooking conditions were more or less primitive. The first stoves for kitchens did not appear on the market until about 1840, just prior to the opening of the first taverns in this region. Many were brought from Milwaukee where they were sold by those outfitting the new settlers. These stoves had elevated ovens but no reservoirs for water. Green wood often fell to the lot of the cook and a hurry-up meal with this kind of fuel was a vexatious undertaking. The kitchen was equipped with a few iron pots and spiders, also a limited number of earthen vessels.

Usually the food was abundant but simple. Plenty of bread, butter (such as it was), meat, potatoes, gravy, beans, and other provisions were provided. Fruit and game were served in season. Conservation wardens were unknown; the bag limit of quail, pigeons, partridge, rabbit, prairie chicken, deer, bear, or fish was never questioned. Fruit stores filled with the riches of the tropics were not within reach and packages of breakfast foods could not be brought down from the pantry shelf. Buckwheat cakes were in evidence in the morning, served in any quantity, and coffee was a staple. Cooks were often at their wits-end to find material for the interior or pies; green tomatoes, dried pumpkin, dried apples, and like essentials frequently being used. To reduce apples and pumpkins to a state where they could be preserved for indefinite periods, slices were hung in festoons about the fire or spread on a board in the autumn sun, a very crude process when flies are to be taken into consideration. Crackers were abut the only thing that came from a bakery and these were usually purchased by the barrel. Maple syrup was on the menu in the spring and sorghum or other kinds during the remainder of the year. Sour milk, salaratus, or home-made yeast caused all the early rising and hot breads, biscuits from wheat flour and corn bread from ground maize, were frequently provided. There was but one salt cellar on the table, this of ample size and into which all dipped in order to supply their saline wants. When the bell was rung and one found a place at the table, "if you didn’t like the greens you could help yourself to the mustard".

The knives and forks used at the table were usually equipped with handles of wood or imitation ivory, the former black and the latter white, turning yellow with age. The blades of the knives were of steel and the forks often boasted of but two tines.

The tables were long and seated many guests. Individual dishes were not provided, each guest serving himself from the ample tureens and platters provided by the host.

Drinking of intoxicating liquors was the besetting sin in the early days of this region and many of the settlers seemed to have been perpetually athirst. Frequently there was an "eye-opener" on arising in the morning, an appetizer before the noonday and evening meals, afterwards a little stimulant to aid digestion, and a "night cap" before retiring. Convivial spirits constituted no small portion of the population and with some there was pride in the capacity for drink. At barn raisings, husking bees, and other like gatherings a jug was often in evidence and occasionally there even was tippling at funerals. But little wine was used; liquor was mostly whiskey made from corn or rye at a distillery near at hand. Before the Civil War there were no restraints on the manufacture or sale of whisky and it was sold as other commodities. Some of that used by the early taverns in the Baraboo region was made at the Roper distillery at Parfrey’s Glen or the one located near the village of Newport.

Usually liquor was taken "straight", but occasionally its rasping attribute was somewhat tamed by the addition of molasses. The story is told that an odd character who lingered about the bar in the Ferry House at Merrimack away back in the fifties, would take a glass, pour in a little liquor, add molasses, taste it, declare there was too much sweet, add more liquor, taste again, and continue the process until the vessel was full to the top before be poured the concoction down his oesophagus.

Some taught the folly of intemperance, but the movement was slow in growth. Although more money was spent for drink than for religion or education in those early days, the people progressed, established fundamental institutions, and left to posterity a heritage more substantial than the customs of the time would indicate.

In the earlier taverns were large fireplaces about which the guests gathered at night to relate past experiences or to give expression to their hopes, which lay down the shining road of the future. These were generally travelers by stagecoach, those in "prairie schooners" usually camping where night overtook them.

Cleanliness was not always next to godliness, as experienced by a traveler in this region about the middle of the last century. Arriving late for dinner one day, there being three or four in the company, the guests were informed the regular meal had been served but it was possible something could be prepared. Tardy meals are not always becalming to the cook in public places of this kind and in this instance the autocrat of the kitchen went about the task with considerable agility as if her temper had been unduly peppered. Seizing the handle of a skillet reposing beneath the stove, she brought it forth with alacrity and out bounded the family cat. Not stopping to blow into the iron utensil, as did the footman into the spout of the teapot in the presence of Dr. Samuel Johnson, or wipe it out with a cloth to remove any lingering feline hairs, the woman brought the spider down onto the stove with an emphatic slam-bang. Eggs were soon sputtering over the fire but when served the observer of all that had happened a few moments before had not appetite for the fried portion of the meager meal.

Another instance of the crude hospitality extended to early travelers is found in "Merrell’s Narrative", a chapter in the "Wisconsin Historical Collections". Merrill and Captain Harris were journeying from Fort Winnebago to Galena and stopped at Rowan’s Tavern near Madison. The proprietor, Wallace Rowan, afterward maintained a place of entertainment at Poynette and still later came to Baraboo, building a cabin opposite the Indian ford, between Baraboo and Lyons. Merrill says in his narrative:

The first night we stayed at Rowan’s celebrated house, thirty-five miles from the fort. I had heard much of this inn and found it filled the bill. It consisted of two log buildings with an open space between, all under the same roof. After taking care of our horses, and getting something to eat, we inquired where we could sleep, and Madam told us in the other house; so we went in and concluded we should do very well as there was nothing in the room but a bed, and one or two three-legged stools. After lying down, and by the time we were ready to go to sleep, there was an unearthly squeal and grunt of hogs in the open space between the two rooms, only a partition of logs between our heads and them. I was told that governor Doty once stayed there; and after supper, as was the custom, rolled himself in his blanket on the floor. The family all lived, cooked and slept in one room; and in the night the governor felt something poking about him, and found it was a pet pig the children had running about the house. The governor felt of the puncheons of the floor, and found one loose, which he raised carefully, and grabbing the pig, thrust him under, and was relieved of his company that night. The next morning there was a great search for the pig.

Dr. W. Worrel of the army, with a companion arrived there at one. ****When she was cooking supper, there was a dish of potatoes on the hearth, and the pet pig stuck his nose into it; the doctor says, "Madam, I would like to be served before the pig". So in traveling about the country, we came across some curious specimens of humanity.

Usually between the starting point and destination of the stay there was a half-way house where there was a tap for the thirty humans and a watering trough for the tired animals. These drinking conveniences for horses, hollowed from a log, Indian fashions are now seldom seen by the roadside, having disappeared with log cabin and log stable.




With myriad stars winking in the azure dome above, the earliest visitors in the Baraboo valley were of necessity compelled to take lodgings in Nature’s vast out-of-doors. No doubt their slumber was sweet although it may have been broken by prowling wolf or inquisitive bear.

Not a few of the first arrivals found the luxury of a night’s repose in the old log schoolhouse which was erected in 1844 at 327 Seventh Avenue, or possibly they lodged at the home of some hospitable settler, meager though his accommodations were at the time. In 1843, James Webster erected a building west of the north end of the upper ox-bow of the Baraboo River and this place in Lyons was the first approach to a hotel in the valley. Charles Armstrong, who came in 1847, in the "American Sketch Book", 1876, in part, says:

Just as the sun was setting we came up to a log house, over the door of which was a buck’s horn. I jumped out of the wagon, and the door being open, entered. The house consisted of one large room, in the middle of which, seated around a table, were some half-dozen men in red shirts, playing cards. Finding I was not observed I started back to the wagon, feeling alarmed for the ladies.

At a short distance I perceived a tall, stout built man, and stepping up to him, I said: "Sir, is there no other place that a stranger could get accommodations over night, only there?" pointing to the buck’s horn.

I discovered in his features an open, manly expression, and intuitively felt that we were safe. He opened his broad, frank mouth and said, "Yes, if you will take up with such accommodations as I have in my little house, you are welcome," at the same time starting toward the house. On entering I found a house unsurpassed for cleanliness—in fact, one of the cleanest I ever had my foot in. This was the home of Alexander Crawford.

Concerning the inmates of the log tavern, the author of the foregoing continues:

I afterwards became acquainted with these red shirts, and felt ashamed of myself for being afraid of them for they were not really bad or dangerous men. The house was owned and kept by old man Webster, after whom Webster’s Prairie was named. He was in many respects a remarkable man, being possessed of a superior mind, yet totally deaf. But such was his power of observation that he could get the substance of a conversation merely by watching the motion of the lips of the person speaking. We had a meeting at Colonel Maxwell’s store and "Jings Adams" (that being the name by which he was designated) made a very good speech. After the close of the meeting I observed to a friend that it was a great pity he, Webster, was deprived of hearing. He stood opposite me, and immediately exclaimed: "Neighbor Armstrong, you say it is a deprivation not to hear. Why, one-half that is told in the world is lies, and the other half had just as well not be heard."

James Webster was the father of H.H. Webster, a resident of Baraboo until about the close of the century.


In the Warner Memorial Road, extending between Baraboo and Devils lake State Park, there is an angle in the highway about half a mile in length, due to the presence of a tavern in the pioneer village. In primitive times roads were tortuous, crossing streams at the most favorable places, skirting elevations where there was the smallest resistance, and passing through woods along routes necessitating the least exertion. Where the contour permitted, these highways were narrowed down in time to sectional or inter-sectional lines established by the surveyors, and the old stage road nearing Baraboo from the south found itself in later years a quarter of a mile west of the section line. Had there been no opposition, the thoroughfare after crossing the river, would have passed on the west side of the public square. The presence of a pioneer tavern, however, diverted the road two blocks to the east, according to the statements of men whose memories span three score years and ten.

It was Lyman Clark, an early boniface in Baraboo, who built this tavern known as the Baraboo House, on the northwest corner of Lynn and Walnut streets, part way up the hill from a spot where the river was forded in early times and where a bridge later spanned the stream. When the deviations were removed from the old stage road leading to Prairie du Sac and Madison, Clark had the business acumen to perceive the advantage of bringing the highway past his door and so influenced those who established the road in a permanent location, although the thoroughfare by the change ignored all property and sectional lines. Many of the thousands who roll over the beautiful Warner Memorial highway today are unconscious of the fact that a rude village tavern erected in 1847 was responsible for the angle in the road.

An early chronicler in Baraboo states that Lyman Clark never turned any one away from his hostelry, money or no money, and so popular was his tavern that it was necessary to frequently apply to the villagers to care for some of his guests. When Gardiner Myers, wife and two children came to Baraboo, they stopped at the Baraboo House and while there Mr. Myers was taken ill. The family had no money and after being with the Clarks several days the Myers cow was killed for meat. It was a time of discouragement for the family but in time Mr. Myers recovered his health and became prosperous, conducting a tavern on the stage road in the town of Fairfield. In later years Charles Armstrong, who tells this story, joked him concerning the event of the early days and Myers, who stuttered slightly, replied: "Wh-wh-who in h-h-hell would not have been d-d-discouraged? They had k-k-killed the old cow for meat, and I made out to crawl down to the stable to see what c-c-condition the colts were in; expected they w-w-would have to go n-n-next for meat."

After the last guests had gone from the Clark house the old tavern became filled with the odors of sour mash and other offensive smells characteristic of a brewery. In time the frame was changed to brick and the corner building is now a souvenir of the ante-Volstead days.


"The Baraboo Whisky War," about the only war that Baraboo ever experienced, began in the saloon operated by Michael Kornel in the Wisconsin House, which stood at 136 Fourth Avenue, at the present time the location of the Al. Ringling Theatre. During the spring of 1854 a great temperance wave engulfed the village, the leading spirits in the movement being Rev. W. Cochran, pastor of the Congregational church, Rev. W.H. Thompson, the Methodist minister, and other well known citizens. Conditions in the village had been growing gradually worse and worse as far as drinking alcoholic beverages were concerned and with the revival instituted by the ministers it was decided by some of the women of the town to attack King Alcohol in his dens of iniquity. Needless to say the "war" created intense excitement.

At the time there lived in Baraboo a hard drinker who was a good citizen when not "in his cups." He was an habitual patron of the Brick Tavern bar, his appetite resulting in neglect of his family, and at a desperate moment in an attempt to take the life of his wife. The proprietor of the bar was beseeched to refrain from selling rum to this individual when the drinking led to such deeds of violence, but the appeal was not heeded. At last death intervened and the earth closed over the inebriate, leaving a widow and fatherless children.

The following Sabbath Rev. Thompson become eloquent over the sale of liquor in the village, then numbering about one thousand persons, and said he wished "to God the thunderbolts of heaven would shiver the Brick Tavern and its contents, animate and inanimate." Attorney Pratt a few days later said that he would be happy to see "all the liquor in the village poured into the streets." The indignation did not abate but gathered momentum as the days advanced. An impromptu meeting was held and a few bold ladies of the village decided to attack with berserker fury. A writer in describing the scene says:

Hark! There’s a sound of devastation—a sudden unloosing of liquid devils. The bar room of the Brick Tavern is in the process of female invasion. Fumes of liquor infect the air. "Rye," "Bourbon," and "Fine Old Tom" meet a common fate, and are rapidly absorbed by the parched earth in front of the hotel. The whilom dispenser of these evil spirits is wrapped in slumber; for it is early morn and none but sober citizens are abroad. The righteous work of destruction proceeds so quietly that his repose is not disturbed. In disposing of the empty bottles a corrugated "Schnaps" is deposited in an adjacent dry goods box in which a reveler of the previous night has taken lodging. The breaking of the fallen bottles does not molest him, but there is a familiar smell about it which brings him to his feet with all the alacrity of a toper invited to a drink; and he looks out upon the strange scene and weeps.

After the visitation to the Brick Tavern the band of women marched to a place near by where they found the proprietor had scented trouble and locked the door. The ladies made a proposition to purchase his wares but while he hesitated on setting a price an entrance was affected at the rear by some of them and there was a quiet turning of faucets, which soon flooded the floor. By the time they reached "French Pete’s" the news of the revolution had spread through the village and a crowd gathered upon the scene to learn the facts. As one of the ladies attempted to gain the entrance to the Van Wendell saloon she found the way blocked by a patron. He was caught by the waistband and rudely jerked aside, the suddenness of the attack causing some of the fastenings to give way. Deputy Sheriff Chapman advanced and began to read the riot act, calling upon the crowd to disperse. Addressing one of the ministers he said, "Mr. Cochran, you disperse!" The man of the cloth informed him he did not know how.

Among the fair raiders were: Mrs. Barton Anderson, Mrs. Noyes, Mrs. Flanders, Mrs. Maxwell, Miss Ada Feegles, Mrs. Newson, Mrs. Rockwood, Miss Newson, Mrs. Cain, Mrs. Eber Crandall, Miss Lowell, Mrs. Cowles, Mrs. Parish and Miss Martha Battles.

Some days later a number of the ladies were given a ride to Lower Sauk by Sheriff Munson that an impartial trial might be held. There they were remanded to circuit court and returned to Baraboo under the protection of the officer. When the case was called by Judge Wheeler in circuit court the damage was fixed at $150 which was immediately paid, thus ending the Baraboo whisky war.

The Wisconsin House, 136 to 140 Fourth Avenue, was built in 1850 by a man named Kornel, who operated the place for eight years. Herman Albrecht and John Schlag became the proprietors and remained with the hostelry for a long time. In the beginning the property was a little brick tavern, a frame addition being added later. The old hostelry was torn away shortly before the Al. Ringling Theatre was erected in 1915.


The most noted guest of the Western Hotel, southeast corner of Oak and Fourth Streets, Baraboo, was Mrs. Abraham Lincoln. In the summer of 1872 the distinguished lady was a visitor at the Cliff House, Devils Lake, and before leaving stopped at the old Western Hotel. Mrs. E.M. Hoag of Baraboo happened to be a passenger in the conveyance which brought the widow of the martyred president from the summer resort to Baraboo and recalls the trip with interest.

In 1847, Colonel Edward Sumner purchased the land on which the Western Hotel stood and erected a one-story frame building. He christened it the Adams House, the name of the village at that time. The hotel was twice enlarged, finally raised to three stories, becoming quite an imposing structure. Colonel Sumner departed for California in 1849 to seek gold and before leaving rented the place to a Boniface named Watson. On the return of Colonel Maxwell from the "land of gold" in 1852, he found the village name had been changed to Baraboo and the hotel to the Western.

At this pioneer hostelry gathered all classes of people; judges to preside in court, lawyers to try the issues, travelers seeking land constantly coming up as the settlers increased, and townsfolks to inform themselves as to the latest gossip.

In 1857, there was no jail in Baraboo, and the village newspaper of the time tells how a prisoner was treated: "He sleeps at the Western Hotel, the best in town, eats his breakfast there, and lounges around the village, gossiping with merchants and clerks until the gong sounds for dinner, which meal he eats with as good grace as if he, instead of the county, paid for it. Afternoon and evening are spent in the same manner; with the single welcome interruption of tea; and at a tolerably reasonable hour our prisoner goes to bed, not being we fear, either a sadder or a wiser man. He has no disposition to run away, considering himself, as he does, the best treated man in Sauk County. We understand that the sheriff proposed to him to work on his farm, but he was informed by his gentlemanly prisoner that the county had agreed to support him three months without work."

The above is the manner in which a resident was punished (?) for stealing a cow.

In 1855, Colonel Sumner sold the Western to Dunn & Davis and in a short time William Wallace was in possession, remaining there until 1870. Wallace sold to Campbell, who in turn was followed by William B. Pearl, for years proprietor of the Cliff House at Devils Lake. A week after Pearl vacated Vulcan reigned, the destructive fire which consumed the Western occurring on November 6, 1878.


Before the high bridge was constructed over the Baraboo River in the city of Baraboo, all the business passing over the stream was across a lower bridge, in the section known as "under the hill." Here in 1850, at 123 Ash street, J.W. Jackson built the American House. In 1868, it became the property of E.T. Peck who changed the name of the hotel to the Peck House. Robinson & Sargeant and others operated the hostelry which after the burning of the frame structure was rebuilt and was known as the Urban House.

In the old American House Quiggle’s Band played its liveliest tunes in the large hall in the building, the dancers performing their nimble movements to the tune of Mother Goose, the Lancers, Money Musk, Opera Reel, Fireman’s Dance, Mazurka, and many others.


"Nigger Dick," a character about Baraboo prior to the Civil War, once performed a daring trick at the Exchange House on Water Street, a place of entertainment which was conducted for a number of years by Volney Moore and others. The central figure in this episode was on his way to Sauk City to attend a June picnic, the journey to be made over the bluff astride a horse. The day was hot and the Senegambrian decided to have a cooling draught before departing on his long gallop. When Dick thrust his dark countenance into the room and made known his desires he was refused. Wheeling about he strode to his horse tied to a post on the outside, untied the strap, swung himself into the saddle, and rode daringly into the office, to the serious detriment of the frail furniture. With this bold act he apparently had the individual in charge of the bar completely "buffaloed" for the desired potation was immediately forthcoming. One whose memory projects into the ante-bellum days relates the poor darkey became so inebriated that he never reached the Sauk village to attend the picnic.

After the Exchange House was vacated as a hotel, it stood untenanted for a number of years. Later it became the abode, during the winter seasons, of the nondescript specimens of humanity who drifted into Baraboo each autumn with the returned circus housed hard-by. Still later the frame hotel was replaced with a more substantial brick structure in which were provided modern comforts for the Ringling circus men.


One of the most famous of the old hotels of the region, the Cliff House, was not on a stage line. This building stood north of the railroad tracks and near the East Bluff, north shore of Devils Lake. The hotel was erected in 1865, six years before the coming of the railroad, by E.N. Marsh, a soldier returned from the Civil War, and J.W. Blake. The named the hotel the Minnewaukan House, the Indian name for the lake, and in time sold to Samuel Hartley. For a period it was operated by P.D. Parsons & Company of Madison, the name being changed to the Cliff House. From 1879 to 1904 W.B. Pearl was the landlord. After he vacated, the place was torn down, Mrs. Abraham Lincoln was once a guest in the house, also many others distinguished in various walks of life, all drawn there by the wonderful scenery of the lake and region roundabout. Many delightful social events were held within the walls of the commodious structure.


On July 20, 1848, James Burlin purchased lots from Jabish T. Clement and Levi Moore, at the southwest corner of Linn and Cedar Streets in Lyons, West Baraboo, where he erected a tavern. The Burlin place became one of the most noted in this section at the time. After ten years Burlin sold to James Arden and successively the property passed to Elizabeth Pimley in 1859, Joseph W. Pimley in 1865, Thomas Burnett in 1866, William Nash in 1867, Oren S. Hall and Robert O. Hall in 1867, Amos P. True in 1868, and Henry T. True in 1883. The older residents recall a large sign which was displayed for many years, the words on the board being "Union House." Here stopped many a familiar prairie schooner in the days when they moved at a snail’s pace across the country to the Big Bend country in Minnesota—to the new El Dorado so full of alluring hope. Vulcan visited the landmark about 1890 and soon all that remained were the ashes from the burning of the building.

An exciting episode took place in this old tavern, which stood on the corner southeast of the junction of the road to Kilbourn with the one leading to Reedsburg. For many years the tavern was a well known landmark.

One winter day three men brought three loads of tan bark to Baraboo, selling the product to Andrew Andrews who operated a small tannery. On the way home they stopped at this "last chance" to stay themselves with flagons, before continuing their way in the cold of the boreal night. They shook dice with Robert O. Hall for the drinks and in due time they had enough, at least so thought the young man in charge of the place. It was growing late and Hall at last told them he would shake no more dice nor would he serve more drinks. They insisted; he persisted. Again and again he refused and finally they decided they would carry away the bar. Without more ado the ruction commenced. Realizing three to one were too many for him, Hall ran for his father, proprietor of the establishment. Awakening him, the two were able to eject the trio before they had ripped the fixtures from the floor. When the vandals had squared accounts in court there was little left of the $45 they had received for the three loads of tan bark.


In the wilds of the Baraboo Bluffs was located the Hazeltine Tavern. In those days there were few fences in the untilled sections of the country; cattle and hogs from Sauk Prairie and other neighborhoods roamed at large through the woods. In the spring they were given their freedom and in the fall every owner set about looking for his property. It was not unusual for some of these wandering animals to be killed to provide meat for places of entertainment or for families in need of food. In this public house liquors were sold, as was the custom of the time.

During the Civil War the report became prevalent that a Confederate flag was being displayed at the Hazeltine Tavern. One night a number of friends in Baraboo, loyal to the north, decided they would investigate the matter for their own satisfaction. Under the cover of night they came together, passed out of the city, across the little bridge spanning the west branch of Draper Creek, along the road to the foot of the bluff, up the long slope past the spring where the blackhaws ripen, and through a wooded section to the tavern. All marched into the room where liquor was sold, but no Confederate flag met the eyes of the expectant group of visitors. If there had been one about the place it had been secreted or destroyed before the arrival of the investigating company. The fruitlessness and foolishness of the trip was somewhat assuaged by the drinks which went round at the expense of the landlord.

This building stood about half a mile west of Devils Lake, on the west side of the East Sauk Road, but a few paces south of where the road from the west joins the old stage highway.

The tavern was enlarged in 1868, but the entering of the railroad into the Baraboo Valley in 1871 sounded the death knell of the place. The related families of Hazeltines and Harts separated about this time, Finn Hazeltine being the last to leave. For some time this last member of the family lived there with his cat and dog and flowers, the front yard in summer a riot of lilacs, bachelor buttons, and hollyhocks. About the home was grove of apple trees. Finally the homestead was sold, part of the old tavern was moved across the highway by Fred Martin for a residence, and the remainder was razed by a windstorm. When a youth on the farm was asked if he could tell the place where the tavern stood, he replied, "Oh, yes! The corn always grows big on that spot."


An episode of unusual interest took place in the primitive tavern operated by Steinmitz & Fief at Prairie du Sac, probably the first hotel erected in the region. Travelers stopping there often came from Madison to the Sauk village to board a boat for Prairie du Chien or other port down the stream.

Rivermen rarely missed throwing ropes from their rafts over the snubbing posts at Prairie du Sac, for at the tavern of Steinmitz & Fief they were sure to find something to warm the cockles of their hearts. This was especially welcome when the trip down the river had been made in weather filled with dampness or chill. The place was the rendezvous of the neighborhood, also where all sorts and conditions of men were wont to gather to discuss the ever green subject of politics and the latest gossip of the locality.

One day there came to the river Abe Wood, the terror of those territorial times. He was a bold, brawny individual, vitriolic in temper when his will was opposed, and rarely indeed did any one seek a quarrel with him. Many there were in the Baraboo region who hated him but none ever questioned his courage or assailed his militant reputation. Not only was Wood intemperate in speech, but in his libations at village inns. He would outdrink most of his companions at the taverns and when he was in a group of woodsmen or rivermen, circumstances had placed among them a man, who, if summarily contradicted, would for a time at least relieve the humdrum of pioneer days. All persons were the same to him—gentlemen or ruffians—he would take no back talk from any of them.

One day there was a merry clinking of glasses in the tap-room of the Prairie du Sac inn when suddenly a head was thrust through the door and an excited voice exclaimed, "A bear! A bear!"

Down went the glasses and in an instant almost every man was hurrying into the open. It appeared that two of the worthy citizens of the community were working on a farm near by when one of them noticed a bear tying to mount the fence surrounding the field in which they were occupied. Shouting to his companion to hurry for aid, Tabor, who had discovered the animal, busied himself in keeping the plantigrade creature from scaling the enclosure by use of a fork which he happened to have in his hand.

When the bear attempted to ascend the fence, Tabor would give him a thrust with the fork through the openings of the rails, an exciting performance attended with some danger. Tabor was kept busy for several minutes for the bear was as determined to gain the field as the farmer was that he should remain without.

While the comical performance was at its height, hatless and breathless the convivial loiterers at the tavern tore along the road and across the field to relieve Tabor of his predicament. The crowd was too much for the would-be invader. He was quickly overwhelmed and dispatched by one of the excited members of the company. Abe Wood, who had been among the first to arrive upon the scene, stepped up with several others to remove the skin from the carcass. No sooner was the hide separated from the remainder of the animal than Wood leisurely folded it and throwing it carelessly across his shoulder, marched back to the bar with the trophy.

Now Tabor had expected nothing less than that he should possess the bear skin. He it was who had discovered the animal and had played a stellar role in the opening scene of the exciting drama. The longer he thought of the matter, the more he became convinced that he alone was entitled to the property.

Tabor was undersized. He would be no match for Wood in a muscular encounter but he was determined that come what might he would have that bear skin.

Hastening to the tavern, he paused a moment outside the door. He could hear the rumble of voices and click of glasses at the bar. There was no need to wait longer. He stepped within, there lay the coveted bear skin in a corner of the room where its bearer had carelessly tossed it. Tabor’s decision was quickly made. Striding to the pelt, he seized it and spread it upon the floor with the assurance of ownership. Then straightening his body to its meager height and folding his arms upon his heaving breast, he spoke in no uncertain tones, "If any man here thinks he has a better right to this hide than I have, let him take it."

The eyes of the company turned from Tabor to Wood. For a moment the situation was tense. The little man was no match for the "Terror." With one stroke of his powerful fist Wood could clear the room. The tableau offered a conundrum for the company.

Suddenly Wood threw back his head and emitted a boisterous roar of laughter. The sight of a diminutive individual like Tabor throwing out a challenge to him was nothing short of farcical. The atmosphere cleared. Tabor took the trophy without objection from the "Terror," and landlord and loiterers continued their libations.

In after years Steinmitz & Fief constructed a commodious building and in their day were considered the prime landlords between Madison and Prairie du Chien. Soon after the hotel was completed, the hostelry was purchased by D.K. Baxter, a pioneer of the county. The new owner christened it and for years the Baxter House was a famous place of entertainment not only for the traveling public but for grand dancing parties on one of the upper floors. The hotel stood on the present site of the Prairie du Sac library, a gift to the village by J.S. Tripp.


For many years the June picnic was as much a part of the life of the inhabitants of the village of Sauk City and residents on the fertile Sauk prairie as many more widely known institutions in the American commonwealth.

Every year upon the arrival of the first Sunday in June, zealous devotees of Bacchus—and there were many of them—and their relatives and friends residing in the region, were accustomed to gather in a grove within the confines of the village to indulge in a day of sociability.

Far and near it was known that the day was to be one of merriment and that numerous loads of kegs would be at hand to assist the company in rising to a state of proper joyfulness.

Once at the time of the annual celebration, a circus rolled into the village of Prairie du Sac, a mile distant from Sauk City. No sooner were the circus folk at liberty than a number of them headed for the broad Wisconsin River, the surface of which gleamed like molten silver in the June sunshine. After enjoying a plunge in its cool waters, they threw themselves on the bank only to hear the martial strains of a brass band borne on the air. A passing citizen was interrogated concerning the meaning of the music and he informed them that this was the day of days in these parts—the day of the great June picnic.

The circus people were filled with curiosity and determined to find out more particulars of this apparently famous entertainment. A constantly increasing procession of farmers and their families was passing and the circus folk fell in with them, joining in their enthusiasm as they all traveled toward the picnic grove. The crowd increased as they neared the site of the festivity. With every beat of the big drum volunteers were added to the procession so that the knights of the sawdust ring were soon the center of an hilarious throng.

The day lay before them. The circus would not exhibit until Monday and the "kinkers", "wind-jammers", freaks, sword-swallowers, "dog-boys", and sideshow barkers bounded along with rising spirits to the place of revelry and refreshment.

As the spigots turned and the amber fluid began to flow, the crowd increased faster than Falstaff’s "men in buckram". One cooling draught and the acrobats fell to performing marvelous feats, perilously turning and twisting in an imaginary ring until the amusement of the multitude knew no bounds. Keg after keg was rolled before the entertainers and invitations were showered upon them to partake freely. They accepted the hospitality with alacrity and it was not long before the air was filled with sounds as tortuous as were the earlier muscular activities of the performers. Their agility, what there was of it, was now more amusing than ever and their audacity tickled as well as occasionally shocked their audience.

The drummer of the band had placed his instrument on its circular dimension slightly at one side of the hilarious throng. Noticing the drum, a devilish idea entered the maudlin brain of one of the "kinkers". Quicker than a flash, flipping one foot in the air, he flopped the instrument on its side and with a bound, turned a somersault upon it, thrusting both feet through the tightly stretched head in the operation. This feat ended the acrobatic performance at the grove. Gathering themselves together, the merry Andrews marched gaily, if not in soldierly manner, toward the Empire House at Prairie du Sac, emitting a continuous "oomp, oomp, oomp" as though beating an aggregation of imaginary drums as they staggered along. And thus they fled into the old tavern. The leader, looking neither to the left nor right, marched straight into the dining-room, turned about the movable seat at the end of the extended table, and stepped waveringly upon the chair. Then without hesitation, he strode the length of the table amid a din of rattling, breaking queens-ware, every inebriated individual in his train following.

Dining-room girls dashed for the open and their cries brought the tavern loafers to the scene of devastation.

Having delivered themselves of this inurbane incivility, the erstwhile picnickers, now unable to distinguish the hour on the face of the tavern clock, dropped off into insensibility. Later they paid for the damage and departed from the quiet village of Prairie du Sac declaring never had they so enjoyed themselves.

The Empire House, later the Briggs House, was erected about 1854 by four brothers, James, Joshua, William, and Eland Long, all of whom came to Prairie du Sac from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. William and Eland sold to James and Joshua about the time the building was completed and the grand opening was given January 1, 1856—a superlative ball on the third floor of the structure. For a short time the building stood vacant and was then rented to N.H. Briggs and his son Oscar E. Briggs, the hostelry ever afterward being known as the Briggs House.

Oscar E. Briggs operated a hotel at Reedsburg, early the home of Claire Briggs, the world famous cartoonist. Oscar E. Briggs was a brother of William Briggs, the father of the author of "When a Feller Needs a Friend" and other series of drawings known the world over.


An observing scenery seeker navigating the Wisconsin River through the Dells, will observe a few broken stones which were once the foundation of the Dell House, a well known hostelry of early days. Convivial companions often sought refreshment here and much rough wit and wassail have been heard within the walls of the old building. One can almost hear one of these rough rivermen, somewhat intoxicated from repeated potations at the bar, thickly relieve himself in semi-musical tones, of lines like these:

"Hairlip Sal from Rowley Creek,

She wore a number nine;

She kicked the hat off a big galoot

To the tune of ‘Auld Lang Syne.’"

The river was often infuriated in time of flood and to brave the dangers of navigating the stream with clumsily constructed rafts, at such seasons, the navigators deemed it necessary to stay themselves with ample draughts before launching forth on the perilous journey. More than one unfortunate went down in the enraged waters of the stream in an endeavor to bring the lumber through. Naturally the old hotel was the center of much river news, especially that pertaining to the exploits of those daring souls who ventured upon the current at its wildest.

Gold in the belts about the bodies of the most trustworthy, came back from the lower ports to the lumber mills in the north, after the sale of the product at the yards below. In the maelstrom of a brawl, it is said, more than one riverman lost his life at the Dell House, little effort being required to toss the body of the unfortunate in the stream and thus hide the crime. With a mysterious air, the older residents of the neighborhood often whisper into the ears of strangers that perturbed spirits are sometimes observed airing themselves about the place where the old tavern stood. These individuals do not mean to twist the truth, yet they have told this tale so often they more than half believe that the site of the old tavern is haunted.


Chester Mattson, who came to Merrimack in 1847, obtained a charter the ensuing winter for a state road and ferry. He began the erection of a tavern but did not complete the task, selling to J.G. Flanders. Flanders was a Yankee and the only man in the neighborhood possessed of a large amount of property. Litigation was frequent between him and his neighbors and many lawsuits are noted on old records in which the New Englander was the defendant.

Prior to and for some time after the close of the Civil War, four-horse stages and other vehicles bearing passengers over the Baraboo Bluffs, crossed the Wisconsin River on a ferry at Merrimack. The place of entertainment in the hamlet was the Ferry House and the building still stands, although the location is not the same as in the very early days. Here at night gathered the "birds of passage," spending the evening in exchanging their experiences and doubtful money issued by banks of uncertain stability. Usually the farther from home the less valuable the "wildcat money," hence it behooved those westward bound to exchange their paper for issues which would the more likely have a value nearer the point to which they journeyed and the same was true of the bills carried in the opposite direction.

One cold night, however, there was entertainment of an unexpected nature provided. William Butterfield, a brother-in-law of Landlord Jones of the hotel, returned in the evening from a quest for deer, with his feet frozen. After the frost had been removed, one of the toes caused much excruciating pain for the owner and in a paroxysm of misery he implored some one to remove the miserable member. There was no physician in the place, the night was cold, and the situation was desperate. At the suggestion of the proprietor of the place a block of wood was placed on the floor, a hammer and chisel provided, and the sufferer was asked to place his foot on the bulky piece of timber. No sooner was the foot placed upon the end of the wood than the chisel rested upon it and the hammer came down with certainty. The toe came off and the man fainted.

In order to complete the crude operation, it was necessary the next morning to bundle the patient into a sled, hurry him to Lodi where Dr. E.H. Irwin rightly performed the amputation and removed two other toes.

H.F. Quiggle of Rapids City, Iowa, relates that about fifteen members of a lodge in the village decided one night at closing time they would have supper at the only place of entertainment. When they reached the tavern they found the building dark but were bold enough to knock and ask for supper. The landlord came to the door, said the family had retired for the night, and that supper was out of the question. The lodge members insisted and finally the wife arose and prepared the midnight repast.

The price was 25 cents per meal and to quote Quiggle, the profits that night were more than for several weeks, so puny was the income in those days.

Visitors to the old building, long since converted into a family residence, are often told, as in the case of the Dell House, that ghosts of departed raftsmen haunt the rooms. These tales arise from the impression which prevails that more than one riverman lost his life here, following a night’s carousal. There is no more foundation for them than for the ghost the old woman saw when walking to Falkenham—the short quick steps she hard when passing through a graveyard. The situation is similar to that expressed in the following lines:

"And many a laugh went through the vale,

And some conviction, too;

Each thought some other goblin tale

Perhaps was just as true."


The building was moved to its present location about 1852.

One night during the Civil War, soldiers were recruited, in the Ferry House for Company A, Sixth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, then being organized at Baraboo. Patriotic speeches were made and when the book was opened on the old bar, several young men subscribed their names to fight in the southland, some of them to be killed in the campaigns in Virginia or die of disease brought about from exposure during those strenuous years.


At Newport, the head of navigation on the Wisconsin River, stood the old Steele Tavern. Newport was a village equal in population to Kilbourn today, but all that remains of the once prosperous community are a few cellar holes and clumps of lilacs scattered along the river. It was from Newport the raftsmen "gigged" back to points above the Dells, after running their rafts in sections through the angry waters of the picturesque portion of the river.

Before the railroad crossed the stream a few miles above, and the founding of Kilbourn had become a certainty, thus wrecking the hopes of Newport, the Steele tavern was the center of much of the activity in the pioneer village. Before its door swung the stagecoaches in their trans-Wisconsin, snail-pace journey between Milwaukee and La Crosse. Here tarried for a time the speculator and adventurer, here were entertained newcomers seeking homes in the locality, and here paused merchants and lumbermen in their course of duty.

Often vocal with music and mirth was the large dancing hall of the structure. Here gathered from time to time the beauty and chivalry of the region roundabout for quadrille and Virginia reel. Even now one can in fancy hear the strains of the old time fiddle, dulcimer, and base viol, also the voice of the prompter as he directs the "Fireman’s Dance":

Outside here and center there,

Center here and outside there,

Right and left here,

Ladies change there,

Ladies change here,

Right and left there,

Forward all, back,

Forward, pass through two couples.

The building was erected in 1849 and torn away about 1909. The bonifaces who presided there were William Steele, Charles Burhans, P.G. Stroud, Q.J. Adams, and J. Jarvis.

The intended usefulness of the old tavern ended with the founding of Kilbourn about 1857. As late as the late 60’s, however, during the period when hop growing was one of the leading industries in the region, pickers occupied the structure. Again at night the old building was lighted up, again the platform in the ball-room was occupied by merry fiddlers, and again those terpsichorean inclined swung through the mazy waltz or dashed through the rollicking reel.

The building stood on the east side of the highway, opposite the point where the road from Delton ends in the region of the river. Facing the west it stood as a landmark for many years after being entirely deserted. Save one or two, it was the last building to yield to the ravages of time after the hopes of the people of Newport had been buried in despair.

One Clarke, in 1854, built another hotel, a larger one than the Steele Tavern, on the opposite side of the creek, near the Kerfoot summer residence. This building was razed when Newport was abandoned and not standing so long did not become the landmark nor gain the notoriety of the structure built by Steele.

The days of Newport in her prime are faded glories now. The rivermen are gone, the stagecoaches are but a memory, the merry makers have passed into the unknown, the old taverns have been cruelly razed, and naught remains but the ghostly recollections of this deserted village.


During the Civil War, as is well known, the minds of men in the North were not all cast in the same mold and this sometimes led to fistic frays. During the Rebellion a soldier came back to this locality from the fields of fighting, intensely patriotic. He was big and bold, and death to "copperheads". During those exciting times it was the custom in certain communities in the North for individuals to wear pins favorable to the Confederacy, and when the returned hero met one of these offending pieces he promptly grabbed the jewelry and cared not if the entire shirt front came with it. On one occasion a number of soldiers, he of the strong arm among them, entered the drinking room of the Sauk City Hotel, where liquor often loosened the tongues of guests and augmented the fighting attributes of the individuals. A noisy outbreak resulted, the battle waxed fast and furious. The efforts of Carrie Nation in demolishing mirrors and glasses in after years, were insignificant when compared to the militant demonstration on this occasion. Southern sympathizers met a sad fate in the fray and thereafter in the Sauk City Hotel voices in favor of the South spoke in subdued tones.

The main portion of the hostelry, long known as the United States Hotel, was erected about 1850 by A. Wilde and enlarged a few years later. At one time there was a commodious dancing hall within the structure but terpsichorean entertainments not continuing popular the space was converted into rooms for guests.

A man by the name of McFarland, who became notorious after being charged with the killing of one Richardson, conducted a select school or academy in the upper portion of the building about 1854. The hotel continues to entertain guests.

Another Hotel in Sauk City, the Astor House, was operated for many years. The register in this place of entertainment was closed long since.


One of these pioneer taverns was known as the "Setting Hen." A lonely cottonwood tree by the roadside on Cassell Prairie, about midway between Sauk city and Spring Green, marks the site of this frontier place of entertainment, long since having ceased its existence. Here Russell Bentley, father of Stephen R. Bentley, built a two-story frame building on the main route of the returning raftsmen as they trudged back from Galena or other river port down the Wisconsin or Mississippi, to the pineries above the Dells. Business rapidly grew. At times there was a continuous stream of river-men in one direction and pioneers seeking a new country in the other, so that it was difficult to care for all who applied for entertainment. To meet the growing patronage a lean-to one story in height was constructed on one side of the house and this not meeting with the demand of the time another was built on the opposite portion of the tavern. From a distance the structure had the appearance of a giant hen with brooding wings and was known to the public as the "Setting Hen."

As in all places of entertainment in that day, spigots were frequently turned. In the front portion of one of the lean-tos the river-men and travelers stayed themselves with numerous potions and in the rear of the drinking apartment the landlord constructed coffins when necessity arose. There is no evidence that his guests went to such lengths they required one of these wooden habitations but they were in occasional demand when neighbors passed into the unknown shadows or those running the river met with a tragic end in the surging waters of a spring freshet. From the site of the rude tavern one may see the stones in a little cemetery where many coffins manufactured by hand in the "Setting Hen" were lowered into the graves dug in the river sand.

The tavern was built from lumber sawed at the Merihew Mill, now the Loddi Mill on Honey Creek, and from lumber taken from the river. Frequently rafts were wrecked and many buildings along the stream were partly constructed from boards and timbers gathered from the waterway.


In 1849-50, J.C. Clark erected in Reedsburg a story and a half building to which the citizens pointed with pride as the "tavern". It was the first building of note in the village, the material coming from the principal industrial institution in the place, the Reed & Powell sawmill. A long list of proprietors followed Clark, Stewart, and G. Reineke. J.D. Mackey was for some time the owner of the building. After the destruction of the frame structure by fire in May, 1877, it was rebuilt with brick.

The second hotel in Reedsburg was built by J.S. Saxby and the names associated with this building are A. West, H.H. Treadwell, John Sanborn, Jehu Seeley, and a Mr. Clark. One Percival bought the building and moved it to a farm two miles west of Reedsburg.

The real rivalry in the hotel business in Reedsburg was between the Mansion House and Central House. The former was erected in 1855 by Dr. Mackey as a part of the improvements made by Mackey Brothers. L. Gaylord was an early proprietor and one Cooper had a reputation which caused many whisperings in the village. For years the hostelry had the credit of being the rendezvous for bad characters and on one occasion when an officer searched the place portions of stolen harness were found and other evidence which indicated there was something with an offensive odor in Denmark. The incident is told that a wagon arrived at this place of entertainment one night and when the injunction was given that no one should approach the vehicle, a resident with a bent for the curious made an investigation and found a dead man therein. He said nothing about the matter until after the wagon and men accompanying it were far away.

After Cooper left the country a number of proprietors greeted guests in this hotel, among them being Thomas Ingalls, W.H. Finch, later of Kilbourn, O.E. Briggs and Dr. N.W. Sallade.

The Central House was erected in 1856-57 by Alba Smith and for many years was known as the Alba House. Prior to and during the Civil War the proprietors of the Mansion House and Alba House were bitter rivals. The Democrats gathered at the former hostelry to hear news of important events and the Republicans at the latter. Each had a commodious dancing hall and in them opposing factions gathered for the popular form of entertainment. The incident is related that a young lady was invited to attend a ball in one of these halls, on an evening when there was another dancing party in the opposing hotel. Her sympathies were strongly with the North while those of the friend accompanying her were with the South. On the way to the village the lady had the forethought to enquire:

"Are we to dance tonight at the Alba House?"

"No, we are going to the Mansion House," replied the young man.

"Then take me home," she commanded, and home the young man was obliged to escort her.

The names of Reuben Green, F.A. Weir, one Woolsey, who was associated with the Cooper gang, N.V. Chandler, George Mead, Daniel Clark, and Frank P. Ingalls cling as proprietors about the name of this hotel.

To illustrate the low ebb of some business affairs in 1863, Chandler paid as rental only $60.00 per year or $5.00 per month for the use of the building standing three stories high, together with a large barn in the rear.

About the close of the Civil War Schweke & Stolte opened a store on the lower floor, using the upper portion as a residence.

The Mansion House stood at 153 Vine street and the Alba House at the southeast corner of Main and Walnut streets. Both buildings have long since disappeared.


On the bank of the Baraboo River, just before it escapes from the boat-shaped valley onto the lowlands to the north, stood Garrison Tavern, long since torn away. Here Mrs. Ann Garrison harnessed the stream to a sawmill, opened a pottery, established a ferry, and indulged in other improvements which had an ephemeral existence. The region was platted and the promoter succeeded in disposing of lots in cities as far away as Philadelphia, the purchasers little dreaming of the hollowness of the scheme. The tavern was on the stage route between Baraboo and Portage, the house accommodating numerous strangers who came to find homes in the west or listen to Mrs. Garrison’s alluring tales of the land of beautiful hope. On the far side of the ferry hung a convenient horn and when this was sounded by an approaching stranger there was haste to row him over. Amidst the excitement due to all this activity, glittering yellow ore was thrown to the surface on the side of the bluff by Mrs. Garrison’s prospectors. Later there was much winking of eyes and in time the fact was established that there was more "salt" than gold in the quartzite ridge. The ripping of the saw in the logs finally ceased, the river regained its freedom, the tavern became a rookery, and the promoter of the enterprise passed beyond the sunset in abject poverty a number of years later in Chicago. A stone barn, a hophouse erected by Mrs. Garrison in the late 60’s, is all that is left of the pioneer dream.


As one enters the village of Delton, after crossing the outwash plain of Webster Prairie, close by the side of the road, nestles a modest hostelry bearing the unobtrusive name of Cottage Home. About this rural retreat clings the memory of a stirring episode of Civil War days.

In the neighboring town of Fairfield, but a few miles distant, dwelt during those years of conflict, a Southern sympathizer, locally known as "the Copperhead." Setting out with his team one morning, this individual had no sooner driven up the hill after crossing Dell Creek, than he encountered Company E, Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. The youthful members of the military organization made their headquarters at the Delton House, the name by which the place of entertainment was then known, and as the Fairfieldite neared the entrance of the hotel, the soldiers surrounded him and in a summary manner led him to the barn at the rear of the tavern. Here they invited him to salute the American flag. He refused. Angered at this show of disloyalty they ordered him at the point of their muskets "to salute". Again he refused. His obduracy roused them to a point of action. Soon a line from a horse’s harness was passed about the unruly one’s neck and he was given to understand in no uncertain language that sterner measurers were in store for him should he continue in his refusal. The man from Fairfield was no coward. He was determined to stand by his convictions and for a third time he declined to declare his loyalty to the national emblem. A crowd had gathered by this time and excitement was running high. Suddenly the strap about the neck of "the Copperhead" tightened and the victim’s feet swung in the air. After a moment he was again requested to salute the flag but he was still inflexible and the anger of the soldiers and those who had gathered to witness the proceeding now exceeding all bounds, the exasperating individual found himself swinging in space with cries of "Let him hang!" ringing in his ears. At last when the victim realized that the situation was serious, he yielded to the demands of his captors and was finally released.

The episode created endless discussion in the village and the lesson to the "Copperhead" was an enduring one, as he was not seen on the streets of Delton for many years after the last gun had been fired on southern battlefields.

The first hotel in Delton was a board shanty, built in 1849, by Alexander Vosler. In the fall of 1850, Mr. Vosler built the Delton House and many have been the owners since that day.

In the early history of the village the section west of the ravine was known as the Block and here Horace Dureye operated a hotel for some time. The building has long since been leveled. In those days the residents east of the ravine were known as the "common people" and those to the west as the "aristocrats".


During the decades between 1850 and 1880, streams of humanity poured from the east into Minnesota, the great pioneer province. Over the great lakes they came to Milwaukee where they outfitted and turned their faces to the new land of opportunity. In order to gain the west they must cross the Wisconsin River, and the ferry at Portage (until 1857 when a bridge was opened) was busy transporting the seemingly never-ending procession over the stream. The favorite route from Portage was on the south bank of the Wisconsin River to Newport, thence to the famous Red Tavern a few miles south-east of Mauston, and westward. Even after the building of the railroad to Portage, Kilbourn, and on to La Crosse, many preferred to travel overland rather than by means of the new method of transportation.

About 1845, Edwin Plummer erected a residence on the north side of the highway, near the center of the southwest quarter of section 35, town of Fairfield. The glass for the windows was brought from Milwaukee, the doors and windows were made by hand, and the lath were split from half-inch plank. Heavy timbers were used in constructing the frame.

Along this road came a long, covered-wagon train. Horses, sheep and cattle were driven up the highway to the number of 300 or 400 in a single day.

Not only was there a stream of humanity moving westward along the river road, but a continuous procession of rafts floated down the stream. Immigrants and rivermen sought the Plummer place for supplies or entertainment, and so brisk was the business at one time that Mrs. Plummer cut up and cooked an ox in ten days.

When the proprietor decided to erect a large sign, the fashion at that time, he ordered the name on the eight-foot board to be the "Sand Hill House" but when the lettered piece arrived it was found the wielder of the brush had misunderstood and painted the words:

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And so it remained to the end of its usefulness. Although the sign is gone the house remains.

About half a mile east of the Sandwich House, Edwin Plummer’s brother, Reil Plummer, conducted a tavern in a log house.

Not only was the highway a stage route, but along this road was constructed a telegraph line from Portage to Baraboo, one of the first to pierce this portion of the state.


On the west side of the Baraboo-Prairie du Sac highway, opposite the point where the road from Merrimack joins the above thoroughfare about half a mile from the south foot of the bluff, stood King’s Tavern. The owner was Solomon King, member of a pioneer family in the neighborhood. The father, Hosea King, played the fife, his sons, Solomon and David, the violins for the rural dances held in the hostelry. (David at one time operated an overshot grist and sawmill at Parfrey’s Glen.) Settlers who came from Milwaukee and raftsmen walking back to the pineries were often entertained by the Kings in the 50’s. A portion of the building has long since been moved away and the remainder, somewhat modified, is now the home of the Roy Hoover family.

Besides the Kings, John Quimby, Charles Francis, and the Hoovers have resided in the old King Tavern but only one operated a place of entertainment thereafter.

On their way south from Baraboo, the Sixth Wisconsin was entertained at the Hoover place at a picnic dinner. Teams from Baraboo took the soldiers over the bluff and vehicles from Prairie du Sac conveyed them to that village.


About a mile north of the village of Spring Green, on the southwest corner of the intersection of two highways, stood the Spring Green House, operated in early times by Smith Love and his wife. The tavern was of logs and a large sign in front proclaimed to the passing public that entertainment might be obtained within. One evening a stranger on foot stopped at the place and the next morning was confronted with a statement of account containing three items:

Supper . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25c

Lodging . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25c

Breakfast . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25c

The stranger announced that he had no money and hurried down the highway. This so enraged the proprietor that he proceeded to level the sign. About that time a neighbor came along and asked Love what he was doing. Straightening up, catching his breath, and pointing down the highway he said:

"Do you see that galoot going down the road?"


"Well, he refused to pay his bill".

With that explanation the proprietor continued the task of converting the sign into kindling wood. The nonpayment of a 75c bill ended the business of this old time tavern.

Love and his wife died almost at the same hour several years later and were buried on the same day.


The Washburn Tavern, a half-way house between Baraboo and Delton, still stands, although it has been somewhat changed with the passing years. It was here the members of the family of the later Judge R.D. Marshall’s father were entertained when they reached Webster Prairie on September 21, 1854. Many other pioneers, rivermen, and long distance travelers have been sheltered beneath the roof, and during the operation of the stage, the tavern was a place for watering the horses on sultry days. The old landmark stands on the west side of the highway, one-half mile north of the rural school on the south end of Webster prairie.

Mrs. Webster was a woman equal to almost any emergency. An Indian came along one day and attempted to purloin a pig. Mrs. Webster gave chase and for a brief space of time three swiftly moving objects, the pig, the Indian, and Mrs. Webster, displaced the atmosphere in quick succession. Finally the Indian vanished and the woman drove the pig home to root and ramble unmolested about the neighborhood.


One of the first highways at Ironton was known as the State road. This public way extended west from Reedsburg, skirted the south side of the present village plat of Ironton, the south line of the section, continued to the northwest near Valton, thence to Viroqua and LaCrosse. Some of this road east and west of Ironton has been closed. In the early days a stage line passed over this highway and there was much travel of new settlers westward bound. In pioneer times, across the road and to the southeast of the Catholic church in the village, stood the Buckhorn Tavern, presided over by Landlord Atkinson. The building has long since disappeared.

About 1859, in the village of Ironton, Jonas Tower erected a residence in Fountain square, diagonally across the street from Liberty Square, and this was later converted into a hotel, operated by the Finches and others. Here were entertained former United States Senator D.M. Sabin, Minnesota, once chairman of the national Republican convention and heavily interested in the Ironton iron industry; John Birkinbine, Philadelphia, editor of the Iron Age; H.W. Cannon, at one time cashier of the Chase National Bank in New York City; F.M. Prince, St. Paul and Boston banker; M.M. Darr, Chicago; Hirsey Brothers, (Stillwater lumbermen), and many others.

During the exciting days of the iron business three telephone instruments were leased from the Bell Telephone Company at a rental of $157.50 per year, the iron company erecting the poles and extending a wire between LaValle and the mine. There was a telegraph office at LaValle at the time. This telephone line was one of the first in this section of the country.

The Tower residence still stands among stately trees and for many years has been the home of the Byrne family.


In 1864, M.B. Waltz built the first house at Ableman entitled to be called a hotel. In 1870, Colonel S.V.R. Ableman completed the Charter House and a memorable feast was held within its walls, the occasion being a celebration from the fact the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad was approaching the place. Colonel Ableman and others were instrumental in securing a charter for the Baraboo Valley Air Line and the road built had its inception in this charter, hence the name of the hotel.

When the project of building the road was being agitated, Colonel Ableman called a public meeting to be held at the Charter House. There were but three persons present, General A.W. Starks, Major Charles H. Williams, and Colonel Ableman, the last named a man of giant stature and robust in appearance. In reporting the affair General Starks stated it was a large, enthusiastic and respectable meeting.

The next time the colonel met the general he took him to account for making such a report, to which the general replied: "Well, you are large, the major its enthusiastic and I am respectable, am I not?"

The colonel had nothing more to say.

Years after, the Charter House burned and the Schulte House was erected. In 1874, William Hinrichs built a small hotel.


Samuel Bliven, in 1863, built the first tavern in Loganville. There was a spacious hall on the second floor for dances; a billiard room and bar below. Until the building was destroyed by fire, about 1870, the succeeding landlords were George Stewart and John Esser.

William Strampe erected a new hotel on the same site, Landlord Niebuhr leased the place, and was succeeded in turn by Herman Riggert, Niebuhr & Verthein, Jesse Palmer, and Henry Hennings.

In 1870, Samuel Bliven converted a residence into a place of entertainment and this, too, was destroyed by fire.

Dr. F.D. Hulburt of Reedsburg says the old Bliven Hotel stood at the north end of Main street, on the west side, and in the early days of Loganville was a prominent center of attraction. Within was the largest hall of any structure in the country, where many social gatherings were held. Here were the donation parties, singing schools, lectures, theatrical performances, Christmas gatherings, and elaborate dancing parties. To this early day dancing hall came the young men from far and wide, escorting their ladies fair.


For many years Gardiner Meyers, the central figure in an episode at the Baraboo House, as previously related, operated the River House on the north side of the highway in section 31, town of Fairfield, in pioneer times. Here liquid was sold to those who complained of being a "little under the weather" or otherwise, or thought they needed a stimulant. Raftsmen going down the river warmed their interiors and emigrants going westward cleansed the dust from their weary throats, but when the last raft had floated down the stream and the last covered wagon had been lost to view, the spigots became dry. To add emphasis to the situation the whole town banished liquor and so remained until the drouth of 1918 when the entire Republic took on the aspect of a desert. The River House stood until about 1915 when it burned.


Driving about a mile south of the village of Black Hawk, then almost a mile west to a point where the road turns to he south, near a rural church, stands an ancient house, with an old fashioned turned cornice and a row of small longitudinal windows beneath the eaves. In pioneer days this was the home of Jonathan W. Harris, an early tavernkeeper. New people were coming to the region for some time after he arrived in 1846 and they were accommodated in this building. There were few places in this neighborhood where people could be entertained during the years prior to the Civil War and many were directed to the Harris home.


On the northeast corner of Lexington and Jefferson streets in the village of Spring Green stood B.U. Strong’s Hotel, known for some years as the Park Hotel. The structure was small at first but additions were made from time to time as the business grew, the house behind the oaks eventually covering considerable space. Mr. and Mrs. Strong were Yankees, coming from Litchfield, Connecticut, to Janesville in 1854, and to Spring Green in 1857, about the time of the advent of the railroad. Strong was a Wisconsin state senator at one time, held many minor offices, operated a store, and was the central figure in the community for many years. The old hotel disappeared long ago.


The tavern of John Wilson on Wilson Creek, several miles east of the present village of Spring Green, was a favorite with travelers in the stagecoach days. Wilson devoted much of his time to constructing kegs which he floated across the Wisconsin river to the shot tower at Helena, where they were filled and shipped down the stream or freighted by team overland to Milwaukee or other places where shot was in demand. The location of the Wilson Tavern was a few rods north of the point where the road from Black Hawk enters Trunk Highway number 60.


Justin Carpenter built a log house about 1851 nearly five miles west of north of the present village of Plain and in this rude habitation many travelers were entertained. The location of the "Half-Way House", as it was called, was by a spring, near a creek which crosses the highway, about one-eighth of a mile south of a stone building, an old hop-house, which stands on the east side of the road and at the end of another road approaching form the west. The "Half-Way House" was a stopping place for stages operating between Spring Green and Reedsburg.


Before the railroad reached LaValle n 1872, the traveling public was accommodated by C. Henneberg. When the railroad was completed J.F. Sanford enlarged his residence into a hotel. This stood at the southwest corner of block 5.


When a stage line was being operated between Reedsburg and Kilbourn, after the arrival of the railroad at Kilbourn about 1857 and prior to the Chicago & Northwestern reaching Reedsburg in 1872, the Halfway House was conducted by Landlord Armstrong in the town of Dellona. The building stood on the west side of the highway, near the center of the north half of section 21, and long ago disappeared.


During the days when the stage operated over the East Sauk Road, there was a tavern on the south slope of the bluff, where the highway from the south bends to the left and where the Organ family resided for many years. Prescott Brigham, a sturdy pioneer, was the first to entertain guests here, and he was succeeded by James Farnworth and F. Pabst. Here the violin frequently set in rhythmic motion the minuet, mazurka, and other dances. There was sometimes high-jinks at the jolly parties.


Riches’ Tavern, between Sauk City and the "Setting Hen," was for a number of years a place of entertainment for travelers. All that is left of the old structure still stands near the farm residence, the larger portion just east of the barn.

Vanishing business on the Wisconsin River, following the coming of the railroad, revolutionized these places of entertainment. In their day they were a potent factor in the development of the new country, filling a place that was a necessity of the time. The older generation looks back with endeared memories to the social hours spent in them which enlivened the humdrum life of the period