MaidenRock Wisconsin
History of Maiden Rock

Who We Are

We are families and singles, young and old. Storekeepers and farmers, daycare workers and computer technicians. Artists and collectors, teachers and engineers. Our village has approximately 130 people. It is governed by a village board of three elected officials. The village board meeting is held the 1st Monday of the month, 7 p.m. at the Senior Center.

The population of the township is about 650 and is governed by a chairman and 2 supervisors. The township board meeting is held the 2nd Saturday of the month, 9:00 a.m at the Town Hall on County Rd. CC.

 

Short History of Maiden Rock Village

The village of Maiden Rock, Wisconsin, began as a logging settlement that was first known as Harrisburg. In l854, John D. Trumbull, together with a partner Albert Harris, purchased a mile-long stretch of the Mississippi River shore from Rush River downstream to "Rattlesnake Hollow." While Albert and his brother, Amos, had the privilege of naming the future community "Harrisburg", Trumbull set about establishing a steam-powered sawmill and constructing buildings. In 1855 Trumbull, the Harris's and others began living here permanently; thus marking the birth of the village.

 

In 1856, Trumbull added grist and shingle mills to his operation and renamed the village Maiden Rock after a bluff four miles downstream. The Indian legend of the bluff called Maiden Rock, which has some basis in historical fact, concerns a young Dakota Indian woman, Winona, who leaped to her death from the top of the most prominent bluff in the region rather than marry the brave her father, Chief Red Wing, had chosen for her.

 

By 1857, the village had a number of houses and commercial buildings, including a boarding house and two stores. Trumbull also boasted of a good steamboat landing. By this time had had bought out the Harris interest and had surveyed and platted the village. Soon a school was established, a church appeared, and a sailboat and a steamboat were built at Maiden Rock to keep the community in touch with other communities up and down the river.

The village grew gradually to a population of slightly over 300 by 1900. While it became a vital commercial and social center for a wide region of Pierce and Pepin Counties, its growth was hampered by its geography. Wedged on a narrow strip of land between the widening of the Mississippi called Lake Pepin and the 400 foot high bluffs, there was insufficient space for a large village or city. Moreover, the early steamboat traffic tended to pass it by as the river bends significantly away from the village. Thus the shortest route from Lake City, Minnesota, to Red Wing is on the Minnesota side of Lake Pepin, passing by Maiden Rock more than two miles distant across the water.

The difficulty in building roads also hampered village growth. An Indian trail along Rush River soon developed into a road which was limited by river crossings, floods and lack of large communities. A road to bluff top level that ran between the two bluffs buffeting the village, called North and South Bluffs, became more prominent as it gave access to quickly developing farms and distant communities. Roads up and down the river took much longer to develop -- first up river to Bay City but not until the 1920's down river to Stockholm and Pepin.

The period from 1860 to 1900 saw the village blossom into a commercial and social center for the countryside and communities some 20 miles inland. Steamboats brought freight and passengers to the village, augmented by the local steam boat. Horse-drawn wagons and stage coaches ferried freight and people to Plum City, Ellsworth and beyond. By 1886, a train track was completed from La Crosse through the village and on to St. Paul. At least four regular train stops a day, two in each direction, added to the steamboat traffic and finally supplanted it about 1915.

Beginning in the 1800's and continuing through the middle of the 1900's Maiden Rock became a village with several general stores, hotels, bands, a stockyard, slaughter house, meat markets, grain elevators, creamery, liveries, hardware stores, grocery stores, drug stores, farm implement dealers, automobile dealer, lumberyard, hatcher, newspaper, millinery and more. Doctors, dentists and lawyers plied their skills. For a time the village had a hospital. With first its steamboat stop and later a train depot, the village supplied households, farms and stores for a wide territory inland from the river. It also provided an outlet to market farm and forest products from the region.

Maiden Rock was also a social center for the region. Plays, lectures and concerts were common and the community provided locations for culture; an opera house, Masonic hall and other meeting places. Social groups of the time flourished, such as Odd Fellows, Masons, temperance movements and American Legion. Market days and carnivals were annual events. The first school gave way to a stone schoolhouse in 1883, which gave way to a grand brick school in 1907. A Methodist church became an enduring asset in the community from 1858 on. Other churches flourished in the surrounding countryside.

Maiden Rock's development was not without setbacks. Fires became one of its greatest nemeses. The numerous wood frame buildings concentrated in a small area, with no fire department, were ripe for disaster. Fires in the 1880's and again in 1911-12 destroyed many commercial and residential buildings, which were then rebuilt. sometimes passing steam locomotives started the fires; sometimes there were other reasons, both accidental and seemingly willful. Current empty lots in the downtown area of the village are tribute to fires as recent as the 1970's and 1980's.

Another nemesis has been flooding, not so much from the Mississippi River as from run-off down the coulee between North and South Bluffs (along present day County Road S.) Heavy rains and sometimes snow melt brought excessive water down into the village. Buildings and streets damaged by the torrents became mammoth tasks to repair and reconstruct. Just after 1900, the village built a storm sewer canal system that allowed water to run under the village on its way to the river, but poor engineering allowed continued problems. Two canals funneled into one was not an adequate solution to let the high water escape. Water overflowed the system and still flooded the village. The last great flood down the coulee occurred in 1975. Damage was excessive and the village finally remedied the problem with the help of state funds. Water restraints and conserving farm practices have resulted in no floods since 1975.

Maiden Rock has also experienced damaging crashes. A head on train crash and other derailments within the village over the years have caused some damage and much excitement. Run away trucks down the coulee road into the village sometimes did their damage on the railroad track and sometimes in the street. The worst occurred in 1995, when a semi-truck loaded with corn plowed through the side of the village's remaining store and came to rest within. That building is in the process of rebuilding and is expected to open in year 2000 as a western wear store.

The only major industry existing today in the village is an underground sand mine that opened in the 1930's. It produces a rare sand that is vital for restoration of oil and gas wells and is transported by railroad to Texas and Oklahoma.


Maiden Rock ends the 20th Century as a small village of about 130 people. It has only a few businesses, most notably a cafe, gas station and convenience store, a bank, two bars, a bed and breakfast, a fuel delivery company, a funeral home and two antique stores. Many of its houses, most quite old, are undergoing significant renovation with the help of a state housing grant. Its future is also brightened by a public water and sewer system that was added in the l980's.

 


 

 

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