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Guide to the Ghost Towns of

WISCONSIN

“The Badger State”

 

 

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Western & Eastern Treasures

Ghost Town USA Column Index for Wisconsin.

Exploring and discovering the ghost towns of Wisconsin is not as easy as exploring and discovering them in Nevada, Colorado or Montana. Since Wisconsin's ghost towns aren't shown on roadmaps, it takes a little perseverance and research. But, a surprising number of ghost towns, sites and near ghost towns can be found with a little time spent researching. There are enough ghost towns in Wisconsin to keep a dedicated ghosttowner busy for a long time.

 

However, don't expect Western style sites here, as most land is privately owned, and totally abandoned towns have mostly been reduced to rubble and foundations, or barren sites. A number of old sites have been restored, and are considered living history museums. Wisconsin's ghost town sites date back to the 1600s. Here you can find fur trading centers, military posts, stage stations, lumbering centers, farming towns, and lead-mining towns.

 

Listed below are a few locations that may prove interesting to folks who enjoy exploring back roads in search of Ghost Town USA...

 

HELP!  Please check here to find a list of ghost towns that various contacts are looking for.  IF you have any information on these places please e-mail me and I can respond back to those looking for info on these ghosts.

 

 

PLEASE NOTE: 

Where photos are indicated thusly (PHOTO!), please use your browser’s “BACK” button to return to this page.  More photos will be added over time.

 

THE GHOSTS

 

APOSTLE ISLANDS

Ashland & Bayfield Cos.

These 22 islands are located off the northern tip of the state, about three miles east of Bayfield. The earliest known settlement was a French fur trading post established in 1693 by Pierre le Sueur. Over the years the English and Americans established fur-trading posts, and during the mid 1800s the islands were logged heavily, quarried for sandstone, and were regional centers for fishing and furring. By the end of the 19th century, and early part of the 20th, many summer homes and resorts had been established on Madeline Island, but all the others had been abandoned. Since 1970, all the islands (except Madeline) have been protected as a National Lakeshore, and second growth timber has virtually restored the islands to their former glory. By the 1990s, only Madeline Island was still occupied, all 165 people living in the class E town of La Porte.

BELMONT

LaFayette Co.

Former state capitol located on County Route (CR) G, three miles northwest of the present town of Belmont. Established in 1836, Belmont as the first capital of Wisconsin Territory, the site was unpopular, and the legislature felt a more central spot would better serve their constituents. After 46 days voted to move the capitol to the upstart little community of Madison. Shortly after the government moved, the railroad and the town were relocated three miles away, and old Belmont was an abandoned shell. The old territorial capitol and Supreme Court buildings have been restored and are open as a museum and a state park.

BLUFF SIDING

Buffalo Co.

This old railroad station is located on the east bank of the Mississippi River across the river from Winona, MN., at the junction of SH 35 with CR M, in southern tip of county. Not much remains where there was once a hotel, two saloons, a store, a limekiln and the railroad station.

CAMP FREMONT

Fond du Lac Co.

At Ripon College in the present town of Ripon.

CONOVER

Vilas Co.

This one-time logging center is located on SH 45-32, just north of CR K, about eight miles north of Eagle River.

 

·        Latitude: 46°  03’ 17” N / 46.0547

·        Longitude: 89° 15’ 28” W / -89.2578

GPS locations courtesy of Don Buroker (Aug 03, 2003)

COOKSVILLE

Rock Co.

This small town with less than 100 people and over 50 buildings is on the National Register of Historic Places, it is located midway between Madison and Janesville, in the northwest corner of the county at the intersection of SH 59/138. Founded in 1842 the village grew and prospered until the railroad bypassed the town and it began to fade.

CREAM
AKA - Eagle Creek

Buffalo Co.

On SH 88, at the junction with CR E, east of Alma. At its peak, this small community had a blacksmith shop, general store, hotel, post office, two saloons and a school. It was settled by German farmers and was busy during the Prohibition era. The 1990 population was only 25.

DUNNVILLE

Dunn Co.

Located near Downsville, Dunnville was once a major steamboat landing and county seat. It is along a bicycle trail 75 miles east of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, west of Eau Claire.

EMERSON

Iron Co.

“Emerson was founded by my Great Grandfather John Emerson, and his brother David, and was located in the north-central part of the state. Markers and signs are all that remain along Highway 182 just east of Springstead.    The Emerson family is said to have been cursed because John and David harvested lumber from the area of a lake sacred to the Chippewa Indians? John and two other family members were killed by a lightning strike during a sudden storm when they were fishing near the same lake? Good stuff for a ghost town!”   Contributed by Rachel Zabel (Aug 13, 2004)

FORT CRAWFORD

Crawford Co.

First site at the south end of St. Feriole Island (see below), along the Mississippi River at Prairie du Chien. The second site is in Prairie du Chien north of Rice St. and east of Main St. This military post was originally built in 1816 and in 1829 it was moved to the present site.  The hospital was used for various experiments by Dr. William Beaumont. The fort was abandoned in 1856. Today all that remains is the restored hospital building, which is a museum.

FORT HOWARD

Brown Co.

At Kellogg and Chestnut in Green Bay.  This military post was built in 1816. The hospital is now a museum.

Fort Winnebago

Columbia Co.

Fort Winnebago is located on the east side of Portage.  It is similar to Forts Crawford and Howard in the fact that the fort is gone.  The original surgeon’s quarters exist and are open for tours.

Contributed by Scott Dyar (Oct 27, 2002)

FOXBORO

Douglas Co.

Foxboro is located about 25 miles southwest of Superior, WI in Douglas County on county highway B, about a mile from the Minnesota border. It is shown on the map of Wisconsin.


I grew up in the area and my uncle had a farm nearby. The only thing there at the time (1950s) was a store. Foxboro was more like a township rather than an actual town. Most of the residents at that time lived on farms so there were very few, if any, residents of Foxboro.

Contributed by WFoerst (March 06, 2007)

HELENA

 

AKA – Helena Station

Iowa Co.

Located in Tower Hill State Park on CR C, south of Spring Green.  Very little remains of what used to be a very small settlement.  Built around 1830, several buildings were destroyed to build rafts to transport the army chasing Sauk Native Americans during the Black Hawk War of 1832.  While Helena was rebuilt after the war and considered as a possible site for the Wisconsin Territorial capital, it was deserted by the Civil War and soon was erased by the shifting climates of Wisconsin.   At Tower Hill State park there is a rebuilt shot tower, which helped produce lead shot for transport.  Although Helena never could be considered a "river port" many flatboats departed loaded with shot from the base of the tower when it was in use.

Contributed by Scott Dyar (Oct 27, 2002)

 

Located near where US 14 crosses the Wisconsin River.

Contributed by Don Reilly (Dec 13, 2004)

 

·        Latitude: 43° 10’ 17” N / 43.1714

·        Longitude: 90° 01’ 17” W / -90.0214  

GPS locations courtesy of Don Buroker (Aug 03, 2003)

KNOWLTON

Marathon Co.

This once busy 1800s era logging town is located on US 51, 16 miles south of Wausau. It has almost disappeared. In 1980 it was a store and gas station along with 60 people.

LOONEYVILLE

Houston Co.

Named after an early settler family (SEE my LOONEY family page for very basic info on my particular line of the family - GBS).  This paper town did develop somewhat, once having a post office and store.  It quickly followed others of its ilk into ghosthood.

Town information contributed by Laura Rowley

MILLVILLE

Grant Co.

On CR C, 7.5 miles east of SH 35 on the south side of the Wisconsin River. A tiny farm village with a school, old church, and stone hotel building (converted to home.) A handful of houses also remain in its picturesque setting in the rolling hills of southwestern Wisconsin.

NESHONOC

LaCrosse Co.

The original site of West Salem. In 1858 the town relocated and changed its name to West Salem.

PENDARVIS

Iowa Co.

Located on US 151 at Mineral Point, 48 miles southwest of Madison. Mineral Point was founded in 1827, and until the mass exodus for the California gold fields in 1848-50, was a booming, rough-and-ready lead-mining camp, full of Cornish miners. Today this active community has 2500 people and is full of historic structures. Located at Mineral Point, Pendarvis was a small Cornish lead mining community of 30 or so buildings built of limestone blocks. After the miners left, the abandoned buildings were torn down as they fell into ruin. In 1935 one of the homes was restored, and others followed suit. Today this cluster of six carefully restored rock and timber buildings is one of the Historical Society of Wisconsin's designated historical sites.

SACRAMENTO

Waushara Co.

This one-time steamboat port was located on the Fox River near the Green Lake County line.  At one time, it had a hardware store, hotel and saloon.  Nearby Berlin was its rival, and Berlin won the importance status.  Sacramento died while Berlin thrived.  All that remains is the old cemetery.  The site is located on Waushara Street, about two miles east of Berlin.

ST. FERIOLE ISLAND

Crawford Co.

Along the east side of the Mississippi River, just west of downtown Prairie du Chien, near the confluence of the Mississippi and the Wisconsin Rivers. The site dates back to at least 1673 when the French established a fur-trading center on the island.

See our ST. FERIOLE ISLAND page for additional details.

ST. LAWRENCE

Houston Co.

This paper town never made it past the plat map stage.  Some lots were sold, but the coming of the railroad to the Root Valley killed any aspirations of St. Lawrence from becoming a “real” town.

Information contributed by Laura Rowley

STAR LAKE

Vilas Co. (?)

This was a thriving logging town at the turn of the 20th century with a movie house, doctors, dentist, stores, churches, etc.  It had a population of over 600.  When the area was logged out all the building except three houses were razed and the lumber shipped to another site in western Wisconsin to build another town. Remains include summer homes, a post office and grocery store (which is only open part of the year).  It is located eight miles north of the Vilas County Historical Museum in Saynor.

Contributed by Faye Taylot (curator)

STONEFIELD

Grant Co.

Stonefield is located in Nelson Dewey State Park, just north of Cassville. This reconstructed village was originally established as a farm village by Nelson Dewey, Wisconsin's first governor. In 1873, he lost the property, and a village grew up at the site. It was at its peak in the 1890s.

SUGAR BUSH

& WILLIAMSONVILLE

Marinette Co.

A pair of lumber towns leveled in the great 1.28 million acre wildfire that raced through northeast Wisconsin and the southeast end of Michigan's Upper Peninsula on October 8, 1871 (The same day as the more famous Great Chicago Fire). This fire is claimed to have killed from 1100 to 1500 people, and was the worst fire, in the terms of lives lost, in US history. Both towns lost about 200 people.

VOREE

Racine Co.

Voree’s (one of) the birthplaces of the Mormon Church, the “Hill of Promise” where Mormons will ascend into Heaven.  Now it’s just a cow pasture and woods.

 

Contributed by Tim Hamers (Sep 07, 2006)

 

During the early days of the Mormon Church, gathering places, known as the “Stakes of Zion” were established in the Midwest.  These “holy places” were areas they were commanded to live.  Some of the names like Nauvoo (IL) are well known, but Voree, WI is one that is seldom heard of.  It appears to have been established in 1846 by an offshoot denomination of Mormons led by James J. Strang.  Voree was a viable community of some 2000 folks until 1850 when the settlers were told to relocate to Beaver Island, in Lake Michigan.  Voree had a large number of houses ranging from wooden shacks through cut-rock homes, a rock quarry, blacksmith, two newspapers (the Voree Herald & Zion's Reveille), school, tavern and a tithing house.  A temple was begun, but only the foundation was laid.  There was also a sacred “Tower of Zion” constructed on top of the hill.  Voree was located along Mormon Road and the White River about a mile west of present-day Burlington, in the far western part of the county.  Remains include scattered foundation outlines, brick and stone farm homes and even a hand-hewn sheep shed that was once someone’s home.

WINFIELD

Houston Co.

This paper town “died aborning”.  It was to be located in Looney Valley, and never made it past the plat map stage.

Information contributed by Laura Rowley

 

MORE INFORMATION

 

There are over 50,000 ghost towns scattered across the United States of America. Gary B. Speck Publications is trying to capture as many of these historical locations as possible and is currently in process of publishing unique state, regional, and county guides called The Ghost Town Guru's Guide to the Ghost Towns of *** ™.  These original guides are designed for anybody interested in ghost towns. Whether you are a casual tourist looking for a new and different place to visit, or a hard-core ghost town researcher, these guides will be just right for you. With over 30 years of research behind them, they will be a welcome addition to any ghost towner's library.

 

For more information on the ghost towns of WISCONSIN, contact us at Ghost Town USA.

 

E-mailers, PLEASE NOTE:  Due to the tremendous amount of viruses, worms and “spam,” out there, I no longer open or respond to any e-mails with unsolicited attachments, OR messages on the subject lines with “Hey”, “Hi”, “Need help”, “Help Please”, “???”, or blank subject lines, etc.  If you do send E-mail asking for information, or sharing information, PLEASE indicate the appropriate location AND state name, or other topic on the “subject” line.   

 

Thank you, and we'll see you out on the Ghost Town Trail!

IMPORTANT NOTE

 

These listings and historical vignettes of ghost towns, near-ghost towns and other historical sites in WISCONSIN as shown above are for informational purposes only, and should NOT be construed to grant permission to trespass, metal detect, relic or treasure hunt at any of the listed sites.

 

If the reader of this guide is a metal detector user and plans to use this guide to locate sites for metal detecting or relic hunting, it is the READER'S responsibility to obtain written permission from the legal property owners. Please be advised, that any state or nationally owned sites will probably be off-limits to metal detector use. Also be aware of any federal, state or local laws restricting the same.   ALWAYS respect the rights of the landowners.

 

When you are exploring the ghost towns of WISCONSIN, please abide by the

Ghost Towner's Code of Ethics.

 

 

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FIRST POSTED:  January 12, 2001

LAST UPDATED: August 07, 2010

 

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