The history of Montello Lake and Montello City Park

Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 in Howard and Betty, Kathleen's Blog, Marquette County Wisconsin | 2 comments

The history of Montello Lake and Montello City Park

On Thursday we are going to meet at the park in Montello to learn about migrating birds, but do you know the history of the city park and the history of Montello Lake?

Here are some facts about Montello Lake and the park:

When the first settlers moved here to build a village, there was NO Montello lake.  There was only the Montello River.  Jason Daniels, the first settler here, built a dam on that river in order to harness water power for a mill.  Look at your Howard and Betty books to see some photos of mills in Marquette County.  Look at pages 19, 20 and 30 in your Howard and Betty book and learn about some mills and mill ponds in your home of Marquette County.

Jason Daniels first dammed the river in 1849.  How many years ago is that?

After he started a mill, a bigger mill was built along with a WOOLEN MILL!   Look at these photos.

 

On one side of the Montello  river was the woolen mill and on the other was the grist or flour mill.

On one side of the Montello river was the woolen mill and on the other was the grist or flour mill.

The dam that harnessed the water power for these mills is what formed what we know today as Montello Lake.  At one time, it was just called the mill pond.  This mill pond made all kinds of things possible.  One man, E.W. Underwood, harvested cranberries and build walls that he would open and close to control how much water went into his cranberry bogs.

 

Find the cranberry marsh or bog on this map

Find the cranberry marsh or bog on this map

There were also at least 3 brick manufacturers or brick yards on the shores of the Montello mill pond.  Two were on the west side of the lake and one was on the east side of the lake.  Here is a photo of what their brick making machine might have looked like.  Many of the homes and buildings in Montello are made from Montello brick.

Imagine this machine set up on the shores of Montello Lake near the dam.

Imagine this machine set up on the shores of Montello Lake near the dam.

Before Montello bought the land and made a city park, the land was a pasture where some people would go to pick wild flowers.

Here is a photo of the pasture that is now Montello City Park.  It was called Robinson's Grove.

Here is a photo of the pasture that is now Montello City Park. It was called Robinson’s Grove.

The mill pond, what we now know as Montello Lake was also used to harvest ice.  In the winter, men would cut large  blocks of ice from the lake and store it in buildings called ice houses.   Then the blocks got delivered to homes who owned an ice box.  People used ice boxes before they had refrigerators.  The ice in the ice house was stored under piles of sawdust to keep it cold.  The ice boxes in the home had big compartments for the large block of ice.

Here are men cutting ice on Montello Lake about 1908.

Here are men cutting ice on Montello Lake about 1908.

 

More harvesting of ice on Montello Lake

More harvesting of ice on Montello Lake

So when we meet at the park to learn about migrating birds this Thursday, think of how things have changed.   Once, there was no Montello Lake, only a river.  Then, the dam was built for power for a woolen mill and a grist/flour mill and a mill pond was formed.  Then people started using the lake for many things.  Once, the city park was a pasture called Robinson’s Grove.

 

See you Thursday!!!

 

2 Comments

  1. Great articles!

  2. Scottie Patterson claimed to have donated the park land to Montello. He was a real estate man here and lived on Underwood Av -lake side.

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