History of Monticello
By Edna Babler
| The Little Sugar
River, which flowed through the area, now Monticello village, was the only
source of power for the early settlers. Two streams of water, one
from the west and one from the north, joined and were dammed to form the
This was done some time before 1854 because in 1854 the Monticello Grist Mill was built by Orrin Bacon. It was a building of considerable size and importance. The mill was operated by Bacon until his death about 1896, when it was purchased by J.W. Staedtler, who conducted the business for many years. After Staedtler, his son, Henry Staedtler, operated the mill until it was sold to Ben Cisch, who in turn sold the property to Harrison Smith. He, in turn, tore down the old building and erected a model one story, brick building to replace the old grist mill, which property is now owned by the Wisconsin Power and Light Co.
Orrin Bacon was milling flour in the 1880's. Farmers brought their wheat from as far as New Glarus. This doesn't seem far today, but at that time travel was by wagon in summer and bobsled in winter. Buckwheat was sold in the local stores, also white flour. Rye was also brought in for grinding, in later years, oats and corn.
In the 1930's all grinding at the mill was discontinued.
The stream of water, Little Sugar River, received its name from the Indian word, "Tonasooharah," which means sugar and also the "old Timers" say from the sugar maple trees grown along the shores of the river which sweetened the water as the sap dripped into it.
The lake provided work for villagers during the winter months as the harvesting of ice took place. The ice was cut into blocks, hauled by bobsled and horses to the barn-like structure icehouse, stored between layers of sawdust and sold by the iceman for home use in summer.
The lake or millpond, about 38 acres in size, provided many forms of enjoyment or recreation in summer and winter. There was fishing, swimming and boating in summer and ice skating and ice boating in winter. At the far western end of the millpond was a small area of land known as Blackbird's Point which was reached by rowboat or in a motorboat owned by the late Edward Wittwer. Young people often went there for picnics, fishing and just for a special good time.
As years passed, eroding soil gradually filled the pond, forming a marsh, the lake slowly disappearing.
The old mill pond known for many years as Lake Staedtler was replaced by a man-made lake in the 1960's.
During the 1950's plans were made by the Wisconsin State Highway Commission to build a new highway across the old mill bed to improve Wis. 69, also to run through the old Lake Staedtler bed to extend Wis. 39. The swampy land beside the highways soon filled with grass and weeds and become a mess. Some of the business men became quite concerned and made plans for improvement of the "once lake region" by planning for a park and a new lake. Work was soon begun and the project continued to develop nicely which would in a short time provide beauty and recreation for young and old as well.
On July 24, 1966, in afternoon ceremonies of the Monticello Homecoming Celebration the new man-made lake, a beautification project by the business men of the village and community, was given its name, Lake Montesian. In early 1974 dredging and shoreline improvement along the north shoreline of the lake was underway. A portion of the peninsula was removed and the peninsula and the island were made into one larger island. During the fall of the same year, rocks were placed along the shores to help prevent erosion.
More recent additions to the lake and park project were the erection of the unique pylon at the west entrance to the village, planting of more trees, sodding needed areas and the building of a walk bridge to the island.
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