History of American Towns-Bluff Country
Grandad Bluff in La Crosse
Although we have visited La Crosse and La Crescent many times we never got to the other towns in the area. It was coming back from a recent trip at night that we got off the highway and lost on back roads, which seemed like mountain roads. In daylight they are not quite like that, but the bluff in the area gives the feel of mountain foothills.
Strictly speaking La Crosse is not part of Bluff Country but I have included it because it is so much a part of experiencing the area.
La Cross fountain
La Crosse, Wisconsin
The city of La Crosse with a population of about 51,000 is the core and principle city in the La Crosse Metropolitan Statistical Area. This includes La Crosse County, Wisconsin and Houston County, Minnesota.
The relatively flat plain valley are offset by towering 500ft bluff, on of these being Grandad Bluff. Mark Twain mentioned it in Life on the Mississippi. The region is made up of high ridges dissected by narrow valleys called coulees and the area is often referred to as the “Coulee Region.”
In 1805 Lt. Zebulon Pike took an expedition up the Mississippi River for the United States. He named the area “Prairie La Crosse.” Watching Indians playing the game now known as La Crosse inspired the name. The stick they played the game with resembled a bishop’s cozier, which is La Crosse in French.
The first white settlement at La Crosse was in 1841 when Nathan Myrick moved to Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin to participate in the fur trade. He found no opportunity there and decided to establish a trading post at Prairie La Crosse. The location was near the junction of the Black, La Crosse and Mississippi Rivers. A village grew up around the trading post in the 1840’s.
In 1844 a small Mormon community built several dozen cabins a few miles south or the post. They only stayed a year but the area is still known as Mormon Coulee.
June 23, 1850 Father James Lloyd Breck of the Episcopal Church said the first Christian liturgy on top of Grandad Bluff. There is a monument there now to celebrate the event.
Stores, a hotel and post office were built during the 1840s the community was incorporated in 1856. The city became a center for lumber to be rafted down the Black River. It also became a center for Brewing. Later it became an educational center with three colleges and Universities established from 1890-1912.
It is currently becoming a regional hub of technology and medicine.
view from highway 16 near La Crescent
La Crescent, Minnesota
La Crescent is known as the “Apple Capitol of Minnesota.” Whenever we are going through there between late August and about March we usually stop to buy apples.
La Crescent is a Minnesota City in both Houston and Winona Counties. It has a population of about 5000 people. It is known for its many hills as compared to the rest of the state. It is on the side of a large bluff with other big hills in the city. It is lower than the rest of the area and is protected from harsh winds and tornadoes that hit flatter areas.
The city is on the banks of the Mississippi River and is beautiful bluffs and views of the river. Before white settlers came the Dakota Indians—a branch of the Sioux and Winnebago inhabited the area.
IN 1851 Peter Cameron and was originally named “Camerons”. The Kentucky Land Company wanted a romantic name for the town to attract settlers. La Crescent (from the river “crescent” or bend). It incorporated in 1897.
Tru Valu Store in Houston, MN
The city of Houston is in Houston County Minnesota. It has a population of about 1000. In the 2007 flood of the Root River the river rose about a foot short of the dike protecting the town.
It was named for Sam Houston the first president of Texas.
Root River Saloon
Rushford was established in 1854. The name is for a fording place on Rush creek. In 2007 the city was flooded when the creek over topped the dykes. The city is in Fillmore County with a population of about 1600 people.
It is in southeastern Minnesota’s Bluff Country. Magelssen’s Bluff is a 440-foot hill directly over the town. It is one of several town intersected by the root River segment of the Blufflands State Trail.
When we were there it appeared to a popular tourist place as there was quite a bit of traffic. Certainly there are opportunities for a variety of outdoor activities.