History

Early Mineral Point High Street

Photo courtesy of Mineral Point Historical Society

Mineral Point is tucked in the rolling hills of Southwest Wisconsin. This area, known “driftless” was left untouched by glaciers, leaving minerals that were easily accessible at the surface. These minerals provided quick rewards to early prospectors and adventurers who swarmed the hills and lived in crude shelters that resembled badger holes. Wisconsin would later adopt The Badger State as its nickname. In the 1830s, news of these rich deposits of lead reached Cornwall, England. Cornish miners and their families started arriving in Mineral Point. These early immigrants possessed advanced mining skills as well as expertise in stone building construction. Their legacy is reflected in a remarkable inventory of mid-19th century architecture.

Mineral Point was an important center of early Wisconsin government. In 1829 Mineral Point became the county seat of the newly formed Iowa County. At the time Mineral Point had a population greater than that of Milwaukee and Chicago combined. Mineral Point has been dubbed the city “where Wisconsin began.”  It was here on July 4, 1836 that Henry Dodge was inaugurated the first governor of the newly formed Wisconsin Territory. In the 1830s Mineral Point was a bustling, growing city that attracted many politically significant and influential people. Historians say that for over a decade the lead-mining country controlled Territorial Wisconsin, and the politics of Mineral Point controlled the mining country. Then in 1849, the California Gold Rush resulted in an exodus from the young city. 260 people departed in one day alone, and Mineral Point fell into a state of depression. A new industry, zinc mining, soon developed, and by 1891 the Mineral Point Zinc Co. was the largest zinc oxide works in the United States. In the 1870s agriculture was also becoming an important part of Mineral Point. By the turn of the century the dairy industry was well established. “Mineral Point” beef earned its own brand at the Chicago Stock market due to the quality of meat produced by cattle grazing on the native blue grasses in the surrounding countryside.

1935 marked the beginning of a preservation movement when Bob Neal and Edgar Hellum began restoring stone houses on Shake Rag Street, now known as Pendarvis. Preservation developed on a larger scale in the 1960s and 70s when artists, craftspeople and preservationists began restoring more and more historic buildings.

The city was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, the first Wisconsin city to receive that designation. The pre-Civil War homes of some of Wisconsin’s leading families still stand, and with just a little imagination you can still hear echoes of their lives throughout town. In 2008, we were chosen as the people’s choice as the best small town in Wisconsin for a historic getaway and in 2007, The National Trust for Historic Preservation selected us as one of their Dozen Distinctive Destinations®.  We invite you to visit often to enjoy the natural beauty, historic architecture, and friendly people of Mineral Point … where the passage of time only enhances the authenticity of this picturesque community.

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