The Kickapoo Valley Railroad
Kickapoo Valley and Northern Railroad
"The Stump Dodger"
1897 to 1928
Note: The following historical information was compiled from several sources. Information about the railroad in
Readstown, Sugar Grove, and Kickapoo Center is included.

Everything changed in Readstown, usually for the better, beginning in the late 1890's with the coming of the railroad.
The Kickapoo River was dammed by a lumber company, which also straightened the course of the river to make a
millrace. Electricity was produced by turbine installed at the dam. The village government was incorporated, with
Herbert Carter, son of pioneer William Nelson Carter, as the first village president. But above all, the Kickapoo Valley
and Northern Railroad (later taken over by the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad) railroad was built. The
railroad itself did not survive the end of the 1930s. But for a time, jobs were plentiful and the sawmill ran 24 hours per
day. The railroad gave the village its present north/ south dimensions. The railroad station was deliberately placed
outside of the then commercial center of the village (then grouped around the street today still called Center St.).

The railroad depot disappeared with the railroad in the late 1930s.

The house that used to be the hotel stands on the corner of U.S. 14 and County X. Today it is the residence of
Amish farmer, Amos Borntreger. A large proportion of the families that settled in the Sugar Grove area came from
Ohio around 1855. In 1856, the four daily stages going to and returning from the following places each day were
Black River Falls, Muscoda, Prairie du Chien, and LaCrosse. As long as the stages passed through, the hotel in
Sugar Grove thrived. Sometimes people passed through, spending a weekend with old friends. Sugar Grove lies on a
crossing of roads, and on a clear day one could hear the "Stump Dodger" railroad whistle as it passed through the
Kickapoo Valley, letting its passengers off and on at the bordering towns.

There was a sawmill in the little woods (now gone), west of the corner. Sugar Grove had quite a logging business.
In 1890, the mill man did not get as many logs as he wanted, yet he occasionally steamed up.

The history of Kickapoo Center really begins with a man named Samuel Estes. One day in 1850, he found himself
floating down the Kickapoo River on a raft with a group of other men he had encountered at an encampment north of
Ontario. He carried all he owned in a knapsack. He had until quite recently, been farming near Elkhorn, coming
originally in 1846 from Massachusetts. A quarrel broke out on the raft between the trapper/adventurers, and Estes
deemed it advisable to disembark in the general vicinity of Wilder Farm, north of today's Kickapoo Center cemetery.

Estes built some sort of primitive habitation, not really describable as a cabin, and put his hunting and trapping skills
to work, collecting pelts to be sold in Prairie du Chien. There was a herd of elk living along the banks of today's Elk
Creek- a stream named by Estes. He was evidently alone in the Kickapoo Center area for as much as a year before
other settlers came. He explored all the local Indian trails and was the first white to explore between Kickapoo
Center and Ash Ridge. Ash Ridge was, at this early point in local history, a stopover on a major north/ south route
called the Black River Road. Eventually, a horseback mail route would be set up from Orion, on the Wisconsin River
to Richland City (Center), Ash Ridge, Kickapoo Center, Readstown, Brookville, Liberty Pole, to Viroqua. When
people began coming into the private wilderness of Sam Estes, he journeyed to Prairie du Chien (the county seat of
Crawford County, in these days before Vernon County was created) and registered some of the valley for himself.

Kickapoo Center endured into the rail age. Although a formal railroad station was never constructed, a rail siding and
platform was erected in the 1890's on the bottom land south of the present ________ house. Local farmers and
woodsmen would deliver wood to this spot for loading into a freight car, which would periodically haul this product to
markets far distant. The railroad was discontinued in the late 1930's.

In the middle 1960's a new bridge over the Kickapoo was built at Kickapoo Center. This replaced an early 20th
century steel truss bridge which once stood at the end of Kickapoo Center's main street, and the former Main
Street has returned to nature. Pilings along the Kickapoo River, just north of the path of the former highway remain
in testimony of the valiant efforts made to protect the highway from the continual threat of the river's floods.

Kickapoo Center is now little more than a concept. Most traces of the more than 100 years of civilization that
existed in this floodplain have been hauled away or buried under years of river silt. Submitted by John H. Sime,
thanks to Bill Brown, Joe Childs, Carol and Julius Hanson, Ron Phillips and Epitaph-News.