For just a little village one mile long, Ferryville has lots of history. At one time there were islands
out on the great Mississippi River. There was a depot just down across from the “Humblebush Bed
and Breakfast”. Cars could drive down by the depot and across the railroad tracks and out to the
ball diamond which was great for those who liked to play baseball and those who liked to watch. It
was something to go to on a Sunday.
It was around 1936 when they started cutting the timber off the islands. It did give lots of people
employment but look at the beauty it wiped out. People used to live out on the islands. I remember
back when lots of farmers would put their animals, pigs and cows, out on the island for the summer
where they had plenty of food and water. If they didn’t have their animals marked real good there
could be a mix-up or even a lawsuit. (There was one that I know of).
The post office we have today in 1996 was the G.C Lucey store and has been for as long as I can
remember. The store sold general merchandise. You could buy a pair of shoes, silk or mercerized
stockings, men’s overalls and many other things that were on the left side of the store. On the right
side were groceries. We didn’t have to go to the big towns to buy what was needed. It wasn’t very
easy to go far in those days. We didn’t have the good fast cars like we have now.
The old tin lizzy would go about 40 miles an hour at the most. They tipped over pretty easily,
especially going around a bend in the road. There were two garages here in those days. One was
owned and operated by Alfred Kandall, which is the Ferryville garage owned by LaVerne Emerson.
Hiram Rutter had a garage up the street a ways. He sold cars. He had dances in his garage some
times. Alfred Kandall owned the two large square buildings of which one was the dance hall. The
dance hall was upstairs. The one restaurant was downstairs. Mr. Handy is one name I can
remember. Then Mr.& Mrs. Adkins of the Viroqua area had the restaurant.
Ferryville is the only village lying wholly within the town of Freeman. It was plotted in 1858 by
Henry W. Mc Cauley and his son-in-law, Thomas. W. Tower. Mr. McCauley was a pioneer settler of
the town of Utica, coming there in 1854 from Iowa (now grant) county; where he had lived since
1835, as a practical surveyor. He was actively concerned with the founding of Mt. Sterling,
Towerville, Ferryville, Victory and DeSoto. Another son-in-law was J. A. Haggerty, who with his son
W. A. Haggerty were the leading Ferryville merchants for many years.
The first white settlers to come to the place were Messrs. Sandborn and Stillwell, firm of horse
dealers and trainers who built the first house on land which is now part of the Burlington right of
way. It was a two-story building with a store in the lower part. They also constructed a race track
where the firm trained their horses.
Simeon Babcock of Pennsylvania came in 1854 but died the following year and his John then located
in DeSoto. George Hutson came from Galena, Ill . And members of the family have resided here ever
since. John Ross purchased large tract of woodland in the vicinity which he logged off and then sold
to incoming settlers. TI Loughs, Keneficks, Eitserts, and Copper families also date from before the
Civil War days. William Rutter, Crawford county’s oldest civil war veteran, who died in Ferryville
aged 101 was the father of Hiram Rutter, a local car salesman.
Tolbert G. Ankeny had a mill on Rush Creek and resided for a time in the village and later moved to
DeSoto. The first town meeting was held in his home.
Third generation descendants of Dorsey Ames, Dermis Howarth, Eland Bishop and Alexander Young
have improved the farms where their forbears homesteaded. Martin Finley and Fred Kloak were
early blacksmiths, and Lewis Helgerson and George Melton early storekeepers.
Lansing, Iowa was the nearest business point in pioneer days and Ferryville was well named since
people went back and forth across the river to trade by ferryboat in summer and by team across the
ice in the winter until the coming of the railroad.
The first ferryboat was a flat boat propelled by a windlass. T.C. Ankeney was owner of a better one
named the Julia Hadley. The old cabin of the Julia Hadley served as a summer kitchen for a resident
For amusement, a race track was built from one end of the long house down to the power house,
where they raced their finest horses.
Josephine Sumner was the first teacher here. They used one room of the long house for their school
house. The first school house was built on the knoll above Copsey’s house. It was very cold and they
made homemade seats with two children sitting together. A two-room school was built around
Men used skiffs to go to Lansing, Iowa across the river for food such as flour; sugar, coffee and other
The first post office was held in the basement of then A. Torgerson’s three story building, with
William Davis as the first postmaster. His assistant was Bud Lankford. There were animals here that
are not here now such as bears, deer, wolves, foxes, minks and lynx.
The first railroad came in 1885. It was by the railroad companies Burlington, and Quincy. The people
here were glad to have a new transportation as it gave them work. It helped settle the community
and people received their mall promptly.
About this time, J. A. Haggerty, a merchant from Mt. Sterling, built a store with a basement,
lumberyard, and stockyard where all kinds of stock and farm produce could be purchased. He
boomed the town. Many other buildings went up. John Campbell built a postoffice, which W T.
Robertson, when he succeeded, attached his house to. Later, rural rooms were annexed. Before the
railroad, little steam boats stopped out where the old pump house is now but big steam boats could
not stop here because the water was too shallow. They stopped at Lansing, Iowa, DeSoto, Prairie du
Chien, and LaCrosse.
In the early days when the people wanted anything they started out walking and did not care how
far it was to Prairie du Chien or DeSoto. There were better trading posts there. The common foods in
those days were good corn bread, butter, potatoes and venison. They wore homemade clothing.
The Indians and white people got along very peacefully in those days. They did not have the Indian
scares in this community as they did in other places.
The people in those days in this community doctored themselves with plants and herbs from the
woods. Most communities had doctors too. The diseases in those days were small pox, diphtheria,
and tuberculosis which caused many deaths and proved fatal to whole families.
In Sept. 1873 the little town was swept by the worst tornado that ever struck this section of the
state. Both grain houses and many of the dwelling houses were completely demolished. It left the
village so demoralized that most of the remaining business people moved away, which may explain
why historians who compiled the history of this areas pass almost completely over its story.
The coming of the Burlington R. R. made an opportunity for new business ventures and Henry
Henderson improved the old Helgerson store and opened a hotel in the story above. T. T. Thompson
built a store building & residence across from the hotel. The arrival of a new warehouse and store
run by John Grace, King & Haggerty, and M. Dolan & Co. caused a business slump as the small
community could not support this large number of vendors. Mr. Dolan moved back to Rising Sun.
However, as corn began to be raised on the farm lands in place of wheat, hogs and dairy cows gave
the village a new cause to grow and expand due to the increase in the live stock trade and with
farmers coming into town for supplies.
Stock yards were built and George Wild became the stock dealer for a wide radius. Farmers on Sugar
Creek, Rush Creek and Buck Creek began to grow wealthy from the superior utility of tobacco which
could be grown on their valley farms.
Ferryville derived its name from the little ferry boats. The Julia Hadley was the first ferry-boat and
was owned by Capt. T. C. Ankeney who gave it his wife’s name. Ferryville’s first name was
“Humblebush”. The little Julia Hadley traveled between Ferryville and Lansing Iowa. The captain’s
wife decided that by adding “vile” to ferry it would be a very good name for the village.
The Ferryville creamery was built in 1909.the Ferryville cooperative creamery was established in
1911. The creamery was later sold and became a cheese factory. Armin and Gladys Bergelin
purchased the cheese factory in 1946 from William Becker. A new store addition was added in 1964.
A link to additional Ferryville information.
HISTORY OF FERRYVILLE WISCONSIN
BY ETHEL LERUM