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Dells Area History I – And Other Stories

Volume I
by Ross Curry

Introduction by Lonni Lown, Editor, Wisconsin Dells Events, 1992

Wisconsin Dells Historian has just completed his second book.

It is a collection of stories and articles that originally appeared in the Wisconsin Dells Events newspaper.

I met Ross in January, 1989, when I became editor of the Events. It did not take me very long to discover that I had access to immense knowledge of local people, geography, and history under my own roof in the guise of a printer who had been with the paper for nearly 40 years. I took advantage of that knowledge just as fast as I could. On his side, Ross was pleased to find someone who wanted to know all the things he had to tell and who encouraged him to write his knowledge down for everyone to read. Ross’ stories are the most popular feature of the Dells Events.

Our first field trip together was a revelation. Ross took me to Rocky Arbor State Park. It was a gorgeous afternoon and there was no snow except in the shady places. Ross was determined to prove that his age was no barrier to his hiking ability and I was determined to prove that I could keep up with him. The contest was fairly even until we came to the top of a long sloping hill carpeted with a thick layer of oak leaves. Ross walked down the hill. I took one step down, my feet hit the slippery oak leaves and I traveled the rest of the way very quickly in a seated, more or less, position. He tried pretty hard to be sympathetic and inquire if I was okay, but his impish sense of humor took over and he laughed until he cried. I made a valiant attempt to remain on my dignity, but it’s difficult to do while sitting down, covered with oak leaves, twigs and other bits of hillside. From then on we were friends.

Since then we traveled to other places which always seem to involve brush and brambles, mosquitoes and heat. These are small discomforts compared to the things I have learned and the places I’ve seen. My only problem is that time restraints have kept me from going to as many places as he wants to show me.

This collection ranges from a complete history of the Dells to a lynching which will match any television shoot-’em-up show you care to watch. The story of the Winnebago Nation chronicles the earliest dwellers.

Reading the index gives a better idea than I can of the range and scope of these tales. Each one contains special insight and no matter how much you think you know about the past, you’ll find something you hadn’t read or heard before.

The collection should also be of interest to future historians who will find that Ross has done much of their research for them, compiling information from a variety of sources, interviewing people, visiting cemeteries, and dropping editors off cliffs.

But I think the best part of this book is what it tells you about the author. It clearly shows his values, his love of life and the people in our area, his humor and his meticulous attention to detail.

And, on top of all that, it’s a darn good read.

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