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Dells Area History III – And Other Stories

Volume III
by Ross Curry

By Judy Gibson
Events Reporter

If it weren’t for Ross Curry much of the Dells area history would be lost. Curry, who has lived in the area all his life, has now published a third volume of his “Dells Area Local History” books available locally at TravelMart, Bookworld, Parson’s Trading Post and at the Dells Events office.

Curry says his father remembers seeing the first person to ever settle in the area, Robert Allen, and said last week he has never met anyone else who had seen him. “He said he had a black beard and big black boots.”

Ross was only a small child at the time he heard this story, but this amazing recall of events and a passion for the details of the past have served him well in his profession of newspaperman and historical writer.

“I have a private library of 4,000 books and after awhile when you get a reputation, people come to you with stories,” said Curry when asked about where he gets his information.

Curry’s family goes back a long way in the town of Lyndon. He was born here in 1929 and jokes that his birth was the cause of the big stock market crash. His father’s family came to Sauk County in 1845 and he said his grandfather went to school with the Ringling’s. “(Grandfather) called them the wild bunch.”

In 1881 his grandfather on the Curry side came to the Dells. Ross and his two sisters still own the property, it’s been in the family for 120 years.

Volume III of “Dells Local History” includes stories such as “Vanderpoel built Dawn Manor,” “I Remember Wigwams in the Dells” and ” Louis Bluff Long Known as Lookout.” The stories are packed with interesting facts told in a charming way. This is an excerpt from one article “Growing up in the 30s: Songs fill dark winter nights.”

”Everything seems dark in my memory because that is what it was mostly – dark. A kerosene lamp lit the dining room and a second lit the kitchen. If my mother had to go to the bedroom for something she took a lamp with her and the rest of the family suspended activities and waiting in the dark until she got back.”

From the story “I remember wigwams in the Dells”:
”When my grandfather, Joe Curry, sold his north 40 acres to the Northern Baptist Convention after the new Highway 12/16 went through Rocky Arbor in the early 30s, a virtual Indian settlement grew up around the church that was built there. There were houses and wigwams on at least 16 different locations that I can recall, most on church lands but some on land purchased privately from my grandfather or in the case of wigwams, permission was given to build one for one or two years on our property.”

Curry said he first became interested in newspapers during high school when he became sports editor for the Dells Events. Isabel Drumb was editor at the time and, according to Curry, “didn’t know much about high school sports. I wasn’t very good , but it was better than what they had.”

Curry met his future wife Sylvia in church and said, “that first visit didn’t go too well.” They now have two children and five grandchildren. Sylvia’s great-grandfather was in the battle of Shiloh in the Civil War. Curry said he has five relatives who died in that war.

Curry originally wanted to be a writer and attended what is now MATC in Madison. “They said there were no jobs, so I studied printing.” He has worked for former editors and owners of the Events since then, including Drumb, Jim and Pete Walch and Jay Walch, Lonnie Lown, Kay James, Mike Carignan and now Reed Andrew. He has worked with newspapers from the early days of “hot type” when pages weighed 100 pounds through offset printing and finally the computerized method used today. He had 15 years doing front page layout, the job he says was the most fun.

“I’ve been connected to the paper for 57 years, starting in 1946, longer than anyone else ever has,” said Ross who had written Kilbourn Klippings for years, gathering historical news from old papers. He worked mainly doing press and layout and retired in 1992. He recently gave up doing the Klippings, but still writes an occasional historical column.

JUDY GIBSON/Events photos
Ross Curry has compiled local history in books and for the Events for decades

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