History gems that can be found in Buffalo County

Updated: Jul. 23, 2023 at 6:00 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BUFFALO COUNTY, Wis. (WEAU) - Taking the drive down Highway 37 and Highway 35 when you reach the Mississippi River, through the bluffs and valleys, Buffalo County’s historical gems can be found if you look close enough.

First, in Buffalo City, a jail house.

“But that is the oldest jail that is left standing in the state of Wisconsin. This was built in 1862, from a type of sandstone they called it then,” said Jeanne Hofer.

She lives in neighboring Village of Cochrane, and has been working with others to preserve the jailhouse. The goal is to keep it in its original state, so it can one day go on the National Historical Registry.

“But it took a lot of work, and funds. Which, we held a lot of bake sales and things like that,” said Hofer.

The jail can be found in the middle of Buffalo City Park. It has two components.

“They called it the council room. That’s where the city council met. And on the other side is where there’s two jails cells were. We kind of restored that the best that we could you know,” said Hofer.

Historians will also tell you, the kail was mostly for drunk villagers to spend the night after a day on the river.

“We kid about it. If there was ever anybody kept in the other part of the jail. And there is absolutely no record of that,” said Hofer.

Speaking of the river, at the Alma Area Museum in Alma, you will learn that while the Chippewa Basin was known for the logging industry, the logs trickled down to Alma, in what was known as the Beef Slough.

“At the peak of the rafting in the late 60′s and early 70′s at Beef Slough, there were 24 different companies who were sending logs down there that needed to be sorted out,” said Max Bachhuber with the Alma Historical Society.

He said the town’s population during that time was around 1,400 in the late 19th century.

“Almost half the people that were located here were actually working at the rafting works,” said Bachhuber.

Also from the era in time, pictures from Gerhard Gesell can be found at the museum, documenting life in Alma’s logging era.

“We have about 160 pictures of his at the museum here,” said Bachhuber.

Country schools were big, with more than 50 around the county decades ago.

The building the museum is in also housed what they called a Normal School. It is where teachers went to get certified so they can teach at one of the many country schools around Buffalo County.

“When we would actually graduated from high school, they could come here for one year and get their certificate. So, we had a lot of country schools out there that needed teachers,” said Sandra Ebert, with the Buffalo County and Alma Historical Society. She too was a student at the Normal School.

Over in Mondovi, an actual preserved country school can be found at Tourist Park.

“The historical society wanted to preserved that whole era. The country schools were really the center of communities. They tied all these rural areas together,” said Steve Mikelson said with the Mondovi Area Historical Society.

The park itself has also been a camp ground for out-of-towners rolling by since 1923.

“It gave people a place to stay here and that’s the reason to stop in town and spend money too. And then gradually it’s evolved into a city park over the years. There’s a lot to see in Mondovi,” said Mikelson.

There is also so much more to see around Buffalo County as well, all of which are continuing to stand the test of time.

For more information on where to find the many historical gems around Buffalo County, you can reach the Buffalo County Historical Society.

They are located at:

407 S 2nd St, Alma, WI, United States, Wisconsin

(608) 685-6290

Information on the Alma Area Museum can be found here.

Tours for The Buffalo City Jail House are usually done on the 4th of July.

For the Mondovi Area Historical Society, the can be reached here: