A little history...
The first known permanent residence of a European settler was established in 1849 when Franklin Pettit settled here. By the time of the 1850 census, La Crosse County had been created out of part of the old Crawford County. Present day Sparta was included. Apparently, the new county had fewer than 200 residents, but the population was growing. In 1852 Monroe County was created and the new village was given its name Sparta by "Mother Pettit". With the discovery of the underground springs and their supposed health enhancing benefits, Sparta's population rapidly grew to 6000 residents by 1860.
The earliest settlers around Sparta were of Yankee and English heritage. Germans and Scandinavians followed. Primary early industries were lumbering and trapping.
Today, Sparta is the county seat of Monroe County. The city and the surrounding area are supported by agriculture, manufacturing, and nearby Fort McCoy. The old Chicago and Northwestern depot in Sparta is the headquarters building for the La Crosse River State Trail
Since Sparta sits astride the junction of the Elroy-Sparta and La Crosse River State Trail, there is a lot of biking activity in the area. In 1990, Sparta was given the prestigious title of "Bicycle Capital of America".
Ondell, Main and Rock Streets were apparently the village's first throughfares. The house at 201 East Rock Street may be its oldest building, and has served as an inn, a stage depot, and a post office in days gone by.
Other points of interest include Betts' Place for Peace CBRF, which is the former Dr. Jones residence, and two Welch pioneer cemeteries a short distance south of town.
Among the points of interest in and nearby Bangor are the Hussa Brewery building, which is prominent masonry structure overlooking Dutch Creek, the Welch Methodist Church in the village, and the inscribed sandstone cliff along Dutch Creek just south of the Bangor park. The iron railroad bridge over Dutch Creek provided the inspiration for the logo for the La Crosse River State Trail.
Thomas Leonard changed the course of history when he offered the newborn Milwaukee and La Crosse Railroad Company a free right-of-way through his land. Neshonoc succumed to the competition and ceased to exist as a separate entity. A number of homes were moved from Neshonoc into West Salem to help the nucleus of the new community.
An octogon shaped house moved from Neshonoc still stands on North Leonard Street. Thomas Leonard's last home, the "Old Salem House", still stands at the foot of Leonard Street. The Garland homestead on Garland Street was purchased by Hamlin Garland as a retirement home for his aging parents. All three are on the register of historic places and are well known local landmarks.
Onalaska - La Crosse
Near the junction of the Black and La Crosse Rivers with the Mississippi, Nathan Myrick became the first permanent European settler when he established a trading post in 1841. A settlement grew around the post and eventually became the City of La Crosse.
While the big pines of Jackson County lasted, logs were floated down the Black River to the many sawmills of La Crosse and Onalaska. These logs were sawed into lumber here and then rafted down the Mississippi to St. Louis and points south.
During the 1850's the railroad reached La Crosse from the east, turning the city into a busy river port, a terminus where steam train met steamboat. La Crosse had become one of the "Gateways to the West."
Among the colorful characters from La Crosse's past was Frank Powell, a sometime "Indian remedies" salesman. He served for a time as mayor of La Crosse and, as a part of his legacy, left the city several drinking fountains decorated with the figure of a beaver. (Native Americans called him "White Beaver".) Powell's friend, Colonel William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, was a frequent visitor and sometimes wintered the horses from the Wild West Show in the city.