This city, which is the county seat of Crawford county, is situated on the east bank of the Mississippi river, in the extreme southwestern part of the county, and is one of the oldest places in the State of Wisconsin, dating from 1781.
Before the whites (who were Canadian French) first located on the Prairie, it was inhabited by the Fox Indians, who chief was named Dog (Chien in French); and it was from this it took its name, which was subsequently given to the village.
Of all the charming city sites in the great and far-famed upper Mississippi valley, perhaps none excels Prairie du Chien in grandeur and beauty. Surrounded as it is by the mountain-like bluffs on either side of the river, which flows on in its ceaseless current toward the far off ocean, the picturesque scenery is ever a feast to the eye.
The prairie on which the city is laid out is a sand and loam plain, about two miles wide at the south end, running north about seven miles, to a point, the whole embracing about seven sections of land. The site of the city stretches along the Mississippi river about two miles; nearly all of which affords a good steamboat landing, and averages about one and a half miles in width.
This place is situated about 300 miles below St. Paul, in Minnesota and seventy miles up the river from Dubuque and Dunlieth; is 600 miles from St. Louis and 1,800 from New Orleans by way of the meanderings of the Mississippi river, and is ninety-eight miles west of Madison and 198 miles from Milwaukee. The platting of the city shows much taste as well as practical design, the streets being laid out at right angles and the blocks of convenient size for both business and resident purposes. The river at this point is a mile and a quarter wide, including islands; the whole valley, from the bluffs on the east to those on the Iowa shore, is about three miles in width. This level plain, walled in as it is by these everlasting hills, which in many places rise into great altitude, their surface covered with a carpeting of green and scattering timber, with here and there a precipitous rock cropping out in bold relief, lends a beauty to the city and its environments, which must be seen in order to be fully appreciated.
Another prominent feature of the city is its artesian wells, which are not only curiosities but also of great utility. One of these fountains is situated within the city park and throws a constant stream of the purest, most health-giving water of any well in the world. This stream, which doubtless has its source in a distant part of the State, furnishes the city with water for domestic use, for fire protection and flows down on either side of the principal business streets, over stone gutters, which are kept clean and white by this never-failing stream, that supplies a cooling draught for both man and beast. This well attracts the attention of the stranger as he visits the city and leads him to exclaim, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever!”
Here and there throughout the city may be seen a very substantial class of business buildings and public edifices. Especially great pride is taken in the schools and church buildings of the place. These, together with the court house, which is a stone structure, situated in a charming public square, the surface of which is shaded by the dark green foliage of the pine and cedar have come to be a pride to the people of Prairie du Chien.
This point was made the terminus of the Milwaukee & Mississippi River railroad, in April 1857; it being the most northern point on the river to which the iron steed had found his way. In 1884, this was known as the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul line.
History of Crawford and Richland Counties, Wisconsin: Together with Sketches of Their Towns and Villages, Educational, Civil, Military, and Political History, Portraits of Prominent Persons, and Biographies of Representative Citizens ; History of Wisconsin : Embracing Accounts of the Pre-historic Races, and a Brief Account of Its Territorial and State Governments, Part 1. Crawford County (WI): Union Publishing Company, 1884.