When thinking about American history, people typically don’t think about western Wisconsin. But the plains of America’s Dairyland tell the story of America from a unique perspective. Local historical sites tell the story of Wisconsin in the Civil War. Hobbyists will be thrilled by the antiques and collectibles at the few antique dealers in the area.
Adding a short historical stop to your vacation can give you perspective on your understanding of history. The Wisconsin museums in town can make for a fun day with your family and friends. It’s time to step back in time.
Fort Crawford Museum
This is where Prairie du Chien began. Fort Crawford started out as a watch tower to protect the citizens of the Wisconsin area. It doesn’t look like much more than a small cabin, and over time it’s role as a place of refuge became less important. Now it serves as a gathering place to experience life in the 19th century and learn about westward expansion.
You can spend a short amount of time reading about the building’s history inside, but a short walk around the museum by itself isn’t very exciting. Thankfully, the museum hosts frequent activities that are definitely worth a try. Take your family butter making, sheep shearing, wool spinning, and much more. War of 1812 Reenactments are also held through the Prairie du Chien Historical Society.
Get your trapper clothes on! For a modest fee, you can dress up like a fur trader and follow the route many men took to forge a living for themselves. You’ll canoe down the Mississippi River as you listen to the guide’s historical account. If ladies don’t want to paddle, they can grab a parasol to hearken back to 1800s chivalry. If you have a specific event you’d like to attend, check out the Fort Crawfood Facebook page.
If you love history and classy antiques, you should stop by any one of these antique stores. Treasure hunt from wall-to-wall, and find something for a stellar price.
Check’s Antique Shop in Prairie du Chien, WI (4.8/5 stars)
“Wonderful little store with a myriad of interesting things. The owners who were running the store gave my wife and I free popcorn. Highly recommend stopping by!” – Joel Drzycimski
Antiques 310 in McGregor, IA (5/5 stars)
“So much to take in, so much to look at. One stop would never be enough!” – Matt Van Pelt
Schoolhouse Mall in McGregor, IA (4.2/5 stars)
“A real neat place…. and huge! Found many items I needed and some great gifts. Prices were very reasonable! And a cool historic building to explore while shopping!” – Beth M.
Villa Louis Historic Site
Of all the museums in Prairie du Chien, Villa Louis Historic Site is probably the most unique. Not only is it a historically relevant site, but it also offers a looking glass into the daily life of a wealthy fur-trading family in the 19th century.
Touring the Mansion
Visit the Dousman’s home. It is not only a beautiful house with a classic Victorian design, but it also is comfortable and historical. The mansion itself lies on 25 acres of land. You’ll be guided through the different rooms in the home and learn how life has improved for everyone since this time period.
Interestingly enough, you will also have a chance to visit the only 1812 battlefield in Wisconsin, which took place on the Dousman’s property. Reenactments are occasionally held here, so keep up on the updates here.
History can be a lot of fun. You don’t need to pull out a textbook to understand the country’s experience with war and domestic life. It’s all right in front of you.