Dickeyville's Early History
Narrative & Photos provided by Karen Reese
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The settlement of Dickeysville was named in 1849 after Charles Dickey, an early settler and surveyor. Born in New Jersey 24 Sep 1812 he lived in Illinois prior to coming to Grant County, Wisconsin. He had a sandy complexion; was 5’ 10” and had brown hair. His family consisting of his wife and five children plus two of his brother’s children, came in 1849. Mr. Dickey was a very active man and held county offices including the County Coroner and member of the Board of County Supervisors. He also was Justice of the Peace for Paris Township (which Dickeyville is part of), the town chairman for six years and assessor for two years.
Charles and his wife, Louisa, operated the first store at the intersection of Highway 61/35 and North Main Street (old Highway 151) in the middle of town (currently a supper club). The dry goods store also sold groceries, boots, shoes, clothing and farm machinery. He owned the store for nineteen years and during that time he was an assistant surveyor for Grant County. The surveying tools that he used were returned to the Grant County Court House at Lancaster by his daughter, Minnie Harriet Dickey.
Charles Dickey served in Company I of the 10th Regiment of the Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers during the Civil War. He was mustered into service October 14, 1861 and received a disability discharge in December, 1862 at Nashville, Tennessee. The family moved to the state of Kansas in 1874. At the age of 90 Charles Dickey died in Phillipsburg, Kansas and is buried there.
The post office was established 14 July 1849 with Charles Dickey, postmaster. It discontinued the 5 Jan 1880 but reopened the 2 Apr 1882 with John A. Schmitt as postmaster. Once again it was discontinued 31 Aug 1907. Mail delivery then came into the village on two rural routes; Louisburg (from the south) and Potosi (from the west) to the intersection in the middle of the village. The “s” was dropped from the name in 1932 and the village’s name was now spelled Dickeyville. Reopening of the post office came about in 1934 with John A. Kowalski as postmaster. In 1994 the post office changed addresses and moved into the old grocery store across the street which the Dickeyville Telephone Corporation had purchased and remodeled. It now houses the post office, real estate & insurance office and chiropractic services. Everyone in our village has a post office box as we do not have home delivery.
The village was plotted for twelve lots in 1870 but never recorded. Total population that year was 24. The Grant County Herald newspaper, Lancaster, Wisconsin in 1871 gives a description of the village of Dickeysville as a collection of houses on the Potosi and Galena stage road. By 1877 the population was just under 100. At that time the village comprised of two stores, one hotel, two blacksmith shops, three saloons, one wagon and sign shop, the Union church (discontinued in 1925), the Catholic church and school and 18 dwellings. In 1884 the village contained one hotel, one store, one saloon, two churches Catholic and Union; two schools public and German Select; one shoe shop; two carpenter shops; one blacksmith and wheel shop. In 1913 a second ballroom dance hall was built, the first dance hall was moved and turned into a barn which was razed in 1982. Twilight Ballroom was converted in 1961 to four apartments. A creamery was built in 1915, converted to a cheese factory in 1918. The factory closed in 1976. Part of it was torn down and the balance of the building now houses a beauty and tanning bed shop and three apartments.
The Grotto is dedicated to the unity of two great American ideals – love of God and love of country. Rev. Matthias Wernerus erected the Crucifixion Group in 1920 as a monument for the three young men of the Holy Ghost parish who had given their lives in World War I. In 1925 the principal shrine or grotto, containing a statue of the Virgin Mary, is 25 feet high, 30 feet wide and 25 feet deep was started. It took four years to complete. Surrounding the statue are symbols of Faith, Hope and Charity; the Missal; the stole and chalice; the Keys of the Kingdom; the Cross with the implements of the Passion; two tables of the Ten Commandments and the two fishes and basket of five loaves. The entire inner wall is adorned with thousands of colored stones, gems, and jewels, forming a religious shrine.
Beyond the principal grotto, and encircling it is a narrow walk between, is a wall with 15 other small grottos, and back of this is another shrine known as “Patriotism in Stone” dedicated to Christopher Columbus, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Millions of stones, souvenirs, shells and other iridescent pieces have been set in cement by the patient hands of the late Rev. Matthias Wernerus. In this he was ably assisted by his cousin and housekeeper, Mary Wernerus. Rev. Wernerus died from double pneumonia in 1931 and is buried in Holy Ghost Cemetery, Dickeyville.
The village was incorporated in 1947 and had an assessed valutation of $375,000. In 1951 the village population was 275. There were 125 families in Dickeyville. Of those families all were Catholic but 3 families. A housing development was started and twelve new houses were built in the early 50s. The first water tower was installed which held 50,000 gallons at a depth of 900 feet. With the increase of population the second water tower was installed in 2002 holding 250,000 gallons at a depth of 902 feet. It stands 120 feet tall. The village’s businesses in 1951 included two grocery stores, three garages, a hardware and lumber yard combined, an appliance store, a combined plumbing, heating and appliance store, a locker plant and butcher shop, two restaurants, three taverns, a feed mill and a recreation hall. In 1968 the first bank opened with a second one following in 2001. Our population in 1990 was 893. Right now we support about 1100 people