History of Taylor
The modern history of the Taylor area begins in the summer of 1854 when the first pioneer families came to this part of Jackson County in their ox-drawn wagons. These original settlers had in 1843 immigrated from the Telemarken, Norway area coming to the United States in search of a better life. These families originally settled in what is now eastern Racine County. After successive epidemics of cholera and malaria had devastated the small community, three widows (Ms. Haege Anderson Lunden, Ms. Turid Tytegraf and Ms. Gro Nichols, their grown children and partners and one child, disposed of their Racine County holdings in the spring of 1854 and moved north and west in search of better soil and climate.
Banding together they formed a caravan of several covered wagons drawn by ox teams, and loaded to the very limit with household goods, provisions, and other necessities. The three widows, one aged forty-six, one aged fifty, and the other aged sixty years, walked all the way of that journey which took them seven weeks and two days.
On reaching Black River Falls they camped and rested. The young men heard of a fine valley twenty miles away, which had not been settled. It was decided while the rest remained in camp five of the men, Knut Lunden, Gunder Lunden, Gunleik Storley, Johannes Nichols and Johannes Tytegraf should investigate the possibility of the location. The beautiful valley so appealed to them that they hurried back to camp, and soon the whole party was on the trail west again.
On the 15th day of July, 1854, this band of twenty-two grown-ups and one child grouped themselves about a spring on the SE 1/4 of the SW 1/4 of section 8 in the township 21, of the range 6 west, now part of the township of Springfield in Jackson County. They arrived at what would be called Mound Springs which is approximately two miles west of Taylor’s current location. A small commercial area developed, and mail service was established in 1856. The first postmaster (Gunder Anderson) traveled the 15-mile distance to Black River Falls by oxen and lumber wagon or by foot once a week with the mail pouch.
In the summer of 1872, the Mound Springs area settlers observed a party of surveyors operating in the area. This survey crew was charting the route for The Green Bay & Lake Pepin Railroad. The railroad wanted depots and water towers along the line as the locomotives were required to take on water every seven to eight miles. The railroad had been soliciting aid from local towns and municipalities in the area to help finance the rail line and depots, however, neither Springfield Township nor Mound Springs would pledge any funding. Since stations at Pole Grove (now Hixton) and another at Porterville (now Blair) had already been established, the railroad needed a station equidistant between them. Land was privately acquired, and a depot /station built and put into service in 1884. This depot operation was originally named Taylor Station after Moses Taylor, a major investor and officer of the railroad. This became the start of the present Village of Taylor. Since the railroad provided mail service, the post office was moved there in 1884 and other commercial operations in Mound Springs followed soon thereafter. Taylor Station became ‘Taylor’ in 1895. Only one building from the ‘Mound Springs’ era remains. Now used only for storage, this structure built in 1856 has served as a country store for two different merchants and afterwards as a farm home. The building is located at W16641 West Blair Rd.
In 1904 the editor of the Taylor Enterprise wrote “Thirty-two years after the Green Bay and Western Railroad came, and the village was platted in 1873, to these surroundings thickly settled with prosperous farms, we have here a nice little village doing a large business; four passenger trains and several freights daily; a good market for everything raised on the farms; two grist mills, numerous stores, an up-to-date and well stocked lumberyard, two large hotels, wagon works, two liveries, two telephone companies, and last but not least – a printing press!”
Taylor was incorporated into a village in 1919. Dr. Neil Simons was the first village president. A sanitation/sewage system was created in 1920 and a well and water service established in 1922. The Wisconsin-Minnesota Light and Power company (later becoming Northern States Power – now Excel Energy) brought electricity to the village via high tension lines in 1920.
The 1921 Pocket Directory of Taylor published by The Taylor Herald noted: “Taylor – population 350, Jackson County. A thriving and industrious village on the mainline of the GB & W Railway on State Trunk 109. 183 miles west of Milwaukee and 16 miles west of Black River Falls. Has a well-organized bank, a large cold storage plant and produce company, creamery, feed mill, roller mill, two grain elevators, potato warehouse, pickle factory, Standard Oil distribution system, two phone companies, livestock shipping association, and a live weekly newspaper The Taylor Herald is published. Otherwise the city has a splendid representative list of other business houses having four general stores, lumber company, two garages, drug store, meat market, two restaurants, two blacksmiths, hotel, furniture store, tailor shop, two pool rooms, a pump repair shop, barbershop, harness store, a doctor and dentist. The village has cement walks and 24 hour light and power service. The village has just been incorporated and is contemplating a sanitary sewer system, water works, fire department and town hall in the near future. For recreation the village has a private park which is used as camp sites and picnic grounds and the Trempealeau River and mill pond afford excellent boating, bathing and fishing in season”.
In addition to Mound Springs, another small settlement and trading area also existed in the Taylor vicinity. Approximately five miles south of Taylor in Skutley Coulee a collection of commercial enterprises and homes was established. Originally named Springfield Center as it geographically is somewhat centered in the middle of Springfield Township. The area became more commonly known as Pumpkin Center after a painter hired to paint the buildings there chose to paint the majority of them pumpkin yellow. It is believed that the original building was built in 1917 and operated as a general store. In the early 20’s, this store had been joined by a feed mill and a garage with fuel pumps as well some individual homes. The general store closed in the late 30’s and the other businesses were shuttered by the mid 40’s. All the buildings except for one residence, have since been moved or torn down. Pumpkin Center would have been located at the intersection of Skutley Coulee Rd. and Jackson Rd.
The first organized local bank in the area was the Trempealeau Valley Bank established in 1905 with a state charter. The initial capitalization was $10,000 and was increased to $28,000 in 1920. This bank served the Taylor area residents until closing in 1932 – a victim of the Great Depression that was ravaging the entire nation. An arrangement with the Union Bank in nearby Blair allowed the Trempealeau Valley Bank depositors to recover some of their funds and eliminated the need of receivership and failure/liquidation.
In September,1935 the State Banking Department authorized the Jackson County Bank of Black River Falls to open a branch station in Taylor. This branch was in the former Trempealeau Valley State Bank building where operations were conducted until November 1973. At that time the branch moved into its new facility located in the northeast corner of the intersection of Main and 2nd street. This branch remains in operation currently.
The original settlers in the Mound Springs area were responsible for the first organized church in the area. A short distance to the west of the site of the original settlement of Mound Springs stands the Trempealeau Valley Lutheran Church. This is one of the first churches in the area and is referred to as a ‘mother’ church as other parishes and congregations originated from this initial congregation. The first organized services were held in 1860 in sod houses and barns with services conducted by traveling ministers. The current structure was built and services initiated in 1867.
Another early church in the area known as the ‘Fenny Church’ was established about 2 1/2 miles south of Taylor at the intersection of N. Skutley Coulee and Wilson Rds. The original church (built in 1874) constructed of wood was struck by lightning and burned in August 1905. A second church on the same site built with brick suffered a similar fate being struck by lightning and completely destroyed on June 1, 1923. At this point the congregation made the decision to rebuild in the village of Taylor and construction of that church started in 1924. Services were initially conducted in the basement for the first eleven years until the upper structure was completed in 1935. This structure continues to be a place of worship to this day.
Further to the south in the Town of Franklin in the Beaver Creek Valley near the intersections of Jackson County Highways ‘N’ and ‘C’ is another Lutheran Church. Known as the Upper Beaver Creek Lutheran Church, this congregation can trace its beginnings back to 1902. An early membership census originally written in Norwegian translates “The church membership consists of 91 souls and one German.” The current brick building was completed in 1910 and remains an active place of worship as of this date. The address is W15595 County Road ‘C’.
Another Lutheran Church existed in Curran Valley approximately four miles northeast of Taylor at the intersection of Jackson County Road ‘G’ and Abernathy Rd. This church was established in 1868, a building constructed and utilized for services until 1960. Services ceased and the parish was merged into the Taylor congregation. The church bell from this Curran Valley Church was installed at the Taylor Church and is utilized to this day. The building was razed in the early 1960’and evidence of the church no longer exists.
The Fenney Church (later the Taylor Church), The Curran Valley Church and the Upper Beaver Creek Church formed a three point parish with each church having one third ownership of the Taylor parsonage and sharing a common ministers’ services in 1933. The Trempealeau Valley Church later joined this union creating a four point parish. With the closing of the Curran Valley Church, this parish reverted back to a three point union which continues to this date.
The first school facility built within the village limits was initiated in 1907. The unified district grew out of the consolidation of several small country schools that were built and maintained by the townships of Springfield, Curran, Albion and Franklin. The Taylor Union Free High School was established in 1916 with the first graduating class in May 1917. The Taylor school district became part of the consolidated Blair-Taylor School District in 1989 with the first joint class graduating in May 1990. The high school built in 1927 served as the Junior High School for the consolidated district until 2014 when a new K – 12 facility was built just to the east of Blair. That ended any public educational attendance in the village. The gymnasium added to the high school grounds in 1959, is now owned by the village and serves as a community and recreational center. The original grade school completed in 1909 is now the Taylor History Museum. The grade school addition built in 1974 is now the village municipal complex and public library.
There were various country schools that eventually consolidated into the Taylor central school district. These country schools were generally one room structures with one teacher for grades 1 – 8 usually with fewer than 50 total students. The buildings were heated with wood stoves with firewood provided by the local farmers. Sanitary facilities were small ‘out’ structures separated by the sexes referred to as ‘one’ or ‘two holers’ and obviously not heated in the winter. The actual school building was usually built of wood or brick and generally named for the area/coulee it served or the local landowner who had donated the land to the district. Student transportation was most often by foot, horse and depending on the season, ski, sled and sleigh. Lunches were brought from home and were only served hot when the stove was operating in the winter. In 1907 there were 123 rural schools in Jackson County. Good sources for more detailed historical and census data for these rural schools can be researched at the Taylor History Museum and the Jackson County Historical society in Black River Falls. Local rural schools that became part of the Taylor Unified District are listed below by township.
Town of Springfield:
The original Taylor school was built in 1862 near the current intersection of County Road ‘P’ and Highway 95 about one mile north of the village. This school was physically moved twice (always in close proximity) and a new building completed in 1882. This school closed and the students transferred to the newly completed Taylor Public Elementary school in 1909.
The Davis School located at the intersection of Kelly Rd. and Lincoln Rd. about three miles east of Taylor was established in 1866. After two years of teaching classes in a local farmhouse, a new 18’ x 26’ structure was built and served as the school until closing in 1922 with the students then being transported to Taylor. This building was physically moved and remodeled into a residence east of Blair.
The Finn School built in 1860 is located at the intersection of Jackson County Road ‘N’ and Blair Rd. about 1 ½ miles south of Taylor. The school closed in 1946 and consolidated into the Taylor District. The building is still in its original site and serves as the Town of Springfield Municipal Hall.
The Jackson School was organized in 1876 as a result of overcrowding of the Finn School located to the northwest. The original schoolhouse was a dugout with a roof of poles, hay and dirt. The dirt floor was soaked every Friday night to settle the dust over the weekend. An actual structure was built in 1888, this was replaced by a new structure in 1921 – a one room building 33’ x 23’. with an attic for storage and furnished with a wood burning furnace in the basement. Electrical service arrived in 1940. The school was closed in 1950. The 1921 structure was moved to the Taylor High School grounds in 1960 and served as a band room and 6th grade classroom. With the consolidation of the Blair-Taylor school district, the building was no longer needed and was razed in the 1990’s. The original Jackson School site is now utilized as a residence at the intersection of Jackson Rd and French Creek Rd about 5 miles south east of Taylor. The school would have been located as W15399 E. Jackson Rd.
The Trump Coulee School (later called Whispering Pines) was built in 1880 just to the north of the Trump Coulee Cemetery. Prior to that children of the valley attended a small school close to the Trempealeau/Jackson County line about two miles to north and east of the cemetery. New schools were established in both counties in the 1880 timeframe as the school age population increased. The original wooded structure burned in 1909 and was replaced by a new brick building on the east side of Trump Coulee Rd slightly south of the original site. This facility was in operation until consolidation with Taylor occurred in 1953. The building was sold in 1958 and razed shortly afterward. The property is now owned by the Wis. Dept. of Natural Resources and is the south entrance to the public hunting grounds at N5344 N. Trump Coulee Rd.
The Rose Hill School approximately 6 miles south of Taylor at the intersection of County Road ‘N’, Skutley Coulee Rd., Franklin Rd. and Beck Rd. was established in 1922 and served the local children of Springfield and Franklin townships. The facility was a 30’ x 32’ brick structure. Classes were taught there until 1960. The building remains at its original site at N4910 County Road ‘N’ and now serves as a summer home.
Town of Albion
The Pine Creek School was built in 1899 about seven miles east of Taylor on Pine Creek Rd. just to the west of the intersection with Rosehill Rd. The one room wooden building served as a site for classes 1 -8 until the late 1930’s and then the students were transported to Taylor. The building served for a time as the Pine Creek Community Club, was later used as a hunting cabin and has since burned. Nothing of the structure’s history remains at the original site.
The Stockwell School was located at N6221 Nichols Rd. just south of County Road ‘P’. The original building was 18’ x 26’ with a 10’ by 18’ front foyer. Established in 1899, the students in this area previously attended the Disco school located further to the south in Albion Township. The school operated until the mid 30’s. The building later served as the Pine Creek Lutheran Congregational Church until 1964. It has since been converted into a private residence and remains on its original site.
Town of Franklin
While children from Franklin Township attended several schools in neighboring Springfield and Albion townships, only one school district in the township actually became part of the consolidated Taylor school system. The East Franklin school district was created in 1890 and separated from the original Franklin School District which had been established in 1861. What remained of the original school district was renamed West Franklin and this district continued to function until 1964 and was then absorbed into the Melrose unified school system to the south.
East Franklin was originally a 23’ x 36’ wooden structure that was later expanded with a basement to be a 23’ x 42’one room building. The school was in operation until the 1961 school year when the students and teacher were transferred to Taylor. The building has since been converted into private residence and is located at its original site W15290 County Road ‘C’.
Town of Curran
The Big Slough School located at the junction of County Road ‘P’ and Big Slough Rd. approximately six miles north of Taylor began operations in 1882. Originally a 16’x 20’ log cabin, the school was rebuilt as a one room wooden structure 18’x 32’ with a wood furnace in the basement. Prior to 1941, students graduating from the 8th grade could attend either Taylor or Whitehall high schools. After the school was closed in 1941, the district was annexed to the Taylor district. The wooden building still stands in its original site having been remodeled into a hunting cabin – address is N9116 County Road ‘P’.
The Curran Valley School would have been located near the intersection of County Road ‘G’ and Abernathy Rd. about four miles northeast of Taylor. The school was located directly across the road to the north of the Curran Valley Lutheran Church on what is now Abernathy Rd. Both buildings no longer exist at this site. The school was established in the early 1880’s. Classes were originally conducted in a 16’x 35’ log cabin. In 1883 a new building 28’x 36’ with a 8’x 10’ addition was completed. After the school closed in 1951, the building was moved to a nearby farm and has since been torn down.
The Elm School was open from 1891 – 1900. The majority of the students were absorbed into the Hixton school district to the east. Limited information exists on this school however the brick building was one of the better school facilities in the area. The building is located on its original site at W12504 State Highway 95 and is used as the municipal hall for the Town of Curran.
Conclusion: The above is just a quick summary of the interesting and many faceted history of the village of Taylor and the immediate areas surrounding it. Everyone is encouraged to research and continue their own exploration of the area’s unique history by visiting the Taylor History Museum, the Jackson County Historical Society and the local libraries and museums maintained by other communities in the area.
We would like to thank Dave Kral for his amazing research and time donated to providing us with such a detailed look at our history here and around the area!