Located in the township of Elk Grove, Ipswich is a small hamlet situated at 42° 70’ 7” N 90° 41’ 0” W in Lafayette County in the south west of Wisconsin. To the north west is the town of Platteville, which is just across the Grant County boundary.
Population:- As it is not incorporated & has no legal boundaries, there are no population figures for Ipswich, Wisconsin, although as it comprises only a few scattered farmsteads, the number is likely to be very small. Elk Grove Township’s population in 2019 was 578.
How to get there:-
By road: From Milwaukee & the east take Interstate Highway 94 west to Madison, then US Highway 151 west to Platteville. If approaching Platteville from the north take US Highway 18, then State Highway 35, followed by State Highway 81. Once in Platteville, take State Highway 80/81 south, turn east on College Farm Road, before turning south onto Ipswitch Road (with a 't').
There is no longer any rail service.
Nearest major airports are General Mitchell International, Milwaukee, & Minneapolis - St. Paul International.Time Zone: Central Standard Time (GMT -6 hrs). Daylight saving time in summer + 1 hr.
Order of contents on this page: (Click on the links below)
Early Settlement & Derivation of Name
The area around Ipswich was originally prairie land. As such it was only used for hunting; the indigenous people in this part of America never made their homes on the prairies. They lived in semi-permanent villages along the wooded river valleys in earth lodges, and had extensive cultivated fields where they grew corn, beans, squash, tobacco and other vegetable crops.
The first people to reach the land that is now Wisconsin were nomadic hunter-gatherers following the retreat of the glaciers c.11,000 years ago. From about 500BC to AD900 the area was subsequently peopled by a succession of Woodland Culture natives who practiced agriculture as well as being hunter-gatherers, and whose burial mounds are still much in evidence in the counties surrounding Lafayette County. In Wisconsin this is known as the Effigy Mound Culture because the mounds were shaped like deer, bear and other animals.
The Winnebago are Siouan-speakers and, therefore, must have migrated into Wisconsin from an original homeland in the southeast United States. The Winnebago call themselves the Hochungra (Ho-chunk) which means “people of the parent speech” or “grandfathers of the big voice”, and they are traditionally considered to be the “old speakers” of Siouan, referring to their role as one of the “mothertribes” of the original people from which other Siouan-speaking tribes sprang. It appears that they may have been in this area by the 13th or 14th centuries. The name “Winnebago” is Algonquian & means “people of the stagnant water”; a reference to the algae-rich waters of the Fox River and Lake Winnebago where the tribe originally lived.
When the French met the Winnebago in 1634 they found them on Green Bay in eastern Wisconsin. From the 1630s onward there was an influx of numerous Algonquian tribes who were fleeing the problems caused by Iroquois Wars in the east. The new people also brought with them European diseases which hit the Winnebago hard since they had previously been isolated and had no immunity from them. As a result the population was reduced drastically to below 1,000 people. Southwestern Wisconsin passed into the hands of the Illinois confederacy of tribes.
The land around what became Ipswich remained in the territory of the Illinois from the early 17th century until their defeat in 1769 by an alliance of northern tribes. In the distribution of the Illinois territory in 1769 the Winnebago obtained a portion of northwest Illinois and southwest Wisconsin that was valued because of its lead deposits. Thus, at the time the white settlers and miners arrived the territory was held by the Winnebago tribe.
In 1824 white encroachment onto the native lands to exploit the mineral wealth began in earnest in the southwest part of Wisconsin. Needless to say, the miners disregarded the mineral rights of the Winnebago, and soon disputes arose as to where the miners had been granted permission to dig. This culminated in the Winnebago War of 1827. Although loss in terms of lives was minimal, the Winnebago were forced to surrender about a third of their lands. In the definitive Treaty of Prairie du Chien in August 1829, the Winnebago ceded northwest Illinois and southwest Wisconsin to the United States.
As far as the area around Ipswich was concerned, the Winnebago War had no effect since the land was not then settled or being mined by white men. The Black Hawk War of 1832 was more serious since the first few settlers had arrived by then. A fort, called Fort De Seelhorst, was constructed at Elk Grove, just to the south of Ipswich. The residents of the district took refuge there every night until the emergency was over. Fortunately, Black Hawk’s band never came this way and no action was therefore seen.
In 1833 Wisconsin began the survey of “public lands”, and the lands around Ipswich were opened to settlement for farming in 1835.
When lead ore was discovered here in the 1820s the area became a major centre for mining. Elk Grove was first settled around 1827, when a smelting furnace was established by the first permanent settler, a man named Collette, hence it was then called ‘Collette’s Grove’. By 1835, however, the ore had been exhausted and the furnace shut down. That year a tavern was built where the present village is located and the township took the name ‘Elk Grove’ after that animal found in the copious, surrounding woodland. It remains an unincorporated community of dispersed farmsteads and small hamlets, of which Ipswich is one such hamlet.
It is stated in Wikipedia that “The community was named after Ipswich in England via Ipswich, Massachusetts.” This information comes from “A History of the Origin of the Place Names Connected with the Chicago & North Western and Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railways. p. 86” by W. H. Stennett, book published by the Chicago and North Western Railway Company (1908). The actual sentence in that book is: “Ipswich, LaFayette County, Wisconsin, was named by C. C. Wheeler and John Patterson, jointly, from Ipswich, Mass., and Ipswich, in England.”
It would appear that this comment is partly correct, in that both places in Massachusetts and England probably had an input. However, as we will show below, it is very likely that the locality was already named Ipswich before the railroad reached it. C. C. Wheeler was active in a managerial capacity with the railroad from 1862 and he later became the general superintendent of the C & NW Railway. He did name a number of stops on this railroad. John Patterson appears to have been the project manager at the time the railroad reached the Ipswich area. C. C. Wheeler retired in 1887 and Sherburn Sanborn succeeded him. The latter person had been Wheeler’s deputy since the 1860s. Further reference to the Sanborn family and its connection with Ipswich can be found on the Ipswich, South Dakota page.
The book “Pioneer railroad – The Story of the Chicago and North Western System” by Robert J. Casey & W. A. S. Douglas, McGraw-Hill, New York (1948), specifically states that Ipswich “was named after the place in England”.
It seems that the name ‘Ipswich Station’ was given to the farm of John Cattermole. Born in Halesworth, Suffolk, England in 1804, he and his wife Charlotte emigrated to America in 1847 and are recorded as living in Elk Grove on the 1850 census. The 1870 census lists John Cattermole as a farmer and postmaster in North Elk Grove. This post office was operational from 1857 and John Cattermole’s farm was used as a postal drop or ‘station’ for the main routes that crossed nearby. The name Ipswich was not used by this post office; it was officially known as North Elk Grove until its closure in 1871. However, today there is only one place in the north part of Elk Grove and that is Ipswich; the name still used for the hamlet made up of a few scattered farmsteads. A post office was re-opened in 1886 as ‘Ipswich’ and was discontinued in 1921.
It appears that the name ‘Ipswich Station’ may have been in use by 1856, as it is mentioned in the “Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Rock, Green, Grant, Iowa and Lafayette, Wisconsin” published in 1901. On page 195, under the entry for Ralph Liddle, it states that he and his wife Hannah moved to ‘Ipswich Station’ from Big Patch, Wisconsin, in that year. It is also recorded that they “purchased a large landholding and erected comfortable and commodious buildings”. However, it could be that the author was using the name that the little settlement was given at a date later than 1856 for the sake of clarity.
In 1865, a depot and pumping facilities for the trains were built by the Chicago and North Western Railway Company. Soon afterwards a stockyard was built, as the station became popular with farmers in the region, who were able to ship their livestock to Chicago. This was given the name ‘Ipswich Station’ whereas the formal name of the locality was still North Elk Grove. The informal name of John Cattermole’s farm would indeed have been familiar to both C.C. Wheeler and Sherburn Sanborn who came from Vermont and New Hampshire respectively. These two states are a few miles north of Ipswich, Massachusetts. As was usually the case, the formal name of the locality soon followed that of the railroad station, becoming simply ‘Ipswich’.Top of Page
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William McKinley, President of the United States from 1897 to 1901, passed through Ipswich Station in 1900, whilst running for his second term in office. When the train stopped, he made a speech from the back of the passenger coach. To a great ovation, he declared that the area was the best prairie land he had ever seen in all his travels.
Straddling the border between Lafayette & Grant Counties, Ipswich Prairie is a long, narrow, 20 acre site that is a remnant area of deep-soil mesic prairie. Situated about 3 miles south of Platteville, the area was designated a State National Area in 1985. It is owned by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The prairie is maintained by controlled burning & is a habitat for more than 125 species of prairie flora including two species rare in Wisconsin; Wild Quinine & Prairie Thistle. Also present are such species as Wood Lily, Indian Grass, Blue Eyed Grass & Pale Spike Lobelia. Fauna includes Franklin's Ground Squirrel, Grasshopper Sparrow & colonies of the mound building ant Formica cinerea.
Lafayette County, in which Ipswich is situated, is in the south west of Wisconsin. Adjacent to Grant County in the west, Green County in the east & Iowa County in the north, the counties of Stephenson & Jo Daviess in the state of Illinois border it to the south. The county seat is Darlington. When Iowa County was divided into two in 1846, the southern part became Lafayette County, named after the Marquis De La Fayette, who was a French nobleman & hero of the revolutionary wars. The countryside is mainly one of rolling hills &, due to the fertile soil, agriculture is the main industry.
Much nineteenth & early twentieth architecture is preserved in the towns & villages, a legacy of the lead mining settlements. Other tourist attractions include fishing & boating in the man-made lakes of the county.