Gays Mills | Crawford County

Village of Gays Mills, Crawford County
"Apple Capital of Wisconsin"
Incorporated June 12, 1900
Population: 505

Gays Mills Snippets

     ★ The Wisconsin State Journal reported August 5, 1914, that the summer meeting of the State Horticultural Society would be held at Gays Mills on August 19 and 20. Gays Mills was identified as "in the heart of the Kickapoo Orchard Belt, pronounced by experts as one of the best apple sections in the United States" and "one of the most picturesque and beautiful spots in Wisconsin". In 1908 the Horticultural Society planted over 400 acres of apple trees on the high ridges adjacent to Gays Mills. Those orchards are all owned "by Wisconsin people who have faith in Badger soil and climate".

     ★ "Barnyard Golf" was a popular feature at the 25th anniversary of the Gays Mills Far in September 1923 -- bringing "leading" Crawford County competitors to compete in the horseshoe pitching tournament, the most "democratic" sport there is, its popularity attributed to how "young and old meet on even terms, any small plot of ground serves as a court and shoes can be dug up in almost any old barn".

The La Crosse Tribune and Leader-Press identified "horseshoe pitchers" as "a fine type of sportsman, playing the game "for the sport they get out of it rather than for prize money or trophies". Even so, "generous prizes" for first, second, and third place for each day of the four-day fair had been provided by Gays Mills business men.

A "small army" of players was expected, with delegations from Mt. Sterling, Steuben, Soldiers Grove, and Prairie du Chien. Dr. J. O. Smith was in charge of the tournament.

The fair program also included "a Ford automobile day, horse racing, band concerts, and free open air exhibitions.

     ★ In September 1928 Gays Mills celebrated "the largest shipment of cattle ever consigned to John P. Brummer and Son, Milwaukee, in the seventeen years of the firm's history", the livestock contracted "for several months" with Gays Mills area farmers. The shipment included fifty cars of cattle, sheep, and pigs, with a total estimated value of $100,000 (worth $1,424,994,22 in 2018).

The "record single consignment" was made by Sever Tally, "who drove 196 choice head of cattle twenty miles to the shipping point. His check for $17,240 (nearly a quarter million dollars in 2018), was the "largest single check ever made" in the area.

Nearly 3,000 people attended the celebration, which included free "motion picture shows" at the theater, a free BBQ served by women of "the allied church federation", and a pavement dance that night.

On Friday night "a block of street" in the business district was "roped off, and a trench 14 feet deep dug and filled with cordwood". At 10:00 p.m. "two negro chefs" began the barbecue that included "a pig and whole beef donated by Fred Lowe".

     ★ In the wee hours of the morning of August 15, 1929, a fire "of unknown origin" destroyed three downtown businesses and damaged others. The immediately uncontrollable fire started at the Briese Clothing Company and spread to a millinery shop, the Dragon meat market, and the Toleman bakery -- all were completely destroyed. The adjacent Young harness shop lost its roof. 

Heat from the flames melted telephone lines; across the street, windows broke at Fortney hardware and the new Gays Mills bank.

"Inadequacy of water pressure and a high wind" thwarted valiant efforts of local volunteer fireman. Departments from Boscobel and Priarie du Chien were called for help; they were successful in putting out the fire and preventing further losses.

Welcome to Gays Mills

Gays Mills Local Orchards

Gays Mills is a Driftless Wisconsin Area Community
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Gays Mills is located in Crawford County.


Much of what was photographed for Little Wisconsin was located
on Main Street, submerged by the devastating August 2018 flood.

Wisconsin Historical Society "Official" Marker 23:
"Gays Mills Apple Orchards"
was erected in Gays Mills in 1955.
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Gays Mills Sesquicentennial Historical Marker
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Gays Mills is located on the Stump Dodger Trail.
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Cliff Swallows Historical Marker.
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American Legion McCormick-Rose Post 308 Veterans Memorial
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Little Wisconsin will be available May 7, 2019.

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