Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Another Detour

This is how my world turns. On the way home from vacation last month, we stopped at the Holy Ghost Grotto in Dickeyville (seeSunday’s post). When I got home and started putting together all my notes from our vacation, I did some research into the Dickeyville Grotto. My internet search led me to another grotto which had been inspired by the one I had just visited.

The Paul and Matilda Wegner Grotto, just outside of Cataract, Wisconsin, lies a short drive north of Sparta. I have been through Sparta as many times as I have driven past Dickeyville. I always thought I was one to stop and smell the roses, but apparently, I also like to just keep driving. I went to college in La Crosse for one year back in the early eighties, so I drove past Sparta every couple weeks, never knowing what a great find there was just off the beaten path.

But back in the early eighties, the discoveries on Paul’s and Matilda’s property might not have been common knowledge. Here is their story.

They emigrated from Germany in 1885 and settled first in La Crosse, then later bought the land near Cataract. They farmed there until 1916 when they moved to Bangor, leaving one of their sons to run the farm. When they retired in 1927, they spent their summers on the old farmstead and took up a hobby – creating these works of art.

After Paul and Matilda both passed away,
little more was done with the plot of land. It remained in the family until the Kohler Foundation purchased it in 1986 and restored it. The following year, the Kohler Foundation gifted the park to Monroe County to be enjoyed by anyone willing to take a detour from their travels and to inspire the likes of others like me!

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