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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Is Madison Just Naturally Weird?


You may have heard our capital city called "a tiny island in a sea of sanity." Certainly it has had its share of lovable eccentrics. But maybe its oddities come not from its residents but from more fundamental causes. In 1837, when the first surveyors came to the hilltop where the Capitol now stands, their compasses would not work. It was impossible to run a straight line across the isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona (some people think that getting things straight in Madison has been a problem ever since). The problem was solved by a 19-year-old surveyor named Franklin Hatheway, who here recalls his efforts to lay out the downtown, and how an itinerant stranger gave him the solution to the problem. He also describes surveying Kenosha, traveling the route of Hwy 151 through untrammeled prairie from Madison to Fox Lake, and a tortuous boat trip through the maze of wild rice swamps between Portage and Oshkosh. His memoir is one of hundreds in our new online collection, Turning Points in Wisconsin History.
:: Posted in Curiosities on January 21, 2005
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