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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Humble Henry Dodge

In 1841, Henry Dodge was at the peak of his fame. After coming to the Lead Region in 1827, his command of the local militia had turned the tide during the 1832 Black Hawk War. When Wisconsin became a territory in 1836, he was appointed its first governor and held the post for two terms.

So when Dodge passed through the village of Cottage Grove in 1841, his visit created quite a stir. He was well known to all the residents, who considered him almost a legend.

Gov. Dodge sought lodging at the Beecher Tavern. Mrs. Beecher, determined to set a table worthy of her distinguished guest, lovingly baked a great spread of delicacies to serve with dinner. To her dismay, when Dodge sat down to eat he ignored her fine "fixings" entirely, and went instead straight for the potatoes, bread, and pork that had been laid out. He filled himself with this hearty fare and left everything else untouched.

Still eager to show Dodge the very best that her inn could offer, Mrs. Beecher prepared his bedroom for the night with extra care. She brought in an expensive feather bed and added down-filled pillows to increase his comfort. But she was disappointed a second time.

Dodge asked if she would remove these carefully chosen items and simply provide him with a humble straw-filled mattress on which to sleep. He called this "a real luxury" and, despite all the landlady's doubts, slept like a log.

This and other stories of frontier Wisconsin are preserved in a booklet called Prairie Stories, published in 1934 by Society Museum director Charles E. Brown.

:: Posted in on June 22, 2010

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