Photo credit Cottage Grove Historical Society

History of Cottage Grove


The community of Cottage Grove is celebrating its 182th anniversary in 2023 Cottage Grove originated at the intersection of two trails, where a home was built in 1841 by William C. Wells.

The house became a post office and stagecoach inn, or a “public house,” and Wells became Cottage Grove’s first postmaster. According to the Cottage Grove Area Historical Society, the post office was named Cottage Grove because it is said that people from Milwaukee were relieved to see Well’s house in the grove of trees, after having traveled through swamps and prairies.

When the Cottage Grove Township separated from Madison in 1857, the new community took the post office’s name. The first village, which was located across the intersection from Well’s public house, also took on the Cottage Grove name.

What is now known as the village of Cottage Grove also took its name from the post office, when it was formed in 1880. However, the present village of Cottage Grove did not incorporate and officially become a village until 1924. Irvin Witte, a former town board member, was elected as the first village president.

The current village was initially made up of farmland in the 1880s, but buildings began rising shortly after it formed.

A depot, grain elevator, warehouse and stockyard were the first structures to be put up in the new village. Dan Reynolds’ tavern, now known as the Outpost Bar and Grill, was built in 1882. That building has been in continual use, with some modifications since that time. More houses and structures were constructed during the 1890s, and into the 20th century.

For more information on Cottage Grove’s history and development, contact the Cottage Grove Area Historical Society at 608-839-5578 or acres2@frontier.com.



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