Prairie du Chien, WI

The Mississippi River bridge from the bluff of Marquette, IA looking back toward Wisconsin.

Jan at the overlook of Marquette, IA.

Ice fishing on some back water of the Mississippi River.

Former Milwaukee Railroad depot on St. Feriole Island at Prairie du Chien, WI.

The Dousman House Hotel, originally The Railroad House, on St. Feriole Island.

Brisbois House-As part of a separation contract negotiated in 1836,  Joseph Rolette agreed to build this stone residence for his estranged wife, Jane Fisher Rolette. Built from surplus limestone sold by the government after the construction of Fort Crawford, the house was erected on property owned by Jane’s maternal relatives, the Brisbois. After Rolette’s death, Jane married his business partner, Hercules Dousman, and moved to the famed House on the Mound. Jane transferred the property to her cousin, B.W. Brisbois, and the house remained in his family until the end of the 1900s.

This Victorian estate was home to three generations of the Dousmans. The estate was first developed in the 1840s by fur trader and frontier entrepreneur, Hercules Dousman. The prominent mound was first built by Indians and later modified by several military installations. The estate offered both an elegant and a flood-proof setting. The present residence was built in 1870 by Dousman’s son, H. Louis Dousman. After living in St. Louis for more than a decade Louis and his wife Nina Sturgis Dousman returned in the mid-1880s. Louis established the Artesian Stock Farm to breed and race trotting horses. Nina directed a major remodeling of the residence. After a brief illness, Louis died in 1886 and life for the Dousmans changed. The horses were sold, paddocks became fields and the estate was dubbed Villa Louis, as a memorial to young Dousman. The family closed the estate in 1913 but returned 20 years later to establish one of the first historic house museums in the Midwest.

In 1816 Fort Crawford was built on the Indian mound now occupied by the Villa Louis. Hercules Dousman brought the American influence to the fur trade, his impact on the Territory and Prairie du Chien is hard to overestimate. In 1825, 1829 and 1830 important treaties were signed with the area tribes at Fort Crawford. During the winters of 1829 and 1830 Dr. William Beaumont, army surgeon, conducted the experiments that are still the basis of understanding the digestive process. A series of bad floods in the 1820s destroyed the wooden fort leaving it uninhabitable.

The second Fort Crawford was built of stone on higher ground which occupied the site where Wyalusing Academy stands. In 1832 Black Hawk, Sauk warrior, surrendered to Colonel Zachary Taylor at the fort ending the 4-month Black Hawk War. The fort was abandoned and troops removed in 1856, but the fort was used again during the Civil War for recruiting and for an overflow hospital. Some immigrant families lived there until they could find or build other housing.

This page was designed and is maintained by Mike Condren. If you have materials that you would like
to contribute, or want to be advised of updates to these pages, contact me at