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History of Cottage Grove

Rolling farm fields of south central Wisconsin in the heart of Dane County make Cottage Grove a scenic wonderland. Cottage Grove is made up of both the Town of Cottage Grove and the Village of Cottage Grove. The Township was surveyed in 1834. It became a separate township in 1849, and was originally settled by Yankees, Pennsylvania Dutch, Scottish-Irish, Irish, Norwegians and Germans. A settlement grew up around Beecher stage coach tavern at a junction of two main roads. Farming went from wheat to dairy. Today families with non-farm small businesses out number dairy farmers. Housing developments were first permitted in 1970 and new ones were banned in 1980.

The village was created when the railroad went through in 1881. This was a shipping center for farm goods until the advent of semi-trucks. The railroad tracks east of the village have become the Glacial Drumlin bike trail. The railroad tracks going through Madison have seen increasing grain shipments. The village was incorporated in 1924. Previously the village had two business districts, one south of the tracks serving the village through the 1960s the other was above the pond on the north side of the tracks, now vanished. The current business district and town center is along Highway BB.

Famous residents

Cottage Grove resident William Robert Taylor (July 10, 1820-March 17, 1909) was an American politician and the 12th Governor of Wisconsin from 1874 to 1876.

Taylor was born in Woodbury, Connecticut. He was orphaned at age 6 when his father’s ship was lost at sea; his mother had died when he was an infant. He then lived with his guardians in Jefferson County, New York. He moved to Ohio where he taught school, studied medicine and served in the local militia. In 1848 he moved to a farm in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin. He served as president of the Dane County Agricultural Society and the State Agricultural Society.

He served in the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1855 and the Wisconsin State Senate 1859-1860, and was elected to one term as Wisconsin’s governor at the head of the “Reform” or “People’s Reform” party, a short-lived coalition of Democrats, reform and Liberal Republicans and Grangers.

Taylor died in a nursing home in Burke, Wisconsin, at age 88.

More recently two Cottage Grove athletes have gained the spotlight: Jesse Vetter and Gabe Carimi.

Growing up with three brothers, Vetter became a goaltender by default. Older brothers Jake and Joey and younger brother Jonnie needed someone to play goalie in street hockey, so they’d dress Jessie up in the gear and have her stand in the net. Though at that time, she hadn’t yet mastered the position.

“Basically I was the shooter tutor at that age because they shot it too quick,” she said, referring to a training device placed in front of the net with five holes to practice shooting. “I was definitely forced into playing goaltender at that age and now I’m happy that they did it because I really enjoy the position.”

A standout athlete at Monona Grove High School, Vetter played mainly with the boys’ teams. She was named the Monona Grove varsity team’s MVP in her sophomore, junior and senior seasons.

Attending UW Wisconsin, Vetter played for coach Mark Johnson, a member of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team who is now the women’s national team head coach. When Johnson was named the coach, Vetter told her U.S. teammates that he was the right man for the job, something they quickly agreed on.

“His teams are so successful because he keeps it so relaxed and you have fun,” Vetter said of Johnson. She had appearances and three titles (2006, 2007, and 2009). Vetter finished with 39 career shutouts, a .941 save percentage and 91 total wins, all NCAA records. Her senior year, Vetter won the 2009 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, given to the nation’s top women’s player.

In her first season with the Badgers, as a redshirt freshman, Vetter became the first freshman and goalie to be named the NCAA Frozen Four’s Most Outstanding Player.

Vetter made her Olympic debut in Vancouver after winning the world title with the U.S. team in 2008 and 2009. Vetter played in both championship games, winning a shootout in 2008 by stopping all six shots she faced. Known for her easygoing nature, Vetter was a key player winning the 2010 U.S. silver medal in Canada. In the 2011 IIHF Women’s World Championship against Canada, Vetter made 51 saves as the US won its third consecutive gold medal.

Carimi attended high school at Monona Grove and during his senior year was voted a football Parade All-American and Prep Star All-American while he captained the team. He was also the Capital Times and Wisconsin State Journal Player of the Year, first-team all-state in 2005, a first-team selection by the Associated Press and the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (as a two-way player), and was twice first-team all-conference.

After high school, Carimi attended the University of Wisconsin and became a starter on the offensive line immediately as a freshman. As a senior, Carimi won the 2010 Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top collegiate interior lineman, and also was named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year, a unanimous Consensus All-American, an American Football Coaches Association All-American, and a Walter Camp first team All-American.

Carimi was drafted in the first round with the 29th overall selection of the 2011 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears. In June 2013, the Bears traded Carimi to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and in 2014 he was traded to the Atlanta Falcons.

For more information on the rich history of Cottage Grove, visit the Cottage Grove Area Historical Society (CGAHS). The historical society had its beginnings in 1976 when local residents were asked to contribute local history for Americas Bicentennial celebration. These individuals continued to meet and discuss the area’s history.

In January 1989, the group became a nonprofit organization and obtained tax-exempt status. With these qualifications, the CGAHS became eligible as an affiliate of Wisconsin’s State Historical Society. The CGAHS archives are located in the basement of Flynn Hall. The CGAHS typically meets at Flynn Hall at 1 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month. To see more of the society’s activities, visit Facebook:www.facebook.com/CGWIAHS.

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