Cochrane is one of the world’s largest producers of oatmeal, thanks to the La Crosse Milling plant. Thought you might like to know that.
Arriving in Town
The business district is along Main Street, which parallels State Highway 35. Fifth Street connects the highway to Main Street.
You can contact the village clerk (102 W. 5th St.; 608.248.2737) but the office has limited office hours.
Peter Shnugg owned some property in an area that some folks called Petersburgh. He sold part of it to the Chicago, Burlington, and Northern railroad, which promptly sold some of it the St. Paul Land Company to build a town around their new station. The land company platted a village in 1886 and named the village Cochrane after a railroad conductor who was popular in the area. J.L. and G.M. Rohrer, local farmers, bought the first parcels of land. They sensed a chance to make a few bucks and built a hardware store, reflecting an early trend where land owners were more concerned with developing commercial interests than building houses.
The new town had a busy livestock depot for a while, as well as a cheese factory. Folks finally got around to incorporating in 1910 and promptly built a village hall. The La Crosse Milling Company relocated to Cochrane shortly after its founding in La Crosse and has been busily churning out products like oatmeal since that time.
The Prairie Moon Museum and Sculpture Garden (S2921 County Road G; 608.685.6290) makes many lists for quirky and/or odd attractions, and it’s on mine, too. When farmer Herman Rusche retired in 1952, he needed something else to do, so the self-taught artist began creating sculptures out of stone and concrete, eventually making about 40. In 1979, at age 94, he retired again, auctioning his pieces so he could spend more time fishing. He died in 1985, just a few days after his 100th birthday. Interest in his work grew, and in 1992, The Kohler Foundation bought and restored the site, bringing back most of the original pieces to create a sculpture garden, then donating it all to Milton township to maintain as a public art site. Since that time, the collection has grown with the addition of pieces from John Mehringer’s Fountain City Rock Garden that he created in the 1930s. The grounds are open all year.
Threatened with demolition when State Highway 35 was being realigned, the death sentence for the Cochrane Village Hall (Goose Lake Park, 4th St.; 608.685.6290; by appt only) was commuted when Dallas Dworschack began an effort to save it. Built in 1911 to serve as the focal point of civil life (voting, village board, fire department) but replaced with a more modern building in recent years, the fate of the old village hall looked grim. In the face of much opposition, he rallied enough support and private funds to move the village hall from its original location to a new home in Goose Lake Park in 2001. With the help of volunteers and more private donations, the building was renovated and reopened for the community’s use. Inside, there are pictures of Cochrane through the years, and articles about the preservation of the building. It is usually open only for special events, but you can arrange a private tour.
If you’re the type of person who detours for locally sourced and produced food, or if you just love a good pizza, head to Suncrest Gardens (S2257 Yaeger Valley Rd.; 608.626.2122). This small farm transforms into a boutique pizza joint on summer evenings from May through September (Th in May, Th,F June-Aug., F in Sept.), putting together pizzas made with their ingredients grown on site. All pizzas are 16 inches and cooked quickly at high temperatures in a wood-fired oven. They only supply the pizza, so when you bring your friends to eat here, don’t forget to bring utensils, drinks, and something to sit on, then relax and savor your pizza in a scenic coulee. Bring cash, too. To get there from Cochrane, take County Highway O east to State Highway 88, go left, and follow it to Yaeger Valley Rd; go left and then left again at the Y, and you’re there.
The local newspaper is the Cochrane-Fountain City Recorder (608.248.2451).
Post Office: 108 N. Main St.; 608.248.2650.
Heading upriver? Check out Buffalo City.
Heading downriver? Check out Fountain City.
© Dean Klinkenberg, 2011
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