Thousands of people stop in Dickeyville every year to visit the eccentric religious/patriotic grotto created by Father Mathius Wernerus.
Direct your questions to the Grant County UWEX Office (866.472.6894/608.723.2125) or surf to the Grant County tourism website.
Charles Dickey, a surveyor from Pennsylvania, settled here in 1842 and opened a dry-goods store. Dickey left town in 1861 after surveying Grant County and never returned. But who says you need to stick around to lend your name to a community? Initially called Dickeysville, the “s” was dropped in 1932 so the name would fit better on a map. Andrew Schmitt purchased Dickey’s property and operated a store, but, idleness being the Devil’s workshop, he also opened a hotel, farmed, sold fire insurance, and served as the town’s notary public, postmaster, and justice of the peace. In 1870, Dickeysville counted only 24 residents but exploded to 100 citizens just seven years later.
Telephone service reached Dickeysville in 1915; an operator ran the switchboard 24/7 in exchange for free rent and $55 a month. When Dickeyville incorporated in 1947, it still had just 220 residents, but with the growth in automobile ownership, Dickeyville became something of a bedroom community for Dubuque. By 1972, the town had over 1,100 residents.
The Dickeyville Grotto (305 W. Main St.; 608.568.3119) was created by Father Mathius Wernerus in the 1920s to honor God and country. This is folk art on steroids. Look closely at the walls and you will see a strange mix of embedded materials: fossils, Indian relics, glass and pottery fragments, porcelain, seashells, petrified wood, and hornets’ nests. The gift shop is open from April through October. The church itself, Holy Ghost Catholic Church (608.568.7519), was organized in 1872; the current building was completed in 1913.
If you are ready to stop for a picnic lunch, Dickeyville Community Park (Church St.; 608.568.3333) offers a quiet spot just off the highway.
Hauber’s Processing Inc. (125 N. Main; 608.568.7579) can supply you with a variety of local meat products and genuine Wisconsin cheese for that barbecue you are planning.
Shultzie’s Supper Club (110 S. Main St.; 608.568.3754) is a traditional Wisconsin supper club, serving the standard range of steaks, seafood, pasta, and other staples. If you are up for something entirely different, check out the turtle entrée. Harvested from the Mississippi River (by Schafer Fishery of Fulton, IL), the turtle meat is beer battered and deep-fried and has a surprising variety of flavors. At the salad bar, you can also sample pickled gizzards, just to make your night complete.
Dickeyville has two good budget options that keep you within 15 minutes of Dubuque. The sign for the Plaza Motel (203 S. Main; 800.545.4061/608.568.7562; WiFi) proudly proclaims that the motel has “TVs with remotes”; it also has 21 clean rooms outfitted with a microwave and small fridge.
The Tower Motel (224 S. Main; 800.996.7996/608.568.7996; WiFi) has 15 clean rooms that also come standard with microwave and small fridge; they have laundry facilities on-site.
Post Office: 200 W. Main St.; 608.568.7221.
Brickl Memorial Library: 500 East Ave.; 608.568.3142.
Heading upriver? Check out Tennyson.
Heading downriver? Check out Kieler.
© Dean Klinkenberg, 2009
If you like the content at the Mississippi Valley Traveler, please consider showing your support by making a one-time contribution or by subscribing through Patreon. Book sales don’t fully cover my costs, and I don’t have deep corporate pockets bankrolling my work. I’m a freelance writer bringing you stories about life along the Mississippi River. I need your help to keep this going. Every dollar you contribute makes it possible for me to continue sharing stories about America’s Greatest River!