Good river access created optimism among speculators that a prosperous town would grow here. A town called Columbus was founded around 1828 and appears on an 1833 map, but nothing much came of it. Around 1843, several speculators bought 80 acres and laid out a town that had but a single, abandoned log cabin. The cabin had been built a few years earlier by some guys who called the area New Diskivery; travelers knew it as Loafer’s Retreat because the men used it as a hunting and fishing cabin.
The newly platted village was known as Wyoming for its first three years, but when the post office was established in 1851, a new name was required because Wisconsin already had a town named Wyoming. Robert Glenn is believed to be responsible for choosing the name Wyalusing (there was a town near his home in Pennsylvania with the same name). Wyalusing is derived from an unspecified Native American language and means “where an old (holy) man dwells” or possibly “home of the warrior.” I couldn’t figure out which story was more legitimate, so take your pick.
The first person to build a home was Isaiah Cranston, who was given a lot gratis on the condition that he maintain a hotel, which he did for some 20 years. In 1860, Cranston’s hotel provided quarters for General Ulysses S. Grant. The Cranston property was purchased by N.W. Kendall who built a sawmill that attracted a steady stream of steamboats in the 1850s. With prospects for the town looking brighter, Kendall and two compatriots surveyed and platted the village of Wyalusing in July 1856. Alas, a short time later the railroads chose a route that bypassed Wyalusing and the town’s bright future fizzled away. The farm economy became the main factor in the town’s survival, as well as ferry service to Clayton, Iowa (a bustling service in the 1870s as it ferried settlers heading west).