by Ann Hundt
The small, unincorporated village of Middle Ridge, located in the eastern area of La Crosse County, was settled by German immigrants in the late 1800’s. Many of these settlers still have families living in this area. They first built a Catholic Church, called St. Peter’s. They built a general store and tavern with a boarding house in the upstairs. This was considered a half-way point for travelers from Cashton to La Crosse, where their horses and wagons traveled to pick up supplies. There was also a barber, and a village black smith. Middle Ridge is sort of a valley on the Ridge, as the roads from North and South, come up hills, and from the East and West come down hills to intersect at this point.
A cheese factory was eventually started, and being that most of the farmers, in this area, were dairy farmers, the milk was hauled to the factory by horse and wagon. Delicious cheeses were made from this milk. There simple supplies could be gathered at the general store as they returned to their farms.
The “little school” was erected in 1890, across Highway 33 from St. Peter’s Catholic Church at Middle Ridge. It replaced a log building which had served as the Township of Washington District #1 school since 1868. The log school was torn down and used for firewood.
From 1890 to 1908, and average total of 35 children in grades 1 – 8 were taught here. The teacher during those years was Mr. George Groves, who traveled by horse and buggy each week from his home in Mormon Coulee. During the week, he resided with a family on the Ridge. His salary was $28 per month. In 1908, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, from La Crosse, began teaching here. This was one of two public schools in the state of Wisconsin to be taught by Catholic Sisters.
On May 25, 1929, a Mr. David Bertrand Bice, took out a lease from Bill and Mary Arentz for property at the corner of Highway 33 and 162 for a fee of $60 per year. This was the place for the Middle Ridge Mobil Service Station was to be. It was built by the Bice/Olsen Manufacturing Company. It was completed with two driveways and a pit for draining crank case oil.
The station was operated by Herb Burbach from 1929 to 1944. Herb was drafted, and Earl Cavadini took over the business, followed for a brief time by Wally Mashak. In the mid 1940’s, Cletus (Red) Cavadini took over the station until 1963. There were several others, for brief periods of time, until it was closed permanently in the early 1970’S. This was a full service station, where the owner filled the tank, checked the oil, filled the radiator, and washed the windshields, not like to day’s self-service stations.