Potosi Badger Hut Trail
The Potosi Badger Huts Site, 47-Gt479, is an early 19th century lead mining site located in the center of the southern half of Section 34, Town of Potosi. The site consists of the remains of two structures, over 100 “diggings”, shafts and a possible adit. The site dates to at least the early 183o’s and probably abandoned by the late 1840s, when the initial lead boom ended. Covering approximately 10acres, the site is located on the top and the sides of a southwest to northwest bearing ridge that overlooks the village of Potosi. The site is directly across the “hollow” from St. John Mine (aka “Snake Cave”), a lead mine listed on the National Register.
The predominant features of this site represent early efforts to extract lead. The initial mining efforts in the Upper Mississippi lead region have been characterized as somewhat ephemeral, exploiting the most easily obtained surface deposits that were essentially “worked out” by the 1840s. These shallow excavations did not require much capital or expertise. This early mining was described as extensive rather than intensive. The prospectors would range over a wide area…constantly sinking test pits. The ground, in many portions of the lead district, is found riddled with such pits, called in the language of the Wisconsin miner, “prospect holes.”Historic Significance
Certainly the Badger Hut Site was being worked by 1833, if not some years earlier. The original land survey, conducted in 1833, recorded numerous diggings in this particular area of Section 34, Town of Potosi. It may be impossible to determine who first explored and mined the deposits at the Badger Hut Site. Certainly, Native American involvement can not be ruled out.
In 1844, Section 34 of the Town of Potosi, including much of the village, as well as the Badger Huts was donated to the Territory of Wisconsin by an Act of Congress. The law said that the land should be surveyed and divided into lots and sold, providing that the pre-emption rights would be granted to the actual occupants already residing on these lots. The survey was completed and filed with the Grant County Register of Deeds in June, 1845.
Although most of the individual components of the Potosi Badger Huts lack distinction, collectively they convey the significance of this property. The number and nature of the “diggings” and the crude structures vividly illustrate the earliest EuroAmerican chapter of Potosi’s history. The pockmarked surface of the Badger Hut Site typifies the early EuroAmerican leadmining industry in southwestern Wisconsin. Although lead diggings and sites covered tens of thousands of acres of southwestern Wisconsin, 70% these visual reminders of Wisconsin’s past have been lost, primarily through reclamation by farmers.Descriptions of the ‘huts as Homes”
The rarest features of the Potosi Badger Huts site are its structures. Although no dated by archaeological data, local tradition and their appearance suggest antiquity. As noted by Richards, the first EuroAmerican settlement system in this region is represented by a pattern of temporary seasonal occupations. Certainly, the appearance of these badger huts suggest short term, seasonal stays. As noted no similar structures have been recorded in the inventories maintained by the State Historical Society.
There is little recorded about early mining housing in historical accounts. Gregory cited in an 1847 publicaton, “Sketches of the West, or the Home of the Badgers”: The taste of building will appear novel…the miner does not reckon on a permanent home and he chooses the ravine where he finds protection from the prairie wind…many are well built…others are so frail that to be safe they should be tied to a post when the wind blos.
(Text taken from a pamphlet National Register of Historic Places.)