Every community has its own tales to tell, claims to fame and ghosts of the past. No exception in little Wisconsin Dells, WI.
Belle Boyd, Confederate Spy
How did a confederate spy end up spending her final days in Wisconsin Dells, you ask? It's a tale of intrigue, romance and, well, spying. Belle Boyd, who hailed from Virginia, bravely aided Confederate generals, using her flirtatious charms to get information from a Union general's aide, even hiding in a closet to secretly eavesdrop on a Union war council meeting. She set out on that same night on horseback to personally deliver her findings.
By the end of the war, she traveled the country to present dramatic narratives of her spying adventures. On June 9, 1900, she arrived in Wisconsin Dells to give a speech to veterans of the Union Army. Two days later, at the age of 56, she suffered a fatal heart attack. Her gravesite in the Wisconsin Dells cemetery was completed with stones from each of the Confederate states.
H.H. Bennett, The Man Who Made Wisconsin Dells Famous
Henry Hamilton Bennett, born in 1843, had hoped for a career in carpentry, but a Civil War injury crippled his right hand so he took up photography instead. In the mid 1800s, Bennett purchased a tintype studio in his hometown of Wisconsin Dells, then known as Kilbourn City, and began taking landscape photographs of the rugged Wisconsin River and the mysteriously shaped bluffs that teeter above it. His photos helped make the Dells famous, with the first visitors to the area some 150 years ago arriving for rowboat tours of the river. While other photographers preferred the predictability of studio work, Bennett developed a passion for landscapes because, in his words, "It is easier to pose nature and less trouble to please."
His most well-known photo may be that of his son Ashley leaping the chasm from one bluff to another at Stand Rock. It was the first use of stop-action photography, something Bennett is credited with inventing. His studio still stands today on the main street in the Dells.
Jonathan Bowman, Captain of Business and Politics
There's a pretty patch of green space in downtown Wisconsin Dells known as Bowman Park. Its picnic pavilion is a popular spot for Wisconsin family reunions and local bands perform in the open-air band shell. The park is named in honor of Jonathan Bowman, a prominent attorney who arrived in the town of Newport in 1851 and is credited with developing that community, now a ghost town adjacent to Wisconsin Dells. He was also thickly involved in the construction of the Wisconsin River dam that separates the Upper Dells from the Lower Dells. The impressive home on the park grounds was built by Bowman's son and today serves as a museum for the Wisconsin Dells Historical Society.