Lone Rock, the gateway village to Richland, Iowa and Sauk counties, covers a terrain of about one square mile and is nestled on the North side of the Wisconsin River along Highway 130 and meeting the North end of town at Highway 14. It is home to just under 900 residents and sits on the Western edge of River Valley’s driftless terrain just inside of Richland County, boasting a beautiful and diverse landscape ideal for canoeing, kayaking, ATV, snowmobiling, fishing and tubing. Spanning across the area’s majestic Wisconsin River waterways are three bridges, one being the Lone Rock Bridge constructed in 1932 and is the oldest iron bridge still standing in the state. Lone Rock was incorporated in 1887 and takes its name from an enormous sandstone outcrop that once stood high above the river’s edge. The ‘lone rock,’ as it was called by rafters, served as a visual landmark for ferry and river boat commuters in the early 19th century, who transported goods like, furs and lumber and it was also a major passageway for local Indian tribes. As the years passed, the ‘lone rock’ was slowly dismantled for local building construction and only a small portion of it exists today. The railroad was built through Lone Rock in 1856, quickly making the village the shipping center of the county. Today, the train is still seen frequently hauling freight between Middleton and Muscoda.
At the close of the Civil War, what’s known today as Battery Park, was purchased by a group of Civil War vets who used the park for gatherings and events. The small, white building in the park was owned by a man named Captain Henry Dillon, a tailor, who moved the structure from its original location in Richland City (just West of Lone Rock along the Pine River) to Lone Rock where it became a Civil War recruiting station for what would later be known as the Sixth Wisconsin Light Artillery. Today, the park is now enhanced by a Veteran’s memorial monument commemorating those who served in all branches of the military from the Lone Rock area, a peaceful place to sit and reflect. The park serves as an honorable centerpiece for the village’s historical roots.
Lone Rock is also home to one of the first, licensed, woman doctors, Dr. Bertha Reynolds, who came from a long line of doctors and physicians. She served Lone Rock and surrounding communities for the first half of the 20th Century, when perhaps it wasn’t fashionable for a woman to be, in what was then, a male-dominated profession. But for decades, she diligently cared for patients in the region with a passion and professionalism that was before her time. Once, when the river was flooded and there was no passage way out of town, Dr. Reynolds responded to a medical emergency via airplane to neighboring Clyde, WI by a young, barnstorming pilot by the name of Charles Lindberg.
Over the last 150 years, Lone Rock has seen incredible natural disasters that, on a couple of occasions, devastated the village. But of all weather events that sparked in Lone Rock, the most popular is when it took the record for being the coldest in the nation. On January 30, 1951, Lone Rock’s temperature dipped to a recorded -53 degrees below zero at 6 a.m. The Lion’s Club would commemorate the event soon afterwards on a billboard that still stands today on Highway 14, touting Lone Rock as being the “Coldest in the Nation with the Warmest Heart.” Lone Rock has stood the test of time and remains a favorite gathering place for family and friends with a community building and four parks, two that include baseball diamonds, a splash pad and plenty of historical significance to go around. The Village hosts a variety of major activities throughout the year including the annual Fourth of July Celebration in July, the Cabin Fever Dance and auction hosted by the American Legion Auxiliary and held in March to raise money to send Veterans to Washington D.C.; The Festival of Trees, hosted by the Lone Rock Historical Society held in December; And the Fly-In Drive-In Pancake Breakfast hosted in May by the Lone Rock Fire Department which in 2019, celebrated its 150th Anniversary.
Caption: The Village of Lone Rock maintains this sign along Highway 14 as a reminder of January 30, 1951, when a reading of minus 53 degrees at the Tri- County Airport was officially the coldest spot in the nation.
Article by David Giffey, The Home News
Fifty-five years ago next Monday, January 30, 1951, Lone Rock claimed dubious fame as the coldest spot in the nation when a minus 53-degree temperature was officially registered on a thermometer at the Tri-County Airport. Temperatures were so low that night that the official U.S. Weather Bureau thermometer couldn’t handle the actual reading. The instrument was made to measure temperatures down to a balmy minus 47.
According to a 1976 Home News’ story by Don Greenwood (and provided last week by Lone Rock historian Jim Greenheck), Ben Silko was working the night shift at the airport. When Silko attempted to make the official reading, he found the thermometer’s alcohol contracted into the bottom bulb well below the lowest calibrated mark on the thermometer. He then arrived at the official minus 53-degress reading by calibrating the distance from the top of the bulb upward to the minus 47-degree mark. It may actually have been several degrees colder, Silko said in 1976.
Jim Greenheck remembered that day. He went to work as usual at the Chevy garage in Lone Rock. “It was so quiet you could have heard a penny drop on the street,” said Greenheck. Arriving at work, he said last week: “Everything was frozen in the garage.” He received a call from the Bear Valley cheese factory where the milk truck failed to start. Driving a wrecker from the garage in Lone Rock to the cheese factory, Greenheck said the extreme cold caused some unusual physical consequences. “The paint flew off the hood off the truck,” he said. When he attempted to tow the stalled milk truck, its wheels were frozen so solidly that it skidded across the ground.
Uncle Tony Greenheck, mayor of Lone Rock, at the time, began fielding calls from media outlets around the nation as word spread of the frigid temperatures.
While wind currents flowing down a draw through Bear Valley in the direction of Lone Rock, and the Wisconsin River may have contributed to the harsh weather, Greenheck added: ‘We don’t get the weather that we used to get.” He speculated the global warming may be responsible.