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POKERVILLE DIED WHEN BYPASSED BY RAILROAD

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Just below Blue Mounds State Park lies the site of a forgotten settlement called Pokerville. It sprung up shortly after Ebenezer Brigham settled near modern Cave of the Mounds in 1828, and during the Black Hawk War of 1832 settlers from miles around rushed into its hastily built blockhouse. In the Wisconsin "Lead Rush" of the 1830s, it was on the main route between the mines and Milwaukee. Ox-drawn wagons creaking under tons of lead stopped regularly and it soon boasted two inns, several stores and bar rooms, a blacksmith, harness maker, and a doctor.

As in most boom towns, "Gambling was rife," wrote a local historian, "and when a little shantytown sprung up at the foot of the West Mound it was voted in the language of the times to call it damned Pokerville.'"

"Fortunes were won and lost every night," remarked another: "liquor flowed freely, and bloodshed and killings were not unknown."

Twenty years later the railroad came through (now the Military Ridge Recreational Trail), but its depot was a mile east of Pokerville, where the village of Blue Mounds is today. This doomed the little hamlet to oblivion, and when the lead market crashed after the Civil War, its residents scattered. In 1871 three Adams brothers of Pokerville emigrated to Colorado, where two of them took turns serving as governor and the third became a U.S. senator. Back in Wisconsin, meanwhile, their hometown gradually collapsed and composted, until by 1925 it was hardly visible amidst the farm fields.

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