An early 1900s postcard depicts the Kendall Roundhouse.


Kendall Fest, scheduled for Labor Day weekend, will serve in part as a postponed celebration of the village’s 125th anniversary.

The Covid-19 pandemic caused the village to defer any activities associated with its anniversary, which rolled around last year. Technically, the village is now 126 and will turn 127 in October, but the Community Club of Kendall, the celebration sponsor, is marking the 125th milestone anyway.

As part of the village’s birthday, the County Line will offer a glimpse into the village’s history.

Though the village was granted legal status on Oct. 8, 1894, the history of the village’s origins began in 1857, when Truman Thorp and his family arrived in an ox-drawn wagon to farm a tract on what is now Kendall. 

Much of Kendall’s history is largely inseparable with that of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. In 1872, L.G. Kendall, for whom the village is named, purchased a railroad right-of-way from Truman Thorp for $100. Kendall, who never lived in the village, later purchased the 240-acre Thorp farm and sold part of it to W.D. Medbury, who platted the first section of the village.

The first train arrived in 1873 and consisted of an engine named “Minnie” and four or five flatcars loaded with steel rails. After Kendall gained train service, businesses and residents began migrating from the town of Glendale to then less-populous settlement, originally called “Kendalls.”

Passenger train service to Kendall ended in 1953; and freight, in 1964. The former rail bed now serves as the Elroy-Sparta State Trail. On Sept. 27, 1964, the La Crosse Tribune reported, “The ICC felt the abandonment of the line would have no adverse effects on the economies of the communities involved because there is adequate truck transportation available.”

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Though hardly a complete record, the following snippets chronicle some of Kendall’s history from its beginnings. They were culled from newspapers and the book “Celebrating Our Heritage: Kendall, Wisconsin, 1894 – 1994.)

• The Dunlap Store moved from Glendale to Kendall in 1883.

• A two-story brick schoolhouse was built in 1894.

• The village installed seven oil-burning street lamps in 1896.

• John Sheridan opened a lumber business in 1902.

• In September 1908, Kendall residents voted 78–37 to raise the cost of a saloon license from $200 to $500.

• About 20 cars made a 100-mile circle around Kendall in early August 1921 to advertise the village’s American Legion celebration (Aug. 11–12). The boosters visited Ontario, Norwalk, Wilton, Tomah, Clifton, Hustler, Elroy, Union Center, Wonewoc and Hillsboro. A feature of the American Legion celebration occurred on the last night, when George Brandau of Kendall defended the middleweight state title against Clifford Hoffland of Star Prairie, Wis. Brandau had acquired the title after defeating “Bull” Michigan.

• A possible slight earthquake “combined with and possibly caused by an extremely terrific bolt of lightning” resulted in damages between $2,000 and $3,000 in Kendall, according to the March 7, 1921, La Crosse Tribune.

The newspaper reported, “At 4:18, the flash occurred, the bolt seemed to split in midair above the town, the tongues striking in several different places. Instantly there followed earth tremblings lasting about ninety seconds, there being continual rumblings and snappings in the atmosphere at this time. Between three and four hundred window glasses in various sections of town were shattered. To add to the danger of falling glass, etc., teams became frightened at the falling fragments and atmospheric disturbances and bolted through the streets. Several persons were thrown from their feet.”

• The Kendall American Legion announced plans for its 1934 Labor Day celebration in Glenwood Park. Sunday was “Progressive Day” with speakers Sen. Robert M. La Follette and William Gleiss, and Monday was “Republican Day” with Howard T. Greene and Levi Bancroft as speakers. The event also consisted of ballgames, water fights, tug of war, movies, and dances.

• Kendall received $678 to improve Glenwood Park and $126 to recondition its water reservoir from the federal Public Works Administration in November 1935.

• 1949 was a significant year for construction on Main Street. Not only was the Kendall Community Hall built that year, but also Mr. and Mrs. Walter Carter opened a new six-lane bowling alley (now Fireball Lanes), and Leonard Walker constructed and then operated a new restaurant, Home Café (now Village Hair Designers). Furthermore, Jimmy and Billy Bunk erected a root beer stand on Main Street. A new parking lot had to be added due to the increase in traffic.

• In March 1952, Kendall High School took the first-place team trophy in forensics at the Monroe-Vernon Conference contest at Norwalk High School, defeating Cashton, Kendall, Norwalk, Ontario and Wilton. The following individuals placed in the event: David Dwyer, third, four-minute speaking; Roger Roloff, first, original oration; Roger Berg, third, extemporaneous speaking; Terry Sheridan, first, non-original oration; Lois Gorham, first, dramatic declamation, Bette Rollins, first, extemporaneous speaking; Joan Finucan, second, humorous declamation; and Arlene Knutson, fourth, humorous declamation.

• Zelotus Lyddy, son of Mr. and Mrs. James Lyddy of Kendall, opened a new law office in Kendall in July 1953, starting practice in the Farmers and Merchants Bank building.

• After the Kendall and Elroy schools merged in 1958, Kendall students began taking home economics, agriculture and typing classes in Elroy. The combined school district approved a referendum for a $450,000 bond for a new high school in 1959.

• Several Kendall children received blue ribbons at the 1959 Monroe County Fair. Don Yahnke, Jerry Zuhlke, Wayne Good, Dennis Webster and Darrell Neitzel all were recognized for their woodworking projects, plus Jerry Zuhlke got a blue ribbon in the photography category, as did Sharon Vodak in the home-furnishings category.

• In April 1960, Kendall firefighters agreed to work without pay for 10 years, or until the debt was retired on a new $16,000 firetruck. The village had been faced with a 30 percent increase in insurance rates if new equipment wasn’t added.

• Kendall voters turned down a referendum 144–90 to appropriate $25,000 for a municipal swimming pool in April 1961.

• In 1967, Novy Telephone in Kendall made the transition from switchboards to dial telephones, and subscribers could call Wilton and Elroy without paying a long-distance charge. Joe and Ollie Novy ran Novy Telephone from 1937–89.

• The new, $375,000 Kendall Elementary School was dedicated in December 1967. The Elroy-Kendall-Wilton Board of Education also agreed to turn over the older school building in Kendall to the village, which had “expressed a desire to gain possession of the building with the hope of attracting some industry to lease it,” according to the Dec. 11, 1967, La Crosse Tribune.

• Metro Palamaruk and George and Sharron Neitzel were among the Monroe County’s first EMTs, completing the course in 1971. They, along with Ken Thurow as assistant, made up the first crew of the Kendall Ambulance Service.

• Construction began on an eight-unit apartment building for low-income elderly in November 1975. The Farmers Home Administration financed the $166,000 project.

• In August 1984, test drilling began for new village Well No. 4. The village had been depending on one 40-year-old well for its water supply.

• The final cost of a new shelter house in Glenwood Park came in at $18,149, Kendall Village Board President Richard Martin reported in September 1985. Donations amounted to more than $11,000. 

• MECA Sportswear, Inc., began operations in July 1990 in a new 8,320-square-foot facility it leased from the Kendall Development Corporation. The company closed its Ontario and Kendall plants and consolidated its operations in Tomah in 2002.