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Mineral Point, Wisconsin
High Street, Mineral Point
High Street, Mineral Point
Location of Mineral Point in Iowa County, Wisconsin.
Location of Mineral Point in Iowa County, Wisconsin.
Country  United States
State  Wisconsin
County Iowa
Settled 1827
 • Total 3.08 sq mi (7.97 km2)
 • Land 3.08 sq mi (7.97 km2)
 • Water 0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
 • Total 2,581
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
Area code(s) 608 Exchange: 987
FIPS code 55-53100

Mineral Point is a city in Iowa County, Wisconsin, United States. The city is located within the Town of Mineral Point. Mineral Point is part of the Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area. Wisconsin's third oldest city, Mineral Point was settled in 1827, becoming a lead and zinc mining center during the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the mid-twentieth century it attracted artists. Today the city's preserved historical character within the varied topography of the driftless area has made it a regional tourist destination. The population was 2,581 at the 2020 census.


The first European settlement at Mineral Point began in 1827. One of the first settlers to the area was Henry Dodge and his family who settled a few miles away from Mineral Point. During the following year, large quantities of galena, or lead ore, were discovered around the settlement in shallow deposits. Lead had many uses at the time, and settlers began to flock to the region hoping to make a living by extracting the easily accessible mineral. Lead deposits extended throughout an area that also included Dubuque, Iowa and Galena, Illinois, but Mineral Point became the center of lead mining operations within the bounds of present-day Wisconsin (then part of Michigan Territory). By 1829, the region's growing population led to the creation of Iowa County, which included all of the lead mining lands within the borders of Michigan Territory at the time. Mineral Point was established as the county seat later that year. During the Black Hawk War of 1832, residents of Mineral Point built Fort Jackson to protect the town from a possible attack. The young settlement's importance was further confirmed in 1834 when it was selected as the site of one of two federal land offices responsible for distributing public land to settlers within the area that now encompasses Wisconsin.

When Wisconsin Territory was created in 1836, Mineral Point hosted the inauguration of the first territorial governor, Henry Dodge, and the territorial secretary, John S. Horner. During the ceremony, a design by Horner was officially recognized as the Great Seal of Wisconsin Territory. It displayed an arm holding a pickaxe over a pile of lead ore, demonstrating the importance of Mineral Point's early mining economy to the new territory. A census conducted in the months after the inauguration showed that Iowa County had 5,234 inhabitants, making it the most populous county in the Wisconsin Territory east of the Mississippi River.

Pendarvis House 20100829
Pendarvis House (left) and Trelawny House (right) at the Pendarvis Historic Site

Mineral Point remained an important lead mining center during the 1840s. Although the most easily accessible lead deposits on the surface were being exhausted by this time, new immigrants began to arrive with more refined techniques for extracting ore. The largest group came from Cornwall, which had been a mining center for centuries. Experienced Cornish miners were attracted to the lead mining opportunities in Mineral Point, and by 1845 roughly half of the town's population had Cornish ancestry. The original dwellings of some of these early Cornish immigrants have been restored at the Pendarvis Historic Site in Mineral Point. Lead continued to be produced in abundant quantities by the Cornish miners, and in 1847, the Mineral Point Tribune reported that the town's furnaces were producing 43,800 pounds (19,900 kg) of lead each day.

Mining activity in Mineral Point began to decline in the following years. In 1848, the same year that Wisconsin achieved statehood, gold was discovered in California. Many experienced miners left Mineral Point to look for gold, and in all, the town lost 700 people during the California Gold Rush. While the lead industry in Mineral Point continued into the 1860s, the town never recovered its former importance. A further blow was struck in 1861 when the county seat of Iowa County was relocated to nearby Dodgeville, Wisconsin, where it remains today. Afterwards there was an intense rivalry between the two cities, during which Mineral Point fired a cannon towards Dodgeville's direction.

As lead mining declined in Mineral Point, zinc mining and smelting became important new industries. Zinc ore was discovered with increasing frequency near the bottoms of old lead mines. The Mineral Point Zinc Company was founded in 1882, and by 1891 it was operating the largest zinc oxide works in the United States at Mineral Point. Zinc mining and processing continued on a large scale until the 1920s.

In 1897 Robert La Follette gave his "The danger threatening representative government" speech in Mineral Point.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.91 square miles (7.54 km2), all of it land.

Mineral Point lies within the Driftless Area.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 2,389
1870 3,275 37.1%
1880 2,915 −11.0%
1890 2,694 −7.6%
1900 2,991 11.0%
1910 2,925 −2.2%
1920 2,569 −12.2%
1930 2,274 −11.5%
1940 2,275 0.0%
1950 2,284 0.4%
1960 2,385 4.4%
1970 2,305 −3.4%
1980 2,259 −2.0%
1990 2,428 7.5%
2000 2,617 7.8%
2010 2,487 −5.0%
2020 2,581 3.8%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 2,487 people, 1,147 households, and 648 families residing in the city. The population density was 854.6 inhabitants per square mile (330.0/km2). There were 1,278 housing units at an average density of 439.2 per square mile (169.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 97.9% White, 0.6% African American, 0.1% Native American, 0.8% Asian, 0.1% from other races, and 0.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.7% of the population.

There were 1,147 households, of which 26.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.6% were married couples living together, 8.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.7% had a male householder with no wife present, and 43.5% were non-families. 37.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 16.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.14 and the average family size was 2.83.

The median age in the city was 43.7 years. 21.3% of residents were under the age of 18; 6.8% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 23.5% were from 25 to 44; 30.3% were from 45 to 64; and 18.2% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.0% male and 52.0% female.


  • Iowa County Airport (KMRJ) serves the city, county and surrounding communities.


Commerce Street Mineral Point 4848a
Cornish flags flying from a café on Commerce Street.

Mineral Point restaurants are known for serving Cornish food, such as pasties and figgyhobbin.


The city is home to an endpoint of the Cheese Country Trail.

Sister city

Historical buildings

First Methodist Church Mineral Point 4843a
First Methodist Church.

Much of the city is a historical district, including blocks of stone cottages and businesses crafted by the Cornish settlers in the 1800s. A more recent building is the City Hall, built in 1914, which includes the library and the Opera House. The Opera House underwent a $2 million renovation in 2010.

Pendarvis, a state historical site, is a historically accurate preservation of some of the original cottages. It is open for tours in the summer months. Shake Rag Alley contains seven historic structures; an outdoor summer theatre, Alley Stage; and a community-owned center for the arts, which sponsors a children's art program and adult classes.

  • Cothern House, home of Montgomery Cothern
  • Fort Defiance, was located along Highway 23 near the present Iowa and Lafayette County border in 1832 during the Black Hawk War. A memorial marker commemorates the location.
  • Fort Jackson
  • Jerusalem Springs was the first location of religious services in Mineral Point in the 1820s
  • Walker House
  • Orchard Lawn - home of the Mineral Point Historical Society
  • Mineral Point and Northern Railroad Depot(later the Milwaukee Road Depot)
  • Mineral Point Opera House
  • Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts
  • Stronghold, home of Moses M. Strong, first President of the Wisconsin Bar Association
  • Trinity Episcopal Church built in 1845

Notable people

  • John Catlin, Acting Governor of the Wisconsin Territory
  • Samuel Crawford, Wisconsin Supreme Court
  • Amasa Cobb, U.S. Representative
  • Montgomery Morrison Cothren, Wisconsin legislator and jurist
  • George G. Cox, Wisconsin legislator
  • Lee Croft, NFL player
  • Bill Dyke, former U.S. vice presidential candidate
  • Jack Enzenroth, MLB player
  • Ansley Gray, Wisconsin State Representative
  • Charles W. Hutchison, Wisconsin legislator
  • David William Hutchison, U.S. Air Force Major General
  • Mortimer M. Jackson, jurist and diplomat
  • William A. Jones, Wisconsin State Representative
  • Francis Little, Wisconsin State Senator
  • Allen Ludden, host of the game show Password
  • James G. Monahan, U.S. Representative
  • Abner Nichols, Wisconsin State Representative
  • Ernie Ovitz, baseball player
  • Jabez Pierce, Wisconsin legislator
  • William Thomas Rawleigh, Illinois State Representative
  • Theodore Rodolf, Wisconsin State Representative
  • William Rudolph Smith, Pennsylvania State Representative and Senator, Attorney General of Wisconsin
  • Calvert Spensley, Wisconsin State Representative
  • Moses M. Strong, Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker of the House
  • John B. Terry, merchant, soldier, pioneer, and Wisconsin territorial legislator
  • Cadwallader C. Washburn, U.S. Representative, founder of General Mills
  • Alexander Wilson, Attorney General of Wisconsin

See also

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