Featured image: The waterfalls at Daggett Memorial Park in Montello, Wisconsin (photo by Cheryl Landes)
When I travel and have the time, I follow different backroads to familiar destinations. Often I pick these routes from a map without researching the towns along the way to preserve the element of surprise at what lies ahead. The fun is in the discovery.
Other times, such as during my summer trip to Door County, Wisconsin, I missed my exit from I-94 to Green Bay and readjusted my route about 20 miles away.
My new route was a scenic drive through the cornfields and dairy farms on State Highway 23. As I continued east, I arrived in the small town of Montello. I intended to drive through, but a waterfall caught my eye at the side of the road. The bright reddish-brown rocks behind the waterfall were different than any I’d ever seen.
The beautiful rock walls of the quarry that’s now Daggett Memorial Park (photo by Cheryl Landes)
Curious, I turned around and found a gravel parking lot between the Kwik Trip convenience store-gas station and the waterfall. The waterfall is actually four waterfalls in an old granite quarry that’s now Daggett Memorial Park. The water streams over the granite walls and lands in the quarry’s pool. The soothing sound of the water relaxed me.
A concrete walkway, the length of a city block, crosses a lush lawn in the park. A tiny church, the size of a giant dollhouse, rests on top of a granite slab above the waterfalls. According to a placard in the park, religious music plays from the church, but I didn’t hear any that day.
The quarry was once Montello’s largest employer, with 200 people working there during its peak. The granite was used primarily for street paving blocks and monuments. It became famous after President Ulysses S. Grant’s death, when a search was conducted worldwide for the best stone to build his tomb in New York City. Montello’s granite was selected from 280 samples for its quality and durability.
In 1977, the quarry closed and Irv Daggett bought the property. He sold the parcels where the Kwik Trip, Post Office, and water tower are located and gave the one in front of the waterfalls to the City of Montello. In 1992, he paid for constructing the waterfalls and supervised the crews.
“Irv had a dream of ‘giving back to Montello’ as it had been so good to him, thus the waterfalls were constructed,” Montello resident Anita Daggett wrote in a review on the Daggett Memorial Park Facebook page in 2014. “Irv also went a step further and placed a church on top of the granite quarry as back in the 1800s, there was an operational church on top of the quarry. Bob Daggett, Irv, and Alyce’s son oversee the maintenance and care of the waterfalls and the church. Irv asked Bob many years before his death to always keep the waterfalls in operation.”
The city pays for the electricity to pump the water.
I lingered at the falls for an hour, enjoying the view, the rich colors of the rock, and the sound of the water. When I left, I was refreshed and ready to resume my journey.
The park is open 24 hours, and colored lights shine on the waterfalls at night. For more information, visit the Wisconsin Historical Markers site.
Another view of the waterfalls in Daggett Memorial Park (photo by Cheryl Landes)