Wisconsin Hometown Stories: Sauk Prairie

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Discover the story of two villages formed by the fertile land of South Central Wisconsin and the flowing waters of the Wisconsin River. Film, archival images, and interviews with historians, local citizens, and experts illustrate how their histories were shaped by the Native communities who first called the land home, the harnessing of water power, local manufacturing to meet the needs of a nation in peril, and the resilience and creativity of residents.

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Video Segments and Teaching Resources

Segment Summaries (PDF) | Wisconsin Biographies, Milly Zantow: Recycling Revolutionary | Credits

Segment 1: Introduction
Learn about the stories featured in the documentary.


Segment 2: Early History
An early explorer wrote about the Sauk village for which the Sauk Prairie area is named. After the Sauk, the Ho-Chunk controlled the land until 1837. A few years later, European settlers began developing villages and farming wheat on the prairie.


Segment 3: Hydro-Mania
The hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls set off a hydro-mania in Wisconsin, leading to the building of the dam at Prairie du Sac. The dam was built with steam-power, horse-power, and the labor of many workers, and it's still in use today.


Segment 4: Glass Plates
Glass plate negatives in the Sauk Prairie Area Historical Society’s collection provide a window into the lives of Sauk Prairie residents at the turn of the twentieth century.


Segment 5: A Writer of Place
Author August Derleth set out to tell the stories of Sauk City and Prairie du Sac, and became known as a regional “writer of place” for his books about the people and places of Sauk Prairie.


Segment 6: Arsenal of Democracy
At the outbreak of World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt’s call for the United States to become “a great Arsenal of Democracy” set in motion a plan to build a massive ammunition plant on the Sauk Prairie. The plant would change the landscape and way of life for those in the area.


Segment 7: The Sound of Wisconsin
Cuca Records got its start in a small recording studio Jim Kirchstein built next to his record shop. By recording thousands of songs by musicians and groups of many different genres, the studio’s collection captured the sound of Wisconsin in the 1960s.


Segment 8: A New Chapter
When the Badger Army Ammunition plant closed, a process to determine future uses of the land began, leading to plans for conservation, education, recreation and sustainable agriculture. The villages celebrate their agricultural heritage and their unique place on the river.


Segment 9: The Freethinkers
Political and religious refugees from what is now Germany came to Wisconsin around the time it became a state, and established a Freie Gemeinde, or Free-thinking Congregation in Sauk City.



David Hestad

Donna Crane

Laurie Gorman

Mike Baron
David Hestad
Lina Soblytė

Kerman Eckes

Mike Baron
Michael Eicher
Josh Kappler
Lina Soblytė
Grant Fenster
Jason Weiss

Michael Goc

Brian Lorbiecki

Brandon Ribordy
Amanda Roslansky

Carol Larson

Christine Sloan-Miller

Jon Miskowski