Town of Leeds – History & Settings
The Town of Leeds is located in southern Columbia County, Wisconsin. The adjacent Towns include Arlington, Dekorra, Lowville, Hampden in Columbia County and the Town of Windsor in Dane County.
There are four crossroad communities which include North Leeds, South Leeds, Leeds Center and Keyeser. The City of Portage is located approximately 15 miles northwest of the Town. Downtown Milwaukee is about 75 miles southeast of the Town of Leeds and the City of Madison is approximately 25 miles southwest.
USH 51 is the major north-south transportation route in the Town connecting to Interstate Highways 39,90,94 south of the Town. State Highway 22 provides an important north-south route in the northern portion of the Town. County Highway C provides a north-south along the east side of the Town. State Highway 60 in the major east-west route through the Town. CTH DM and K provide alternate east-west routes through the Town. A number of Town roads also provide transportation routes through the Town.
The oldest records that exist state that the Town of Kossuth was established in 1850. The records do not explain why, but a name changed occurred and it became the Town of Leeds in 1852. The big marsh in Leeds has several Indian legends connected with it. Early travel through the Town took place on Indian trails that were in the swamps and woods. The prairie grass was long and thick which made it difficult for horses and oxen to pull wagons. In 1835 a military road was built and settlers started moving into the area around 1843.
LaFayette Hill erected the first log cabin, but during the winter months when he was gone, the Indians burned his cabin. Because of the rich prairie soil about 90 percent of the Town of Leeds is used for agricultural purposes. In the early 1960’s the University of Wisconsin purchased 1,135 acres of land in the Town for an experimental farm.
The first public school was built in 1848 in Leeds Center. Each settler was asked to donate one log and one day of labor to help the school. Unfortunately the school was destroyed by a fire the first winter. The earlier schools had difficulty with language since the children spoke different languages which included Norwegian, German and English.
At first, church services were held in homes. In 1866, the Zion church was built with the lead of Pastor Leifield. He would often walk 18 miles to tend to the spiritual needs of the congregation. Each member signed a contract stating that they were required to pay $30 per year if he owned 80 acres of land. This entitled him to all benefits of the church including a cemetery plot.