Amherst Junction

from the May 19, 1992 Stevens Point Journal
of the Journal

Like many communities in Portage County, Amherst Junction was created when the railroad went through the county. And as the name implies, it was a junction between two railroads - the Wisconsin Central and the Green Bay and Lake Pepin railroads.

Until 1875, the community was referred to as Groversburg, presumably after the Grover family that held considerable property in the area, wrote Malcolm Rosholt in his book “Our County Our Story.” But when a post office was established in March 1875, it was called Amherst Junction.

The Summit House, a fairly large hotel, was built in the village around 1872 or 1873 by H. N. Livermore, according to an article in the Stevens Point Journal by Wendell Nelson. Since the hotel was a popular place to stay, eat and dance, as Nelson wrote, the village must have been a gathering center for many of the surrounding communities. It must also have been a financial and retail center, as the F & M Bank that is there today was founded in 1903.

It wasn’t until 1911 that the village was incorporated. By 1914, the village had become an important potato buying and shipping center, Rosholt wrote. A number of warehouses were spotted along the railroad tracks that were built by the railroad companies, he wrote. In addition, many people traveling to the eastern and northeastern part of the county would detrain in Amherst Junction and hire a rig from a livery in the village to take them to their destination, Rosholt wrote.

George Sroda, the 81 year-old town of Amherst resident who lived in Amherst Junction for most of his life remembers when the village was much different than it is today. When he was growing up, the village boasted 36 businesses, compared to the nine that are left there now, he said.

There were five taverns, two hotels, two grocery stores, dancehalls, depots, feed stores, four potato warehouses, a blacksmith, a livery stable, a meat market, bank, hardware store, car dealership, a post office, a school and a turkey processing plant, which Sroda owned. Today, the post office and bank remain, but there also is only a potato processing plant, a beauty shop, two taverns and Sroda’s extensive worm business, he said.

“Women would come into town to go shopping, while the men would go into the tavern,” Sroda said. “In those days, you could buy a pair of work shoes for $1.95 and a pair of socks for 9 cents.
“The store keepers would set up free movies to lure people to go shopping,” he said. “The stores would be so packed, you couldn’t even move.”

The Summit House remained in business until 1939, when it was dismantled and its lumber was used to build a new home for the owner, Nelson wrote. At one time, the hotel was operated by Zilphia Moyers Een, the county’s first woman hotel keeper, he wrote. The hotel even survived a move from somewhere near the current Village Hall north of the railroad tracks to a place near the current barbershop and across from the bank, Nelson wrote.

Sroda attributes the decline of the village to the accessibility and the growth of the automobile, which meant the decline of traveling by railroad and consequently of Amherst Junction.

“Small towns are deteriorating,” he said. “Times have changed from when we used to get around by hooking onto a sleigh and traveling into town.”

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