Town of Buena Vista

It seems strange to find a Spanish name meaning “Good View” given in 1854 to a town in Portage County located in the plain with a few hills but no panoramic view at a time when there is no mention of a Spaniard or a Mexican living in or even passing through the county. This name was also given to a village, a post office, a creek and the marsh into which it flows. It indirectly refers to the battle of Buena Vista which was fought in 1846 during the Mexican War and at the time was considered as famous a victory by the Americans as Waterloo by the British. The name was given to several places and establishments in the Midwest but at the time there were few settlers in this region and they did not care about giving a name to any place. In the early 1850’s two men coming here stopped on their way in a tavern in East Troy in southern Wisconsin that had that name. They came to Portage County, put a claim on a piece of land located on the road coming from the south, erected a shanty where they opened a tavern, a hotel for those days, and named it Buena Vista. A small village developed near it and when the town was established it was named after it.

The Town of Buena Vista is in the outwash plain of the last Wisconsin glaciations and the western part was at the northern end of the glacial lake. It is crossed by a low hill range which is the terminal moraine of a glaciations older than the last Wisconsin and is named the Arnott moraine after the village in the plain between it and the outer terminal moraine. The road from the south first followed the eastern edge of the Arnott moraine and it is there that the village of Buena Vista was located. The road then went through a gap across the range created by the creek and then followed the western side of the moraine. In 1863 the village of Buena Vista was completely destroyed by a tornado and was not rebuilt. In its place, at the gap in the range, a new center developed under the name of Keen or Keene (probably after the name of a pioneer). It had a post office, a school, a church, a general store, a hotel, a blacksmith shop and even a jewelry and photograph gallery, but when the main road from the South was relocated (the present Highway 51) and automobiles replaced horses Keene declined and at present consists of only a tavern. A sign reading “Keene, population 4” was put up but it was not an official road sign and was taken off.

Two other community centers started in the Town of Buena Vista: Liberty Corners at a crossroad with present Highway 54 and Coddington in the west but now both are just names.