Anthony Huddleston and his family had settled on the land in 1854, feeling it held great opportunity (on the east end of what is Wall Street today). Other settlers followed Huddleston putting the population at 168 by 1860. The first school was built in 1857, and the first post office, store, and hotel in 1860. Ellsworth was platted in 1862 and the Village of Ellsworth was incorporated in 1887.
The village was initially called Perry, in honor of the War of 1812 hero, Oliver Hazard Perry.
When Pierce County was first developed, Prescott and River Falls were the largest communities in the county. A rivalry developed between them for the county seat. In the spring of 1861, after much debate, the exact location of the county seat was determined by drawing lines on a map of Pierce County to determine the center of the county. The lines crossed in the township of Perry – not only was this the middle of the country, but also the highest point. The name of the new county seat was changed to Ellsworth. Named for Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth—a close friend of President Lincoln and the first Union officer who was killed in the Civil War while removing a Confederate flat in Arlington, Virginia.
The first courthouse was built in 1870 and then later torn down to make way for a new, larger courthouse (which is still the one used today) in 1905. See below for more information.
By the 1880s, Ellsworth had expanded and the village was looking forward to a railroad connection being built by the Omaha Railway. The railway was completed in 1885 but due to the steep terrain by what is now Main Street, the railroad was situated on the flatter outskirts of Ellsworth. This area became known as East Ellsworth and several businesses were constructed here because of a desire to operate near the railroad. Ellsworth's industry continued to see growth in both East Ellsworth and on top of the hill as time carried on. Today, Ellsworth is proud to be home to the Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery, the historical Pierce County Courthouse, and several more businesses, many of which have called Ellsworth home for a century or more.
Pierce County Courthouse
The Pierce County Courthouse, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, was built on a raised foundation of sandstone. It features elements of both the Beaux-Arts and Neoclassical styles of architecture. Among the distinctive elements of its construction are a large hexagonal dome and multiple Ionic columns. Crafted from Marquette Rain Drop Stone, Siskiwit Stone, Dunville Stone, and Pink Tennessee Marble, the courthouse features four original paintings depicting the beauty of the Midwest, which grace the courthouse dome. A twin to our courthouse can be found in Rugby, North Dakota.
The cornerstone was laid by the Ellsworth Masonic Hancock Lodge #229 on June 21, 1905 and the building was constructed at a cost of $85,000. Extensive remodeling, which included the jail being built adjacent to the courthouse, was completed in 1968.
A World War I 88mm Austrian cannon compliments the war memorial on the courthouse grounds. The cannon, obtained from an arsenal in New Jersey, was dedicated in 1926; the memorial was erected in 1989. Plaques honoring Pierce County service people were dedicated on June 24, 1989. The most recent entry was for Bert Hoyer of Ellsworth and Trevor Diesing of Plum City, who lost their lives in the defense of liberty in Iraq.