Rock Springs - Ableman
The village of Rock Springs, originally called Ableman, was first settled by Col. S.V.R. Ableman in 1851 and platted by him in 1853. A visionary, he speculated that when the railroad come into the area, the most convenient passage to the Northwest would be through the Upper Narrows, on the east side of the Baraboo River. So, that’s where he established his claim.
Initially, Ableman put up a rude log shanty, where he, his family and a half dozen carpenters, lived for two months while his white frame home was being built. It was the third house built on the road between Baraboo and Reedsburg.
In 1857, Ableman constructed a sawmill on Narrows Creek, near its junction with the Baraboo River. He enlarged the structure in 1861 to accommodate a grist mill. He sold the businesses in 1875.
A postoffice was established in "Ablemans" in 1871, soon after the railroad came through. Up until that time, residents would go to Postmaster Ableman’s home for their mail, which was brought from Baraboo twice weekly and put into a large box. Patrons simply helped themselves to their mail.
The first school in the new village of Ableman was organized in 1856-57, with Maria Welton as its first teacher. The structure was the converted shanty where Ableman lived when he first arrived. The building was also used as a church, Sabbath School and meeting house. It was replaced by a new building in 1871. There were nearly 100 children in the district in 1880. A four room grade and high schoolhouse was built in 1900 which served the community until 1962.
The German Baptists and German Lutheran churches were organized in 1872. The Baptists held meetings in the village in 1860 and constructed a building in 1874 for $700. The Lutherans met in the schoolhouse, when the traveling pastor came through the community.
Several hotels fronted the main street of Ableman in its early history, the first being supplied by M.B. Waltz, in 1864. Next was the Charter House, built by Col. Ableman in 1868, which boasted 23 guest rooms. The Schulte House, built around 1870, contained 15 sleeping rooms.
Col. Ableman’s dreams were finally realized, when, in 1870, the Chicago & Northwestern Railway constructed a line through the village. It was in a large way, due to his lobbying efforts that he was responsible for obtaining the charter for the Baraboo Valley Air Line road, as it was also known.
A steam stave factory was established in the village in 1874, providing raw materials for pork barrels.
A sandstone quarry, north of the village, provided bed material for the railroad.
The first store in Ableman was opened by Ableman & Watson.
In 1880, besides the businesses previously mentioned, there were also a 2 blacksmith shops, 2 wagon shops, a meat market, shoe shop, and a grain and produce dealer.
The village of Rock Springs was electrified in 1914, with power being supplied by the woolen mill plant in Baraboo.
The 1880 History of Sauk County, notes that "The place is beautifully situated at the base of the famous Baraboo quartzite range, in full view of the romantic and wonderful spot known as the Upper Narrows. The surroundings are cheerful and grandly picturesque."
Ableman became Rock Springs in 1875, alluding to the many natural artesian springs which abound in and around the village. The name reverted to Ableman in 1879, and in 1947, it again and permanently became Rock Springs.