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Tomah Byte Trail
Tomah, Wisconsin
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History of Tomah

Founded in 1855 and incorporated as a city in 1883, Tomah residents boast a proud heritage. The city was named after Thomas Caron, or "Tomah", which is the French pronunciation for Thomas. A celebrated Menomonee Chief, Tomah looked every inch a king, and one writer described him as the "finest looking chief" he had ever seen. But Tomah was known for much more than his appearance. He was described as firm, prudent, peaceable and conciliatory, while being well liked by all. In fact, settlers to this area were so impressed with his friendliness, that his name was used to remember the community. Tomah features several historic buildings. The "Little Red Schoolhouse" is open during the summer for tours. Structures at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, along with the Tomah Public Library, are included among the historic settings. Tomah's new Harris G.Allen Telecommunication Historical Museum exhibits the technology and equipment used by the men and women who molded and worked in the industry.

Tomah Treasures

Frank King was the creator of the comic strip "Gasoline Alley". He was born to Carolyn and John King, and raised on the ridge south of Tomah. Upon his graduation from Tomah High School in 1901, he went to work as an artist with the Minneapolis Times. In 1907, he began working for the Chicago Tribune and doing some cartoon work. The year 1919 saw the the first "Gasoline Alley" comic strip, whose characters grew up right in the public eye and included names of Tomah people and places. In 1958, King was named "Cartoonist of the Year". Frank King Died June24, 1969. His cartoon strip is still published today!

Frank Andres is an important player in Tomah's history. Born in 1890 in Tunnel City, Andres was known as a simple and direct person, even though all did not agree with him. In 1909, Frank and his father opened Andres Hardware in Tomah. He worked in the store for 65 years until his death in 1974 at the age of 94. At that time, he was the oldest active businessman in Tomah. His will, found hidden in a chest of drawers, left his store to his employees and bequeathed most of his estate to a Community Trust Fund. The will stipulated that the interest and dividends from the Trust Fund be used for worthwhile causes in the Tomah Area.

Education in Tomah

Geographically, the Tomah School District is among the largest in the State of Wisconsin. Despite its size, the Tomah District maintains one of the lowest cost per pupil expenditures in the state. Yet, Tomah students receive a quality, well-rounded education. Of the state's 20 Educational Standards, the Tomah District has compliled with all 20, while receiving an exemplary rating in six of the standards. Kindergarten through 12th grade students are provided with a variety of support services in the form of various special programs. These programs include: At Risk, Gifted and Talented, Native American Education, Chapter 1 Reading and Math, plus English as a Second Language. There are also preschool, Headstart and Daycare programs available throughout the community. Students and adults can continue their education through post secondary programs. Western Wisconsin Technical College offers approximately 90 credit courses and 80 non-credit courses each year at its Outreach Center on Tomah's east side. The center is one of five in the W.W.T.C. district. Tomah is also within approximately 45 miles of two, 4 year campuses, the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse and Viterbo College, along with the main campus of Western Technical College.

Municipal Services

Tomah is governed by an elected Mayor and City Council. A full time City Administrator supervises the daily municipal services. The city is protected by a 23 member Police Force. Police programs such as Dare, Crimestoppers, and Neighborhood Watch help to secure rural, hometown living. Property is also safeguarded by a 30 member, volunteer Fire Department, with a Class 5 Fire Rating- the highest for such a department. A full-time Ambulance Director coordinates a munincipal Ambulance Service, complete with Rescue Squad, to handle all area emergencies. The Wisconsin State Patrol District 5 Headquarters is located south of the community near the #43 Exit of Interstate 90.

The Tomah Public Library offers excellent library services. The Library's collection includes more than 49,000 books, videos. CD's and cassettes. There are also more than 130 subscriptions to newspapers and magazines. Materials are easily accessible due to an on-line computer circulation and catalog system. The distinct architectural design of the building itself placed it on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Healthcare in Tomah

Tomah's excellent health care facilities remain poised to meet the needs of a growing community. A $5.3 million dollar renovation project at Tomah Memorial Hospital enables the facility to continue offering inpatient services, plus meet the expanded need for out patient services. The major hospital services include: 24-hour emergency care, outpatient specialty clinics, inpatient and outpatient sugery, cardiac stress testing, respiratory therapy, laboratory and blood bank, kidney dialysis, hospice, diagnostic imaging, psychiatric and counseling programs, dietitian consultations, and pharmacy. The active medical staff of consists of 10 physicians, plus a consulting staff of 35 physicians in a variety of specialties.

Opened in 1947, the 622-bed Veterans Affairs Medical Center, with attached nursing home, is located north of the city on a 173-acre campus, once the site of a Native American school. Specialties offered are psychiatry, rehabilitation, and extended care. Specialized inpatient units include an Alcohol Dependency Treatment Program, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Unit, Vocational Rehabilatation Unit, Respiratory Care/Ventilatory Dependent Unit, and General Purpose Intensive Care. Special programs offered are Agent Orange screening, hospice, respite care, and Alzheimer's assessment. A staff of more than 1,000 full-and part-time employees includes physicians, dentists, nurses, psychologists, social workers, dietitians, physicians assistants, chaplains, pharmacists, and support personnel who are complemented by physician consultants who are specialists in their field. The VAMC's $45 Million dollar annual budget has a significant impact on the local economy. The Tomah Rehabilitation Center and Tomah Care Center also serve special patient needs, and the Handishop Industries Incorporated provides integrated rehabilitation services.

Retail Shopping

Shoppers to Tomah will find a wide selection of various merchandise with plenty of Hometown friendliness and service. Retail areas in the city limits include Burnstad's Village Mall on the east side, the Downtown City Centre, and the Northtowne Center along Highway 12. Easy access and ample parking can be found at all three areas. For those interested in antiques, a variety of shops, including an Antique Mall, offer quality pieces and collectibles for the beginner to advanced collector. Throughout the year, a number of Arts and Crafts Fairs also entice shoppers.

Lodging and Dining

Weary travelers can get a good night's rest in one of the more than 400 motel rooms in Tomah. Each offers a full range of services to make visitors feel at home. One or more has an indoor swimming pool, room service, recreational services, banquet rooms, specialty rooms, and rooms that are handicapped accessible. If you prefer the great outdoors, more than 800 campsites are located within minutes of Tomah to let you experience nature first hand. No matter the palate, Tomah restaurants serve a variety of cuisines. From a European-Style cafe to supper clubs and ethnic foods, and even fast food, Tomah dining has it all. Come dine in Tomah, be our guest!

Agriculture and Industry

Tomah is the "Gateway to Cranberry Country" with more than 2,000 acres of cranberry bogs throughout the area, The Tomah-Warrens-Mather area ranks second in the state in annual cranberry production. The industry plays an integral part of the local agricultural economy. Two Cranberry Receiving stations and part-time marsh employees hired during the cranberry harvest add to the area's employment base. The Tomah area also helps to support Wisconsin's claim as "America's Dairyland". Monroe County ranks 15th in the number of farms, and 20th in total dairy operations in the state. Approximately 37,000 dairy cows are raised in the area.

Tomah's location--midway between Minneapolis and Milwaukee, and where the state's interstate system divides--provides for a prosperous industrial development environment. Tomah is now the home of such diverse industries as Cardinal IG and TG, Doane's Products, Kinder Manufacturing, Meca Sportswear, Toro, Union Camp, and USEMCO, as well as several trucking firms. Tomah's quality of life, available workforce, and public utilities enable Tomah to actively recruit new firms to the community.


Tomah has always been known as a city of "Special Events". From Recreation Park to the newly rehabilitated Lake Tomah, visitors experience a wide range of annual events and recreational activities. Action and plenty of excitement are part of the Wisconsin Dairyland Grand National Tractor Pull held each July at Recreation Park. The pull has consistently ranked as the number one pull in the nation. Recreation Park also plays host to the Monroe County Fair in July. During the winter, the park is transformed into the home of the Tomah Youth Hockey Association. The city has a wide range of recreational activities held throughout the year under the direction of a full time Recreation Director. Youth and adults can take part in programs such as basketball, baseball, football, gymnastics, swimming and volleyball. Residents and visitors also enjoy the Olympic size swimming pool, lighted tennis courts, various playgrounds, and 120 acres of parks throughout the community. Athletic fields near Tomah's Senior High School offer Football, track and other outdoor sports. Following a Major flood in 1990, Tomah has experienced the re-birth of a natural beauty. Approximately $5-million dollars went into the rehabilitation of Lake Tomah. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy water sports and fishing on the 207 acre body of water. Other outdoor activities like camping, hiking, canoeing, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, hunting and golfing are enjoyed in Tomah and surrounding area. Tomah is also located within 10 minutes of the nationally known Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail. The old Chicago and Northwestern Railroad beds have been converted into a picturesque hiking and biking trail.


Military training plays a vital role to Tomah and the surrounding area due to activities at Fort McCoy and Volk Field. Fort McCoy is the only active U.S Army Installation in Wisconsin. The military reservation and its tenant activities annually provide support and facilities for the field and classroom training of approximately 135,000 military personnel from all services. Nearly 400 civilian employess from Tomah work at the post. The approximately 6,000 acre installation is a major mobilization site for preparing U.S Army Reserve and Army National Guard units. During Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, more than 9,000 soldiers from 74 separate units and their equipment were deployed and redeployed at Fort McCoy.

Volk Field is located approximately 12 miles southeast of Tomah. Air National Guard and other military units receive realistic, integrated flying and mission support training exercises at the 2,300 acre installation. Named after the first Wisconsin National Guard pilot killed in action during the Korean Conflict, Volk Field houses a Combat Readiness Training Center--one of only four in the United States. All branches of the Guard, Reserve and Active Duty Military conduct year-round combat training at Volk Field. Its topography and climate closely resemble those found in Europe. Visitors of the base can trace the history of the Wisconsin National Guard at a 3,000 square foot Memorial Library/Museum, which is open year round.

Info Provided By The Tomah Chamber of Commerce

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