CRAWFORD COUNTY, WIS – Land ownership that dates to the Civil War, Native American effigy mounds, scenic bluffs on the Great River Road, and habitat for a rare lizard. These are some of the features of the latest land protection effort by Mississippi Valley Conservancy and Tweed family members who have permanently protected their land south of Ferryville.
According to the landowners, while the 29-acre property has been in the family since the Civil War, it used to be a much larger farm, over 800 acres in size. But some was sold during the Great Depression. The seven Tweed siblings, the children of John and Gertrude Tweed, all grew up there. A cabin built sometime in the late 1930s remains along with a history of working farmland, beekeeping for honey, and many memories.
Abbie Church, MVC conservation director, said that the project started with MVC in 2010 with a meeting outside of the cabin. All seven siblings — Jane Johnson and Marie Tweed, both of La Crosse, Nancy Dale of Stoddard, and those who have since passed away, Joyce Morrison, Robert Tweed, June Lindevig and Gladys Tweed — were interested in seeing the land protected.
Carol Abrahamzon, MVC executive director, said “Under this conservation agreement, the Conservancy accepts the responsibility of ensuring that the landowner’s wishes are honored now and forever. Those wishes include preserving the land and preventing future subdivision, development and mining, all while the land remains in private ownership.”
In view of traffic on both Highway 35 and 171, the property is within a designated “Important Bird Area” and one of North America’s primary migratory bird flyways. The Great River Road, Highway 35, was voted the “prettiest drive in the US” and is Wisconsin’s only designated National Scenic Byway. The wildlife habitat on the Tweed’s land includes dry prairie, oak savanna, rock cliffs and oak woodlands. Scenic views of their bluffland will be preserved in perpetuity and enjoyed by travelers on both the highway and the Mississippi River.
Jane Johnson said when the agreement was completed recently, “I am very enthused about conserving the land. It is a beautiful piece of property.”
Two Native American effigy mounds overlook the Mississippi River on the land and are associated with the Late Woodland culture (AD 400-1100), according to archaeologists.
The rare lizard found there is the five-lined skink. Church said the skink is brightly colored, black with yellow stripes and a bright blue tail. “They live in oak barrens and prairie areas adjacent to oak woodlands. On the Tweed property they are up in the southwest-facing remnant prairie.” She said it was the first site the Conservancy has protected with a skink population.