sugar river sounds

The Sugar River earned it’s name from Native Americans - “Toon-a-Sook-ra” or “Sugar River” - because of the beauty of the glistening sandstone river bed which closely resembles sugar, The name is also so appropriate because of the abundance of maple trees along the river’s banks, trees which migrating Native Americans tapped each spring to make maple sugar. 

The Sugar River’s history is absolutely fascinating, and a critical resource to Brodhead during Victorian times, From powering electricity in the 1890’s (before Chicago!), to offering endless recreation, to providing a natural resource rush that made many town folks wealthy... 

In the late 1800’s, the river was an abundant resource it for the most sought after jewels of its day … natural pearls. 

Aster Crow’s Sugar River collection is dedicated to our town’s river, with jewelry pieces that reflect the sparkle of sugar, pearlescence of the pearls that once filled its bed, and the cleansing aspects of water as an element.


sugar river

one of Brodhead’s most valuable natural resources is the Sugar River, an important thread through our town’s history, its abundance as a resource offers endless inspiration. The Sugar River has brought a diversity of cultures together, turned on our lights, and offered some of the most beautiful natural jewels the world has known.



The following are just a few highlights…

Fascinating Sugar River facts: 

  • Brodhead was not inhabited by Winnebagos - however - it was part of their migratory path, boasting the Sugar river for camping, Winnebago Native Americans and Brodhead citizens coexisted peacefully, and mutually shared the abundant river resource. 
  • Jessie Sprague (an original Brodhead settler) shared the following about the Sugar River in the 1800’s: “Long after Brodhead was settled; bands of Winnebagoes still camped there every spring on their way north, trapping muskrats and other game and wandering through the village. It was great sport for the school boys of the time to visit their camps.” 
  • Running through Brodhead's area known as the Pearl Island corridor, is the Mill Race Waterway; a man-made tributary extending from the Sugar River. This is where local citizens funded the hand-digging of this canal in the 1860's to provide water power for a mill, foundry, and making Brodhead the second city in Wisconsin to have electricity. 
  • In the late 1800’s, Pearling made many Brodhead folks quite wealthy, and it is said over $8,000,000.00 (of today’s dollars) worth of pearls were harvest from the river. 
  • Considering the romantic and lavish aesthetics of Victorian times, it is no wonder pearls held value higher than that of diamonds. Pearls from the Sugar River were so exquisite, pearls from the river are housed as part of Crown Jewels collection in the Tower of London.