Founded in 1847 by James B. Gay, who built a dam and a sawmill on the river, which proved to be a great success. He convinced his brothers John and Thomas to move to the area and they built the first flour mill south of the saw mill. In those early years, numerous families moved into the area, which came to be known as Gays Mills in honor of the founder and his brothers.
Apples have been a big part of the community since the turn of the twentieth century, with one of the largest concentrations of apple orchards in the surrounding tri-state area. Some of the Gays Mills apples once even found their way into the World’s Fair, catapulting Gays Mills apple country to fame. Each year, Gays Mills celebrates that fame with an Apple Festival, the fourth full weekend in September, featuring a well-attended parade and carnival rides, amongst other fun, family-friendly activities.
The community also celebrates with the Spring Festival which includes the Gays Mills Folk Festival. Not only that, but there’s also the Stump Dodger Bash celebration which is usually scheduled on the weekend near Independence Day and weekly Wednesday Farmer’s Markets, from May to October.
Gays Mills, being on the Kickapoo River, is also a great spot for fishing and paddling. There’s even a places to camp in Robb Park or Kickapoo Stump Dodger Campground.
Interestingly, Gays Mills, like Soldiers Grove just up the road on WI 131, after devastating flooding in 2007-2008, moved much of its downtown and Village services to a higher ground. Be sure to visit both parts of town for the full Gays Mills experience!