Brandon was born with the arrival of the railroad in western Fond du
Lac County. Lacking the serviceable water power of the neighboring community of Fairwater,
the southeastern corner of the town of Metomen was distinguished as an agricultural area
for more than a decade after settlers first arrived in the township in 1844. In 1856, its
fortunes changed abruptly. The Milwaukee-Horican Railroad established a station on the
route between Waupun and Ripon in October of 1856, and a prosperous new community emerged.
Originally dubbed Bungtown, within five years the population of Brandon had grown to more
than 300. By 1880 the population numbered 800, and the village boasted two hotels, four
general stores, three hardware stores, two drug stores, two groceries, three milliners'
stores, a jewelry store, three harness shops, two shoe stores, two meat markets, four
grain warehouses, and a complement of manufacturing businesses.
A summary of significant events in the village's history, from the
arrival of the first immigrant and eastern settlers in the town of Metomen in 1844.
IMAGE GALLERY & MAPS
Photographs and other images related to the history of the village.
Many of these have been provided through the courtesy of the Brandon Historical Society
from their extensive collection of area photos.
Patents Map, Town of Metomen (PDF format)
- Land Patents
Map, Town of Alto (PDF format)
- Land Patents Map, Town of Mackford, Green Lake County
Map, 1862, Town of Metomen (PDF format), from W. T. Coneys, Map of Fond du Lac County,
Wisconsin, Bogert & Haight: 1862 (Copied and Indexed by Sally Powers Albertz,
Wisconsin State Historical Society library Pam 93-3904 Mss Sect)
Established in 1867 by G. M. West, the Brandon Times newspaper was
long a voice of community information and an advocate for reason and development.
Microfilm of the Times is available through the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.
Select announcements, articles, and editorials are transcribed here to mark significant
events in the history of the village.
TRANSCRIPTIONS OF BRANDON NEWS ITEMS FROM AREA PAPERS
TRANSCRIPTIONS OF AREA NEWS ITEMS FROM AREA PAPERS
VILLAGE AND AREA HISTORIES
Booth War: Aftermath of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 in Wisconsin, 1860:
Arrested in 1854 for his role in freeing an escaped slave, Joshua Glover, and freed
by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Sherman Booth, notorious Wisconsin spokesman for
abolition, was the center of a six-year legal struggle between State and Federal
governments. In 1860, after being rearrested, Booth was forcibly freed from the Milwaukee
Custom House, and for two months was the subject of violent clashes between Federal
marshals and sympathizers in the vicinity of Waupun, Ripon, Dartford, and Pickett.
Pond's Markesan Journal:The John Parker Exchanges, 1861:
James Pond, an Alto native, ardent anti-slavery advocate, and editor of the Markesan
Journal, sparked a heated exchange of letters at the start of the American Civil War
with an April 26, 1861, editorial titled "Traitors in Markesan."
- The Third
Wisconsin Cavalry, Company C, 1861-65: Company C of
the Third Wisconsin was recruited primarily in the central Wisconsin communities of
Fairwater, Brandon, Markesan, and Kingston by E. R. Stevens, 37-year-old merchant and
former U. S. Marshal in Green Lake County, and James B. Pond, 23-year-old editor of the
Markesan Journal and former resident of Alto Township in Fond du Lac County. The company
saw duty in the guerilla warfare of Kansas, Missouri, and the Indian Territory
- Reading the 1870 Census:
As documented by the 1870 federal census, the decade of the 1860's was a watershed period
in the composition of area residents. Despite an 18% increase in population, the number of
farm families in Metomen dropped 13% while men identifying themselves as laborers
increased 80%. Yankees in the township decreased from 68% of the adult population to 47%,
while Germans increased from 7% to 23%. Danes became a prominent immigrant group in
Fairwater, while the Dutch concentrated in Brandon. The complete
census for the township is available on the site.
- Creation of the
Brandon-Markesan Railroad, 1882: Markesan interests spearheaded the creation
of a railroad spur line connecting the Brandon station of the C., M. & St. P. with
Markesan in 1882. Transcripts from the Brandon Times (1882) and the Green Lake County
Democrat (1881-84) document the turbulent history of the birth of the line.
- Ben Sheldon G. A. R. Post:
Brandon's G. A. R. Post, organized in 1884, remained active until the death of its last
two members within three weeks of each other in 1926. Over these forty-two years, 58 Civil
War veterans were members of the Post.
- Pine Hill/Utley,
1877-1939: Florian Laper's history of the granite mining community formerly located on the
Brandon-Markesan Railroad six miles west of Brandon.
- The Fairwater Water Wheel,
1924-25 (from The Wisconsonian, 4/99): At fifty feet in diameter
the largest overshot wheel ever constructed in the United States, the Laper Electric water
wheel was erected on the Grand River below the Fairwater dam in 1925 to provide generating
capacity for Jesse Laper's electric company. The company provided power for the villages
of Fairwater, Brandon, and Alto. (See Florian Laper's history of the The Big Wheel for additional
historical information and an extensive collection of photographs.)
Ben Sheldon Post member Herman Giffey,
Memorial Day, 1916. (Courtesy Neil Giffey)
1880's section crew, Brandon-Markesan
Railroad, from Elmer Jahn's History of Utley (Markesan Historical Society)
Construction of the Fairwater water wheel (courtesy Florian
CENSUS, CEMETERY & LAND PATENT RECORDS
METOMEN TOWNSHIP CENSUS & RELATED RECORDS
- 1847 Wisconsin Territorial Census, Town of Metomen
- 1850 Federal Census, Town of Metomen
Wisconsin State Census, Town of Metomen
- 1860 Federal Census, Town of Metomen
voters, 1868, Town of Metomen, reprinted in 1927 by the Brandon Times
from a list originally published in the October 17, 1868, Times
- 1870 Federal Census, Town of Metomen
the 1870 Census
Brandon Incorporation Census
Wisconsin State Census, Town of Metomen
BRANDON AREA CEMETERY RECORDS
BRANDON AREA LAND PATENT RECORDS
Business names for the village of Brandon were listed in the
Wisconsin State Gazetteer as early as the 1865-66 volume. Entries from the 1865-66,
1895-96, 1903-4, 1911-1912, and 1921-22 volumes have been transcribed.
A collection of published biographies of early residents in and
around Brandon. Many of these are taken from popular histories such as The History of Fond
du Lac County, Wisconsin (Western Historical Company, Chicago: 1880), which were based on
personal narratives and may not be entirely reliable. Viewers are
cautioned, therefore, to verify the information presented.
STORIES AND REMINISCENCES
Recollections written by and about residents of Brandon and its
James Pond, left, and wife, right, with Samuel Clemens and family,
1895 (courtesy Kevin Dier-Zimmel)
- "A Pioneer
Boyhood," James B. Pond, from The Century Magazine, 1899; Pond's description of
his experiences growing up two miles from Fairwater in northern Alto Township in the
1840's and 1850's
Question Answered," James B. Pond, from Eccentricities of
Genius, 1900, Pond's autobiographical preface to his portraits of the
men and women he managed on the Lyceum circuit, mentioning his early abolitionism and
emphasizing his experiences with Mormonism in Utah.
- From "Eccentricities of
Genius," James B. Pond, the journal account of Pond's 1895 journey across North
America with Mark Twain as manager of the first leg of Twain's world tour (transcript on
the University of Virginia electronic text site, courtesy of Stephen Railton); Pond's photographs of the trip
are included; Pond's role in and publicity for the 1894-95 tour of Twain and George W.
Cable is also on the site, titled "Touring with Cable and
Booth War in Ripon," George W. Carter, from Proceedings of the State Historical
Society of Wisconsin, 1902; a firsthand account by a Fairwater native of the armed
standoff between Federal marshals and antislavery activists in Ripon in 1860
Remember Grandma," Mildred (Dunsmoor) Turner
Yosemite House - As I Remember," Mildred (Dunsmoor) Turner
Historical sources about the Brandon area and its residents, listed
in chronological sequence. Extensive collections are also maintained in the Brandon Historical Society and Markesan
Historical Society museums.
Brandon Times, Brandon: Times Office, beginning 1867.
G. M. West, Metomen, Springvale,
Alto and Waupun During the War, Brandon: Times Office, 1867.
Rev. W. G. Miller, Thirty
Years in the Itinerancy, Milwaukee: I. L. Hauser & Co., 1875
The History of Fond du Lac County,
Wisconsin, Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1880.
Portrait and Biographical Album of
Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, Chicago: Acme Publishing Company, 1889.
Kate Asaphine Everest, "How
Wisconsin Came by Its Large German Element," from Collections of the State
Historical Society of Wisconsin, Volume XII, 1892
Kate Everest Levi, "Geographical
Origin of German Immigration to Wisconsin," from Collections of the State
Historical Society of Wisconsin, Volume XIV, 1898
James B. Pond, "A Pioneer Boyhood," from The
Century Magazine, 1899
A. T. Glaze, Incidents and
Anecdotes of Early Days and History of Business in the City and County of Fond du Lac from
Early Times to the Present, Fond du Lac: P. B. Haber Printing Company, 1905.
Maurice McKenna, ed., History
of Fond du Lac County, Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912.
Joseph Schafer, Wisconsin
Domesday Book: The Winnebago-Horicon Basin, Madison: State Historical Society of
||This site represents an
ongoing project to document Brandon's history. If you have information to share, please
contact Bob Schuster by email at email@example.com
or at 6020 Kristi Circle, Monona, Wisconsin 53716, (608) 221-1421.