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Fond du Lac CoTown of Metomen  |  Fairwater  |  Town of Alto  |  Town of Waupun  |  Markesan


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.

Brandon Historical Society

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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.

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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.


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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.




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  • Ripon's 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.
  • James 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.)

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Ben Sheldon Post member Herman Giffey,
Memorial Day, 1916. (Courtesy Neil Giffey)

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1880's section crew, Brandon-Markesan Railroad, from Elmer Jahn's History of Utley (Markesan Historical Society)

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Construction of the Fairwater water wheel (courtesy Florian Laper)





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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.

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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.



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Recollections written by and about residents of Brandon and its immediate area.

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James Pond, left, and wife, right, with Samuel Clemens and family, 1895 (courtesy Kevin Dier-Zimmel)

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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.

The 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 Wisconsin, 1937

Fond du Lac CoTown of Metomen  |  Fairwater  |  Town of Alto  |  Town of Waupun  |  Markesan
Last updated 2/13/2001 This site represents an ongoing project to document Brandon's history. If you have information to share, please contact Bob Schuster by email at rmschust@facstaff.wisc.edu or at 6020 Kristi Circle, Monona, Wisconsin 53716, (608) 221-1421.